Outsiders often think of Ohio as a conservative entity. In reality, Ohio is a swing state, which - with one exception - has swung the same way as the country in every 20th Century Presidential election. Ohio, just barely, went for Bush in 2000 – and then only after Gore’s campaign essentially gave the state to Bush by withdrawing in the weeks before the race.
Take a look at the map in the above link. There are five Ohios, not one. Northeast Ohio is mostly industrial, urban/suburban, reliably liberal and votes solidly Democratic. Northwest Ohio is Republican and mostly rural. Southwest Ohio is also conservative, but has been hurt more economically since Bush took office than the rest of the state. Appalachia swings with the general election, went strongly for Clinton in 1992 and 1996, and Bush in 2000.
That leaves Central Ohio. The Columbus area is being rocked by changing demographics, and an influx of younger, non-white people. What was once a Republican stronghold is becoming increasingly Democratic.
Here are two options: Northeast and Central Ohio have a combined population of 6 million. The other three regions add up to 5.36 million. If Democrats concentrate their funds toward "swinging" Central Ohio and Appalachia, combined with “get out the vote” activity in Northeast Ohio, they could win Ohio Big Time (as Cheney would say). Or, if they create an all out push for Northeast and Central Ohio, they can still win with an acceptable margin.
But the most important thing is for the Democratic party not to blow off the state as they did in 2000. The message is clear: lose Ohio, lose the country.
Whether Ohio goes red or blue this year will depend entirely on turnout – just like most of the country.