"The eyes of the world are on Ohio," says Matthew Borges, executive director of Ohio's Republican party.

And while that may be overstating it just a tad, Borges's point is that Ohio is considered crucial to determining who is the next president of the United States.

Why does this one state, out of 50, matter so much? Because Ohio is known as a quintessential purple state — it's not painted Republican red and the Democrats can't lay claim to it with their blue brush either.

In other words, it is a true battleground state and both President Barack Obama and Republican candidate Mitt Romney have dug their trenches in key counties throughout Ohio, seeking its 18 electoral college votes.

At this point, there are between eight and 10 so-called battleground states up for grabs on Nov. 6, depending on which U.S. media outlet you follow. Though that number can double if you count those slightly less volatile swing states that are leaning more heavily towards one party or another this year.

CNN and the New York Times have the same nine key battleground states on their lists: Nevada, Colorado, Iowa, Wisconsin, Ohio, Virginia, New Hampshire, North Carolina and Florida. (So does the CBC map, which you can click on here.)

And some say the most important undecided states at play are Virginia with its 13 electoral votes, Florida with 29 and Ohio.

New polls for Fox News late last week showed Obama leading Romney in all three, though the Florida numbers were within the poll's margin of error, and the courtship has been pretty intense.


Republican supporters turn out in the rain to cheer Mitt Romney at Lake Erie College in Painesvilled, Ohio, on Sept. 14. (Warren Dillaway / Associated Press)

Obama charged through Ohio last week, hard on the heels of a new anti-Romney TV ad campaign by the Democrats as well as visits from both Romney and his vice-presidential running mate Paul Ryan.

The general consensus, among Democrats and Republicans, is that their guy can't win the White House without winning Ohio.

Ohioans are used to the pressure, mind you. Their state has a bellwether reputation for good reason.

In the entire history of the U.S., only twice has the vote in Ohio not matched the overall result.

Not a bad record. And political junkies here are quick to explain the two anomalies.

Microcosm of the U.S.

They will also tell you that Ohio is the battleground state that it is because of its diversity.

There are rural and urban areas, as well as multiple sectors that drive its economy, like the auto industry and agriculture.

"Ohio is such a microcosm of the U.S.," says Dana Walch, deputy director of the Franklin County Board of Elections.

"We are the most reflective state, I think, of the country and I think that's why it comes down to Ohio almost every election that's a close one."

Ohioans don't vote as a block, however. There are swing counties within this swing state and that means Obama and Romney are targeting their outreach accordingly.

Northern Ohio, where the auto industry supplies jobs and unions are strong, leans Democrat while southwestern Ohio is considered Republican territory.


It's a full-court press in Ohio as VP Joe Biden does a meet and greet with bikers at Cruisers Diner in Seaman earlier in September. (Carolyn Kaster / Associated Press)

There aren't as many trenches dug in these parts, the land has been conceded to the enemy, but places like Franklin County, in central Ohio where the state capital Columbus is, hold the balance of power.

"It might not seem like it, but you're in a very exciting place," Borges says of the capital.

Indeed, Columbus doesn't have a bustling city feel, it's downtown streets are quiet after rush hour when the government and office workers have punched out for the day. There are many vacant properties in the downtown core, and many that could use a makeover.

But there is some fierce partisan competition going on beneath the surface, says Greg Haas, chairman of Ohio's Democratic Party. It's taking place over the airwaves as well.

In his speeches and ads, Romney charges the president has not done enough to stem job losses in Ohio and stand up to China's trade practices.

In return, the Democratic ads charge that Romney's former company was a pioneer in shipping American jobs overseas. "Romney's never stood up to China," the current TV ad says. "All he's done is to send them our jobs."

Voter turnout crucial

Traditionally Columbus has been a non-confrontational city, Haas says, not as rough and tumble as places like Cleveland.

But that's changed. State level elections are happening at the same time as the presidential election so there are multiple races underway and Haas says the negativity in the national campaigns is having an influence in Columbus.

TV viewers in Columbus are being inundated with political advertising both sides are using all of the traditional voter outreach methods as well: making phone calls, knocking on doors, visiting the colleges and universities to get the youth vote, organizing rallies.

Haas says voter turnout is going to be critical on election day and that the Democrats know they have to get their supporters out to the polls.


Matthew Borges, executive director of Ohio's Republican party: 'The eyes of the world are on Ohio.' (Meagan Fitzpatrick / CBC)

He acknowledges there isn't as much excitement around Obama as there was four years ago but says that is because Obama isn't the fresh new guy anymore, and not necessarily that he has any less support.

Obama supporters may not be turning up at the rallies in the numbers they were four years ago.

But Haas says that's because they've already seen him in person a million times now, and they're at home instead, working the phones. At least that's the party line.

For their part, the Republicans say they have thousands of volunteers working in Ohio and they will knock on more than a million doors.

They also say they are focused on getting out their vote, too, and that Ohioans will see many more Romney campaign events in the weeks ahead.