Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders never made a stop in Cincinnati when he was campaigning for president.
But this former Democratic presidential hopeful will appear at University of Cincinnati rally on Thursday to help his once rival, Hillary Clinton, court the crucial millennial vote.
As the fierce presidential race enters the final week, big-name Democrats have been flooding Ohio, and Cincinnati in particular.
Former President Bill Clinton was in Forest Park on Saturday, Hillary Clinton held a rally in Smale Park on Monday, and President Barack Obama visited Columbus on Tuesday, all with a singular goal – to encourage Democrats to vote early.
“Very clearly they’re playing to win down until the end,” said Kyle Kondik, managing editor of Sabato’s Crystal Ball, at the University of Virginia Center for Politics and author of the book, The Bellwether: Why Ohio Picks the President. “They still think they have a chance to win the state and Donald Trump can’t win without it, so they’re pumping in a lot of visits in at the end.”
Polls show a tight race in Ohio, with Trump ahead slightly. A recent average of polls by RealClearPolitics shows him with a 2.5-point edge here.
“If the Clinton campaign thought Ohio was out of reach, they wouldn’t be bothering here,” Kondik said.
Last week Chelsea Clinton visited three big Ohio cities, including Cincinnati, while Donald Trump Jr. met with Miami University students at an Oxford bar. He also visited Ohio State University for a private event on Tuesday.
If Clinton hopes to win Ohio, she must excite her base – especially millennials and African Americans. That’s why Kondik predicts that Obama and Michelle Obama may visit the state before Election Day.
“There are some indications that African American turnout is not what it needs to be in Ohio,” Kondik said.
And big-name visits can help.
“He is (Bernie Sanders) the kind of surrogate who could generate a lot of excitement,” said Jared Kamrass, a principal at Rivertown Strategies and a Democratic political consultant. “He’s a big name, and he’s never campaigned here before.”
Meanwhile rapper Jay Z is holding a concert on Friday at Cleveland State University, and Hillary Clinton is joining him.
Hundreds of people lined up at a Clinton campaign office in Cleveland last weekend for free advance tickets to the Jay Z concert. The campaign office was right near the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections. While anyone could get a ticket, the campaign gave priority access tickets to people who signed up for a two-hour door knocking shift.
At the Sanders’ rally at UC, Clinton staffers and volunteers will walk the line of students making sure everyone is registered to vote, and looking for volunteers. Afterward, the campaign will take vans of students to the Hamilton County Board of Elections.
"No one wins in Ohio without hard work, and Americans from all walks of life … have been making the case that Hillary Clinton is the best candidate,” said Harrell Kirstein, communications director for Clinton’s campaign in Ohio.
The next few days are crucial for both campaigns.
“At this point it’s a turnout game,” Kamrass said. “It seems like this election has been going on for decades, but the only thing that matters is next week.”
Jamie Schwartz, owner of the Fountain Square Group and a Republican strategist, believes that Clinton may have a reason to worry in Ohio.
She is not filling stadiums in urban places such as Hamilton County like Obama did in 2012 and 2008. That lack of enthusiasm is “ultimately what’s going to do her in in Ohio,” Schwartz said.
Clinton needs to rack up vote margins in places like Hamilton, Cuyahoga and Franklin counties to cancel out votes Trump will get in rural and suburban areas, Schwartz added.
“I haven’t seen anything like it in a presidential race,” Schwartz said of Trump’s support in those areas. “When you go outside Hamilton County, it’s real and it’s very significant for Trump.”
Ohio is a must win for Trump, but Clinton has multiple paths to reach the White House, with or without the Buckeye State.
“She’s probably able to win this thing without taking Ohio although it makes the math really harder,” Schwartz said. “At the end of the day, Trump’s going to have to win these swing states and maybe one or two that nobody expected.”