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It's all about Ohio: Could Rob Portman boost Romney's chances? (+video)

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Despite the tea party’s ambivalence about Romney, there’s no doubt that on defeating Obama and the state’s senior senator, Sherrod Brown (D) – two steps toward undoing the health-care law – they’re on the same page.

“We’re at war with the Republican Party in some ways: It’s not as conservative as we’d like it to be,” says Mr. Zawistowski, who is also president of the statewide Ohio Liberty Coalition. “But we’re working together on get-out-the-vote. They have resources that we don’t have.”

In his speech to his local tea party, exhorting members to canvass their neighbors, he gets choked up.

“The Supreme Court punted,” Zawistowski says. “They kicked it back to the legislature, to the American people.... My destiny, our destiny is in our hands. I thank God I live in Ohio. I want to fight this fight with you. We will decide.”

Collective-bargaining backlash

One of the biggest questions hanging over Ohio is what kind of residual impact there may be from last year’s battle over public-sector unions. Gov. John Kasich (R) took office in January 2011 vowing to curb collective-bargaining rights in an effort to balance the state budget. But when the law passed, the backlash was fierce – particularly so because, unlike in Wisconsin, it included police and firefighter unions.

Suddenly, traditionally Republican-leaning unions had common cause with their liberal union brethren. Last November, their efforts paid off: Ohio voters repealed the collective-bargaining law with 61 percent of the vote.

“[The law] was probably an overreach,” says GOP chair Bennett. But “we were outspent 2-1/2 to 1.”

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