"I promise you he's back in the game in Ohio," said Charlie Black, an informal Romney campaign adviser.
Like other Republicans, he credits Romney's strong debate appearance last week as the reason for an uptick in national polling. And Romney advisers maintain they're seeing evidence of that in the battleground states most likely to decide the election, Ohio among them.
"There isn't any question that he has breathed new life and new energy into the Republican Party," Ohio Gov. John Kasich said Tuesday on a conference call with reporters. "We're seeing that there is greater intensity among Republicans and a great willingness to get out and vote and participate than we're seeing with Democrats."
With a hefty 18 electoral votes, Ohio is such a key state for Romney that one top adviser has dubbed it "the ball game" as the Republican looks to string together enough state victories to amass the 270 Electoral College votes needed to take the White House. No Republican has won the presidency without this Midwestern state, and ifRomney were to lose here, he would have to carry every other battleground state except tiny New Hampshire.
Romney has far fewer state-by-state paths to the White House than Obama, who still has several routes to victory should he lose here.