Sometime before the conventions I was doing some focus groups in Ohio when I saw the dam break against Mitt Romney among undecided voters. They were undecided but when you asked them why they were not voting for Romney they would volunteer that they were worried about Bain Capital or didn’t like him hiding his tax returns, or that Romney wanted the auto industry to go bankrupt – fair or not – the unanswered negatives on Romney had taken hold – and I knew in my gut Ohio was over – Romney would never win it.In other words, Obama's concentrated negative campaigning in Ohio over the summer worked. Subsequent polling showed that, in Ohio, Romney never recovered.
ASIDE: Why was Ohio a critical "must win" state? What makes it so special? The answer comes from ranking the states from the easiest for Romney to win to the most difficult. As Karl Rove calculated it, the easiest for Romney were the ones that McCain won in 2008. The next easiest were the three states: Indiana, North Carolina and Virginia. But, winning all those was still not enough. Romney had to win several of the seven toss-up states. Of those seven, however, Florida and Ohio were the biggest (most electoral votes). Unless Romney won both Florida and Ohio, it was hard to see any other way for Romney to get the needed 270 electoral votes. That made Florida and Ohio "must win" states. In the end, Romney lost both Florida and Ohio.
•Peggy Noonan's take on why Romney lost