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Obama wins hard-fought vote in Ohio

COLUMBUS (AP) — President Barack Obama won Ohio again Tuesday, capturing the swing state after a hard-fought battle with Republican Mitt Romney and putting history on his side in his bid for re-election.

Obama, who also won Ohio in 2008, claimed the swing state’s 18 electoral votes. No Republican has won the White House without winning Ohio. The last president elected despite losing Ohio was Democrat John F. Kennedy in 1960.

With about three-fourths of the vote reported, Obama led by only 28,000 votes. However, large portions of Democrat-rich Cuyahoga and Lucas counties were still unreported.

Both sides poured major time and resources into the battleground state that has been among the nation’s most contested in recent presidential elections, flooding the state with ads and late campaign rallies.

Voters sampled in exit polls said the economy was the leading issue, but they split on which candidate would be better to improve it.

Voters voiced support for the Obama-backed auto industry bailout, while Romney showed support among those saying they wanted a strong leader who shared their values. Obama appeared to be dominating the college-age vote, as he did across the state in 2008. Romney led among 65-and-older voters surveyed, and appeared to be doing better with those nearing retirement than John McCain had in ‘08.

Turning out their base supporters and running up the score in their strongest areas loomed as crucial for both candidates.

Obama looked to Democratic strongholds in northeast Ohio and the state’s biggest cities. His Republican challenger hoped for blowout results in southwest Ohio and the state’s suburbs and rural areas.

No Republican has won the White House without Ohio. The last president elected despite losing Ohio was Democrat John F. Kennedy in 1960, and the last sitting president to lose Ohio was George H.W. Bush in 1992 to Democrat Bill Clinton.

Throughout the year, Ohio was site of much of the advertising spending by the campaigns and outside supporters and was among the most-visited states by the campaigns. Obama officially kicked off his re-election campaign with a May 5 rally at Ohio State University, and Romney campaigned in nearly every corner of the state.