Republican presidential candidate, former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney and his running mate Rep. Paul Ryan (R., Wis.), wave as they exit a campaign charter airplane at Cleveland Hopkins International airport.
CLEVELAND -- Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney and running mate Paul Ryan made a planned stop here in Ohio while Democratic Vice President Joe Biden made an unannounced stop -- at the same airport and the same time -- to make one last in-person appeal to battleground state voters in Ohio before polls close today.
Meanwhile, tallies from the early in-person and absentee voting that ended Monday gave Republicans reason to cheer, as the numbers of early voters appeared to have plummeted in heavily Democratic counties.
Mr. Romney and Mr. Ryan arrived by separate planes at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport, while Mr. Biden's plane, Air Force 2, made an unannounced stop at the same airport at just about the same time.
Mr. Biden, along with his wife, daughter, and two granddaughters, mingled and sat for breakfast at the Landmark Restaurant, a Greek diner at 3380 St. Clair Ave., in Cleveland, according to a pool report provided to The Blade.
They returned to the aircraft and left about 1:20 p.m. The stop occurred during a flight to Chicago.
The early vote totals as of Monday showed declines in most of the biggest counties that backed Barack Obama, a concerning sign for Democrats as final voting takes place in Ohio.
According to statistics from the Ohio Secretary of State's office, as of Monday there were 1,775,650 votes cast early in person and by mail, up from 1,744,753 in 2008.
However, most of that increase took place in counties that were won by John McCain in 2008.
In Lucas County, there were 7 percent fewer early voters this year compared with 2008. The total number of early voters, both by mail and in person, was 60,703 this year, compared with 65,254 four years ago.
Cuyahoga County had 7.2 percent fewer early voters as of Monday, compared with the early vote in 2008.
Rob Frost, chairman of the Cuyahoga County Republican Party, said the new numbers are "fantastic."
"I couldn't have asked for better," Mr. Frost said. "We know for a certainty based on those numbers that Governor Romney will win Ohio."
Cuyahoga County has the state's biggest concentration of Democratic voters, and early voting is widely believed to lean Democratic.
Chris Redfern, the state Democratic chairman, said the Democratic Party has a good idea of who's voted early and he believes they put President Obama ahead right off the bat by about a quarter of a million votes. He said that's about the same margin Mr. Obama had in 2008.
"We're very confident that the early vote benefited Democrats. We believe we have close to a quarter-million-vote lead across the state," Mr. Redfern said.
He noted that four years ago Ohio allowed four weekends of early voting while weekend voting was allowed only the last weekend before the election this year. That change led to claims of voter suppression by Democrats.
"Jon Husted [Republican Ohio Secretary of State] and the Republicans did away with [four weekends of early voting] because they knew Democrats benefited," Mr. Redfern said.
It was only through a lawsuit brought by the Obama campaign that the last weekend of early voting was allowed this year.
Mr. Husted has countered that Ohio allows early voting in person over a 35-day period and that every registered voter was mailed an application for a vote-by-mail ballot. None of Ohio's neighboring states allows no-excuse early voting.
Ohio Republican Chairman Robert Bennett said the in-person early vote, aside from the mail-in early vote, is down in Cuyahoga County by about 20 percent.
"I think it's going to be a tight election. I'm very confident in our ground game. I think this is an indication there's not the enthusiasm as there was four years ago for Barack Obama," Mr. Bennett said.