COLUMBUS, Ohio - If there's one thing the patrons at the German Village Coffee Shop here in the Ohio capital can agree on, it's that even though Election Day isn't for months, they're already pretty tired of hearing about politics.
"The debates will be worthwhile, but I think the ads are demeaning," custom clothier Ben Pierpont said over breakfast. Added a woman named Kim, who did not want to give her last name: "I'm absolutely sick of it. You can't even watch a TV show without there being 15 different ads."
Earlier this month, the Campaign Media Analysis Group reported that the number of ads running in Columbus has increased substantially compared to the same period four years ago - and that, "Every presidential ad on the air in Columbus as of July 12 was negative."
For those frustrated with the ads, it's only going to get worse. Columbus and Cleveland are the two largest television markets in a swing state so crucial that a Republican has never won the presidency without winning the Buckeye State. The two cities are among the top 10 markets in the nation for political ads, with more than $28 million spent on the air through June 24.
The consensus in both Democratic bastions is that President Obama, who won this state by 4.6 percentage points in 2008, deserves another four years. But it's far from clear that Democratic voters in either city are motivated enough to come out for him in the numbers they did last time around.
"There seems to be less enthusiasm among the groups that were so important for him in 2008 - young people and minorities," said Ohio State University professor Paul Beck.
Standing in a darkroom in the plant of Horizons Incorporated, a printable aluminum manufacturer in Cleveland, three coworkers nod as 29-year-old Matthew McEachern, clad in a Cleveland Indians cap, says there's no question he'll back Mr. Obama in the fall.
"When you have such a big mess to clean up, it's going to take more time," said McEachern, who, like his coworkers, is African-American. 47-year-old Queenie Smith, who works in a different section of the plant, said she would never vote Republican.
"I just think they're crooked," she said. "I don't think they're for the people. They're for the rich."
But there are signs of concern for the president: Horizons' owner and CEO Herb Wainer, who plans to back Mr. Obama, says he does not see anything approaching the levels of enthusiasm for the president that existed in 2008.
"My sense is there was a spirit of involvement and an opportunity to be connected with something that was new and really interesting and terrific for the country, which was to elect a black president," he said. "I think that had a lot of cache...now it seems like it's all about money, not grassroots."
Back at the German Village Coffee Shop in Columbus, where a rather massive "short stack" goes for just $2, 81-year-old Don Wihl is enjoying a leisurely breakfast. Wihl has been a Democrat all his life - he campaigned for Franklin Delano Roosevelt as a child - but he says he can't cast a ballot for Mr. Obama.
"He's gotta go. He's just gotta go," Wihl said, pointing to the health care law having been "rammed through" Congress. "He's not qualified for the job. He bites off too much." Wihl added that even though he doesn't know much about presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, he'll vote for him.
He went on to sum up the economic pessimism felt by many here, a sense of frustration with the economy under Mr. Obama that Romney hopes will propel him to the White House.
"I was born in a depression," he said. "And I'll probably die in a depression."