By Liz Skalka

Former President Barack Obama is injecting himself into Ohio's neck-and-neck race for governor, headlining a rally in Cleveland for Democrat Richard Cordray, who was a top appointee in Mr. Obama's administration as director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

It's one of 44th President's first forays back into politics as the midterms approach and Democrats fight to regain seats in the U.S. House and Senate. The event is slated to begin at roughly 7 p.m. at the CMSD East Professional Center Gymnasium in Cleveland.

Mr. Cordray, the former attorney general, is locked in a dead heat with current Attorney General Mike DeWine, who will attend a private campaign fund-raiser today with Donald Trump, Jr., in Salem. A POLITICO/AARP poll released yesterday showed them in a virtual tie ahead of Mr. Obama's visit, a worrisome sign for Republicans who are defending the posts of not only governor but secretary of state, state auditor, and state treasurer.

Ohio's bellwether races have attracted plenty of national attention this election cycle. President Donald Trump, who has endorsed Mr. DeWeine, has traveled here twice in as many months to rally his base around U.S. Rep. Troy Balderson (R., Zanesville) in the 12th congressional district and appear at the Republican Party's fund-raising dinner. Democrats announced that California Senator Kamala Harris will headline the Democrats' state fund-raiser Oct. 7.

"Tonight, President Obama and I will talk about how we bring Ohio together. We'll talk about saving health care, investing in our infrastructure, and ending the culture of corruption gripping Mike DeWine's Columbus and Donald Trump's Washington D.C.," Mr. Corday said in a campaign email this morning.

It isn't the first time the two have run against each other: Mr. DeWine ousted Mr. Cordray as attorney general in 2010. In an attack ad, Mr. DeWine accuses his opponent of failing to the address the backlogged rape kits he cleared in his current term, while Mr. Cordray and others argue the issue only surfaced during his final months in office and that he laid the groundwork for future testing.

The two have also come out on opposite sides of Issue 1, the constitutional amendment aimed at reducing prison time for certain nonviolent drug offenders. Mr. Cordray is for it, arguing the measure diverts money saved into treatment, while those such as Mr. DeWine who are against it say it takes away addicts' incentive to get help.

The rally is also in support of incumbent U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, who is running for re-election against Republican U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci (R., Wadsworth). The same POLITICO/AARP poll showed Mr. Brown with a healthy 47 percent to 31 percent lead over Mr. Renacci, with 22 percent undecided.

(c)2018 The Blade (Toledo, Ohio)