With national polls tightening and the media continuing to focus on last week’s debate rather than issues like an improving economy, it increasingly looks as if Ohioans may tip the balance in the election. (More)

Do you remember last Friday’s exceptional jobs report? No, I’m not asking about the Republican conspiracy theories about whether the numbers were accurate, but the actual numbers? Don’t feel bad if you’ve forgotten. The economy has basically fallen off the media radar, save for a handful of stories like the Washington Post‘s Ezra Klein on why Friday’s jobs report may well get better based on recent data.

Instead the media have focused on the debate and the polls that followed. Those polls have tightened dramatically, wiping out President Obama’s six weeks of gains during and since the party conventions in August. President Obama is still a slight favorite in state-by-state polling aggregates like RealClearPolitics, and betting sites like Intrade, and in Nate Silver’s model. But if you scroll down that right column to “Tipping Point States” – those likely to provide the 270th Electoral College vote for one candidate or the other – you’ll see Ohio at 43%.

A big reason for that is simply that, while Romney could lose Ohio and still win the election, he’d have to win almost every other swing state … including some that now look even more favorable for President Obama. Almost all of Romney’s winning paths pass through the Buckeye State, so it’s hardly surprising that Democrats’ enthusiasm was buoyed by yesterday’s CNN/ORC poll showing President Obama still leading Ohio by four points.

And it’s hardly surprising that Democrats were upset to read that Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to reverse last week’s federal court decision that required Ohio to keep early voting open in the three days before the election. The Republicans’ focus is on the souls-to-the-polls program that aided record turnout from black communities in 2008. Florida passed a similar limit last year – former Florida Republican Party chair Jim Greer admitted the law was passed to reduce black voter turnout – and early voting in Florida will shut down the Saturday before the election.

But Ohio took the charade a step further, shutting down early voting in the three days before the election for everyone except members of the military – who more often vote for Republicans – with the Romney campaign then falsely claiming the Department of Justice was trying to suppress military voters. One wonders if by 2016 the Republican Party will be pushing for “whites only” voting days … and accusing those who object of trying to suppress white voters.

As grassroots Democratic activists, we must steer the election story back toward jobs and President Obama’s solid record with 31 months of private-sector job growth. We must also work on our GOTV campaigns, to help ensure every registered Democrat can and does vote this year. Finally, those of us who can must volunteer as poll watchers to guard against Republicans’ polling place voter intimidation program.

If we focus on our grassroots activism, the media stories will be less distracting and – what’s more – we will be part of the process instead of mere spectators.