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Campaign Gridlock Hits Cleveland Airport

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If there was any doubt that the US presidential fight hinges on Ohio, an awkward campaign aircraft traffic jam at Cleveland Airport made it clear on Tuesday.

Minutes after Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney touched down, Vice President Joe Biden landed in Air Force Two for an unannounced - but what the White House said was long-planned - visit.

Biden's move seemed aimed at dampening the challenger's 11th hour visit to the battleground state.

Romney, who was waiting for running mate Paul Ryan to land, stayed onboard his plane until Biden boarded his motorcade and left the tarmac, which became even more crowded when Ryan's plane landed minutes later.

Only President Barack Obama, who is spending the day in Chicago, was missing from the dance of the jets.

The awkward three-way stop underscored the importance of Ohio in a presidential race that polls show is virtually tied.

The Midwestern state is seen as the most critical in the candidates' race for the 270 electoral votes needed to win the presidency. No Republican has ever captured the White House without having Ohio in his column.

"That sums up what is going on today. Everyone is competing for that last vote," Stephanie Cutter, deputy manager for the Obama campaign, told Fox News.

Biden, seeking a second term with Obama, made the stop before flying out to meet the president in Chicago.

When asked by reporters if he saw his Republican opponents' planes and had any message for them, Biden said: "When we landed they said they were there. That's good," according to press reports.

Biden and his wife, Jill, later headed back to the Cleveland airport, where they posed for pictures on the tarmac still holding the Romney and Ryan planes before boarding for Chicago, they said.

Obama also made an unannounced stop in Chicago on Tuesday to thank his campaign workers. His plane - Air Force One, was still on the tarmac when Biden landed Tuesday afternoon.

(Reuters)