Ohio is a vital swing state – both in terms of actual electoral results and as a bellwether – due to its geographical, political, and demographic status as a crossroads, being a microcosmic blend of urban, rural, and suburban; physically and psychologically at the borders of the Midwest and the East; and containing a relatively fluid and non-dogmatic blend of Republicans, Democrats and independents.
The Ohio delegates at the RNC are enjoying being courted:
- As Ohioans here at the Republican National Convention are fond of pointing out — and they do it about twice per conversation — no president since 1900 has won the White House without winning Ohio. Now, that’s not strictly true, of course. Ohio picked the right guy only 24 out of 26 times. But that doesn’t matter; it’s the conventional wisdom that counts. In the primary season, tiny Iowa may wield a ridiculously outsized influence on the race for the White House. In the fall, Ohio is Iowa on steroids.
How can you tell that Ohio is important? The signs are everywhere.
First, the Ohio delegation is staying in the very fortified, very centrally located Marriott Marquis hotel on Times Square, mere blocks from Midtown’s Madison Square Garden, where the convention is taking place. (Not that they’re complaining, but Guam and Hawaii, with zero and four electoral votes respectively, were assigned to hotels at the southern end of Manhattan.)
Second, the Ohio delegation has the best seats on the convention floor, front and center. “I’ve told the delegates to bring napkins with them,” said Ohio GOP spokesman Jason Mauk, “so they can wipe the spit off their faces.”
Third, requests for interviews with delegates have poured in from all kinds of news organizations — CNN has profiled some of them, CBS’ “The Early Show” did a makeover with another. The attention has been so intense that some stories are focusing just on the media attention Ohio is getting.
“When they see we’re from Ohio,” said delegate Janet Voinovich, wife of the state’s junior United States senator, “their eyes light up. One woman said, ‘Oh, you’re Florida this year!’ ”
Here’s how else you can tell Ohio matters: Each morning, at their hotel breakfast meetings, delegates are fired up with rousing speeches before heading over to the convention hall. When the Republican National Committee offered the Ohio delegation a speaker named Dan Senor, who was the civilian spokesman for the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq, the Ohio delegation’s response was, basically: Are you joking? Don’t you know who we are?
But there is such thing as TOO much attention: the candidates and their surrogates are swarming like locusts and getting stuck in your shorts and whatnot:
- In an attempt to replicate the Democrats’ ground game, Republicans have revamped their voter registration efforts. They’ve signed up nearly 60,000 volunteers and say they have made 1 million phone calls. They have created a 20-member team working full time on one assignment: the get-out-the-vote plan for the campaign’s final 72 hours.
Since he took office, President Bush has made 22 visits to Ohio. Mauk said that between now and the election Nov. 2, the president, Vice President Dick Cheney or their wives will visit Ohio about once every five days.
Democrats, naturally, are not sitting idly by. “The stars of the Democratic Party are twinkling over Ohio every day,” said Dan Trevas, spokesman for the Ohio Democratic Party. The party’s nominee, Massachusetts Sen. John F. Kerry, will be in Ohio for a midnight rally Thursday, moments after Bush accepts the GOP nomination. Former President Clinton was in Cleveland on Tuesday. Howard Dean will be there Sunday. [LA Times]
In fact, Bush was in Ohio yesterday:
- The tug-of-war for Ohio voters was pulled a little to the right on Wednesday with another visit from President Bush, who wooed Columbus-area residents with hometown celebrities and a promise to bring back the state’s lost manufacturing jobs.
“I’ve got plans to continue the economic vitality of this state and this country,” Bush told a crowd of about 20,000 at Nationwide Arena.
“I fully understand we still face challenges in manufacturing communities, in places like Youngstown and other parts of your great state – Canton,” he said after bragging about the country’s 5.5 percent unemployment rate.
“I’ve been to those communities. I know that there are workers worried about their future. . . . I will not rest as long as anybody in your state who wants to work cannot find a job.”
Unemployment in those towns is significantly higher than the national average – about 14 percent in Youngstown and about 9 percent in Canton.
And Democrats were quick to point that out.
Regardless of what either side says, these industrial jobs aren’t coming back, and pandering to hopes and dreams of smokestacks belching prolifically in Youngstown or Canton is disingenuous locust-crap. These towns, and to a somewhat lesser extent Cleveland and Akron, are going to have to reinvent themselves for the 21st century by creating 21st century jobs or they are doomed to permanent decline.
- The rally opened with golf legend and Columbus native Jack Nicklaus introducing the president. Former Ohio State football star and two-time All-American Chris Spielman warmed up the crowd. Bush’s wife, Laura, was at his side.
Bush began his speech by reaching back to his Ohio roots.
“My grandfather was raised right here in Columbus, Ohio,” the president told the cheering crowd. “So I’m here to ask that you send a homeboy back to Washington, D.C.”
Wednesday’s trip was Bush’s 23rd to Ohio since taking office, his second in five days. And he will be back again this weekend.
The president is scheduled to spend Friday night in Cleveland. He will host an “Ask President Bush” event at 9 a.m. Saturday at Brecksville-Broadview Heights High School before heading to Lake County for a noon rally at Lake Farmpark in Kirtland. He is expected to return to Ohio next Wednesday, said Ohio Republican Chairman Bob Bennett.
Democratic presidential nominee Sen. John Kerry has made 13 visits to Ohio since the beginning of the year. He begins his 14th tonight in Springfield, where he kicks off a two-day bus tour that also will take him to Newark, Akron and Steubenville. He’ll return on Monday for the Labor Day parade and picnic in Cleveland’s Luke Easter Park.
Aaah, get these people out of my shorts!
- The candidates are shaking voters’ hands and posing for photos with their kids in the hopes of winning the state’s 20 electoral votes. Opinion polls show voters here are evenly split. [Cleveland.com]
And will likely remain that way until the moment of decision.