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  • Ohioblog: A Swing State Journal





    Monday, July 26, 2004

    If this is a political convention, where are those smoky rooms? 

    The Democratic convention began today in Boston without drama but with no lack of purpose. Binding presidential primaries and television have brought Ohioans and the rest of America closer to the process. At the same time, they've turned the conventions into political pep rallies.

    Even so, there is reason to join yourself at the hip to one of the cable news networks that provide the most and best coverage. Once, before television, Ohioans had eight reasons to be interested in political conventions: Ohio's eight presidents, William Henry Harrison (No. 9), Ulysses S. Grant (No. 18), Rutherford B. Hayes (no relation to Woody, No. 19), James A. Garfield (No. 20), Benjamin Harrison (No. 23), William McKinley (No. 25), William Howard Taft (unfortunately the current governor -- what's his name, again? -- is a pale imitation of his grandfather, No. 27) and Warren G. Harding (No. 29).

    Note that Ohio has sent to Washington eight of the 43 men who have occupied the White House. But none since Harding in 1921.

    The Swing State Blogmeister began watching political conventions in the days when Dwight D. Eisenhower twice was chosen by Republicans to beat one of the brightest men to ever seek the job -- is that an oxymoron? -- Adlai Stevenson. In 1952, it took the Democrats three ballots to select Stevenson.

    Those convention days are gone.

    Conventions serve another purpose now, one that former presidential speechwriter Peggy Noonan knows well.

    ``(Conventions are) not where democracy happens anymore,'' Noonan writes in the Wall Street Journal. ``They provide a platform for the big speech.''

    She suggests Kerry and his speechwriter, Bob Shrum, stow their lame imitation of JFK, and that Kerry define himself in a clearer, fresher way, perhaps even take a crack at telling America what it means to be a liberal today.

    Kerry accepts the nomination Thursday night. Stay tuned.

    Bob Uecker would be envious

    Reinforcing Ohio's status as the swing state of swing states, the 208-member Ohio delegation to the Democratic National Convention has the seats that baseball broadcaster and former catcher Bob Uecker always thought he deserved: the front row.

    The seating is just one symbol that Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry won't make the mistake that Vice President Al Gore made in 2000. Gore gave up on Ohio. He pulled his TV ads, quit campaigning in the state and still lost by less than 4 percent. Kerry has been listening to the advice of the same man whom Bill Clinton turned to when he too was ready to give up on Ohio: former Sen. John Glenn.

    Ohio can trick Democrats. They fall behind in the polls and look at the Republican Party's dominance on the state level and decide Ohio cannot be won. They're wrong. Clinton won in 1992 and again in 1996.

    Kerry can do the same and has an advantage that Democratic candidates do not usually have. Glenn endorsed Kerry in the Ohio primary. Glenn usually doesn't endorse in the primaries, but he did this time for his former Senate colleague. During the campaign, Glenn will have Kerry's ear and often will be by his side.

    Paul Tibbs, Columbus lobbyist and Ohio delegate, shared with the Dayton Daily News' Bill Hershey (former Beacon Journal Washington bureau chief) the advice he has given Kerry: ``You need to engage John Glenn. There's not a more popular public figure in Ohio than John Glenn. He's a friend of yours.''

    Polls: So what else is new?

    The Columbus Dispatch on Sunday reported President Bush and Democratic challenger John Kerry are -- drum roll, please -- tied. They were tied (statistically) when the Dispatch mailed out its survey in April, and they were still tied when the Pony Express collected its return for the paper Friday.

    For the record, the poll of 3,047 randomly chosen registered Ohio voters found 47 percent for Bush, 44 percent for Kerry, 2 percent for independent Ralph Nader (who has yet to qualify to be on the ballot) and 7 percent -- about 500,000 voters -- undecided.

    The numbers in April were: Bush 46 percent, Kerry 45 percent, with the president's margin increasing by a point with Nader included.

    Polls are a snapshot in time. Even so, in this presidential race, there are certainties: Bush backers won't budge. Those opposed to the president and/or for Kerry won't change their minds. So you'd be better off just tracking down Ohio's undecided 7 percent. Which, of course, is what both campaigns are doing.

    The interesting part of the Dispatch poll is the breakdown by region: Bush carries central, southwest, west and northwest Ohio. Kerry wins the southeast -- Ohio's poorer Appalachian counties -- and the populous northeast.

    Turnout in Northeast Ohio could decide not only the outcome in our state but also in the nation. Feel important? You should.

    Visits: Reviving an Ohio campaign style

    When Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry took his ``Front Porch Tour'' to a Columbus Ward 62 cul-de-sac Sunday, he brought back memories of William McKinley.

    McKinley, who defeated William Jennings Bryan in 1896, literally campaigned from his front porch in Canton. People came to McKinley, and he spoke to them from his front porch. Afterward, Ida Saxton McKinley often served the crowd lemonade.

    Neither Kerry nor Robert and Janet Aikens, who played host on their driveway to this campaign stop, brought out the lemonade. But Kerry didn't appear stiff as he carried 6-month-old Hasim Rashid around.

    A bit of irony, though: McKinley, a Republican, won an overwhelming victory, in part, by favoring high tariffs to protect American jobs and wages. Now, it is Democrat Kerry who proposes changes to the rules applied to companies that move jobs out of America.

    Sign him to a contract

    Do you think John Kerry was playing to Ohio again when he threw out the first pitch Sunday in Boston before the Red Sox-Yankees game? The effort hit short of home plate, skidding in the dirt, looking like something an Indians relief pitcher might toss up there.

    We don't drive c-a-a-h-s

    J. Kenneth Blackwell doubts that John Kerry speaks the language of Ohioans, and the Ohio secretary of state is in Boston to make that point for the Bush-Cheney campaign.

    Blackwell told the Dayton Daily News: ``Transferring a Boston liberal into a Midwest conservative will make for fascinating television, but I don't think Ohio voters will be fooled.''

    Why even hold the election?

    If Allen J. Lichtman's Keys to the White House formula works as reliably as it has in the past, the American University professor can tell us who is going to win.

    It's George W. Bush!

    Martin Gottlieb, a Dayton Daily News editorial writer who formerly contributed to the Beacon Journal's op-ed page, also discusses presidential approval ratings as a reliable predictor. Presidents (except Harry Truman) lose if their ratings are below 50 percent at midyear, as Bush's rating is.

    So what to believe?

    Lichtman bases his formula on 13 factors derived from studying presidential elections during the two-party era. As Gottlieb suggests, answers to some of the 13 questions are arguable. Why don't you answer the questions and apply the formula? Eight or more of the 13 factors must be present for an incumbent to win. Lichtman's record is 6-1.

    And if it lends more authenticity, you should know that Lichtman supports Kerry.

    Eat your 'vegetable'

    From Off the Record on the Campaign&Elections Web site: ``You guys know about John Kerry's wife. She's very, very rich. Teresa Heinz (Kerry) of the Heinz ketchup family. Apparently she's worth twice as much as we thought. She's worth a billion dollars. Ladies and gentlemen, how much ketchup are we using?

    -- Craig Kilborn

    Another round, please

    This from The Hill: Mary Lynn F. Jones reports that ``While the Red Hot Chili Peppers bring down the house at the Creative Coalition event Wednesday night in Boston, Allied Domecq will serve up some red, white and blue drinks.''

    Our personal favorite is the ``First Amendment Margarita,'' which is made with Sauza gold and margarita mix. Might be a good idea to offer a few of these to Ohio public officials who guard public records as if they own them. Might help them loosen up.

    - Steve Love

    posted by Ohioblog: A Swing State Journal at 4:02 PM



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