Remember this shopworn slogan: "Ohio: The Heart of It All"? It always rang hollow and sounded pretentious. Well, no more.
By any definition, Ohio is the heart of the 2004 presidential campaign. No one thinks otherwise, especially not the candidates - Republican President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney and Democratic Sens. John Kerry and John Edwards. They're going to be around so much they may have to file state income tax returns. (Hey, we could use the money - maybe for schools.)
Whom Ohioans will choose to be president remains a question. Independent candidate Ralph Nader, according to Zogby Interactive, could tip the scale in Ohio and four other battleground states - Arkansas, Iowa, Nevada and Tennessee.
There is a difference of opinion as to how many states fall into the battleground category. Darlisa Crawford, writing for usinfo.state.gov, puts the number at 10. Some pollsters, including Zogby, place it at 16. Others, such as ABC News/Washington Post, say there are 17 battleground states.
"It will pare down after the conventions," Matthew Dowd, one of President Bush's chief strategists, has told the New York Times. "We will ask ourselves, is Delaware really a swing state? Is Arizona really a swing state, or is it OK for us?"
No matter the answer Dowd arrives at regarding other states, Ohio will remain on his and everyone else's list. Ohio isn't just a battleground state (one of those decided in 2000 by 6 or fewer percentage points). It is, according to the analysis of ABC News' David Morris, a true swing state, swinging between Democratic and Republican majorities in presidential races. From 1976 to 2000, Ohio - like Michigan - has had four Republican winners (including President Bush by 3.6 percent) and three Democrats.
For the next 14 weeks, we'll be on top of the "swinging" action.
A Gee(whiz) Kind of 'Victory'
A few seasons ago, former Ohio State University President Gordon Gee suggested that when one of John Cooper's football teams tied Michigan, it actually had achieved a great victory. That's Ohio in a Zogby poll of battleground states.
Ohio is tied. And, according to John Zogby, ``only tiny percentages say they are very likely to change their minds.''
Can you say, Florida 2000? Can you say, hanging chad?
At Least His Speech Was Civil
Vice President Dick Cheney visited Toledo on Monday and made the point that ``our medical liability litigation system is broken'' without resorting to telling trail lawyers to go f*#@ themselves, as he did Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., recently.
Toledo Blade staff writers Fritz Wenzel and Luke Shockman noted that Cheney did, however, make a ``veiled jab at Democratic vice presidential candidate John Edwards, a U.S. senator from North Carolina who made a fortune as a lawyer trying medical liability cases.''
Cheney spoke at the Dana Conference Center at the Medical College of Ohio and called for Congress to place a ``reasonable federal cap of $250,000 on noneconomic damages in medical liability court cases.'' Cheney also termed these cases ``junk lawsuits.''
``We're getting pulled both ways,'' Dr. Steven Combs, president of the Ohio State Medical Association, told the Blade. ``Our liability is going up and our reimbursements are going down.''
In a poll by American Health Insurance Plans, a national trade association of the health insurance industry, likely Ohio voters ranked frivolous medical lawsuits second in a list of what makes them most upset about health care. First? Rising costs.
Though physicians bill-paying patients may have appreciated Cheney's message, John Ruvolo, a Toledo political strategist who is chairman of Kerry's Ohio campaign, did not.
``Ohio is still hurting economically,'' Ruvolo said. ``Every time Bush or Cheney come to this state, they talk about anything but the real issue.''
Among the 200 protesters outside the Dana Conference Center was Andy Eklund, a Toledo cook who has been unemployed for seven months.
He told the Blade's Mary Stegmeir: ``They say our economy is turning around. But where are the jobs?''
Ah, Dennis, We Knew Ye Only Too Well
James Taranto, who writes Best of the Web Today for the Wall Street Journal's online OpinionJournal, has penned a haiku -- it should be penned, not typed -- to each Democratic presidential candidate as he or she exited the race. Here's one for Rep. Dennis Kucinich, who had been as stubborn as Dennis the Menace in refusing to quit the race and come home to serve his Cleveland constituents.
It's titled Bye-Ku for Dennis Kucinich:
He asked of Kerry
Only to let him head the
Department of Peace
Peacenik Kucinich won't get that make-believe job, but his endorsement of Kerry last Thursday allowed him to get to a prime-time speaking role on Wednesday when the focus is: A Stronger, More Secure America.
Sorry Dennis, Stephanie has One-Upped You
Cleveland's Stephanie Tubbs Jones, who represents Ohio's 11th District, will speak in prime time Monday when the theme is: The Kerry-Edwards Plan for America's Future.
This land is THEIR land
If you missed the broadcast and cable news stories about this over the past week, stop what you're doing and watch the JibJab video now. (If you have dial-up at home, you'll want to do this at the office.)
It introduces itself with an F-rated (for funny) animated short from Atom Films, done to the tune of Woody Guthrie's This Land is Your Land. It does a good job of skewering both President Bush and John Kerry. Better ask to borrow Vice President Dick Cheney's defibrillator before viewing, otherwise you may laugh yourself to death.
With Faces Like These...
NPR's Renee Montagne put an Ohioan on the presidential campaign when she spoke with Dayton Daily News editorial cartoonist Mike Peters. Mike Luckovich of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution joined him. Both are Pulitzer Prize winners and are drooling over the prospect of what the presidential and vice presidential candidates might bring.
Newest in the mix of candidates is John Edwards, the Democratic vice presidential choice. Montagne thinks Edwards is a dish. So are good-looking guys more difficult to caricature? Luckovich didn't think so. "He looks like he was separated at birth from Britney Spears."
Peters has a simple formula: ``If you put teeth on a smile button, it becomes Edwards.''
Peters drew a cartoon recently in response to the warmth he observed between Edwards and presidential candidate John Kerry: "They've been hugging and touching...so much that I did this cartoon...and they're hugging each other and Edwards' leg is around him. And the people are looking at the TV saying, 'Maybe we should ban same-sex running mates'.''
We'll have more from Peters and Luckovich, and, of course, you can see yourself what Beacon Journal editorial cartoonist Chip Bok thinks about the candidates.
But Which Face Is The Face?
Matt Drudge says the American people - and we swinging Ohioans are, as you know, a microcosm of the American people - need to know what the deal is with the John Kerry's mug.
"After opting for the fresh-face-look for most of the campaign year, Dem presidential hopeful John Kerry has boldly gone back to wrinkles," Drudge writes.
Is it Botox withdrawal or just another flip-flop?
Your quote counts
Come Nov. 2, your vote will count. Until then, you can express yourself by sending item suggestions with links to email@example.com.
- Steve Love