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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

    Thursday, July 22, 2004

    Yep, we're swingers 

    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, 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 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

    - Steve Love

    posted by Ohioblog: A Swing State Journal at 1:31 PM

     Latest posts

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       •  Oh no! Not 10 more days of Mr. Blackwell
       •  It was the economy, stupid
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       •  July 2004
       •  August 2004
       •  September 2004
       •  October 2004
       •  November 2004

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