Sunday, March 2, 2008

A Native Buckeye Revels in the Political Bullseye on Ohio

Mini-super-Tuesday is almost here. While this latest pundit-slang seems like a contradiction in terms, I guess they were looking for a way to convey the importance of the Ohio and Texas primaries. Um, I think we get it, but thanks for the effort.

While lots of time has been spent on Texas, as a born-and-bred Buckeye I have been gratified by the attention paid to the state of Presidents. You didn't know Ohio had produced more presidents than any other state in the union? Yup. But Ohio is critical to anyone wanting to be president, whether they are home grown or not. You see, no one has won the White House without winning America's Northcoast state -- not since JFK. If Gore and Bush had managed to win Ohio, they'd have won the presidency. So, if you're a political candidate, time spent in the Buckeye state is usually time well spent. Though, that has typically been the axiom for the general elections. In the past, Ohio's primary has been so late in the game that Ohio's days in the sun had to wait until well past March. However, this is a race for the ages, and Ohio -- in all its glorious purpleness -- is up for grabs. And now, my friends and family's primary votes actually have the power to decide the entire race, and they're positively giddy with delight at the early attention.

I am too -- even though I've moved, I'll always be a proud Buckeye. It truly is a great state. Ohio is in many ways a microcosm for the country, as 60 Minutes explained in their marvelous story on the primaries during Sunday's telecast (3/2). The state is bordered by the Appalachian Mountains and the Midwest plains, Lake Erie and the mighty Ohio River. Ohio is the place where our food is grown, our stuff is made, and a fair amount of it is shipped too -- well, what's still made in this country, anyway. Businesses from Proctor & Gamble and Whirlpool, to White Castle, Federated Department Stores and Sherwin-Williams are headquarted there. Nationwide and Progressive insurances call Ohio home, as does American Electric Power and the Kroger grocery chain. Oh, and there's three banks: Natonal City, Key Corp, and FifthThird. As for culture -- no, stop laughing -- Cleveland's PlayHouse Square and University Circle are home to amazing theater and musuems -- and the world renowned Cleveland Orchestra. Ask anyone who knows music, and they'll tell you the Cleveland Orchestra is the bomb. If Ohio were its own country, it would have the 25th largest ecnomony in the world -- just behind the Netherlands.

That's the good news, but like so many states with a manufacturing base, Ohio has fallen on tough times. The 60 Minutes story said that median annual incomes had dropped by 10 percent during the W presidency -- thanks, pal. For the same reason I was pissed about the Democrats taking a powder on the Michigan primary, I am so glad the Donkey has decided to take an extended trail ride around Ohio. Both candidates are getting a first hand look at unemployment higher than the national average, and as well as a small taste of how the subprime mortgage disaster and foreclosures are playing out in the lives of working people. Yeah, Ohio's a microcosm, alright. Across the country, folks are worried about a tanking economy, jobs swimming overseas, ballooning inflation and lagging incomes that don't keep pace. Unfortunately, the fine folks in Ohio and Michigan are already knee deep in the muck -- and the rest of the country is following close behind. I know the war is motivating a lot of voters this election, but I think the economy has got to be priority number one for the next president -- that itty bitty, ill-conceived economic stimulus bill ain't gonna solve this mess.

Ohio is up for grabs, as I alluded to earlier. While it went red in the last two presidential elections, they weren't landslides by any stretch. Also, folks in Ohio are ripe for the message of Democratic change, especially after eight years of failed Republican policies that reward the companies that send their jobs overseas, and give tax cuts to the wealthiest one percent of Americans. More Americans than ever see themselves as "have-nots" -- not a good sign for the Republicans eyeing the Buckeye state, either. Couple that with a popular Democratic Govenor in former Congressman Ted Strictland, just elected in 2006 and already cleaning up the corruption of his predecessor (yeah, he was from that Taft family -- great political name -- it looked real pretty on the indictment). Plus, Ohio ousted Republican Sen. Mike DeWine in 2006, giving the nod to a much more progressive voice in Clevelander (and another former member of the congressional delegation), Sen. Sherrod Brown. All this is to say that Ohio is more purple than you think -- and this spells good news for the Democrats.

So, go my people. My friends and family. Go forth and vote on Tuesday. Speak your mind. Let your voice be heard. Show 'em how a Buckeye speaks truth to power. But please, please... vote Democratic in November. Is that too much to ask?

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