A primary view from the firewall, I mean, heart of it all, Ohio

9 years ago

If someone had told me 20 years ago, when I first moved to Ohio as a born and bred in New England left-leaning graduate student, that not only would I still be living here in 2008 but that I'd be blogging about the politics of this swingiest of swing states - and that people would read what I wrote about those politics - I'd have said, "Oh, right. And we're going to have a woman president before I die too!"

But not only do I still live in Ohio and we might have a female president before I die (I'm thinking I'm going to live long enough to see more than just one viable female candidate for that office), but I find Ohio to be at least as fascinating as my home state of Connecticut when it comes to politics.

With the full weight of the campaigns trying to push voters toward their preferred end of the pendulum (I've participated in two Hillary Clinton camp calls in the last 24 hours - one with Howard Wolfson and one with Harold Ickes and earlier this week, received a dinner invite for bloggers from Barack Obama's on the ground online communications connection), here are my top ten reasons to love primary politics in Ohio and relish the run-up to its primary on March 4:

10. Ohio's primary is an open primary. Ohioans who are registered to vote can go into their precinct and ask for (or "pull") either a Republican or a Democratic ballot. Unfortunately for those of us who are still undecided, the removal of former candidates like Joe Biden, Chris Dodd and Bill Richardson makes this feature a little less exciting. The inability to predict also has to do with the large number of Ohio voters who do not register as Democrats or Republicans specifically because they can pull either ballot at a primary.

9. Ohioans have experienced the worst of the worst when it comes to election fraud accusations. Start with this 2006 Rolling Stone article by Robert F. Kennedy. How much worse can it get? (I come from the school of "it can always be worse," but seriously, given all the attention Ohio has garnered for its abysmal record of voter access and counting frauds, it still defies logic that it could be worse.) Well, this New York Times Magazine article from January 2008 is an excellent primer on just how much worse it can get and why so many of us say, paper, optical, touch-screen - they're all problematic. Have I mentioned how many times my older brother in Seattle e-mailed during the 2004 and 2006 elections to rant against our former Secretary of State, Ken Blackwell?

8. No one "C" city is like another. The big Cs are Cleveland, in the north along Lake Erie, Columbus in Central Ohio and Cincinnati in the Southwest. I've spent time in all three, though only a few days total, in twenty years, in Cincinnati. But I know no one who would dispute the difference between the three. Although in Cleveland and Columbus, Democrats rule, while Cincinnati's diverse city council includes members of a political party called Charterites, the fact is that many of Ohio's more than 9 million eligible voters live in rural areas, not urban centers and that fact has a lot to do with the state's red hue of the last few years, though much less so since the blue tide of 2006 when four of the five state offices turned over to Democrats from Republicans (governor, attorney general, secretary of state and treasurer; only the auditor's office remained occupied by a Republican politician).

7. Few people thought Ohio would matter. And honestly, not even that much space - cyber or otherwise - was spent trying to convince anyone in Ohio that we should move the primary. I don't know if that was prescient as much as typical of Ohioans being slow to accepting, let alone desiring change. Still, Louis Jacobson of Congress Now said Ohio would matter regardless of when we held our primary and I tended to think the same.

6. With three weeks between Super Tuesday (2/5) and Ohio's March 4 primary, and only a few states in between, the patterns the candidates are making as they crisscross through Ohio look like the back of a needlepoint canvas. Just check out the posts on Glass City Jungle by Lisa Renee Ward. She's based in Toledo and tracks as many events as she can (see her left-hand sidebar with campaign contact info). Additionally, pretty much every Ohio political blog has added some kind of an "upcoming" widget to help people track what's going on when and where.

5. Ohio is home to more than 100 institutions of higher education. So, although the state's population is in decline and has been for years, it's an excellent proving ground for the youth vote - will they, won't they, and if they do, who will they do it for? In Ohio, for the youth vote I tend to follow Annie at The Chief Source who has posted about Clinton, Kyle who blogs there as well but tends to follow Obama, Ben Keeler at The Keeler Political Report is a good conservative to follow and David Potts at Ohio Valley Politics does a great job following Valley Ohioans.

4. It's the economy, stupid. Especially in Ohio, stupid. Sorry - I don't usually go for name-calling, but anyone who knows anything about Ohio's voters concerns, has got to know that it is indeed the economy, stupid. Iraq continues not to be the number one issue. The subprime mortgage mess, health care, jobs, poverty and education also compete for title of the most serious issue that Ohioans want addressed.

3. Ohio's political blogosphere is stratospheric in its depth and breadth. Fahgeddabout bothering with Ohio's MSM (oh, okay - I subscribe to the RSS feeds for all the MSM's political blogs - the Columbus Dispatch has The Daily Briefing, the Plain Dealer has Openers and the Cincinnati Enquirer has Politics Extra - as well as their breaking news and other feeds). But seriously? If you want to see what the Ohio blogs are saying - and you will if you decide to follow Ohio even minimally between now and March 4, subscribe to BlogNetNews Ohio and keep an eye on Lefty Blogs - Ohio. I have more than 100 Ohio political blogs in my Bloglines reader. And I read them all, everyday. Lots of primary source blogging and breaking news items.

2. I live in Cuyahoga County - ground-zero for board of elections shenanigans and suspicion. I've heard the new director, Jane Platten, speak before and she's very earnest. But, well, just read #9 again. :)

1. I love attention - and I don't even have to resort to name-calling. All I have to do is be an undecided voter who lives in Ohio. That's it. Is there any easier way to get hordes of e-mails in your inbox telling you how much your voice (read: vote) is needed? How much your voice (read: vote) makes a difference? How much your voice (read: vote) will count? Then again, if you go back to #2 and #9, well, you can understand why all that is a tough sell to Ohio voters.

As a final note, please excuse the absence of discussion about John McCain and Mike Huckabee. No one - not the blogs, not the mainstream media and not the candidates themselves are mentioning themselves in the same sentence as Ohio. The conventional wisdom I've heard is that McCain is expected to do very well here, but that no one expects it to matter. Please, if you have something to add to this piece about Ohio's primary preview, please chime in!

Other interesting takes around about Ohio:

TPM with a view of the polls

The Plain Dealer's political home page

Quinnipiac poll, 2/14/08

Pollster poll of polls

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