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Republican DeWine#039;s speech popular with Democrats

Democrats in Ohio have found inspiration in the words of Ohio's senior senator - Republican Mike DeWine.

Akron Mayor Don Plusquellic, Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman and state Rep. Chris Redfern of Port Clinton each referred to DeWine in recent speeches. They quoted a Dec. 4 speech the DeWine gave in Cleveland.

DeWine, in frank tones to the Republicans who run state government, warned that the state's economic woes could turn into a political albatross.

''Though we are a great state, with great people, we are also an undereducated, an underemployed, and an underpaid state, with a tax structure that is reflective of the past - not the future,'' said DeWine, of Cedarville. ''Are we heading in the wrong direction? The answer is clearly yes, and the people of Ohio are starting to realize it.''

Coleman, in a speech announcing his campaign for governor, quoted directly from DeWine's speech before adding, ''Who said this? Ohio's senior senator, Mike DeWine, a Republican.''

Redfern, the House minority leader, also turned to DeWine's speech in his response to Gov. Bob Taft's State of the State speech on Tuesday.

''As Senator Mike DeWine reminded Ohioans … just two months ago, it's time for this Legislature to invest and reinvest in young and younger Ohioans and that includes primary and secondary education and certainly higher education,'' Redfern said.

Plusquellic also turned to DeWine during his State of the City address last week, citing the Republican's ''scathing speech.''

It isn't unusual for politicians to turn to the other party to make a point. President Bush has variously cited John Kennedy and Franklin Roosevelt in speeches.

''It's a good political tactic whenever you can quote somebody on the other side to support your political point of view,'' said John Green, director of the Ray C. Bliss Institute for Applied Politics at the University of Akron.

Green described DeWine and fellow Ohio Sen. George Voinovich as ''managerial Republicans,'' who are not far-right opponents of big government but advocates of making government work.

DeWine's message wasn't lost on Taft or Republican leaders in the Legislature, who have embraced an overhaul of the state's Depression-era tax code and promised a lean budget for the two years beginning July 1.

''Governor Taft and other state leaders have said the same things that Senator DeWine said in his speech,'' DeWine spokesman Mike Dawson said. ''He was giving a candid assessment of where Ohio was and the fact that we needed to make changes.''

Democrats are quoting DeWine because he's familiar to most Ohioans and his speech raised awareness of the state's troubles, Coleman campaign spokesman Dan Trevas said.

''He's got a larger megaphone because he's a United States senator. They are words that are worth repeating. They are not new words. They are words that Democrats have been repeating for more than decade,'' Trevas said.

Dawson played down the sudden embrace of Democrats for his boss.

''What matters is we take steps to improve Ohio's standing, that we create more opportunities,'' he said. ''It doesn't matter who quotes what speech. What matters is Republicans and Democrats working together to make the changes necessary.''

John McCarthy is a correspondent for the Ohio Associated Press, Columbus bureau.