Southern Ohio has opportunity

Published 12:00 am Friday, February 29, 2008

It started sometime in 2003 when political analysts figured out that the 2004 presidential election would be decided in Ohio.

They were right and what followed was a march through every corner of the state by President Bush, Democratic challenger John Kerry and those around them.

In this pocket of the state, President Bush made a visit to Ironton and Shawnee State University in Portsmouth, the town that also got a visit from vice presidential candidate John Edwards.

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Elizabeth Edwards made a stop at OU Southern and Kerry had a bus tour that ended with a rally near the Scioto County-Pike County line.

It was perhaps the most political attention this part of Ohio had seen in its history.

And here we are, four years later, and the presidential race is again on our doorstep. It isn’t by accident, of course, because these campaigns understand that statewide races in Ohio are won or lost in the rural areas.

We pick winners.

The race for the Democratic nominee has a much different dynamic and Tuesday’s primary will be hotly contested. That has again led to attention from the campaigns, as evidenced by Hillary Clinton’s visit to Hanging Rock on Thursday and former President Bill Clinton’s stop at Shawnee State earlier this week.

But this attention does more than give these communities an exciting few hours with some of the world’s political heavyweights. It gives this region an opportunity.

Voters here should remember that these campaigns do not show up by accident. They want your vote, and with that should come some expectations.

The recent political shift has shed light on this region, revealed the unique challenges of Appalachian and exposed some of the failures of the federal government.

Voters here now sense that they are engaged and that empowerment can reap rewards. It is not that we should expect any special treatment, but we should expect candidates to understand our problems and then find a way to do something about them.