Ohio tipping point for White House

Published 12:00 am Monday, June 23, 2008

Associated Press

COLUMBUS (AP) — Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland received a standing ovation Saturday night when he predicted the state will again tip the race for the White House — this time, delivering it to Democratic presidential nominee-in-waiting Barack Obama.

Strickland, noting that he had backed Hillary Rodham Clinton for the Democratic nomination, said she would want him to deliver a message.

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‘‘Barack Obama is the nominee of our party. He is a bright, committed, energizing young leader,’’ Strickland said at the Ohio Democratic Party’s annual dinner. ‘‘I met with him yesterday in Chicago and I pledged to him then, as I had previously, that I will work my heart out for him and that Ohio will work her heart out for him.’’

‘‘Aren’t you glad to be a Democrat?’’ Strickland shouted. ‘‘Aren’t you really, really, really angry with George W. Bush and Dick Cheney?’’

Democratic governors who won election in states that twice backed Bush have lessons to offer Obama, one of those governors said.

‘‘The door of the White House only opens through Ohio,’’ said Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, a Democrat from a traditionally Republican state.

Sebelius, daughter of former Ohio Gov. John Gilligan, touted Obama’s credentials and ‘‘Kansas values.’’ She said Obama would be superior to presumptive Republican nominee John McCain on kitchen-table issues Ohioans care about, such as health care, affordable education and home foreclosures.

While her remarks were meant to rally Democrats, part of her aim was to quiet discontent within the party.

Sen. Sherrod Brown told the crowd a McCain presidency would be a ‘‘third term for George Bush.’’

He criticized the Republican nominee for visiting Ottawa, Canada, on Saturday rather than Ottawa, Ohio — where the state has seen economic hardship and lost jobs. Brown said McCain is out of touch with Ohio voters.

‘‘There is no way, no how that John McCain’s going to carry Ohio in 2008,’’ Brown told the crowd of about 2,500 on the Ohio State Fairgrounds.

Clinton, who headlined the same dinner last year, scored a convincing primary win in Ohio in March. She has since dropped out, but many Democrats worry the party remains divided.

Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones, a Cleveland Democrat who backed Clinton’s campaign, did her part Saturday by delivering a video presentation complimenting Clinton but urging the state’s Democrats to get behind Obama.

Sebelius and 19 other Democratic governors met with Obama in Chicago on Friday to share state policy concerns and offer political help to the party’s presumptive presidential pick. The governors have built-in networks of experienced political aides, something Obama will have to tap as he prepares for a November election against McCain.

Sebelius said the focus of Friday’s meeting, which Strickland also attended, was on dovetailing the needs of Democratic governors — who lead 28 of 50 states — with Obama’s general election campaign.

The Republican National Committee said voters will reject Obama, no matter who speaks on his behalf.

‘‘Democratic governors, much like the voters from the states they represent, recognize that Barack Obama’s big-government agenda and old-style politics are not a good match for their states’ interests,’’ said Blair Latoff, an RNC spokeswoman.