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Scott Galindez: Ohio Back In The Spotlight

Ohio Back In The Spotlight

By Scott Galindez
t r u t h o u t | Report

In 2004, Kenneth Blackwell, long lines and accusations of problems with voting machines dominated the headlines. Ohio and Florida were the battleground states everyone pointed to as the bellwethers in the race between Kerry and Bush.

In 2008, both states are back in the spotlight. Florida would rather not be; they broke the rules and had their delegates stripped, but Ohio is in the position every state wants. They are in a position to decide if the race for the Democratic Party nomination should continue, or if it's time to crown the nominee.

If Ohio and Texas give Sen. Hillary Clinton wins by substantial margins, the race goes on, but if the margins are close or Sen. Barack Obama wins one of the states, he will be the Democratic Party nominee.

The Clinton campaign has pointed to Ohio and Texas as their firewall for the last month. It may have been a big mistake. The rules in Texas favor Obama, and the demographics in Ohio are similar to Wisconsin, a state in which he trounced Clinton.

The Clinton campaign has poured a lot of resources into Ohio, and even former President Bill Clinton has described the state as a must win.

The polls in Ohio have Senator Clinton ahead by 7 to 9 points; two weeks ago she was up by 14 to 21. The reason the Clinton campaign felt good about Ohio is, prior to February, she was the choice of blue-collar workers. In recent contests, however, Obama has been winning that vote. Mark Penn, the chief strategist for Clinton, dismisses those gains by Obama. "We were out spent significantly in those states; that is not going to happen in Ohio, Texas and Pennsylvania," said Penn.

The Clinton camp needs to regain its advantage among white blue-collar voters to have a chance in Ohio. The Obama campaign is aggressively courting them. The endorsements of four major national unions, including the Teamsters and SEIU, are a big boost in those efforts. The United Food and Commercial Workers Union is airing spots for Obama in Ohio, a move that has come under fire by the Clinton campaign. They say Obama is breaking a pledge to not accept assistance from outside groups.

Obama's campaign has also angered the Clinton campaign for what they call misleading mailings to Ohio voters.

"Shame on you, Barack Obama," Senator Clinton said at a news conference on Saturday, holding the fliers and shaking them in the air as she spoke. "It is time you ran a campaign consistent with your messages in public. That's what I expect from you. Meet me in Ohio. Let's have a debate about your tactics and your behavior in this campaign."

The fliers in question criticize Senator Clinton's support of NAFTA and mandates in her health care plan the Obama campaign says could lead to to forcing people to buy something they can't afford.

The Clinton campaign says the health care mailing is no different than the famous Harry and Louise ads that helped derail the Clintons' health care plan in the early 90s. They also say Senator Clinton has been critical of NAFTA for years and never used the word "boon" when describing it. Newsday has recently admitted the word "boon" was a characterization of her position.

You can see the NAFTA flier by clicking on the following link:

You can see the image the Clinton campaign says is similar to the Harry and Louise ads here.

Obama's campaign fired back, "Everything in those mailers is completely accurate. We look forward to having a debate this Tuesday on the facts, and the facts are that Senator Clinton was a supporter of NAFTA and the China permanent trade treaties until this campaign began."

Its statement added that, on health care, Clinton "herself has said that under the Clinton health care plan, she would consider 'going after the wages' of Americans who don't purchase health insurance, whether they can afford it or not."

Obama responded at a news conference later in the day, saying he's puzzled why Clinton brought up the mailers now because they had been circulating for days. "It makes me think there is something tactical about her getting so exercised this morning," Obama said.

The Demographics in Ohio Are Similar to Wisconsin

In an article for the Washington Examiner, Philip Elliott wrote, "Senator Clinton's Democratic presidential campaign had counted on support from women, and less educated and less affluent voters. They weren't there for her in Wisconsin; if the trend continues, they might not be there for her in Ohio."

Rival Barack Obama claimed those demographics Tuesday and completed a 10-state string of wins that again shuffled the Democrats' nominating contest. As the two head toward Ohio's March 4 primary, the state's demographics offer scant reason for the Clinton camp's public optimism.

"He fractured her coalition totally," said Paul Maslin, who was a pollster for former Democratic presidential candidate Bill Richardson, but is unaffiliated in the current race. "If this is a preview of Ohio, she is in trouble."

The African-American vote is smaller in Ohio, but could provide enough cushion for Obama if he continues to tie Clinton among white voters as he has in recent contests. In the 2004 general election, African-Americans made up 10 percent of the vote. That number should be larger in the Democratic primary. Latinos made up only 3 percent of the vote in 2004. Obama has been winning as much as 90 percent of the African-American vote, a number that gives him a significant advantage in any state that has a significant African-American voting bloc.

Both sides are pointing to advantages they believe they have in the state. Senator Clinton must win big here or Senator Obama will maintain his lead in the popular vote and among pledged delegates. Those leads will be hard for the "super delegates" to ignore.


Scott Galindez is Truthout's Washington, DC Bureau Chief.

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