BATAVIA, Ohio (TDB) -- The two party leaders shared a stage at the Clermont County Chamber of Commerce today and agreed: Ohio's March 4 presidential primary now seems certain to play a significant role in selecting nominees for the White House. Deputy GOP Chair Kevin DeWine said he's convinced the early primaries and Super Tuesday on Feb. 5 won't lock things up for any candidate.
"It's my personal opinion it won't be decided by then. Hold on, because here come the presidential candidates."
Dem Chair Chris Redfern was equally as certain: "Ohio will be important, obviously, in November. But it appears Ohio will play a role in the primaries as well. There's no end in sight."
Traditionally, Ohio is a key state in the general election and often decides who wins the presidency. Its primary -- which comes late in the cycle -- is usually meaningless because the everybody already knows who the Republicans and Democrats plan to crown at the national conventions. So far, that hasn't happened.
DeWine and Redfern also agreed the run up to the November vote for president will be more intense in Ohio than ever before. Both said the campaign will be fought across all 88 counties, and Redfern said John Kerry lost in 2004 because his strategists focused too narrowly on urban areas. Redfern said Kerry could have won if he'd spent money in small towns, "just a few bucks on rural radio in places like Fulton County." He said the Dems have no intention of ignoring Clermont County this year even though it is overwhelmingly Republican.
DeWine said the state Democratic Party "now has a more organized 88-county strategy" that the Republicans intend to match. "We are planning to play in counties that have a dark blue Democratic tint to them."
Both said Ohio was crucial in November, but DeWine elaborated:
"Ohio has a long history of being on the side of the winner. The bottomline is: If you don't win the Buckeye State you don't win the White House. Especially if you are a Republican."
A questioner from the audience wondered who Redfern was backing -- Hillary, Obama or John Edwards. The state Dem chair said he was staying neutral. GOP leader DeWine said he had endorsed Hillary Clinton. That remark wrinkled some foreheads and led to a round of nervous laughs in the room. DeWine continued, "In the Democratic primary."