Published: Sunday, December 30, 2007
One Valley state legislator tried unsuccessfully to move the Ohio primary to...
One Valley state legislator tried unsuccessfully to move the Ohio primary to February.
If the Nov. 4 presidential election is the political equivalent of the Super Bowl, then Thursday's Iowa caucuses and the Jan. 8 New Hampshire primary are the opening games.
The preseason is over.
Are you ready for some presidential politics?
It's a long season, but it's important to get those early victories to gain momentum.
"You can't get to the Super Bowl until you win the playoffs," said state Rep. Robert F. Hagan of Youngstown, D-60th, about the primaries and caucuses.
Iowa and New Hampshire play key roles in determining who is and who isn't president.
A poor showing in the 1968 New Hampshire primary by President Lyndon Johnson led to his decision to not seek re-election. A victory by Jimmy Carter in the 1976 New Hampshire primary and a strong second-place finish by Bill Clinton in that state's 1992 primary gave the candidates momentum to capture the White House. Every president elected since 1972 finished in the top three in the Iowa caucuses.
"Iowa and New Hampshire are very important because they establish momentum in hotly contested races," said Dave Johnson, Columbiana County Republican chairman and a supporter of ex-Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.
U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan of Niles, D-17th, campaigned in Iowa twice for U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd, considered a long shot to win the Democratic nomination. Gov. Ted Strickland, a Democrat formerly of Lisbon, also visited the Hawkeye State two times for U.S. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, whom he's endorsed for president.
"You talk to six or seven voters at a time," Ryan said. "It's about the intensity of support. You spend time with these folks. You've got to talk to them and follow up. It's less about money and more about the substantive issues."
Those two states and several others moved their primaries and caucuses to January and February. So does that make Ohio, which didn't move its primary from the planned March 4 date, a non-entity in deciding the Republican and Democratic presidential nominees?
In 2004, 18 states held caucuses and primaries before the March Super Tuesday. Ohio and nine other states held primaries on Super Tuesday that year. A poor showing that day led John Edwards to quit the race and give the Democratic nomination to John Kerry.
This year, however, Super Tuesday isn't so super. By March 4, 35 states would have already held primaries, caucuses and conventions, including 23 on Feb. 5, dubbed Super Duper Tuesday. Besides Ohio, only four other states are holding primaries on Super Tuesday.
Mahoning Valley political officials have mixed opinions on Ohio's role in nominating presidential candidates.
"I don't see how this makes it past the 5th of February," Ryan said. "Ohio's March 4 primary isn't likely to mean anything."
Those who agree with Ryan about the races being wrapped up before the Ohio primary include state Sens. Capri Cafaro of Liberty, D-32nd, and John Boccieri of New Middletown, D-33rd. Neither is endorsing a presidential candidate.
"Things will be decided by the time the Ohio primary rolls around," Cafaro said.
Boccieri said he tried to convince his fellow legislators to move Ohio's primary to February without success.
But there are plenty of others who believe the races are so close that Ohio, which historically plays a major role in deciding the president in the general election, could be a factor in the primary.
"I think the Ohio primary might mean something and it could even go to the convention to decide the candidates," said Craig Bonar, Trumbull County Republican chairman and a supporter of ex-Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson.
The field is "so wide open that it's possible at this point that the Ohio primary plays a factor," said Mark Munroe, vice chairman of the Mahoning County Republican Party and the county board of elections. Munroe supports former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani.
"This will last a little longer than people believe," said state Sen. Jason Wilson of Columbiana, D-30th, a supporter of ex-U.S. Sen. John Edwards. "It could be undecided by the time of Ohio's primary."
Youngstown Mayor Jay Williams, who isn't endorsing a presidential candidate, says it is quite possible that the presidential nominees won't be determined until Super Tuesday.
That's because each party has a number of candidates who can win the nominations.
"It's been a very long time since there's been that many viable candidates," Williams said.
If the plan for early primaries and caucuses was to increase interest in the race for the presidency, it hasn't worked for Williams.
"It's too early," he said. "There's no real interest. It's a curiosity as to who wins and if there is momentum for certain candidates depending on how they finish. But there's no excitement yet."
The early primaries mean the campaigns for presidential candidates starts earlier and the entire process drags on for far too long, Munroe said.
"The primary season is broke and needs to be fixed," he said.
Hagan, an Edwards supporter, said he initially thought the early primaries weren't a good thing.
"But more and more I think it's the opposite," he said. "It brings attention to politics earlier."
State Rep. Thomas Letson of Warren, D-64th, a supporter of U.S. Sen. Barack Obama, said he's excited by the start of the primaries and caucuses.
"Everyone is focused on discussing the important issues in our lives such as education and health care," he said. "It's kind of nice."
Regardless of differing opinions, Valley politicians agree that Ohio will be one of a handful of battleground states for the presidency as it was in 2004.
"Whoever wins the nomination will have to come back to us because they'll need our support to win the general election," Ryan said. "We're in a real good position" to determine the next president.
"The road to the White House goes through Ohio," added Wilson. "Ohio plays a pivotal role in who it supports."
"Ohio is very relevant and important to the general election," Letson said. "We are an incredible microcosm of the country."
While voters in Iowa will caucus Thursday, Democrats in Ohio will do the same. Democrats in each of the state's 18 congressional districts will hold pre-primary caucuses to elect delegates to the party's national convention for each of the presidential candidates.
Registration starts at 6 p.m. with the candidates' caucuses starting at 7:15 p.m. Those in the 17th Congressional District will meet at the Trumbull Career and Technical Center, 528 Educational Highway in Champion. Those in the 6th District will gather at Marietta High School.
Those interested in being a delegate must submit a declaration of candidacy form by 5 p.m. Tuesday by fax to the Ohio Democratic Party's headquarters at (877) THE-DEMS. Forms are available at ohiodems.org the party's Web site.