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Published: Sunday, 8/8/2004

It's Ohio's time to feel very pretty

What a splendid time to be a Buckeye!

My friends in the lonely, non-swing states are so envious.

"Hey, so tell me, who's coming out there this week?" a California pal asked during one of our phone call catch-up sessions.

"Well, for starters, we've got Laura Bush popping over on Monday right here in metro Toledo, and who knows who else will show up elsewhere around the state," I said.

Then, exhaling one of those weary-hostess sighs, I couldn't resist adding: "We are so popular these days, it isn't even funny. It's just impossible to keep a supply of fresh guest towels in the powder room, because people are forever dropping in on us."

We go for years at a time, we Ohioans, perennially dismissed as just another one of those "fly-over" states.

But with a presidential election looming, and with us as one of the nation's fickle swing states, we've finally become attractive enough for the planes to actually land.

Hmmmm.

This must be what it's like to be that skinny 12-year-old girl who wakes up on her 13th birthday only to discover that, literally overnight, she has - how shall we put this? - blossomed.

Once relegated to standing awkwardly among the wall flowers, now suddenly everyone wants a turn with us out on the dance floor. And by "dance," we mean "slow dance."

None other than the nation's former top ballroom instructor, Bill Clinton, told Rolling Stone magazine: "Ohio's our best chance for a big-state pickup," and if anyone knows a thing or two about a pickup, it might be the former president.

If Ohio could only sing, this is the song our state would now be trilling:

I feel pretty!

Oh, so pretty!

I feel pretty, and witty, and gay!

And I pity

Any girl

Who isn't me today!

(Well, on second thought, maybe not that "gay" part. We're having serious legislative second thoughts about whether we shouldn't conjure up some strong language against constitutional protections for all Ohioans - but, alas, I digress.)

"Many people," wrote Slate's Timothy Noah, "long considered Ohio, at least from a distance, to be a boring place. Its very representativeness made it uninteresting."

Uninteresting, maybe - we are indeed white-bread people - but crucial nevertheless.

As Ohio goes, so goes the nation. No new president has driven his U-Haul up the White House driveway without winning Ohio since 1964. And this time, we're going to be an especially tough sell. We may be "representative," but we're behind the rest of the nation when it comes to recession recovery.

With the economy having put a hex on us, Ohioans grew accustomed to saying, "Woe is us!"

But until November, anyway, it's more like, "Woo is us!"



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