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Published: Thursday, 8/3/2000

Gracious Ohioans step aside

BY JIM PROVANCE
BLADE COLUMBUS BUREAU

PHILADELPHIA - In a move to give Dick Cheney's home state the limelight, Ohio skipped its turn in last night's roll call so that Wyoming could cast the votes that put Republican presidential nominee George W. Bush over the top.

Governor Taft will finally cast Ohio's 69 votes tonight shortly before the nomination becomes official and Mr. Bush makes his acceptance speech.

Pitching Ohio as "the reading state of America," the governor tried to prove his point by handing his responsibilities for the night to suburban Columbus third-grader, Ashley Colby, 8, whose parents are activists in the Ohio Republican Party.

"Just as more and more of my fellow students pass our reading and writing tests, the great state of Ohio tonight also passes," she told the convention, reading from a prepared statement.

U.S. Rep. John Kasich (R., Ohio), who had been considered by Mr. Bush as his running mate, made a pitch for tax cuts, but another Ohioan who had been promised a moment in the limelight saw it taken away due to a tight TV schedule.

Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell had been promised the opportunity to make remarks and second the vice presidential nomination of Mr. Cheney, with whom he had worked as part of the senior Bush's administration.

But time restraints designed to fit Mr. Cheney's acceptance speech and the Wyoming vote putting Mr. Bush over the top into network TV slots prompted the last-minute cancellation of Mr. Blackwell's remarks.

"I would have liked to have been on the inside of that strategy session with the Bush people when they were first talking about Kenny Blackwell, co-chairman of the (Steve) Forbes campaign, seconding the vice president's nomination," said Ohio Republican Party Chairman Bob Bennett.

These were moments that state's GOP leaders such as Mr. Bennett felt Ohio was due given its crucial role in the strategy to elect George W. Bush in November.

"We want Governor Bush to know how important we were in the primary to carry him through to be our nominee," said Mr. Taft. "We want him to focus on our state, as he is doing, and most of all we want him to remember us once he is elected."

Other than Mr. Kasich, the only other prior appearance for an Ohioan at the podium came on the first day of the convention when state Senate President Dick Finan (R., Cincinnati) made a routine motion.

Mr. Blackwell, who served under Jack Kemp in the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development during the senior Bush's administration, made the second remarks of Mr. Kemp as Bob Dole's choice for vice president in 1996.

It was no secret that Mr. Blackwell was hoping for a speaker's spot at some point in the convention, despite the fact he was a late convert to Mr. Bush's camp after wealthy Mr. Forbes backed out.

At a time when the party is stacking its speakers with minorities to stress diversity, the absence of one of the nation's most visible black GOP office-holders was conspicuous. Instead, starring roles have gone to retired Gen. Colin Powell and Bush foreign affairs advisor, Condaleeza Rice.



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