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Published: Thursday, 2/7/2008

Rich in delegates, Ohio looms large in presidential race

BY TOM TROY
BLADE POLITICS WRITER

With the votes still being counted from Super Tuesday, presidential candidates yesterday began setting their sights on the remaining states - including Ohio, one of the biggest delegate troves before the party conventions in August.

The Ohio primary on March 4 will follow a two-week period with no other state primaries - the longest such gap in the primary/caucus schedule.

"It's an open election," said Jon Stainbrook, a Toledo Republican activist and supporter of John McCain for the Republican nomination. "Everybody's got to make the visits here. They've got to have face time. They're going to have to press the flesh."

Democrats Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, running nearly even after the nationwide smattering of primary elections and caucuses Tuesday, both made references to the upcoming Ohio primary on their Web sites yesterday.

And Republican Mitt Romney, seen as finished by many pundits after his drubbing by John McCain, claimed he sees Ohio as fertile ground.

Frank Szollosi, a Democratic Toledo councilman and a political consultant, said Mrs. Clinton has organizations throughout the country that served her well on Tuesday, while Mr. Obama succeeds when he makes direct contact with voters - something he'll have time to do before March 4.

"One thing that favors Obama is he'll have time to campaign in these states," Mr. Szollosi said.

"Winning Ohio will provide some bragging rights and a bounce. Whoever wins [Ohio], regardless of how the delegates are split, they're going to generate a lot of momentum," he said.

The Democratic nominee, to avoid a brokered convention, will need 2,025 delegates, while the Republican nominee will need 1,191 delegates.

Ohio will contribute 162 Democratic delegates. Of those, 92 will be awarded based on the proportion of the vote in the primary by congressional district. The other 70 are delegates by virtue of the offices they hold, such as congressman, governor, and party chairman, or by appointment by party officials.

The 88 Republican delegates will follow a modified "winner-take-all" process with all 34 at-large delegates awarded to whoever wins a majority of the votes statewide and 54 awarded by congressional district with all three delegates in each district going to the winner of that district.

There will be a long time for the candidates to court Ohio.

The biggest groups of primaries before March 4 are in Washington, the Virgin Islands, Louisiana, Kansas, and Nebraska on Saturday; Maine on Sunday; Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia on Tuesday; Guam on Feb. 16, and Wisconsin and Hawaii on Feb. 19.

Also holding primaries March 4 are Texas, Rhode Island, and Vermont.

According to a statement issued by the Clinton campaign, Mrs. Clinton performs well in large state primaries, such as Ohio's, and she enjoys the endorsement of Ohio's Democratic governor, Ted Strickland.

The Obama campaign's new director, Paul Tewes, said Mrs. Clinton has big-name supporters, but Mr. Obama has "longstanding grass-roots support in the state [that] will translate into a formidable organization."

On the Republican side, Mr. Romney described Ohio in a campaign memo yesterday as "favorable terrain" because its economy is similar to Michigan's, which he won Jan. 15.

Contact Tom Troy at:

tomtroy@theblade.com

or 419-724-6058.



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