FILE - Former President Bill Clinton speaks during a public memorial service for Philadelphia Inquirer co-owner Lewis Katz Clinton is scheduled to speak Friday night at the Ohio Democratic Party's annual state dinner in Columbus.
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COLUMBUS — Former President Bill Clinton plans to speak tonight to fellow Democrats in Ohio as he helps raise money in one of the nation’s top presidential battleground states.
Nearly 2,500 people are expected to attend the Ohio Democratic Party party’s annual state dinner tonight in Columbus, party officials said.
Clinton’s visit comes as his wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton, weighs a second bid for the White House. The former secretary of state has been on a book tour this week that has attracted intense media attention and resembled the frenetic pace of a campaign kickoff.
Hillary Clinton won Ohio’s Democratic primary in 2008 over the party’s eventual nominee, President Barack Obama. Her husband carried Ohio both times in his presidential elections.
Ohio Democratic Party Chairman Chris Redfern said the former president has been eager to help and understands the importance of the fall governor’s race. He said neither Clinton has said no to the party’s invitations.
“They know that Ohio matters,” he said. “It matters not just in 2014 but beyond.”
The former president remains in heavy demand as a fundraiser and adviser. He also has been helping Democrats battle to keep their U.S. Senate majority and win other races.
The dinner is the state party’s largest fundraising event. Asked how much the party would take in, Redfern said, “A lot.”
The money will be used to help the party’s statewide candidates.
Democrats will need it going into the fall elections. Republican Gov. John Kasich has amassed a sizeable fundraising advantage over his Democratic challenger, Ed FitzGerald. The first-term governor has banked $9.3 million, compared with the $1.9 million that FitzGerald had on hand, according to campaign finance reports filed Friday.
Kasich also has been running ahead of FitzGerald in recent polls.
In a Quinnipiac University poll last month, Kasich led FitzGerald 50 percent to 35 percent while two out of three voters in Ohio said they didn’t don’t know enough about the Cuyahoga County executive to form an opinion of him.
Just over half of those surveyed gave Kasich a favorable mark on how he has handled the economy and jobs, which are the top two issues among voters, according to the poll. The survey of 1,174 Ohio voters was conducted by phone May 7-12. It had a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.