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Published: Friday, 2/22/2008

Governor dismisses questions about health

BY JIM PROVANCE
BLADE COLUMBUS BUREAU CHIEF
Gov. Ted Strickland Gov. Ted Strickland
JAY LAPRETE / AP Enlarge

COLUMBUS - "Do I look sick?" Gov. Ted Strickland asked yesterday as he held out his hands, palms down, to demonstrate their steadiness.

The governor's appearance with Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday, in which his head appeared to shake and his eyes blink uncontrollably, led to some speculation about his health.

"Maybe too much coffee, too little sleep, and too high a level of passion for my cause, which is Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton," said Mr. Strickland, 66. "I'm convinced she's the best person to be president. She has the skill, experience, and the ability to be a good president."

Near the end of an eight-minute joint appearance with Wisconsin Gov. Jim Dolan, a fellow Democrat and strong supporter of Sen. Barack Obama, Mr. Strickland became visibly animated.

Always known for having a Ronald Reaganlike shake to his head when he speaks, the governor appeared to visibly twitch and blink frequently on camera even when not speaking.

It became most noticeable when Mr. Wallace questioned him about whether Democratic National Committee rules should be changed to allow disqualified Florida and Michigan delegates deemed important for Mrs. Clinton to count at the September convention and whether he would consider the vice presidential spot on a Clinton ticket if she were to win the nomination.

As he's done frequently before, the answer was "no" to the latter question.

Moments earlier, Mr. Strickland, a superdelegate committed to Mrs. Clinton, had shot back at Mr. Dolan's suggestion that a 2008 Democratic convention in which superdelegates decided the nomination for someone other than the popular vote-getter would be comparable to the 1968 Chicago convention in which "party bosses" controlled the show.

Mrs. Clinton is counting on delegate-rich Ohio and Texas, both of which will hold their primary elections on March 4, to serve as a firewall against Mr. Obama's momentum. Mr. Strickland has traveled frequently with her both inside and outside the state.

Yesterday, Mr. Strickland said he last saw his doctor for a checkup in August or September and that the only medication he takes is Lipitor for cholesterol.

"Other than that, I think I'm a pretty healthy person," he said. "There may be something wrong with my head, but I don't think it's what we're talking about. Some people would say it's the inside of my skull that's troubled."

House Speaker Jon Husted (R., Kettering) said he has no reason to believe something is wrong with the governor's health. "Frankly, I've seen the governor get like that with me before," he said.

"He does it when he gets mad. I've seen him appear like that on occasions when he and I have been talking, and he got mad at me. I think he was just frustrated with the situation."

Almost to belie any question about his health, Mr. Strickland had joked yesterday to a National Aeronautics and Space Administration deputy administrator during a Columbus Future Forum that he'd like to volunteer for the astronaut program.

"Except that I'm afraid of heights," he said.

Contact Jim Provance at:

jprovance@theblade.com

or 614-221-0496.



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