McCain's Odds Longer in Ohio (article) : LUSENET : TB2K spinoff uncensored : One Thread

McCain's Odds Longer in Ohio

By JOHN AFFLECK, Associated Press Writer Link: link

CLEVELAND (AP) -- Hoping for a replay of his big Michigan victory, John McCain is appealing for support from non-Republicans in the Ohio primary that offers the third-largest cache of ''Super Tuesday'' delegates. But Ohio looks a lot tougher than its Midwest neighbor.

In a recent visit to a popular Cleveland food market, McCain told a rowdy crowd he welcomes votes from ''independents, Democrats, Libertarians and vegetarians'' -- a line he uses to good effect in many states.

And one of the most common questions the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections is receiving on its election hotline is ''How do I switch parties to vote in the Republican primary?'' Board of Elections Director William Wilkins said Thursday.

Yet analysts think a major crossover like the ones that helped McCain in Michigan and New Hampshire is unlikely in Ohio.

One reason is that Ohio has a Democratic primary on Tuesday, with voters choosing between Vice President Al Gore and former Sen. Bill Bradley. Michigan had no Democratic primary, leaving Democrats free to jump into the GOP contest.

Although the most recent polling shows Gore leading by a 3-to-1 margin, analysts believe most Democrats will stay within their party to vote.

Under Ohio election law, a primary voter must ask for the ballot of one party only. The voter is then affiliated with that party for the next two years, although he or she can change at the next primary.

Michigan and New Hampshire had no such restrictions.

Because voters technically become independent every two years if they don't vote in a primary, about 75 percent of Ohio's roughly 7.2 million voters have no party affiliation.

However, no one expects all those people to rush to the GOP primary. Most people lean toward voting Republican or Democratic, and will stay that way when they cast their ballots next week, analysts said.

''In Michigan and New Hampshire, particularly, there is this tradition of being quirky and crossing party lines,'' said John Green, director of the Ray C. Bliss Institute of Applied Politics at the University of Akron. ''We just don't have that in Ohio.''

Michigan has been a bellwether of presidential fortunes. No Republican has won the presidency without carrying Ohio in the general election, and only two Democrats in the last century have managed to lose Ohio and still go to the White House -- Franklin Roosevelt in 1944 and John F. Kennedy in 1960.

The 69 delegates at stake in Tuesday's GOP primary rank behind only California's 162 and New York's 101.

In Michigan, McCain won 51 percent of the vote to Bush's 43 percent, with less than half of the voters identifying themselves as Republicans. Exit polls indicated about 18 percent of the voters were Democrats.

McCain appealed directly to non-Republicans last Saturday when he made his first major campaign trip to Ohio. And the enthusiastic crowds that came to see him were peppered with people from outside the GOP -- attracted by the former prisoner of war's hero image and promises of straight talk.

''I can see McCain as a more effective president than Al Gore,'' said Linda Gruber of Cincinnati, a Democrat. ''But a year ago at this time, I would not have believed where I am today.''

Bush, who has lost some ground to McCain but still leads 53 percent to 36 percent in the latest University of Cincinnati-conducted Ohio Poll, responded with a campaign trip of his own through the state on Tuesday.

Gov. Bob Taft, Bush's Ohio campaign chairman, escorted him through stops in Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati.

McCain overcame the strong support of Michigan Gov. John Engler in that state. However, ''he has less time to spend here and less chance of winning,'' said Sidney Kraus, a political analyst and professor at Cleveland State University.

McCain is planning another trip to Cleveland on Sunday, and Bradley will be there that day, too. Bush and Gore currently have no plans to stop in Ohio again before Tuesday.

-- (, March 04, 2000

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