Canton Repository

February 5, 2004

Taft sure Kerry to get Ohio Dem vote

Copley Washington correspondent

WASHINGTON — Democrats won’t abandon Ohio in the coming presidential election as they did four years ago, when Al Gore lost by 4 percentage points to President Bush, Ohio Gov. Bob Taft predicted Wednesday.

Ohio will be a key battleground state, and Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, whom Taft expects to win the Democratic nomination, will be a tough opponent, the Republican governor said during a visit to Washington.

“It’s becoming increasingly apparent that Kerry will in all probability be the nominee,” Taft said after giving a speech on the challenges facing governors at a seminar sponsored by Governing Magazine.

Although Republicans dominate the state Legislature, statewide offices and the congressional delegation in Ohio, Taft said the GOP is preparing for a fierce presidential battle in the Buckeye State.

“We always assume that it’s going to be a down-to-the-wire, photo-finish, close race in a state like Ohio that is truly an evenly divided state,” he said. “In presidential races, it has swung back and forth.”

In 2000, Bush won in Ohio after Gore pulled back his television advertising in the state in the final weeks of the campaign. Democrats are “not going to make that mistake” this year, contended Taft, who recently took over as chairman of the Republican Governors Association.

No Republican has become president without carrying Ohio. Republicans usually have carried the state in recent decades, but Bill Clinton won in Ohio both times he was elected. Jimmy Carter carried Ohio by a fraction of a percentage point in 1976, while Lyndon B. Johnson enjoyed a landslide victory in Ohio in 1964.

Taft said he expects Kerry to be a “strong” opponent to Bush, but he declined to elaborate.

“It’s too early to talk about that until he becomes the nominee,” said Taft, who is chairman of the Bush campaign in Ohio.

Asked if he has met Kerry, Taft said he thought they met at a governors’ event, but he was unsure.
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