Obama will be a tough sell in Ohio

By Bertram de Souza

As this is being written, Democratic vice presidential nominee Joe Biden is on national television ripping into his “good friend” John McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee for president. It’s an impressive performance by the veteran U.S. senator from Delaware, and the Democratic Party faithful packed into the Pepsi Center in Denver are relishing the red meat.

But as Biden ticks off the reasons a McCain presidency would be a continuation of President Bush’s eight-year tenure, this question comes to mind: Will Biden’s impressive r sum , especially his foreign policy credentials, help Obama in the battleground states that the senator from Illinois lost in the primary to Hillary Clinton?

More specifically, will an Obama-Biden ticket be able to turn red Ohio blue?

That question would not be so compelling today had New York Sen. Clinton been the vice presidential pick. Her performance in the March 4 primary in the Buckeye State, in which she beat Obama handily, and her huge base of support in predominantly Democratic regions like the Mahoning Valley would have changed the dynamics of the race.

As it it now, the contest is a virtual dead heat, according to a recent Quinnipiac University poll. Forty-four percent of the respondents favored Obama, while 43 percent said they were for McCain, who will accept his party’s nomination this week at the Republican National Convention in Minneapolis-St. Paul.

Buffo performance

It had to have been a “V8” political moment for the Democratic nominee last Tuesday night when he saw the jammed convention center in Denver literally rocking as Clinton stood at the lectern, and as he listened to the reaction of the party faithful when she spoke. It was a buffo performance by the most talented female politician in America today. Just ask her husband, former President Bill Clinton, who also wowed the crowd when he addressed them Wednesday night.

Obama must have had to restrain himself from slamming his hand against his forehead and quipping, “I should have had her on my ticket.”

Why he didn’t will remain the most intriguing question of this presidential election.

Not only would Clinton have brought the 18 million voters who supported her in the primary election to the table, but she also would have made it so easy for people like Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland and other statewide Democratic officeholders who supported her to embrace the Democratic ticket.

Hillary Clinton’s support among blue-collar workers in Ohio, among hard-core Democrats and even among black voters parallels that of Bill Clinton’s.

As has been noted in this space on several occasions, Obama’s being black is a major hurdle in this state. Indeed, the willingness of labor leaders in Ohio and around the country to finally address the issue of race publicly last week is a recognition that while Obama has done very well with blacks, the young and the college educated, older white women still vote in larger numbers than any other group. And, they are the ones need to become comfortable with a black in the White House.

Historic moment

This is not to diminish the historic event that occurred in Denver when Obama stood as the first black to be nominated for president by a major political party. But there is nothing to suggest that the warm and fuzzies evident Thursday night when Obama addressed about 80,000 party faithful in Mile High Stadium will translate into enough votes in November to win.

Indeed, if Ohio is the key battleground state, as some political experts suggest, given that President Bush’s reelection four years ago was due to his winning here, then the Democrats have an uphill battle.

Obama will be a tough sell in this state, even with Biden on the ticket. The senator from Delaware was born in Scranton, Pa., and came from a blue-collar family. His working-class pedigree does make him an attractive figure in regions like the Mahoning Valley.

But, Biden isn’t Hillary Clinton.

During the 1992 presidential election, Bill and Hillary and Al and Tipper Gore came to the Mahoning Valley and drew 10,000 people to the Southern Park Mall parking lot.

Long-time Democrats compare that appearance to John F, Kennedy’s in downtown Youngstown.

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