Is Ohio the new Florida? You might think so given President Bush's 18 visits to the Buckeye State this term, including a quick stop yesterday. Bush and Kerry are running close in Ohio -- a state that Clinton carried and Gore lost narrowly -- according to a recent Los Angeles Times poll.
Bush pushed his social agenda in Ohio yesterday, appealing to voters in the socially conservative state, which has banned gay marriage and lets people carry concealed weapons -- not exactly Democratic campaign planks. Carting out the word "compassionate" again to describe programs he supports, like federal funding for religious organizations and his efforts to promote healthy (Read: heterosexual) marriage -- the president didn't say much on the economy or his most "compassionate" accomplishment of all: The war in Iraq.
It's not surprising Bush glossed over his record on the economy. According to a May Economist article (sorry, no free link), Ohio -- part of the battered Rust Belt of the industrial Midwest -- lost 179,600 factory jobs between July 2000 and October 2003. The president's flip-flopping on steel tariffs last year doesn't help him there, either.
Bush's mired effort in Iraq, meanwhile, may do more to hurt him than help him, even among the patriotically Red in Ohio. The state is home to one of the country's biggest Air Force bases, and a large number of Ohio military reservists continue to serve in the Middle East. Plus, recent poll numbers show that Bush is losing even more support for the Iraq war nationally. No wonder Bush is resorting to talk about social issues in Ohio. If the state's vote hinges on the economy and Iraq, Bush's electoral count might not add up to reelection. That is, if Ohio doesn't have a recount.