LAKEWOOD, Ohio—Governor Ted Strickland of Ohio thinks Hillary Clinton should keep pursuing the Democratic nomination even if she emerges from Tuesday’s voting with a victory only in his state.
“In my judgment and if I’m asked, I’ll say to her that if she wins Ohio, I think she should continue this because Pennsylvania is another sizable state,” Strickland said in an interview with The Observer after a campaign event here with Bill Clinton. “We need to be thinking about what is going to happen in November. It will do no good to come up with a Democratic nominee if we don’t win in November. We’ve been through that before.”
When asked if there wouldn’t be overwhelming pressure from senior Democratic Party officials on Hillary Clinton to withdraw from the race if she were to lose Texas—no less a supporter than her husband has intimated that she wouldn’t be the nominee if she didn’t win both major states on March 4—Strickland grew adamant.
“Listen,” he said, standing beside the empty stage, “I consider myself a senior official in the party. I represent a big state. I have been in the Congress 12 years, and I represent 11.4 million people and I represent what is arguably the most critical swing state in November. So I think my opinion is as important as some of those who would consider themselves the senior leaders within the Democratic Party.”
When asked if an isolated win in Ohio gave Clinton a satisfactory rationale to continue her campaign, Strickland said, “Yes, because neither candidate will have achieved the number of delegates necessary to achieve victory. I don’t hear people asking Mike Huckabee this. And he is a lot less viable than Hillary Clinton is.”
I pointed out that the Republican Party nomination is settled and that Huckabee’s sideshow candidacy isn’t generally regarded within the G.O.P. as a long-term threat to unity, whereas Clinton—if, say, she won Ohio but lost Texas—could certainly choose to engage Obama in an increasingly bitter and expensive fight long after the contest for pledged delegates is out of reach. It could, I asserted, be a party chairman’s nightmare scenario.
“Oh, come on. Oh, come on,” Strickland said when presented with that comparison. “Don’t blame damage to the party on Hillary, and until one of them has a victory by securing an appropriate number of necessary delegates, it is a contest. And we should not declare a victory in the middle of the game. So she has every right to continue, to fight on. Absolutely every right.”
When asked why Ohio has so far appeared less receptive to Obama than other states have, Strickland argued that the Illinois senator has done better in generally homogenous small states that will likely be won by Republicans in the general election.
“The Ohio voting populace is more representative of the larger nation and is less homogenous and perhaps then less susceptible to a particular appeal or a particular message,” he said. And echoing a Clinton campaign talking point, he said that since Clinton had won in bigger, more dependable general-election states like Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey and California, she should be the party’s nominee.
He said that that would remain “a very strong argument” even if Obama won Texas.
Asked what would happen if Clinton lost Ohio, he said that then she’d have some serious thinking to do.
“She would have to make a decision there,” he said. “I would have to leave that decision to her and her advisers. But if she wins Ohio, I think she should go on.”
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