Sunday, January 02, 2000

Next president likely compliant with Ohio's Y2K primary




BY HOWARD WILKINSON
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Well, this Y2K thing has come and gone. We're not holed up in the dark, staring at our useless ATM cards and clutching shotguns to protect our precious hoards of bottled water and cans of Vienna sausages from marauders.

        Those would have been ideal conditions for a Pat Buchanan presidency, but it didn't happen, so maybe now Americans will start thinking seriously about their principal civic duty this year — picking a first new president for the 21st century.

        Ohioans will, as always, have a significant role to play in this.

        It may not be as significant a role as some Ohio legislative leaders had hoped when they moved the primary election from March 21 to March 7, hoping that the earlier date would turn the Ohio presidential primary into something on the order of the Iowa caucuses or the New Hampshire primary.

        But it seems state legislatures all over the country got the same idea at the same time, and started jamming their 2000 primary elections as early into the year as possible.

        Now, no fewer than 12 states are holding primary contests on March 7. New York and Georgia are among them, as is California, and it doesn't get any bigger than that.

        Now, the Buckeye political establishment is worried that the state that is “round on both ends and "hi' in the mid dle” will get lost in the shuffle.

        It probably won't be as bad as all of that. Presidential contenders who are still viable, as they say, by early March will want to put together packages of delegates in the first round of March primaries, so it is unlikely that candidates of either party will entirely overlook a major state like Ohio.

        It is likely that Bill Bradley's campaign will be alive and well by the time the Ohio primary rolls around. While Vice President Al Gore has most of the Democratic Party machinery in the state locked up, Mr. Bradley has been popping in and out of the state to raise money.

        Monday night, at locations in the 1st and 2nd Congressional Districts, Southwest Ohio Democrats will gather to choose delegate slates.

        On the GOP side, each candidate submits slates of delegates who will go to the GOP convention if that candidate wins.

        If, before March, John McCain does well in New Hampshire and South Carolina, he will still be a serious challenger to George W. Bush by the time the March 7 round of primaries comes along.

        Right now, Mr. Bush is raking in most of Ohio's Republi can money, but the party leadership is badly split. Gov. Bob Taft and Sen. George Voinovich are leading the charge for Mr. Bush, while Sen. Mike DeWine has stuck his neck out to support Mr. McCain.

        Whoever the nominee is, there will be enormous pressure on GOP leaders in this part of the state to produce votes.

        After all, no Republican has ever been elected president without winning Ohio.

        If George W. Bush doubts that, he might ask his dad, who found out about it in 1992.

        E-mail hwilkinson@enquirer.com

       



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