Republican National Convention
Tuesday, August 01, 2000

Taft: It's up to Ohio to deliver

By Howard Wilkinson
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Gov. Bob Taft talks with Ohio delegates.
(Michael E. Keating photo)
| ZOOM |
        PHILADELPHIA — Champagne flowed and Ohio delegates nibbled quiche Monday at a reception honoring Gov. Bob Taft in an elegant old train station, while the governor's thoughts were of his grandfather.

        The original Robert Taft — son of a president, U.S. senator and leading voice for rock-ribbed conservatives of his generation — had proceeded his grandson 52 years ago in this city where America was born — as a candidate for president, losing the 1948 nomination to Thomas Dewey, who was then upended by Harry Truman.

        “My grandfather was here in 1940 and 1948 running for president,” Mr. Taft said as the reception for him at the 30th Street train station wound down.

        “Whatever strategy he used to win the nomination, it didn't work,” said Mr. Taft.

        The original Bob Taft — Mr. Republican, he was called — made a third bid for the Republican nomination at the 1952 GOP convention in Chicago. Then, he had the party regulars behind him. But, using a campaign to sway delegates that presaged modern media campaigns, backers of Dwight Eisenhower ended up siphoning off Mr. Taft's support. And Ike, and not Mr. Republican, became president.

        “That's the earliest memory of politics I have,” said the 57-year-old, first-term governor. “Sitting at home in Cincinnati watching the convention on an old black-and-white TV.”

        As the delegates and guests mingled at the train station reception, many admired the wax dummies of the eight Ohio presidents that lined the walls of the reception hall. Gov. Taft's great-grandfather, William Howard Taft, was among them.

        “They are concentrating on our state, and it's up to us to deliver,” Mr. Taft told delegates as Ohioans blew the wooden train whistles that party aides had passed out at the door.

        Ohio has gone to Bill Clinton in the past two elections. The Bush campaign knows that no Republican has been elected without winning Ohio's 21 electoral votes.

        Mr. Taft, chairman of the Ohio delegation, arrived in Philadelphia Monday afternoon after spending two days traveling with Mr. Bush through Ohio.

        “I know I'm a lot busier at this one than I have been in the past,” Mr. Taft said. “I've got a lot of bases to cover. A really big part of my job is to build enthusiasm among the Ohioans, and I plan to do it.”

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