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Ohio Gov. Strickland Backs Clinton

Hillary Clinton has picked up the endorsement of Ohio Governor Ted Strickland. On the surface, the political import may seem unclear -- Ohio is not a key early primary state, and Strickland presumably will be behind whomever the Democratic nominee is when it comes to the crucial task of trying to get his state in the party's column next fall.

But the endorsement nonetheless carries symbolic weight for Clinton. Even as she maintains a sizable lead in the national primary polls, doubts persist among many Democrats about her electability next fall, particularly in key swing states. In response, Clinton has pointed to her ability to build allegiance in upstate New York, a claim that some have questioned. Now, she can also point to the support of the popular governor of what is perhaps the most crucial swing state of all. It helps that Strickland is the embodiment of the kind of middle-of-the-road voters whom Clinton will need to win over next fall -- a former minister and son of a steelworker who, as a congressman from Southern Ohio and now as governor, has leaned left on economic issues but is more moderate on social issues, including gun control. He won his race for governor last year with 60 percent of the vote and now enjoys approval ratings approaching 70 percent.

"It's a form of validation of Hillary Clinton as the best Democratic candidate," said Ohio State University political scientist Herbert Asher.

The endorsement will also fuel further speculation about Clinton picking Strickland, 66, as her running mate should she win the nomination. Strickland has repeatedly disavowed any interest, but the benefits he would bring to a Clinton ticket are abundant, said Asher. He could not only help carry Ohio, but would also add to the ticket's appeal across western Pennsylvania, West Virginia and even Kentucky, Asher said.

"He is comfortable talking about God and faith. He comes across to most Ohioans as a good person, a person of outstanding values," Asher said. "He doesn't have to be at the center of attention." As for his campaigning skills, "I wouldn't call him an orator, but he has an ability to talk as if it comes form the heart and as if he's thinking about what he's saying...The word that gets used is 'authentic.'"

--Alec MacGillis

By Washington Post Editor  |  November 9, 2007; 1:48 PM ET
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