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OHIO DEMOCRATS are stepping out of their comfort zone this election.

Taking a cue from the Democratic National Committee and its 50-state strategy, Ohio Dems are running what they call an 88-county strategy. The plan is to venture into rural, conservative areas, campaigning outside the urban strongholds that have been the focus of recent Democratic presidential campaigns in Ohio.

Both Al Gore and John Kerry narrowly lost Ohio after winning only 16 counties in and around the state's major urban areas. But in 2006, Democrat Ted Strickland pulled off a complete turnaround and flipped Kerry and Gore's numbers in the governor's race, winning 72 counties and losing just 16.

"The new strategy really came from Ted Strickland's results," says Doug Kelly, the executive director of the Ohio Democratic Party. Trying to duplicate that success this year, the state party has ballooned from about 10 to 50 full-time employees who are being stationed across the state, according to Kelly.

And Sen. Barack Obama shows signs of embracing the state's new strategy; he recently hired Aaron Pickrell to head his Ohio campaign. Pickrell was Strickland's campaign manager and architect of the 88-county strategy.

But state Republicans dismiss the new strategy as not really a strategy at all.

"It's nice that the Democrats have finally figured out that they need to compete," quips John McClelland, a spokesman for the Ohio Republican Party.
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Title Annotation:States in the Spotlight
Author:Sampson, Tim
Publication:Campaigns & Elections
Article Type:Brief article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Aug 1, 2008
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