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WASHINGTON--Shortly after the cooling of the Earth, I, then a much younger man, worked in two statewide campaigns in Ohio, during which lifelong friendships were forged and many colorful characters were met. No character was more colorful than "Jumpin' Joe" Ferguson, who in 1970, at age 78, was returned by Ohio voters to the state auditor's office, which he had previously occupied from 1936 to 1952.
Ferguson--a short, energetic man--earned his nickname by forever bobbing up and down on his toes, apparently to establish eye contact with his taller colleagues. In 1950, Jumpin' Joe was the Democratic challenger to U.S. Sen. Robert A. Taft, an Ohio icon nationally known as "Mr. Republican."
During that campaign, Ferguson was asked his position on the two tiny Chinese Nationalist islands then belonging to Taiwan but coveted by the communist bosses of mainland China.
Reporter: "Joe, what about Quemoy and Matsu?"
Joe (proving that foreign affairs was not his strong suit): "I'll carry 'em both!"
From that day forward until Bob Taft's landslide Election Day victory, Joe Ferguson's one-size-fits-all answer to any question on foreign policy became, "Beat Michigan."
I like Ohio, which the last time
But Ohio, as we are reminded at least hourly, is truly the Epicenter of the Political World. Yes, there are other important swing states this year, including Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Virginia, and Wisconsin. The remaining 41 states--where almost four out of five Americans live--are reduced to spectators, which the candidates only visit if they qualify as cam-
But the presidential candidate who wins Ohio will almost certainly be taking the oath of office at the Capitol next Jan. 20. You can forget the Big Apple and Big D and L.A. They're all chopped liver compared to Chillicothe, Steubenville, and Zanesville.