From Super Tuesday to Toledo the Race Is On

Well, well, well, it looks like the the Buckeye State has just gone up a notch or two in the eyes of delegate hungry presidential hopefuls from both parties. Ohio could be the win–or-break state in this primary season – deciding who represents each party on the 2008 Presidential tickets. Oh, and did we mention that Ohio’s entire northern border is Lake Erie? That may just mean issues such as sewage, invasive species and pollution in the lakes are of concern to voters on March 4, Ohio’s primary day. Hmmm, the plot sure does thicken, does it not?

In the last few Presidential elections, the moderate swing state has played an important role, but this is the first time that it really, really matters for the primary. John McCain, Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee need Ohio to nail down their candidacy. And in the neck-and-neck race that Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are running they too will be fighting for every last delegate.

This is the perfect time for Ohio’s Congressional Delegation, Governor, Mayors and Legislators to hound the hopefuls on issues affecting the Great Lakes. Let them know that Ohio’s votes’ hinge on restoration and saving the state’s ailing economy. Exit polling yesterday shows that across the 22 states the economy played a major role in determining voters’ minds – more so than the Iraq War!

The candidates appear to be onto this – ever since Michigan first made it an issue during its Republican primary. Obama used his Super Bowl ad to drive home the message that we can bring our planet back from the brink of disaster by changing the environment and empowering the economy at the same time. Perhaps, Obama has read the Brookings report that points to more jobs and a stronger regional economy if our leaders fully invest in restoration. Obama’s website also features a fact sheet that outlines his plans to restore the Great Lakes and prevent water from being diverted to other regions.

Hillary Clinton, who joins Obama as signatories of the pledge to fully fund restoration of the Great Lakes, has also discovered the linkage between the economy and the environment. Her website discusses “green collar” jobs, but she does not put forth a plan to help the Great Lakes on her website.

Among the republicans, only McCain has signed the pledge to fully fund restoration of the Great Lakes and prevent water diversions. McCain also has plans to address global climate change, something that is also affecting the Great Lakes. We know Mitt Romney supports the Great Lakes Collaboration Strategy from his time campaigning in Michigan, but he stopped short of signing his name to the pledge and he has not put forth a global climate change plan. To date, we don’t know where Mike Huckabee stands but we will be calling him to find out ASAP.

Yesterday, Illinois, Minnesota and New York voted in the historic Super Tuesday primary race. Results among the three Great Lake states were mixed. Obama won his home state of Illinois– as expected – and McCain won the republican delegates. However, Minnesota went to Romney and Obama. Hillary found success in her home state – delegate rich New York. McCain also won the Empire State which is an even bigger deal in the republican primary. McCain is now the front-runner for his party, but still has to contend with the Romney and Huckabee factor.

Wisconsin is up in less than two weeks – on February 19th. Wisconsin, of the ‘states like Wisconsin are awash in water,’ Bill Richardson fame. Wisconsinites are extremely passionate about the Great Lakes and Governor Doyle is the current chair of the Council of Great Lakes Governors. Let’s get these candidates on record about the Great Lakes Compact and funding to implement the Great Lakes Regional Collaboration Strategy!

In the coming weeks, Louisiana, Washington, Virginia and Texas will join Wisconsin and Ohio in holding their nominating contests. Pennsylvania holds its primary in April and Indiana in May. The races are tight and that gives the Great Lakes states an early advantage – we don’t have to wait until the general election to get the candidates to commit to saving the lakes – we can use this historic opportunity to do it now. Go Wisconsin! Go Ohio!

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