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Crumbling Ohio Firewall

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- After Sen. Barack Obama's decisive victory over Sen. Hillary Clinton in Wisconsin, Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland was reported expressing doubt to political colleagues about whether he could hold his state for Clinton during the two weeks remaining before Ohio's Democratic presidential primary March 4.

Polls taken before Wisconsin voted gave Clinton a double-digit lead in Ohio, a state necessary to sustain her presidential hopes. A Clinton win there also may be needed for Strickland's chances to be the vice presidential running mate for either Clinton or Obama.

Prospects for Strickland, a former member of Congress elected as governor in a 2006 landslide, are based on presuming he would help carry pivotal state Ohio for the Democrats. But that argument would be undermined if he cannot deliver for Clinton in the primary.

Hoffa for Obama

The unexpected endorsement of Barack Obama by Teamsters President James Hoffa followed private indications by Bill Clinton that the 19-year federal monitoring of the big union under a court decree would not be ended under a Hillary Clinton presidency.

Hoffa previously had told friends he probably would stay neutral in the presidential race. He changed his mind, according to union sources, partly because of pro-Obama sentiment among rank-and-file Teamsters and partly because of former President Clinton's attitude about the consent decree.

Obama has indicated willingness to end federal oversight of the Teamsters. Refusal by President George W. Bush to do so helped sour his administration's relations with the union.

Not Sen. Huckabee

An increasingly favorable attitude toward Mike Huckabee inside the conservative movement, nurtured by his presidential campaign against Sen. John McCain, is threatened by the former Arkansas governor's refusal to run against Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor this year.

Polls show Huckabee is the only Republican with a chance to unseat first-termer Pryor. He has until March 10 to file against Pryor, six days after what could be his final presidential campaign effort in the Texas primary. During a recent Washington breakfast with reporters, Huckabee wrote off a Senate run by saying, "It's more likely I'll dye my hair green, get a bunch of tattoos and go on tour with Amy Winehouse."

A footnote: Huckabee raised eyebrows the Sunday before the Wisconsin primary by going off to Grand Cayman Island to deliver a paid motivational speech.

McCain's New Role

Sen. John McCain, changing from party gadfly to party leader, was in Illinois Wednesday trying to elect a Republican successor to resigned Rep. Dennis Hastert seven years after an exchange of insults with the former speaker of the House.

McCain presided over a $1,000-a-ticket fund-raiser in Sugar Grove, Ill., for conservative dairy magnate Jim Oberweis. Although Hastert carried the district easily, Republican nominee Oberweis faces a serious battle against liberal Democratic physicist-businessman Bill Foster. Oberweis lost previous primary bids for governor and the U.S. Senate.

In April 2001, then-Speaker Hastert attacked McCain for a letter he sent Republican House members for whom he had campaigned. McCain urged them to vote for the McCain-Feingold campaign finance bill in what Hastert called "a threat." McCain was reluctant to help foes of his bill in future elections.

Earmark Defender

Sen. Ted Stevens, the senior Senate Republican who is under federal investigation and press inquiry for his earmark practices, used his monthly newsletter this week to attack fellow Republican and anti-earmark nemesis Sen. Tom Coburn.

Stevens contended Coburn's attack on the famous Stevens earmark funding the "bridge to nowhere" in his home state of Alaska was "strictly for publicity." Stevens charged Coburn "wanted to make a name for himself."

A footnote: The Stevens newsletter also defends his Alaska earmarks, including a Defense Department appropriation for research into hibernation genomics of Alaskan ground squirrels. Martha Stewart, the University of Alaska's federal lobbyist, is quoted as saying: "We have a number of ground squirrels that are in various stages of hibernation in Fairbanks."

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