NEW YORK – Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland endorsed Hillary Rodham Clinton Friday, calling the New York senator "the strongest candidate our party can bring forth" and contending his state will be crucial in the 2008 election.
Clinton cheerfully agreed: "The road to the White House goes through Ohio."
In 2004, President Bush narrowly beat John Kerry to take Ohio's 20 electoral votes, and both parties say the state could be a key to victory next year, too.
"In spite of the admiration I have for her and her incredible skill set, I would not be making this endorsement if I didn't think she was the strongest and best candidate to win the presidency," Strickland told reporters on a conference call. "I don't think it's likely a Democrat or Republican candidate will be successful without being successful in Ohio. I understand the importance of Ohio in the equation."
Clinton joined Strickland on the call and said she would be bringing him as her guest Saturday to the Jefferson-Jackson Dinner in Des Moines, Iowa. All the major Democratic presidential contenders will join 9,000 activists at the dinner, just six weeks before the state's leadoff caucuses.
Strickland, a former six-term congressman from southern Ohio, was elected governor in 2006 and has enjoyed popularity throughout the state including the more conservative and rural areas. He has been mentioned as a potential vice presidential candidate for the 2008 Democratic ticket, but said Friday he had "no interest at all" in the job.
"I'm not presumptuous enough to think I'd be considered," Strickland said. "I love being governor of Ohio and will do whatever I can in that capacity to help Senator Clinton."
Strickland said Clinton's focus on "kitchen table" issues would resonate with voters in Ohio and other Midwestern states. "I believe that's the kind of campaign that will have greatest appeal to Ohioans," he said.
He also praised her resilience in the face of recent criticism from rival Democrats, even as he said he liked and admired all of them.