TAMPA, Florida - As the Ohio delegation gathers in Tampa waiting for the Republican National Convention to eventually start, there is arguably no state among the 50 whose place in Republican lore runs deeper, as no Republican presidential candidate has won the White House without winning Ohio.
While Ohio's role in this year's election is without a doubt foremost in the minds of the candidates (evidenced by the delegation's prime spot on the floor), it's the history of the party's connection to Ohio that bares reminder.
For the better part of a century Ohio was the heart and soul of the Republican party. While Ohio has produced more presidents than any other state, eight of the 43 men to hold the job were from Ohio but seven of those eight were Republican.
William Henry Harrison, the first president from Ohio was the exception. He was a Whig and also the first president to die in office (pneumonia) a mere 31 days after he was sworn in. Actually four of the eight Ohio presidents died in office. Warren Harding had a heart attack and both James Garfield and William McKinley were assassinated.
What makes that number more impressive (the Republican presidents number, not the dying in office one) is that there have only been 18 Republican presidents, so Ohio has accounted for nearly 40 percent of them.
The first and most famous of the Republican presidents was of course Abraham Lincoln. While he wasn't from Ohio his presidency was due in large part to Ohio.
As the young political party gathered in Chicago for only it's second convention in 1860, challenging Lincoln for the presidential nomination were U.S. Senator William Seward of New York and former U.S. Senator Salmon Chase of Ohio, whose term as governor of had just expired.
“He ran against Lincoln but couldn't deliver the Ohio delegation,” said Governor John Kasich who is proud to show off the bust of Chase that sits among those who held the office in the Statehouse.
But Lincoln couldn’t deliver Ohio for himself either. “Lincoln was smart when he went to that convention he knew he wasn't going to be anybody's first pick but he said ‘if your first pick doesn't get it could you pick me,’” said Kasich.
After the first two ballots though Lincoln was close but still short. On the third ballot though there was a shift in Ohio as four of Chase's votes switched to Lincoln giving him the nomination and setting Chase up for an astounding second act of his political career.
Lincoln appointed Chase as his Secretary of the Treasury after his 1860 election. In that position it was Chase who introduced the concept of paper currency and took advantage of the opportunity to put his own picture on the first dollar bill. (That portrait would later don the $10,000 bill which was printed from 1928 to 1946.)
He would hold the post until 1864 when Lincoln appointed him to the position of Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, a position he would hold until his death in 1873.
Ohio's prominent role would continue to be on display for years to come as two Republican National Conventions would eventually be held in Cleveland at Public Hall.
The first was in 1924, a year after the death of Ohio's Harding, when the party nominated Calvin Coolidge and in 1936 when Alf Landon got the nod to go up against President Franklin Roosevelt.
The last half century has seen the state's role in the GOP shift more into that of a temperature gage, you could say. The candidates for president may no longer be from Ohio but they know if the people of Ohio don't sign off on them they will never be president. No Republican ever has.
Copyright 2012 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
The Supreme Court ruled Monday that states cannot require would-be voters to prove they are U.S. citizens before using a federal registration system designed to make signing up easier.
A former Ohio Supreme Court justice who mostly sided with the majority in cases ending in executions now opposes the death penalty.
Bike boxes, an ad campaign, off to work and a chance to win are among items in Cleveland cycling news as Summer begins.