Obama wins Dems straw poll
BY HOWARD WILKINSON | HWILKINSON@ENQUIRER.COM
OAKLEY – It won’t help make him the Democratic presidential nominee, but Illinois Sen. Barack Obama came out on top Tuesday night, winning a straw poll of Hamilton County Democratic Party activists.
Nearly 300 local Democrats crowded into the 20th Century Theater on Oakley Square to choose from among a slate of eight Democratic presidential contenders.
When the votes were tallied, Obama won with 102 votes – about 35 percent – over New York Sen. Hillary Clinton (69 votes) and former North Carolina senator John Edwards (64 votes).
Another 50 votes were spread among five other candidates.
“It’s tremendous,” said State Sen. Eric Kearney, an Obama supporter who has hosted a fundraiser for the Illinois senator in Cincinnati.
The straw poll, of course, won’t mean anything in the end. Ohio’s presidential primary comes next March; and, by that time, most Democrats believe the presidential nomination will be in the bag, given the number of early primary and caucus states that precede Ohio.
But Obama supporters seemed well-organized at Tuesday night’s straw poll vote, with volunteers out on the street in front of the theater, passing out Obama T-shirts and stickers and urging the arriving Democrats to vote.
Edwards’ supporters had some signs plastered to the walls inside the theater lobby, but there seemed to be no organized effort for Clinton.
Obama supporters erupted in cheers when county party chairman Tim Burke announced the results.
“We need to bring the government back to the people and Obama understands that,” said party activist Freeman McNeil, wearing an Obama “Got Hope?” T-shirt.
“That’s what Obama’s campaign is all about – bringing people together – rich, poor, black and white. The message is getting through.”
Ronn Rucker, a gay rights activist from North Bend, said he considered supporting Obama early on, but switched to Clinton and cast his straw poll ballot for her Tuesday night.
“I’ve met her and I know what a kind and caring person she is,” Rucker said. “And she is ready to be president. I’m not sure Obama is.”
U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Cleveland, had 17 votes in the straw poll, while New Mexico governor Bill Richardson had 16.
Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware was next with 13 votes, while Sen. Chris Dodd of Connecticut had 4. Former Alaska senator Mike Gravel had no votes.