If a Republican is going to win the White House next fall, he'd better pay some attention to Medina, Ohio.
In this quaint town with its picturesque white gazebo in the center square, southwest of Cleveland, voters who gladly pulled the lever for President Bush in the last two elections aren't as sure about voting for a Republican as they once were.
And Ohio is a critical battleground in the general election. No Republican has become president without Ohio since Abraham Lincoln's day.
Bush Republicans Reconsider
Sandra Brausch voted for Bush in 2000 and 2004. But after casting her vote in Tuesday's local elections she said she's not convinced she can support a Republican candidate for president next year.
"I would like to hear a Republican candidate tell me they will end this war," Brausch said.
The Iraq War is just one issue that has some Republicans and independents in Ohio worried. Ohio's economy and job loss to globalization is an even more pervasive concern.
A poll conducted by Quinnipiac University in September found 42 percent of Ohio voters named the "economy" as the "most important problem facing Ohio." Twenty percent named "education."
The poll also found that 42 percent of Ohio Republicans are dissatisfied with the way things are going in their state.
Dr. Chris Kalucis, an ear nose and throat specialist in Medina, also voted for Bush twice. He said the current administration is not on the right path.
"What's the world going to be like when my kids grow up?" Kalucis asked. "What's happening now out there just scares me to death, you know, and I don't know what the right answer is… but this can't be the right answer."
As Ohio Goes, So Goes the Nation
Medina county voted for Bush by wide margins in 2000 (Bush won by 16 percent) and in 2004 (Bush won by 14 percent). In fact, the last time the county went for a Democrat for president was back in 1964 with Lyndon Johnson.
But last year, Ohio took on a decidedly blue tint. And so did Medina County.
Medina County and the state as a whole voted for a new Democratic governor, Ted Strickland, and a new Democratic senator, Sherrod Brown.
"Things have changed in Ohio since '04 primarily because there was a lot of scandal in the state, statewide scandals," said Joe Hallett, chief political reporter with the Columbus Dispatch newspaper.
"Republicans were demoralized here," Hallett said. "We elected a Democrat for governor in 2006 in a landslide. And I think that right now the state is still trending Democrat. I think there there is a hangover for Republicans in this state that is going to extend into 2008. So they will have a challenge."
In the latest Quinnipiac poll, released Oct. 10, the leading Democratic presidential candidates won every matchup with the leading Republican presidential candidates.
Still, there are Republicans in Medina who are committed to vote Republican next year.
"I want to feel safe, I want to feel protected. And I think we need to be aware of that. National security is very important," said Jean Miller, an art teacher at Fenn Elementary School.
Miller said she's interested in Mike Huckabee, but hadn't made up her mind yet.
"This is a state that does not like ideologues," Hallett said. "It likes moderate candidates. And as we look at the current field of candidates, if Rudy Giuliani is the nominee -- and that is a big if -- he would play in this state in a general election."
"I look back at what he did on 9/11, you know for the country, and I think that plays a lot on what he'll be able to do for the country," said Republican voter Mike Pasieanki.
Indeed Giuliani leads the latest Quinnipiac poll in Ohio (with 29 percent) and is the most popular Republican candidate among Republican voters here. Former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson ranks second (with 17 percent) and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., is third (10 percent).
But Giuliani will need to win over evangelical Christians. One quarter of them have an unfavorable opinion of the New Yorker.
On the other hand, at least Ohioans know the former mayor. Polls show Republicans are still very unfamiliar with Romney and Thompson.
The Clinton Factor
The best news for any Republican nominee trying to win Ohio might be to have Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., as an opponent.
"Clinton as a nominee will be a galvanizing force for Republicans in the state of Ohio," said the deputy chairman of the Ohio Republican Party, Kevin DeWine.
"I know I won't vote for Hillary Clinton but I might vote for another Democrat," said Brausch, who is an investment banker in Medina. "But not Hillary Clinton."
"If that's my choice I am not voting Democrat," echoed Kalucis.