ABC News Exclusive: Embattled Democratic Governor Ted Strickland Applauds the President, Health Care Bill, and Congressional Democrats

By Gregory

Oct 20, 2010 2:04pm

ABC News' Jonathan Karl reports: These days, you don't hear many embattled Democrats praising the President, the Health Care bill, or the Congressional leadership. But that’s exactly what Governor Ted Strickland, D-OH, did when I caught up with him in Cleveland. The incumbent Governor is locked in an uphill battle with former Congressman John Kasich, who leads Strickland 51-41 percent according to a recent Quinnipiac poll. “Barack Obama did not cause this national recession. The Democratic leadership in Congress did not cause this national recession. It was the result of eight years of mismanagement in Washington and during those years George Bush and Dick Cheney were in charge and what happened on Wall Street,” the Governor told me. “The amnesia is troublesome because people have seem to have forgotten what led us to where we are today.”   Recent polling in Ohio suggests voters do blame the President and as I reported last night on “World News with Diane Sawyer,”  many Democrats are bracing for a bloodbath in here. Perhaps no state has swung more dramatically away from President Obama and the Democratic Party as Ohio. The President, who won the battleground state back in 2008 over Senator John McCain, carrying a number of Democrats with him to Washington, now has an approval rating of just 40 percent among Ohio voters. Despite the President’s unpopularity in the Buckeye state, the President and First Lady made a campaign stop in Ohio Sunday, a move Strickland said will help, not hurt, his chances of being reelected. “He had 35,000, the largest crowd that he had since the day he was inaugurated,” Strickland told ABC News. “I hope to get him back to Ohio .The President is the President and turnout is the key to who is going to win this election and the President can turnout voters like no one else.” Despite grim polls showing Democrats in trouble in Ohio, Strickland insists he is optimistic that his party can still pull out a victory. “I don’t think it looks bad for Democrats in Ohio,” he told me.  “We are working like a salmon going upstream, but I remind people, those salmon make it. They get up there, they spawn, they overcome the obstacles. I think I’m going to win and I think many of my fellow Democrats are going to win.” You can watch my full interview HERE and read the transcript below. JONATHAN KARL:  It looks really bad for Democrats in Ohio, why is that?
GOVERNOR TED STRICKLAND, D-OH: Well, I don’t think it looks bad for Democrats in Ohio. I think I’m going to win. We are working like a salmon going upstream, but I remind people, those salmon make it. They get up there, they spawn, they overcome the obstacles. So, it’s a tough race, it’s a tough climate, but I think that we’ve got the best ground game of perhaps any Democratic party in America and I think we’re going to win. I think I’m going to win and I think many of my fellow Democrats are going to win.
JONATHAN KARL: You have, you’re obviously in a very tough race, even if you win, as we were talking earlier, it’s going to be a dog fight.
GOVERNOR TED STRICKLAND: It is, yeah.
JONATHAN KARL: And you’ve got upwards of six House Democrats who are in danger of losing their races, Senate race seems to have really pulled away for Portman and the Republicans. Why the change of fate here for Democrats, you guys had 2 really big cycles last time.
GOVERNOR TED STRICKLAND: Well I think we’re going to have a surprising cycle this time. I will concur with your opinion that this is really tough. We’re going to win some of those Congressional seats that the national pundits are saying we’re going to lose. I’m absolutely convinced we are going to win, perhaps not all of them but we’re going to win many of them. And you know, we are living through the aftermath of a serious national recession. People are in a surly mood. Many of them are angry as they should be. I’m angry but I want the anger to be directed toward those who caused the problem and I think as we’re coming to the end of this campaign there is movement in our direction. I can tell you we got recent poll numbers just today and I believe that I’m ahead four to seven points, depending upon whether or not you measure me against one candidate or four candidates that would be on the ballot.
JONATHAN KARL: So you mentioned this surly mood, the anger, a lot of that is directed to Washington, and of course, your party is in charge, it’s directed toward the President, the congressional leadership: Why such discontent with the Democratic leadership in Washington?
GOVERNOR TED STRICKLAND: Well, Barack Obama has been President effectively about a year and a half and so I’ll refer you to what former President Bill Clinton said: He said the problem is anger, apathy, and amnesia. He understands the anger because there is reason to be angry at the after effects of the Bush-Cheney 8 years and of what happened on Wall Street. But the amnesia is troublesome because people have seem to have forgotten what led us to where we are today. Barack Obama did not cause this national recession. The Democratic leadership in Congress did not cause this national recession. It was the result of eight years of mismanagement in Washington and during those years George Bush and Dick Cheney were in charge and what happened on Wall Street.
JONATHAN KARL: But at what point is it no longer tenable for Democrats, whether it be in Washington or here in Ohio, to point back to the Republican leadership. At what point, you know you said a year and a half, almost two years into this Democratic control in Washington, what point is it, ok, we own it, Democrats own it.
GOVERNOR TED STRICKLAND: It’s a fair question but the fact is, if the Republicans who are trying to return to power were promising something different than what they offered previously, than that question would be more relevant. But what the Republican leadership in Washington and what John Kasich here in Ohio are saying is we want a return to the same principles, philosophies, economic theories that led us to the recession. That makes going back and looking at what caused the recession relevant to what’s happening in this election.
JONATHAN KARL: Is it helpful to have the President out here? I mean he’s not exactly…
GOVERNOR TED STRICKLAND: Oh yes I think.  He was here in Columbus, Ohio. He had 35,000 – the largest crowd that he had since the day he was inaugurated. It was a wonderful event. I hope to get him back to Ohio . Absolutely. The President is the President and turnout is the key to who is going to win this election and the president can turnout voters like no one else.
JONATHAN KARL: And you mentioned he’s only been in office a year and a half or so.
GOVERNOR TED STRICKLAND: Effectively, yes.
JONATHAN KARL: Effectively. And a lot of this you can pin on the Republican leadership. They were in charge for six to eight years. But what, does he bear some responsibility, have there been missteps in the Obama administration? Has the President, you know, gone in the wrong direction?
GOVERNOR TED STRICKLAND: I don’t see any major missteps. Just let me share with you—
JONATHAN KARL: You give him high marks?
GOVERNOR TED STRICKLAND: Let me share with you that over in Lord’s Town there are 4,500 people working at a GM plant producing the new Chevy cruise. Three chefs, those jobs would not exist today if it weren’t for the President, our Democratic friends in Congress, that saved the American auto industry. The American auto industry, the supply chain across Ohio, accounts for thousands and thousands of jobs. Those jobs may not even exist today had it not been for the action he took. We have received, in Ohio, about $3 billion in Medicaid resources as a result of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Those services had been denied people who were desperately in need of Medicaid services were it not for what they did passing to healthcare reform. I think this president and the Democrats in Congress have accomplished more in the last year and a half, than many presidents accomplish through four years or even eight years of the presidency.
JONATHAN KARL: So it sounds like you’re saying as bad as the economy is here, Ohio is on the way back.
GOVERNOR TED STRICKLAND: We are coming back because of the decisions we’ve made and I believe our economic future is headed in the right direction. We’re on the right path, if we stay focused. What we cannot, what we must not do, is turn Ohio over to one of the Wall Street-ers who was responsible for getting us into this economic mess in the first place. John Kasich is such a person. He thinks like a Wall Street-er, he acts like a Wall Street-er, and he has Wall Street values. The contest in this election is between Ohio values, which I think I represent, and Wall Street values, which I think John Kasich represents.  

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