- Associated Press - Saturday, November 14, 2015

CINCINNATI (AP) - Some key Ohio Democrats think the colorful chase for the Republican presidential nomination will help them keep the swing state blue in the 2016 election.

An Associated Press survey of the state’s “superdelegates” found most are feeling confident about the Democratic nominee’s chances of carrying Ohio over the Republican who emerges from the large field. The AP survey shows 12 of the 16 delegates who include officeholders and party insiders support Hillary Rodham Clinton for Democratic nominee. The other four are undecided.

With 712 votes at the convention next summer, the superdelegates make up about 30 percent of delegates needed to clinch the Democratic nomination. A nationwide AP survey that showed Clinton with a commanding lead among superdelegates also found that Florida Sen. Marco Rubio came up most often as the Republican the superdelegates think would be the strongest opponent. Among the 176 responding to that question, Ohio Gov. John Kasich was second to Rubio’s 65 mentions with 45, followed by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush’s 36.

Two Ohio superdelegates said Rubio, but the delegates generally feel Clinton will be stronger than any prospective foes in the state that her husband Bill carried twice. No other Republican was cited more than once.

“I don’t mean to make light of their candidates, but wow, it’s been a long time since I’ve been to the Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey circus,” joked Mark Mallory, former mayor of Cincinnati. “It doesn’t look good for them, the fact that they have such a chaotic field.”

Rhine McLin, former Dayton mayor and now state Democratic vice chairwoman, added: “All of them put together don’t come up with one good candidate.”

State Party Chairman David Pepper said he’s feeling good about the way the 2016 race is shaping up, saying he thinks policy differences on such issues as taxes and health care put the Democratic candidates more in touch with mainstream America.

“I’m not going to sit here and say one of them worries me more (than) the other,” Pepper said. “I don’t think any one of them is raising themselves up to be a major threat.”

Pepper, who is staying neutral for the presidential primary season, has said that motivating high turnout will be pivotal for Democrats in Ohio. The last candidate to win the White House without carrying Ohio was Democrat John F. Kennedy in 1960.

U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan of northeast Ohio said Texas Sen. Ted Cruz might be a GOP counterweight on turnout.

“Someone like Ted Cruz would really motivate the base, and that’s how they win elections,” Ryan said.

Joe Rugola, international vice president of AFSCME, said he’s not counting out any Republican, even unconventional candidates such as businessman Donald Trump and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson who might be written off in a normal year.

“I don’t think there’s anything normal about politics in America right now,” Rugola said.

David Wilhelm, campaign manager for Bill Clinton’s first presidential run in 1992, thinks Rubio would be the strongest GOP candidate nationally, coming from another important swing state of Florida and with potential to boost Republican outreach to Latino voters.

None of the Ohio superdelegates named Republican favorite son Kasich. Kasich has high favorability ratings in Ohio a year after his lop-sided re-election, but has struggled to break into the upper tier of the Republican pack. Some Democrats in other states said Kasich could help the GOP carry the pivotal state, either heading the ticket or running with Rubio.

State Republican Chairman Matt Borges said he would love to see Kasich lead the ticket in Ohio in 2016, but that he’ll make sure “the building blocks (are) in place to carry Ohio” no matter which Republican wins the nomination.

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Associated Press reporters Mark Gillispie in Cleveland, Julie Carr Smyth and Ann Sanner in Columbus, and John Seewer in Toledo contributed.

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Contact the reporter at https://www.twitter.com/dansewell

His recent stories can be found at https://bigstory.ap.org/content/dan-sewell

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