The Ohio Democratic Party brought its “Knockout” road show to Cleveland Monday night, the last stop on a tour of the state to generate enthusiasm for the 2010 campaign. Next year, all statewide offices will be up for election, as will two state supreme court seats and George Voinovich’s U.S. Senate seat. And the ODP is hoping to make as strong a showing as it did in 2006, when it took back the governorship as well as three of the four non-judicial statewide offices.

Around 300 people — many of them longtime party activists, along with a scattering of elected and party officials like Cuyahoga County Recorder Lillian Greene and county party executive director Mary Devring — gathered at Pickwick and Frolic on East 4th Street to hear speeches by state Treasurer Kevin Boyce and secretary of state candidate Jennifer Garrison, and a Power Point presentation hosted by state party executive director Doug Kelly. While Boyce was well-received, attendees seemed unenthused by Garrison’s harping on Republican candidate Jon Husted’s residency issues, which most were probably unfamiliar with. (He’s been accused of not living in the state Senate district he currently represents). Since Husted is known for his hyper-partisanship and would likely revert to the same disenfranchisement tactics that former Secretary of State Ken Blackwell pioneered, there were many more powerful arguments she could have made. The scattered, half-hearted applause she received showed that she will probably be the weak link in a ticket whose challenge will be to energize progressive base voters in an off-year election. (We’ve previously documented her radical anti-choice stances).

But if the party can energize its core activists and voters, it might not be in as bad shape as some have predicted. The presentation offered a list of the terrible things that have happened to the economy since Gov. Ted Strickland was sworn in in January 2007, which felt like excuses and probably wouldn’t be a compelling argument to the average voter. But it followed up with a list of what Strickland has managed to accomplish despite the tanking economy, and it’s impressive. If the party — and Strickland — focus on that, they should be able to beat Republican John Kasich — whose only solution to Ohio’s monumental problems so far has been to cut taxes.

The ODP seems to have come to terms with the fact that it’s going to have a competitive primary between Lieutenant Governor Lee Fisher and Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner for the U.S. Senate seat; the presentation didn’t play favorites, touting both. It’s a wise choice. Given the stresses and challenges the party faces, it doesn’t need to anger the sizable group of hardcore Democrats supporting each. — Anastasia Pantsios

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