Ohio’s Super Tuesday primary is nearly here, and we’re overflowing with excitement. In most election years the Ohio results are irrelevant because the nominees have been already decided by March, but this year the Republicans have such a lineup of outstanding candidates that their race remains wide open. Ohio is regarded as a swing state, and it’s always close and unpredictable. It’s sort of a schizophrenic state, with big cities and small towns, rusty industrial centers and millions of acres of farmland, pockets of great wealth and regions of dire poverty. The northern industrial part of the state is solidly Democratic while southwestern Ohioans vote predominantly Republican. Pundits never know which way it’s going to tip.
Affluent Warner County, just north of Cincinnati, is a good example of Super-Republican territory. House Speaker John Boehner’s district is right next door, and it’s home to one of the most vocal Tea Party contingents in the region. We go there a lot. My dentist and dermatologist are located near the community of East Chester, as are the metro area’s largest antique malls and cineplexes, best amusement park and county fair, and a world-class pro tennis tournament. East Chester and its surroundings were all cornfields when we moved to Cincinnati, but suburban sprawl has gobbled it up. Everybody seems to be very white, with neatly combed hair and preppy clothes. The whole place is spiffy and clean.
Warner County has dominated the local news this week, and you can tell that it’s G.OI.P territory. One headline story in yesterday’s Cincinnati Enquirer reported that the Lagoons of East Chester, an expensive townhouse and apartment complex, is now requiring all of its dog-owning residents to register with its in-house dog poop DNA testing program. Current Lagoons dog residents are grandfathered in, but owners of any new Lagoons dogs will be required to pay $50 for a DNA sample from the animal’s saliva. Then, if a dog poop is found on the complex’s grounds, it will be sent to a scientific DNA-testing lab in Knoxville, and, when identified, the dog and its owners will be fined $200. Since individual dogs poop several times a day, fines for a repeat offender will mount up rapidly. The manager of the apartment complex explained out that this is not a profit-making enterprise, since the $200 will be used to pay the costs of the DNA testing. He is enthusiastic because this new program will not just be put into place in East Chester, but will soon be extended to other company-owned properties in Ohio, Colorado, and the Carolinas. It’s unusual for Republicans to recognize the usefulness of hard science, but the policy is certainly in line with moral family values of cleanliness and godliness.
Guns are even more important to Warner County’s agenda than dog poops. The Tea Party crowd is particularly worried that Obama is going to try to take away their assault rifles. Ohio gun sales doubled after President Obama’s election and have been climbing ever since. Ohio Republican state legislators enacted the most lenient gun laws in the nation, allowing for concealed handguns in bars and, if pending legislation is passed, in museums, college classrooms, sports stadiums, and churches and synagogues. Last Tuesday in nearby St. Brevard a resident named Rocky Grogan was irritated when neighborhood children were playing basketball in a driveway near his house. Grogan threatened to “put a bullet through” one child’s head and sic his dogs on the rest. When the children failed to disband, Grogan got his gun and started shooting at them. The police charged him with terrorist threats, among other things. I’m not sure why terrorism was invoked, but perhaps the prosecutor decided it would easier to get a St. Brevard jury to reach a guilty verdict for terrorism than for shooting one’s gun at noisy children.
Everyone should all keep a close eye on Ohio this coming week. Right now Rick Santorum is leading Mitt Romney by eleven percentage points. That makes sense since Santorum believes that human rights come directly from God and that gay marriage would result in bestiality. But the situation is still pretty volatile. I think it all depends on who comes up with the most extreme and craziest views in the next few days. Thus, it’s too soon to count out Ron Paul or Newt Gingrich (or maybe even Perry, Cain, or Bachmann as write-in candidates).
Sources: Cincinnati Enquirer news stories at www.cincinnati.com (2-29-12)
*Pseudonyms used in this story.