“This year’s must-have state is Ohio,” writes the Associated Press’ Ron Fournier, in one of several obligatory scene-setters appearing in advance of tomorrow’s primary.

Salon’s David Moberg declares that “Ohio will be one of a handful of battleground states that could, in the end, determine the outcome of the race.” (Moberg reports that labor unions in the state are already focused entirely on electing a Democrat — any Democrat — in November.)

Noting Ohio’s strategic importance in American politics, the Chicago Tribune’s Tim Jones writes that “no Republican has proceeded to the White House without winning the state.” And, he adds, “In the past century the pendulum of Ohio politics has swung from Democrat to Republican and back, largely on the force of economic fortunes.”

Economics will play a major role among voters this year. President Bush, who narrowly won Ohio in 2000, has visited 14 times since taking office. Regardless, reports Jones, his approval ratings have fallen below 50 percent. Fournier notes that the Buckeye State ranks number three (behind New York and California) in jobs lost — 264,700 — since Republicans took over the White House.

Okay, we’re convinced — but can’t anyone tell us exactly why Ohio is the national crucible? As it turns out, someone can perfectly define Ohio’s role in national politics. But he’s a politician, not a reporter. Here’s former Democratic Sen. John Glenn, summing it all up for the Trib’s Jones:

“This is a big test-marketing state, for soaps, detergents and food. The same goes for politicians. This state has everything the country does, except palm trees along the Ohio River.”

Susan Q. Stranahan

Note: This post has been edited since it was first published.

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Susan Q. Stranahan wrote for CJR.