Ohio first lady Frances Strickland (Tony Dejak/AP)ATHENS, Ohio -- To hear some Democrats tell it, the party has a sure-fire antidote to the kind of complacency within the ranks that could hurt President Barack Obama in November: The party's brutal defeat in the 2010 midterms.
That was part of the argument former Ohio first lady Frances Strickland made to scores of volunteers as Obama's re-election campaign opened a campaign office in Athens, Ohio, on Tuesday.
"We took a beating in 2010," she said in one of the base's sparsely furnished rooms, urging the upbeat crowd to work hard enough to ensure "no more losses like that."
"Losses like that" included husband and former Ohio governor Ted Strickland's defeat at the hands of Republican former representative John Kasich, who hung the ugly U.S. economy around the incumbent's neck in a 49-47 victory.
In a subsequent interview with Yahoo News, Frances Strickland said that painful political setback was helping to energize Democrats in the critical battleground state.
"I really think that Ted's loss of 2010 is making it a whole lot easier for us to gin up the energy level that's going to be needed to get through this," she said.
Democratic voters in Ohio "were warned, they didn't believe it, then it came to pass. So now I think they pretty well know that to elect a Romney would be just like electing another John Kasich -- and they don't need to do that to know what that's going to be like. They've already experienced it," she said.
And the successful fight to defeat Issue 2 -- which would have dealt a sharp blow to government worker unions -- further "galvanized" Democrats, she said.
So "we've got an electorate now that's a whole lot more aware of what's at stake than they've been in the past. And I think that's had a lot to do with this energy level," she said, with a nod to the volunteers and those signing up to help Obama's re-election campaign.
Ohio remains a major political prize, with 18 electoral college votes of the 270 needed to win, and a diverse population that makes it a true battleground.
"Ohio's always important. And the message is always the same, and that's: We have to fight for all we're worth because it's still tending to be a red state," said Strickland.
"It's still a 50-50 state, so we always have to fight and work hard," she said.
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