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So, what does it mean when the professional tea leaf readers move a congressional race from a Likely Republican status to a Leans Republican status?

Well, we are about to find out.

That's exactly what Sabato's Crystal Ball, one of the nation's leading trackers of races at the state, congressional and presidential levels, did this week with Ohio's 1st Congressional District, which has been held by Republican Steve Chabot in all but two of the past 25 years.

Jim Nolan / WVXU

Having been something of a class clown growing up in Dayton, Ohio, terrorizing many an innocent grade school teacher at Cleveland Elementary School with my pranks and wise-acre behavior, I suppose it's not surprising that, as an adult, I would get my chance to be a genuine circus clown.

Complete with greasepaint, baggy pants, and dozens of skinny balloons stuffed into my oversized pockets to turn into balloon animals for the kiddies.

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WVXU Politics Reporter Howard Wilkinson talk with News Director Maryanne Zeleznik Monday about what appears to be a push by lame-duck Gov. John Kasich to keep his political career going after he leaves office at the end of the year.  He appears to be preparing to run for president again.

Part 2 of a two-part Tales from the Trail:

Sometimes, I don't believe it either.

I've had a career covering politics where I have gone to 16 presidential nominating conventions, Democratic and Republican.

More than any one human being should have to bear.

I shouldn't complain, though, even in jest. I've visited some great American cities, seen a few baseball games in some ball parks I might never have gotten to, and, from time to time, actually witnessed American history being made.

And told the story.

Provided

After the school shooting tragedy in Florida President Trump says he is willing to look at tougher gun control measures, upsetting many in his base. The Russian probe becomes more intense as another former top Trump campaign official pleads guilty to fraud and to lying to investigators. The president's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, has his security clearance downgraded. And another Sanders is running for Congress.

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WVXU Politics Reporter Howard Wilkinson talked with News Director Maryanne Zeleznik Monday about the odds of the Democrats winning a House seat in southwest Ohio or northern Kentucky this fall. 

The primary contests for Ohio governor and U.S. Senate on the May 8 primary ballot will get much of the attention, there are a number of contested primaries here in southwest Ohio as well.

This week, we will look at the top primary races in Hamilton County. And, in weeks to come, we will do the same with contested primaries in the region.

Here we go:  

Ohio Senate – 9th District

Four years ago, former Cincinnati council member Cecil Thomas defeated then-State Rep. Dale Mallory in a six-way Democratic primary by 556 votes.

Jim Nolan / WVXU

It's a fact; I have been to 16 presidential nominating conventions, Democratic and Republican, over the course of my career covering politics.

Some would say this cruel and unusual punishment is more than any one human being deserves.

After all, the political people only go to their own party's conventions. I go to both. Often in back-to-back weeks.

People often ask me which conventions have been the worst to cover and which have been the best.

Here in Ohio, where Gov. John Kasich has a little more than 10 months left in office, voters are starting to focus in on who will be elected this year to follow him into the governor's office.

The Republican governor was elected governor twice – once in a landslide – and remains pretty popular, with high approval rating numbers.

Yet the two Republican candidates who want to replace him – Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine and Kasich's own lieutenant governor, Mary Taylor – seem to want to have nothing to do with him.

Jim Nolan / WVXU

Usually, when you look back at a long period of time working in the same place, it is the first day on the job that you remember the most.

The nervousness. The overwhelming desire to impress. The first time you have to go to someone and ask where the restroom is.

In other words, your general dorkiness.

That first day is something to remember.

But, for me, it is the second day I worked at the Cincinnati Enquirer I remember the most.

Provided

Kenton Keith served for thirty-two years in the U.S. Information Agency and Department of State, holding senior positions in public affairs in Brazil, Paris, and Cairo. In Washington, he served as both Deputy Area Director and Area Director for the United States Information Agency's North Africa, Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs. He was named U.S. Ambassador to Qatar in 1992 and served in that position for three years. 

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WVXU politics reporter Howard Wilkinson spoke with News Director Maryanne Zeleznik Monday morning about both the Ohio Republican Party and President Trump wading into the Ohio GOP's May 7 primary with endorsements.

Ann Thompson

President Donald Trump came to Blue Ash Monday to tout the Republican tax reform bill he signed into law; and boast that it is already paying dividends for American workers and companies.

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WVXU politics reporter Howard Wilkinson spoke with News Director Maryanne Zeleznik Monday about Saturday's Northern Kentucky Legislative Conference at Highland High School in Fort Thomas. About 500 residents showed up; and many of them gave legislators an earful about Gov. Matt Bevin's proposed budget cuts to K-12 and higher education. They want the legislators to go back to Frankfort and write a budget that restores the Bevin cuts. 

Game on.

Aftab Pureval versus Steve Chabot in Ohio's 1st Congressional District.

For all the marbles.

Charismatic, up-and-coming young challenger up against a wily old veteran of many an election battle, with bumps and bruises to prove it.

We could sell tickets to this one.

Jim Nolan / WVXU

One of the most memorable interviews I've done in my career was with a man who was not a politician, but was a spiritual adviser to many occupants of the White House over the years.

Billy Graham, the world's most famous TV evangelist, who has spread his Gospel message to billions on television and in person all over the world since starting his ministry by pitching tents in a Los Angeles parking lot in 1949, is now 99 years old and living in retirement in his mountaintop home near Asheville, North Carolina.

President Trump will tout the Republican tax cuts at a Blue Ash manufacturing company Monday afternoon.

Howard Wilkinson

Democrat Aftab Pureval said it best Wednesday morning when he spoke to a crowded room of supporters in Avondale: his candidacy for the 1st Congressional District seat held by Steve Chabot was "the worst kept secret in Cincinnati."

After months of speculation, the 35-year-old Pureval, who pulled off a stunning upset victory over a Republican incumbent in the 2016 race for Hamilton County clerk of courts, made it official in an enthusiastic rally at Avondale's Gabriel's Place, a non-profit involved in urban agriculture.

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WVXU politics reporter Howard Wilkinson talked with News Director Maryanne Zeleznik Monday morning about Democrat Aftab Pureval, who burst on the local political scene in 2016 with an upset win over a Republican clerk of courts. Now, Pureval appears to be about to announce he is going to run for the U.S. House seat held by Republican Steve Chabot. Wilkinson takes a look at the pros and cons of  a Pureval candidacy. 

So, Ohio Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor – who wants to be the next governor – is running away from Gov. John Kasich at the speed of light.

And the apparent front-runner for the GOP gubernatorial nomination, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine hasn't gone out of his way to court the support of the present governor.

Kasich, for his part, responds to all of this with his usual reaction to such things – he shrugs his shoulders, moves on, and books another trip to New Hampshire for April, making it abundantly clear that, one way or another, he plans on running for president again in 2020.

Jim Nolan / WVXU

It's not often in a political reporter's career that you find yourself in a room where you actually witness the moment an American president's chances of being re-elected go up in a puff of smoke.

I was in such a room on October 28,1980, at the old Convention Center Music Hall in Cleveland, for the only head-to-head debate between Republican Ronald Reagan and Democratic incumbent Jimmy Carter.

And, to this day, I believe that debate sealed Carter's fate.

Pete Rightmire/WVXU

The federal government shuts down, and then re-opens, at least for another couple of weeks. President Trump and some members of congress accuse the FBI of bias and hint there is evidence of a "secret society" within the agency. Attorney General Jeff Sessions is questioned by the special counsel’s office as the investigation into Russia’s interference in the presidential election continues. And President Trump is scheduled to make his first State of the Union Address next Tuesday.

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WVXU politics reporter Howard Wilkinson talked with News Director Maryanne Zeleznik Monday morning about how Republican Jim Renacci's switching from the governor's race to the U.S. Senate race changes the dynamics of the GOP's plans of unseating incumbent Democrat Sherrod Brown. 

As recently as six weeks ago, Jim Renacci, the Republican congressman from Wadsworth in northeast Ohio, was gung-ho about running for governor of the state of Ohio, making speeches about how an "outsider" like him could come in and fix what's broken in Columbus.

Then, state treasurer Josh Mandel sent shock waves throughout Republican circles in Ohio and dropped out of the U.S. Senate race, which, if he had won the primary, would have been a rematch of his losing campaign in 2012 against Democratic incumbent Sherrod Brown.

Jim Nolan / WVXU

I traveled Ohio on enough campaign trips with the late governor James A. Rhodes, one of the true characters of Ohio politics, to know that his tastes in food were eclectic to say the least.

On the campaign bus, it was sandwiches made from his favorite lunch meat, Lebanon bologna. At the Ohio State Fair, it was funnel cakes and a stop at the lunch wagon run by Der Dutchman, an Amish restaurant in Plain City, for an overstuffed roast beef sandwich.

Jim Nolan / WVXU

Last week, Tales from the Trail introduced you to some famous eateries that have become must-stops for candidates running for office in Ohio – from candidates for county offices to the presidency. There are so many such places in Ohio, dishing out chili, piergoies, ice cream, hot dogs and hamburgers that we felt a "part two" was needed. And, in fact, there are so many, that Tales From the Trail may revisit the subject in the future. Here are some more dining spots that make up the political map of Ohio:

Price Hill Chili, Cincinnati

U.S. Congress

WVXU politics reporter Howard Wilkinson talked with New Director Maryanne Zeleznik about the life and career of former Cincinnati mayor and congressman Thomas A. Luken, who died Wednesday at the age of 92.

Tana Weingartner

Republican gubernatorial candidate Mary Taylor has reached beyond the stable of professional politicians to choose Nathan Estruth, a Cincinnati-area businessman and social activist as her running mate.

Pixabay.com

Political commentators often describe President Trump as either a populist or a nationalist. Many Americans were unfamiliar with the two terms until the presidential election, but populism and nationalism have a long history here and in other countries.

This may sound like crazy talk, but there are some out there in Democratic circles – both here and in Washington – who believe Ohio's 1st Congressional District will be in play in 2018.

Taking on Republican Steve Chabot, the Westwood Republican who has represented Ohio's 1st Congressional district for all but two of the past 23 years, seems, on the surface at least, to be Mission Impossible.

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