Former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland has endorsed Joe Biden for president, delivering important support from the state's industrial working class regions while highlighting some of the former vice president's potential challenges in the state.
Strickland, who led the state from 2007 to 2011, told The Associated Press in an interview on Monday that he knows and respects Biden and believes he has the best chance of beating President Donald Trump in Ohio. Strickland, a Democrat, spoke ahead of an official announcement expected Tuesday.
The 78-year-old former congressman said Biden's electability is just one factor in his decision.
"He obviously is more experienced and more knowledgeable about foreign policy than the others," Strickland said of Biden and his Democratic rivals. "I feel like the world would breathe a sigh of relief if he's elected."
Strickland previously had endorsed Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, a close friend who dropped out of the race in August and is running for reelection.
He said Biden was a natural choice after that because the two have known each other for decades. Strickland served as national co-chair of the Obama-Biden presidential campaign, and Biden endorsed Strickland for U.S. Senate in 2016.
"Joe Biden will be able to, on Day One, begin to repair the damage of the Trump era and enable Americans to feel proud of their political leadership again," Strickland said, calling Trump "an embarrassment."
While the Obama-Biden ticket capitalized on Democrats' reliable coalition of minorities and white urban liberals in Ohio, Strickland was unable to use that formula to his advantage in 2016, losing badly to Republican Rob Portman.
Even Strickland's native coal country went for Portman — and for Trump over Democrat Hillary Clinton. Strickland's former congressional district along the Ohio River has turned reliably red in recent years.
But Strickland said he believes Biden's policy positions and experience can appeal to both working class Democrats and moderate Republicans alienated by Trump's crassness and volatility.
Strickland rejected criticism that electing Biden, who's 77 and white, would alienate Democrats' increasingly younger, more ethnically diverse base. He said Biden has strong support from the African American and Hispanic communities.
"I think that has everything to do with the trust that he has developed as a result of his public service and the fight that he has conducted on behalf of all working people, regardless of where they come from, what they believe, what they look like and what part of the country they live in," Strickland said.