The next Democratic nominee for Ohio governor will be vetted behind closed doors with no voter input, and it's most likely to be Cuyahoga County Executive Ed Fitzgerald and least likely to be U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan.
In 2006, Ohio Democrats weeded out most of the field for governor even before the primary. That way, then-U.S. Rep. Ted Strickland was able to amass a campaign war chest and move into the general election campaign unscathed by a close primary.
Meanwhile, three Republicans battled for their party's nomination. Kenneth Blackwell won it, but in doing so limped into the general election with little cash and after having to defend against sharp criticism from his primary opponents.
Strickland won handily.
Republicans followed suit in 2010 by coalescing behind challenger John Kasich, who eventually upset Strickland. Without primary opposition Kasich entered the general election with a healthy, wealthy campaign.
Now it's the Democrats' turn again. Four main candidates - Ryan, Fitzgerald, Strickland and former Ohio Attorney and current federal director of consumer protection General Richard Cordray -have emerged.
That's why, nearly two years from the primary, the potential candidates are already campaigning. Most active seem to be Fitzgerald and Strickland.
Fitzgerald told the Tribune Chronicle Editorial Board recently that a 2014 primary would be ''suicidal.'' Expecting Kasich to raise $20 million for a re-election campaign, Fitzgerald said the Democrats will have to weed the field down to one who can then raise enough money to mount a challenge.
That's why Fitzgerald is already touring the state, pointing out that he and Strickland as chief executives offer the only apples-to-apples comparison's to the governor. Fitzgerald lays claim to the second-largest public body in Ohio (the state is the biggest) with a $1 billion county budget. He points out that Strickland already lost to Kasich. He also points out that Kasich supports a 15-mill Cleveland schools tax levy.
To counter Strickland's prime time Democratic National Convention appearance during which he took jabs at Kasich, Fitzgerald last week issued a video response to Kasich's primetime speech at the Republican National Convention.
Ryan has already said he won't enter the race if his friend Strickland does. We don't see Ryan entering even without Strickland because he would have to give up his job security and promising career as the Mahoning Valley's congressman.
In a bit of irony at the Democratic convention, Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley misspoke about the next Ohio gubernatorial race.
''The people of Ohio will determine their nominees, but I believe that Ohio is always a state that prefers to move forward and not back,'' O'Malley said.
No, the people won't choose, even though a healthy primary during which the candidates explain their positions and voters make their selection would determine the best challenger to Kasich. Voters will get cheated out of that process.
We remind the four frontrunners that a secret screening to determine the nominee might sound enticing, especially for the candidate that emerges, but any of the other three could, and should, nix this idea when the time comes.