As Obama and Clinton fight to differentiate themselves in the eyes of Ohio’s Democratic voters- the topic of health care plans keeps coming up- just like it did during the 2006 race for Ohio Governor.

And, just like the 2006 Gubernatorial race, the differentiating factor with these health care plans is whether or not to mandate coverage for all citizens.

Hillary Clinton would like to implement mandated health care coverage for all US citizens while Barack Obama prefers a program that makes coverage more affordable but still voluntary.

It 2006 it was Ted who was proposing “affordable coverage on a voluntary basis” while Ken Blackwell wanted to “mandate that all Ohioans have some form of health insurance.”

And in both races, the ‘mandate’ candidate ended up being on the defensive.

In the Gov’s race, Ted attacked the Blackwell proposal arguing that “Blackwell’s plan would use the ‘heavy hand of government’ to impose a mandate on businesses and individuals that they might not be able to afford.”

This time around Obama is on the attack claiming, in a recent mailer, that “Hillary’s health care plan forces everyone to buy insurance, even if you can’t afford it.

Those are surprisingly similar attacks.

So, when I saw the clip of angry Hillary waiving around Barack’s mailer saying ‘Shame on you, Barack Obama’ – and THEN I saw Governor Strickland nodding supportively behind her I was – well- confused, to say the least.

But when she then accused the Obama campaign of “using tactics right out of Karl Rove’s playbook” – i.e. the same tactics that Ted Strickland had used in his recent campaign – I suddenly realized that someone made a big mistake here.

The Clinton campaign should NOT have asked Ted to appear at this event- and Ted DEFINITELY should have reviewed what Hillary was going to say before he agreed to appear.

Eric might argue that Governor Strickland is being hypocritical and a flip-flopper- and initially I agreed with that take on the situation.

But the more I think about it, the more I think maybe Ted is just in over his head.

Being a long time friend of Hillary Clinton, Ted decided very early on not just to endorse her but also to publicly support her. That’s certainly his right.

And back when Hillary was ahead in the race and still talking positively, his appearances at her rallies were pretty safe and not very controversial. Actually- it was kind of cool to see our Governor on the national stage.

And back then Ted could simply say “Hillary is the best candidate” without anyone asking why and without anyone grilling him on the details of his endorsement.

But that time is over.

Now that this campaign is getting ugly – and make no mistake it IS getting ugly – Ted’s overt public support of Senator Clinton is going to be severly scrutinized and assumptions will be made about HIS positions- especially when he appears with Hillary in public.

The whole point of having him stand with her is to make her look good. Instead it’s making him look bad.

Ted has done his job; he’s proven his loyalty and friendship to Mrs. Clinton. He’s done that 10 times over now and it’s time for her to return the favor.

If Hillary really does consider Ted her friend, then she will stop asking him to appear at rallies with her.