Monday, November 22, 1999

Bauer's name ringing bells

Profile rising in home town

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        NEWPORT — Ken Barth's quick fingers were putting the finishing touches on a flat-top when he was asked whether he knew anything about Gary Bauer.

        “Sure,” said Mr. Barth, the operator of a barber shop at 11th and Patterson streets that is packed with Cincinnati Reds and University of Kentucky basketball memorabilia.

        “I know who he is. But we don't talk much politics in here. We'd talk a whole lot more about Gary Bauer if he played point guard for UK,” Mr. Barth said.

        Not exactly a ringing endorsement, but for Mr. Bauer's long-shot presidential campaign, Mr. Barth's recognition of his name is the political equivalent of draining a long three-pointer at UK's home court, Rupp Arena.

        That's because last March, just a month before Mr. Bauer announced his presidential campaign at his alma mater Newport High School, it was difficult to find anybody familiar with the hometown boy trying to make the long journey from Newport's Park Avenue to Washington's Pennsylvania Avenue.

        Walter Case, 41, a clerk at Newport Liquor Dispensary on Monmouth Street, gave pretty much the typical answer last March when told that Mr. Bauer was running for president.

        “Can't say I've heard of him,” Mr. Case responded.

        But thanks to months of exposure in the local and national media and fresh off a visit to Newport last week, Mr. Bauer appears far better known these days in his hometown.

        “I know who he is, and I know he's running for president, and that he's from Newport,” said Lou Arrowood, 66, who was taking a morning walk along Monmouth Street week.

        “But I can't really tell you much about him or what he stands for.” .

        Therein lies a nagging problem for the Bauer campaign, one not solved by the candidate's increased name recognition on the streets of Newport: Voters are starting to know who he is but not what he stands for or how he plans to lead the country.

        And none of the dozen or so people interviewed for this story said they definitely plan to vote for Mr. Bauer.

        “I've heard him talk a few times on TV, and I think he was here last week,” said Ina Combs, Mrs. Arrowood's walking partner.

        “I don't know much more about him than that.”

        Bridget, a 24-year-old retail clerk and Newport resident who wouldn't give her last name, did know that Mr. Bauer is a staunch conservative. And she's even met the candidate, describing him as “a nice man.”

        “But I'm not conservative at all, so we kind of disagree on those kind of issues,” she said.

        On the city's east side, where Mr. Bauer grew up, a couple of contractors rehabbing a house said they were familiar with the candidate.

        Rich Brockman, 47, of Finneytown, even knew that Mr. Bauer formerly headed up the Family Research Council.

        “(Mr. Bauer) would definitely be better than any of the Reform Party candidates like Donald Trump, and he would definitely be better than (Democratic Vice President) Al Gore,” Mr. Brockman said.

        “I just don't see how he can beat George (W.) Bush,” he said, referring to the Texas governor and GOP front-runner.

        Pat Kelly, 52, a plumbing contractor from Symmes Township, agreed.

        “He's running a campaign, but he can't win,” Mr. Kelly said. “Not enough people know who he is.”


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