Saturday, August 05, 2000

Bush visit underlines importance of Ohio

By Debra Jasper
Enquirer Columbus Bureau

        AKRON — The day after accepting the Republican Party's nomination for president, George W. Bush was back in Ohio — this time whipping up a crowd at an Amtrak station in Akron.

[photo] George W. Bush and Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge campaigned in Pittsburgh Friday.
(Associated Press photo)
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        The Friday evening visit was the fourth time during the week of the Republican National Convention that Mr. Bush has campaigned in an Ohio city — underscoring the importance of this battleground state.

        The Texas governor was two hours late and gave a 10-minute speech to several thousand people.

        “Our mission will be to rally the armies of compassion to encourage mentors to put their arms around somebody and say, "We love you,'” Mr. Bush said.

        Mr. Bush and running mate Dick Cheney appeared in Akron as part of a “Change the Tone” trip that began in Pittsburgh and will continue to Michigan and Illinois.

        Mr. Bush took a swipe at President Clinton, who plans to announce today that he has vetoed a $292 billion, 10-year tax cut for married couples.

        “What kind of tax code is it that discourages marriage? It is time to stand on the side of families,” Mr. Bush said.

        Ohio voters have a long history of swinging back and forth among suitors. In the last two presidential elections, for example, Ohio voters supported Democrat Bill Clinton. But in 1984 and 1988 they backed Republicans.

        “Ohio is a state that can be won by either party, and it's clearly still up for grabs,” said Ryan Barilleaux, a professor of political science at Miami University.

        He added that Mr. Bush's appearances in such Democratic strongholds as Akron and Cleveland fit with the Texas governor's strategy of reaching beyond his base to voters who might be expected to spurn him.

        “Reagan went after the blue-collar workers that came to be known as Reagan Democrats,” Mr. Barilleaux said. “Clinton went after middle-class voters that had leaned Republican. Now Bush is using Clinton's strategy and trying to tap into suburban voters who voted for Clinton but are not enthusiastic about Gore.”

        Mr. Bush is hoping to win over voters such as 33-year-old Janet Bergdorf, a help-desk coordinator for a fabrics company, who said she came to the Akron rally to learn more about the presidential hopeful before deciding whether to vote for him.

        “I don't like making a decision until I've been exposed to both sides,” she said. “But I think this time integrity will be an issue.”

        Most at the rally had their minds made up. Waving a blue Bush-Cheney sign, Peggy Seifert, a nurse from Cuyahoga Falls, said Mr. Bush's visit has generated a lot of excitement.

        “I'm a lifetime Republican, and I think he's going to be wonderful as president,” she said. “I like his family values.”

        Several groups of union members protested outside the rally, waving Gore signs.

        Larry Collins, a 55-year-old member of the Painters Local 841, said he doesn't understand why people want to change administrations when the Clinton-Gore team has been so successful. “If, by fate, Bush should get in, the working man is doomed,” Mr. Collins predicted.


        The Associated Press George W. Bush, with Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge, waves to a crowd in Pittsburgh on Friday.


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