By Gregory Korte
The Cincinnati Enquirer
Coming into what may be the Republican fund-raising capital of the world Tuesday, Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry saw at least one friendly face in the crowd.
Ronna Greff Schneider, a law professor at the University of Cincinnati, was his moot-court partner at Boston College Law School in 1974 and 1975, when they won the school competition and the New England regional before losing in the national finals.
"She's sitting there critically, saying, 'Why didn't you say it like this? You should have argued that!' " Kerry joked from the podium.
To the contrary, Schneider was nothing but complimentary to the man her late father once predicted would be president.
"I worked so intensely with him in a way that, granted, was not like running the country. But I saw in him qualities I so admire that I know will make him a wonderful president," she said. "He's very, very smart, and he can take a tremendous amount of complex information, listen to both sides of an argument, and then focus in on what's important."
So how close are they?
When son Sam Schneider was born in 1978, the Kerrys hosted a baby shower at their Boston home. (Sam later became an intern in Kerry's Senate office.)
And in 1975, Schneider and her husband, Dr. John Schneider, went to Boston to take Kerry to the World Series, watching Carlton Fisk hit the famous game-winning homer in Game 6 only to watch the Reds prevail in Game 7. (Schneider credits Kerry's diplomatic skills in helping to save her husband's life after a Sox fan poured beer on his head.)
"I love being here," Kerry told the crowd. "I have great memories of Cincinnati - of course, except for the 1975 World Series."
GOP RESPONSE: As Kerry was speaking later Tuesday to middle-class, swing voters in Columbus, the Bush campaign in Ohio was shoring up its conservative base.
The Bush camp sent Ralph Reed, the former chairman of the Christian Coalition and the southeastern coordinator for the campaign, to Ohio to do some grassroots organizing.
Reed met with campaign volunteers in Dayton and Cincinnati Tuesday night. Earlier, he appeared at the site of a Kerry rally in Columbus and criticized Kerry's "continued pessimism at the economy."
And an e-mail of "conservative talking points" - sent from Bush Ohio spokesman Aaron McLear to Carlo LoParo, an aide to Ohio Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell - accidentally got copied to reporters Tuesday.
The No. 1 point: "President Bush is the most pro-life president in history." Others included "appointing and nominating conservative judges," "defending traditional marriage," "promoting school choice," "cleaning up television" and "stopping child pornography."
A separate list of talking points, titled "Compassion," highlights Bush's faith-based initiatives, special-education funding, prisoner re-entry program and AIDS relief.
Democrats said the Bush campaign is clearly moving to the right.
"The way Bush is going to try to win Ohio is to get Republicans to vote," said Brendon Cull, a spokesman for the Democratic National Committee. "John Kerry is coming with a plan for all of Ohio."
DOOM VS. GLOOM: The Bush campaign called Kerry's Ohio visit the "Doom and Gloom Tour, 2004," and pointed to recent statements by Cincinnati Mayor Charlie Luken as evidence the economy is picking up.
In an op-ed piece in the Enquirer Sunday, Luken said the city's long-term economic outlook is good.
"Unemployment is down and is much better than many other cities statewide. Job growth forecasts are strong," Luken wrote.
Bush campaign spokesman Kevin Madden contrasted the mayor's statement with Kerry's assessment last month that "America is still in the worst job recovery since the Great Depression."
"It shows a certain desperation that they would go through all that effort to wordsmith a letter to the editor from a mayor of Cincinnati," Luken said. "In a way I'm flattered, but it's almost bizarre."
STILL AIN'T SEEN NOTHING: Cincinnati Vice Mayor Alicia Reece had some awkward moments at the podium Tuesday when the candidate she was introducing was running behind.
After introducing almost every Democrat of consequence in the room - right down to the band, the Ed Felson Trio - she introduced "the next president of the United States" to Bachman Turner Overdrive's "You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet," bringing the crowd of 450 Democratic faithful to their feet, clapping and yelling.
The song ended. Still no Kerry.
"We're just getting warmed up. Take your seats. That was a dress rehearsal. You looked good," Reece said, stalling for 10 minutes. "If I stay up here long enough, I might be running for vice president.... Never give a politician a microphone, because we can go on and on and on and on."
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