Monday, July 26, 2004

Kerry: Seeking an edge in Ohio

Candidate pledges vote reform on convention's eve

By Gregory Korte
Enquirer staff writer

COLUMBUS - Sen. John Kerry's road to the Democratic nomination in Boston this week took a short detour into a short Columbus cul-de-sac Sunday, where he promised to make sure "each and every vote is counted" in November.

Worried about a repeat of the Florida voting problems in the 2000 election, Kerry said he started putting a legal team in place shortly after he secured the Democratic nomination in March. He said some challenges could come within the next few weeks.

Those votes could make a difference. President Bush won Columbus' Ward 62, where Kerry visited Sunday as part of his "front porch" tour, by just 12 votes in 2000.

Kerry came to this neighborhood - a northeastern Columbus working-to-middle-class enclave just two miles from Columbus' newest and most upscale shopping mall - 100 days before the Nov. 2 election and three days before his nomination. He'll come back to Ohio next weekend, visiting Zanesville, Springfield and Bowling Green.

BOSTON - Democrats are establishing a party commission to look at whether Iowa and New Hampshire should keep their coveted first spots on the presidential primary calendar every four years

Establishing the commission was approved Sunday by the Democratic National Committee's rules committee. The convention's 4,353 delegates are scheduled to vote on it today.

Michigan Democrats have argued that Iowa and New Hampshire lack the diverse population of larger states whose voters are more representative of the nation as a whole. Last year, they won a commitment from top party officials to have a commission look at the issue in exchange for agreeing to delay Michigan's 2004 presidential caucuses until after Iowa's caucus and New Hampshire's primary.

Under the plan, Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe will name a commission of 25 to 40 members within 30 days of the Nov. 2 election. Half will be DNC members and the other half will be elected officials and other party leaders.

Iowa and New Hampshire officials say the system isn't broken and doesn't need fixing.

Edwards headed for new N.C. digs

Whether he wins the office of vice president or not, it looks like John Edwards is leaving Raleigh, N.C.

The Democratic senator, who owns homes in Raleigh and Washington, D.C., bought a 102-acre parcel of farm and forest land four miles west of Chapel Hill, N.C., last month.

Edwards and his wife, Elizabeth, paid $1.32 million to Paul Guthrie and his brother, whose late parents had owned the Orange County property since 1947.

In an interview aired Saturday on the A&E cable channel, Elizabeth Edwards said the family planned to move to the property. She had said in April that they were interested in the school district. The couple have two small children and one grown daughter.

Guthrie said his parents used the land for farming and timber. The only things on the property are a dilapidated building and trees.

Convention coverage

CBS: 10-11 p.m.
NBC: 10-11 p.m.
ABC: 10-11 p.m.
PBS: 8-11 p.m.
C-SPAN: 4-11 p.m. (gavel-to-gavel coverage).

Enquirer news services

Bush will counter with an overlapping swing through Cleveland, Canton and Cambridge

Ohio is considered a must-win state by both camps, but two major polls disagree on who's leading.

A CNN/USA Today Gallup poll published today shows Kerry leading Bush, 48 percent to 43 percent. The margin of error is 4 percentage points. That poll was conducted by telephone July 19 to July 22.

But a Columbus Dispatch mail poll - conducted over a longer period of time with a much larger sample - tells the opposite story. There, Bush is leading Kerry 47 percent to 44 percent.

The Dispatch poll, conducted July 14 to July 23 and published Sunday - has a margin of error of just 2 percentage points.

If Ohio is a bellwether of the nation, Ward 62 is a bellwether of the bellwether.

As Kerry's motorcade pulled in behind a flatbed truck lined with television cameras, it passed what seemed to be an equal number of Bush and Kerry yard signs.

"This race is about this neighborhood," Columbus Mayor Michael B. Coleman said in introducing Kerry at the front porch of 57-year-old nurse Janet Aikens.

Actually, Kerry never set foot on the front stoop, but rather walked among the 150 neighbors at the dead end of Glenshaw Place. In a relaxed, 90-minute give-and-take, he talked about his plans to reverse Bush's 2002 tax cut and use the money to invest in health care, education and job creation.

Heading into the convention, there's a subtle shift in the Democrat's strategy: he's focusing less on energizing Democrats against President Bush and more on giving swing voters a reason to vote for Kerry. More than once, Kerry caught himself criticizing Bush.

"President Bush - I'm not here to be critical, but I am comparing - he's had four years to come up with a health-care plan. And he has nothing. He doesn't even talk about reducing the cost of health care," he said, directing his comments to nurses in the audience.

With each campaign emphasizing "values," religion played a key part in Kerry's campaigning Sunday. At the First Church of God on the south side, he listened to a 45-minute sermon by Bishop Timothy J. Clarke while worshiping with a mostly African-American congregation.

Kerry is a Roman Catholic who has run afoul of some Catholic bishops for his stance on abortion rights, and an abortion protester in the church interrupted Kerry with a shout of "Quit killing babies, you phony!"

Kerry's speech to a crowd of 2,500 at the church mostly stayed away from politics.

"I come here this morning to praise His name, to share with you our common future, our humanity, our hopes, our dreams," he said.

Later, on Glenshaw Place, Kerry spoke with a Muslim man who complained of "theological animosity and separation" since 2001.

"I'm a proud American. One thing I don't want is my sons being ostracized," said Abdul Rashid, father of two small boys. "Especially now, with President Bush's theological beliefs intermixing with his political beliefs."

"At 6 months, at 1 year, at 2 years - has anyone ever met a child who hates anyone?" Kerry responded, holding Rashid's 6-month-old son, Hasim and at times battling the infant for control of the microphone. "When John Edwards and I are elected, we're going to have an attorney general who doesn't make anyone feel the way this man feels."

That religious tolerance would also spread overseas, Kerry said, saying he would have long ago reached out to the moderate "clerics, imams and mullahs" to isolate Islamic extremists in the Middle East.

The Bush campaign arranged Sunday for reporters to talk to U.S. Rep. Pat Tiberi, who grew up in and represents the area.

"I just don't believe that Sen. Kerry shares the same values as the people that I've known here my whole life," he said. "In the four years I've been in Congress, there's just been too many instances where Senator Kerry has said one thing and has done something completely the opposite."

Out in Ward 62, some neighbors took that theme a few steps further.

They hung flip-flop sandals from the telephone lines, blasted the theme from the TV show Flipper over loudspeakers, and raffled off a waffle iron - all to make the point that Kerry can't be trusted.

Pro-Bush protesters had dogged Kerry for most of the day.

"I just don't like him. He's a gigolo. He's never held a real job in his life and married into money." said Steve Ward, 55, a heating and air conditioning technician who's lived across from the cul-de-sac for 30 years.

Bush, he said, has done "a remarkable job" in the wake of the terrorist attacks.

On a quiet street, Kerry could clearly hear the protests from a block away.

"What we need to do in America is stop shouting at each other and start listening to each other, and what we need is leadership that inspires people to start listening," he said.

"When I see people on the other side of the fence saying, 'Four more years,' I say, 'Four more years of what?' Four more years of jobs being lost? Four more years of the deficit growing bigger and bigger? Four more years of losing alliances around the world?" Kerry said.



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