By John McCarthy
The Associated Press
COLUMBUS - In a tight bid for re-election in a battleground state, President Bush is relying on familiar faces outside politics - the Ohio State Buckeyes - to sell himself to voters for another term.
Bush enlisted the support of golfing great Jack Nicklaus and former football star Chris Spielman at a rally Wednesday before 20,000 people at Nationwide Arena. Both had sterling careers at Ohio State before successful careers as pros.
"It doesn't get any better than being introduced by Jack Nicklaus in Columbus, Ohio," said the president, making his second visit to Ohio in less than a week and his 10th this year.
"This is the most important election our country has faced in decades, and we all need to make our voices heard," said Nicklaus, a Columbus native. "He's made the right calls time and again and he's got the scorecard to prove it."
Melanie Blumberg, a political science professor at California University in Pennsylvania, said relying on celebrities and athletes is something that many politicians do to generate excitement for their campaigns.
It is the same concept that companies use by having celebrities appear in commercials to create an image for the product, said Bruce Newman, professor of marketing at DePaul University and editor of the journal Political Marketing.
Nicklaus won a record 18 major professional golf tournaments in a career that began after he led Ohio State to Big Ten Conference golf titles in 1960-61.
He is no stranger to Republican politics. Bush's father, former President George H.W. Bush, was a guest at Nicklaus' Memorial Tournament in suburban Dublin. Nicklaus also hosted a fund-raiser in 2002 for Gov. Bob Taft at the museum named for the golfer on the Ohio State campus.
Spielman, who coaches the Columbus Destroyers of the Arena Football League, starred for Ohio State as a linebacker and was an All-American in 1986-87 before playing pro ball for Detroit, Buffalo and Cleveland. It doesn't hurt Bush that Spielman hails from Massillon in Stark County, considered a bellwether of how the election goes in Ohio and nationally.
Blumberg said she doubts star power translates into votes on Election Day.
"I don't think it really does anything for either of the candidates," she said.
But Newman disagreed, pointing to the speech that California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger made Tuesday night at the Republican National Convention.
"Arnold Schwarzenegger made a speech last night for Bush that creates an image for Bush that's very powerful," he said.
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