By Gregory Korte
Enquirer staff writer
Those Cincinnati-area swing voters who see terrorism as the greatest issue facing the country were even more likely to vote for President Bush after Wednesday night's Republican convention speeches by Sen. Zell Miller and Vice President Dick Cheney.
Those who see the nation's most pressing problems as closer to home were unimpressed, according to a focus group of swing voters conducted in Cincinnati by pollster Frank I. Luntz for the cable channel MSNBC.
Pollsters have found overwhelming majorities trust Bush more on national defense, while similar proportions favor Democrat John Kerry on the economy.
"Terrorism is the issue. When the airplanes are down, it even means the economy. It's everything," said Doug Campbell, a 43-year-old computer network designer from Sycamore Township. He voted for Bush in 2000.
"It doesn't matter what your domestic policy is if you don't have any homeland left to defend," said Allison Rasmussen, a 45-year-old financial planner from Anderson Township. She voted for Al Gore.
But others weren't buying the emphasis on foreign policy and national security. "They want us to think it's the most important issue, but it's not," said Pamela Miller, a 48-year-old marketing consultant from Montgomery. An independent, she supported Gore in 2000.
"There's a linkage here between national security and a move toward Bush," Luntz said.
Indeed, when Cheney talked in his speech about tax policy, his approval from Democratic swing voters dropped through the floor.
Using hand-held dials to gauge the reaction of 17 swing voters assembled at the WCET studios in the West End, Luntz noted a sharp drop from Democrats when Cheney said Americans were "overtaxed" when Bush came into office.
"They don't buy it," Luntz said. "He's very polarizing."
On Sen. Zell Miller, the Georgia Democrat who defied his party to speak at the GOP convention, swing voters were again driven to extremes. Words they used to describe his speech, which mocked Democrats on national defense: "powerful," "slow," "hyperbole," "convincing," "on target" and "very negative."
For Luntz, Cincinnati has become a favorite place to take America's pulse.
"Ohio has every element of America in it. Big city, small town, rural. Farmers, large corporations and everything in between. ... Ohio is America, only smaller," he said.
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