Sunday, October 31, 2004
Rallies, caravans, calls: Voting day must be near
By Howard Wilkinson
Enquirer staff writer
The $20 million Republicans and Democrats spent here on a campaign ad blitz that was the political equivalent of a 100-year-flood was wasted if the idea was to get people like Kevin and Kimberly Austin of Forest Park out to vote.
They already had two good reasons to cast their ballots - 7-year-old Kevin Jr. and 3-year-old Kamille.
"That'll be the motivation I need,'' said Kevin Austin, as the family stood outside Winton Woods High School Saturday morning amid a sea of children and adults at a school levy rally.
The Austins long for a day that is soon to come - the day when the noise of what has been an especially contentious, bitter and expensive presidential campaign fades into the quiet and solitary act of voting.
"It's gotten pretty bad, as bad as I have seen it,'' Kevin Austin said of the non-stop attack ads of the presidential race. "Two candidates dragging each other through the mud. I guess you get used to it after awhile. So much so that you don't even hear it anymore.''
Both said they had made up their minds long ago.
"Not Bush,'' Kimberly Austin said, with a laugh. "And Nader's not on the ballot. So who do you think?''
Among the hundreds who gathered for the school levy march Saturday morning there were probably as many Bush supporters as Kerry voters.
"We're probably split down the middle on who should be president,'' said Patti Zehler of Fairfield, a school crossing guard in the Winton Woods district. "I'm for Bush myself because I think he is a more moral man. And I really do think there will be more American blood shed by terrorists if Kerry is president.''
Across town, there was another gathering at the former Swifton Common shopping center in Roselawn.
Kerry supporters in a caravan of about 30 vehicles lined up to snake their way through many of Cincinnati's most staunchly Democratic neighborhoods.
Deb Hughes, 36, and Devo Ihonde, 32, of the East End, waited to ease into their place in the caravan line.
Hughes said she and her partner have always been interested in politics, but said this election has motivated them to go out and do something about it.
"The country was completely misled by Bush on the war and on a whole host of other issues,'' said Hughes, sitting behind the wheel. "He's taking this country in a direction that is disastrous, and we feel like we need to do whatever we can to stop him.''
The often-brutal tone of the campaign ads and the deep divisions, Ihonde said, "just goes to show how important this is.''
While the Kerry caravan looped past downtown Cincinnati on Central Parkway, volunteers crowded into the Bush-Cheney campaign's storefront headquarters on W. Seventh Street.
People came in to sign up as volunteers or to pick up tickets for today's campaign rally with President Bush at Great American Ball Park.
Joy Tiberio and Boyd Siatwambo, both of Mount Auburn, stopped for six tickets to the Bush event; they said they'd pass out the rest to their friends.
"I've never really been involved in politics, but I believe in President Bush,'' said Tiberio. "I like him because of his Christian views, and because of his position against abortion and gay marriage. He is the kind of man we need in the White House.''
Nancy Otto of Montgomery agreed, although she said she prefers Bush, principally because she believes he will be best able to win the war against terrorists.
"If we don't win that war, nothing else will matter much,'' Otto said.
Otto does not consider herself to be particularly political, but said she does volunteer "every four years when we choose a president. That's such an important decision.''
For the past week, she worked as a volunteer at the Republicans' phone bank operation in Blue Ash and stopped downtown Saturday to make calls for a few hours.
"Sometimes, when I call voters, they will tell me they are for Kerry and I'll say, 'Thank you for your time,' and go on to the next call,'' Otto said. "Every once in the while, I say I am calling for President Bush and they slam the phone on me. It's rude. I don't think politics has to be that way.''
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