Sunday, July 30, 2000

Pledge is to win in Ohio, Ky.

By James Pilcher and Lew Moores
The Cincinnati Enquirer

[photo] George W. Bush speaks at Devou Park Saturday.
(Michael E. Keating photo)
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        COVINGTON — George W. Bush promised at least 1,000 Devou Park supporters on Saturday that he would win both Ohio and Kentucky this fall — two states that have not voted for Republicans in the last two elections.

        “We're going to change all that,” said the Texas governor, who heads into this week's Republican convention as the presumptive presidential nominee. “And we're going to do it for a reason. ... We're going to make sure this American experience touches every willing heart.”

        The event, Mr. Bush's third Kentucky stop of the day, went off without a hitch with a light but steady rain ending about 30 minutes before the candidate took the stage shortly before 7 p.m.

        Covington police officials would not give an estimated attendance. Campaign officials claimed as many as 1,700 crowded into the overlook corner of the park.

[photo] Bush returns an autograph to an admirer.
(Michael E. Keating photo)
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        Wearing a gray suit and a solid red tie, Mr. Bush stayed away from many specifics during his speech. He spent a lot of time praising his recently selected running mate, Dick Cheney, and Mr. Bush's wife, Laura. Mrs. Bush is scheduled to address the convention during prime time Monday.

        His speech in Covington echoed themes from previous stops in Louisville and Owensboro. He briefly touched on his proposal to allow younger workers the option of a private investment account instead of Social Security, his intention to use the federal budget surplus to lower taxes, his goal of “rebuilding the military,” and his commitment to education and local control of schools.

        He did not mention his Democratic opponent, Vice President Al Gore, by name, but said he and Mr. Gore disagreed on taxes.

        “My opponent believes the surplus belongs to the government,” Mr. Bush said. “It is my belief the surplus belongs to the people who pay their bills and paid their taxes that created the surplus in the first place.”

[photo] Young and old came to hear Bush.
(Michael E. Keating photo)
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        Mr. Bush has proposed a $1.3 trillion tax cut over 10 years, a plan Mr. Gore says is too risky.

        He also said “morale in the U.S. military right now is dangerously low, and we need to rebuild it. In order to keep peace in the world, we must rebuild the military power of the United States of America.”

        On education, he reiterated a familiar theme: “Now I'm in favor of education, but don't expect me to be the federal superintendent of schools.”

        Mr. Bush, still energized after a full day's campaigning, was warmly received by the audience. He spent 20 minutes shaking hands on his way out of the park. He planned to spend the night at a private home in Cincinnati before appearing at a rally today at Blue Ash Sports Park.

        The crowd ringed the hillside at the park, which offered a vista of downtown Covington and the Cincinnati skyline in the background.

[photo] Bush goes over his notes before speaking.
(AP photo)
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        Tami Wilson of Florence arrived nearly four hours early for Mr. Bush's appearance. She wore a star-spangled polo shirt and an Uncle Sam headpiece. She brought her three children with her, ages 7, 4 and 3.

        “I wanted my kids to be here among the excitement of seeing the future president,” said Ms. Wilson. “I wanted to show him my support as he heads to the convention.”

        As her children played on a nearby playground, she said she brought them along to give them a taste of poli tics.

        “I wanted to get them involved early, to let them know that voting is important,” she explained.

        It rained for much of the late afternoon, a light rain that turned the hillside into a canopy of multicolored umbrellas. The drives along the park were lined with parked cars. Some who lived nearby walked to the overlook area, near the Memorial Building.

        Steve Middendorf of Park Hills rode up to the park on a mountain bicycle.

        “I'm not that politically active, but I'm a Republican,” said Mr. Middendorf, who added the opportunity to see the presidential candidate was too near to pass up.

[photo] A small group protested against Bush's support of the death penalty.
(AP photo)
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        Larry Glidewell came down from Dayton, Ohio, and joined his girlfriend, Sarah Rolfes, at the rally. Ms. Rolfes lives in Columbus, but was visiting her parents in Florence.

        Rock music and music by the Pete Wagner band and the Simon Kenton High School Marching Band kept the crowd entertained. Miniature American flags sold for $1, and campaign buttons were being hawked at two for $5.

        The weather cooperated. By 6:25 p.m. the sun began poking through an overcast sky.

        The audience included young couples with young children and retirees alike.

        Taylor Mill residents Chris and Karen Seidler, 26 and 22, respectively, said Mr. Bush has a lot more support within their age group than previous Republican candidates.

        "I've never liked Bill Clinton but this is the first time that I've felt like I'm voting for someone rather than against someone,” Mr. Seidler said, who along with his wife brought twin 1 year olds to the event.

        Earlier in the day, in Louisville, a 40-minute rain delayed Mr. Bush's arrival to the Louisville Slugger Museum.

        Hundreds of supporters and protesters braved the weather for hours before the governor spoke, but as he rose to the platform, the rain ended.

        “It's the same thing that's going to happen in November,” said Joe Gerichs of Louisville. “The rain's going to stop and we're going to elect Bush.”

        “The good news is that we're leading in the polls right now,” Mr. Bush said in Covington. “The bad news is that the election is not tomorrow. We've got a lot of work to do and I've come to ask for your help.”

        Given his support in this region, it is logical he'd be here immediately before the GOP convention, said Ohio Poll co-director Eric Rademacher.

        “This shows he's paying attention to two states - Ohio and Kentucky - that his campaign views as very important,” said Mr. Rademacher. “But he's also in an area that he has great support, so this could provide momentum visually for the national media and psychologically for the candidate and campaign.”

        Kristina Goetz contributed to this story.

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