Republican National Convention
Monday, July 31, 2000

Bush sounds familiar themes

Message hits home in GOP stronghold

By Spencer Hunt and Tom O'Neill
The Cincinnati Enquirer

George W. Bush works the crowd at Blue Ash Sports Park.
(Michael E. Keating photo)
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        BLUE ASH — George W. Bush promised an Ohio presidential election victory Sunday before a gathering of voters he'll need most to fulfill it.

        Standing underneath the Cincinnati Reds' old Crosley Field scoreboard in the Blue Ash Sports Park, the Republican Texas governor rallied more than 2,000 of the party faithful with fireworks and a speech that stuck to his familiar campaign themes. Nestled in among his calls for lower taxes, Social Security reform and a stronger military was one simple plea:

        “I want your help.”

        Bush strategists point to Southwest Ohio voters and their willingness to support GOP candidates as key to winning this state in November.

        “The first rule in politics is, secure your base,” said Michael Allen, Hamilton County prosecutor and the county chairman of the Bush campaign. “To take Ohio, he's got to do very well in the media market here, so he can overcome Cleveland's.”

Bush greets Steve Ewing and daughter Becca, 4, of Batavia.
(Michael E. Keating photo)
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        It's no accident the Bush campaign selected Blue Ash for one of its campaign stops on the way to the Republican National Convention in Philadelphia. The candidate's father, George Bush, trounced Democrat Michael Dukakis here in 1988, taking 72 percent of the votes cast.

        Though Democrat Bill Clinton won Ohio in 1992 and in 1996, he never won in Blue Ash. The president collected a mere 30 percent of the Blue Ash vote in 1992 and 37 percent in his 1996 re-election bid.

        More recent opinion polls show a similar substantial lead for George W. Bush.

        Mr. Bush leads Vice President Al Gore 63 percent to 29 percent in the Cincinnati area, according to a July 20 Ohio Poll. Statewide polls show Mr. Bush with a much slimmer lead.

        So it's not enough for Mr. Bush to win here. He has to win big here, said Joe Deters, the Ohio Trea surer and the Hamilton County Republican Party chairman.

        “We need 60 percent turnout down in this area,” Mr. Deters said. “I'm very encouraged that we'll get it.”

Former Reds pitcher Jim O'Toole helps Bush adjust the microphone, while Bush's wife Laura waves to the crowd.
(Michael E. Keating photo)
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        Before Mr. Bush spoke, the event was halted to care for a woman who collapsed and later died. Authorities identified the woman as Helen Geiger, 73, of Mount Healthy. The audience was asked to observe a moment of silence.

        Accompanied by his wife, Laura Bush, Ohio Gov. Bob Taft, U.S. Sen. Mike DeWine, U.S. Reps. Rob Portman and Steve Chabot, Mr. Bush appeared relaxed and confident.

        He shook hands, smiled and pointed to people in the crowd before being introduced by former Reds' pitcher Jim O'Toole, about whom Mr. Taft said, “He throws left, but he votes right.”

        Mr. Bush, a former part-owner of the Texas Rangers, joked about not keeping Mr. O'Toole's baseball card before settling into a standard campaign speech that lasted about 30 minutes.

        “My opponent believes the (federal budget) surplus belongs to the government,” Mr. Bush told the crowd, using the same phrase to elicit boos from a rally Saturday night in Covington. “I believe it belongs to the people.”

Bush pretends to play guitar.
(AP photo)
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        Most of the people in the audience already agree with the candidate's position on issues. Many said they came just to see Mr. Bush.

        It was the first campaign event of its kind that Tom Humphrey, 34, and his wife Susan, 33, had ever attended. The family traveled from Glendale with sons David, 3, and Jason, 3 months, in tow.

        “We're very excited about the idea of getting a Bush back in the White House,” Tom Humphrey said. “It's been a long time.”

        Milton Odell, 67, of Harrison said he prefers Mr. Bush because “he's consistent. I don't think he's likely to change positions.”

        “Honesty and education are the key issues for us,” said Mike Puno, 37, who attended with his wife, Cecile, 37, their son, Simon, 4, and Mr. Puno's coworker, Matt Sanders, 25, of Fairfield.

        Rachel Cervantes, a University of Cincinnati graduate student, said she likes Mr. Bush's Social Security plan, which would let younger workers opt for a private investment account.

        “I like his optimism,” she said.

        Terry Deters, 43, of Price Hill — no relation to Joe Deters — said he was satisfied with Mr. Bush's performance.

        The summer showers didn't dampen the crowd's enthusiasm, which was cheered on by radio talk show host Bill Cunningham.

        “After eight years of Clinton-Gore we need a bath,” Mr. Cunningham told the crowd. “I think we're getting that now.”

        Mr. Bush continues his swing through the region with stops today in Dayton and Columbus.


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