Tuesday, October 24, 2000

Ohio crucial, but candidates elsewhere




By Howard Wilkinson
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        It has been 20 days since George W. Bush or Al Gore set foot in Ohio, but with two weeks to go, there is no evidence that either campaign is abandoning the state.

        Polls in Ohio, considered one of the key battleground states in this year's presidential election, have consistently showed the Republican with a small but steady lead over Mr. Gore in the battle for Ohio's 21 electoral votes.

        The most recent survey, a statewide poll released Saturday by the Cleveland Plain Dealer, had Mr. Bush with 45 percent and Mr. Gore with 41 percent. Green Party candidate Ralph Nader had 5 percent and 8 percent were undecided. The poll had a sampling error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

        The Bush lead has meant that, in the past three weeks, the candidates have spent most of their campaign time in states where the race is considered to be dead even — states such as Michigan, Missouri, Oregon and Florida.

        But even with the candidates gone, there has been no lack of presidential campaign activity in Ohio.

        Monday, four Republican governors — George Ryan of Illinois, Jim Geringer of Wyoming, Don Sundquist of Tennessee and Jim Gilmore of Virginia — stopped at the Marva Collins Preparatory School in Silverton to campaign for the Texas gover nor. They will be in Columbus for a campaign event today.

        The four were one of seven teams of GOP governors from 29 states on a three-day barnstorming tour of key states. Ohio Gov. Bob Taft is on another team.

        “We are here, as his fellow governors, to make the case that Gov. Bush is an actual leader, not a play leader,” Mr. Gilmore said, after touring the Silverton school with his fellow governors. “Governors have real opportunities to lead; and Gov. Bush has done that in Texas.”

        The governors were met outside the school gates by about 20 sign-waving local Gore-Lieberman supporters who were there along with Vilma Luna, a Democratic state representative from Texas who was critical of Mr. Bush's record on education in Texas.

        “What I want people in Ohio to understand is that, yes, there have been advances in education in Texas over the past few years, but it was Democrats in Texas who led the way,” Ms. Luna said.

        The Gore-Lieberman counter-demonstration Monday afternoon in Silverton was part of an effort to dog the teams of GOP governors as they crisscross key states.

        Two weeks ago, the Democratic National Committee scaled back its TV ad campaign for Gore-Lieberman in Ohio and started shifting resources to other states, a signal that perhaps the Democrats had given up on winning in Ohio.

        But this week, the Gore-Lieberman campaign and the DNC are splitting the cost of a $900,000 TV ad campaign in Ohio that features four 30-second TV spots.

        One attacks Mr. Bush's record as Texas governor; the others tout Mr. Gore's plan on Social Security and health care.

        “We are just trying to spend our money wisely,” said Kara Gerhardt, spokeswoman for the Ohio Gore-Lieberman campaign.

        The campaign has teamed up with the Ohio Democratic Party in a coordinated campaign running out of 40 field offices around the state. Democratic phone banks are operating for the Gore-Lieberman campaign in 50 locations and volunteers are making 10,000 phone calls a night.

        The same kind of effort is taking place on the Republican side, with county party organizations largely responsible for grass-roots field campaigns.

        In Hamilton County, the county party is running a Bush-Cheney get-out-the-vote campaign from a storefront office on East Ninth Street in downtown Cincinnati.

        U.S. Rep. Rob Portman, the Cincinnati Republican with close ties to Bush-Cheney, said the campaign is “feeling good” about the polls in Ohio, but taking nothing for granted.

        “The reason we are ahead in Ohio is that Bush did so well here in the primary and people are responding to his message,” Mr. Portman said.

        “We have a good, grass-roots organization,” Mr. Portman said. “We're ahead, but the last thing we can do is get complacent about it.”

       



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