Monday, November 06, 2000

Barbara Bush energizes rally

By Cindy Kranz
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Mrs. Bush is framed by the hands of a person signing as she speaks.
(Micheal E. Keating photos)
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        LIBERTY TWP. — Barbara Bush energized a crowd of about 4,000 at a get-out-the vote rally Sunday at Lakota East High School, but she avoided controversy in the final days of the presidential campaign.

        Mrs. Bush steered clear of highly charged issues, including the revelation that her son, George W. Bush, was arrested for DUI in 1976. She did, however, stress his character.

        “I know he is a good and honorable, decent man who will make a great president.”

        As Mrs. Bush stepped up to the podium, the audience cheered and waved signs, such as “Mama Knows Best.” Many supporters had arrived more than two hours before the former first lady.

        Fred Kopp, 43, a pharmacist from Liberty Township, came because he wants to see Mr. Bush win. “He has positive views and is running a positive campaign.”

Attendees line up to pass through metal detectors.
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        Kay Blake, a 58-year-old retired teacher from Middletown, was decked out with Bush stickers. “I just have to see Barbara. She is just a class act.”

        During her half-hour speech, Mrs. Bush protested negative ads that suggest seniors will lose Social Security benefits if her son is elected.

        “This is simply not true,” she said. “It's baloney. ... Do you really think this senior citizen, white-haired mother would let George W. wreck Social Security?”

        She touched on other is sues he supports, such as strengthening the military and an across-the-board tax cut. But she acknowledged she doesn't like talking about issues, leaving the details for her son to explain.

        Baju Hari, a 50-year-old systems analyst from West Chester, wanted to hear more. “She was upbeat, but she didn't give any details on how George W. will do all those things,” said Mr. Hari, who is leaning toward Democrat Al Gore.

        Mrs. Bush didn't mention Mr. Gore by name, referring to him as George W.'s opponent.

        Besides issues, Mrs. Bush engaged the crowd with her down-to-earth style and deadpan humor that make her a popular speaker.

        The polls are tight, Mrs. Bush said, but she encouraged the audience to ignore them, along with the pundits, “unless of course they say good things about George W.”

        One poll she trusts was by CNN — it asked which candidate is better looking. “I thought that was the dumbest, stupidest question I ever heard — until I saw who won.”

        Jan Basham came from Fairborn, north of Dayton, to hear Mrs. Bush. She wasn't disappointed.

        “I'm energized,” the 45-year-old homemaker said following the rally. “She just reaffirmed the things I had already heard and knew. It was just good to see her in person.”

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