By Debra Jasper
Columbus Enquirer Bureau
With one week to go before Election Day, Gov. Bob Taft and his campaign team swept through southwestern Ohio Sunday evening to drum up more votes in an area he says is key to winning a second term.
Traveling with wife, Hope, and his running mate, Jennette Bradley, Mr. Taft stopped by Butler County Prosecutor Rob Piper's annual staff picnic in Fairfield and glad-handed in Jungle Jim's International Market on Dixie Highway and at the Western Bowl in Green Township.
Gov. Bob Taft gives the thumbs-up sign as he gets off his campaign bus Sunday in Fairfield.
(Craig Ruttle photo)
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The governor told supporters they needed to turn out in droves on Nov. 5 to help him overcome Democratic turnout in the northern part of the state.
A Cleveland Plain Dealer poll released Sunday shows Mr. Taft has a 50 percent to 38 percent lead over his opponent, Democrat Tim Hagan. Nine percent were undecided. The poll, conducted Oct. 21-23 by Mason-Dixon Polling and Research Inc., was based on interviews with 800 likely voters. It has a margin of error of 3.5 percentage points.
Both men are traveling Ohio this week trying to shore up their base and beef up voter turnout. While he is ahead in the polls, Mr. Taft says he is still nervous about the race.
"A lot of people don't think there is a race," he said. "I've got to build awareness and motivate my base to maintain their enthusiasm up to the last minute."
While traveling in his luxury motor home through Fairfield, Mr. Taft said big wins in Hamilton, Clermont, Warren and Butler counties would offset any losses he might experience in Cuyahoga County and the Mahoning Valley.
Four years ago, he won Hamilton County by 62,000 votes and Butler County by more than 25,000 votes, Mr. Taft said, noting that offset his loss of Cuyahoga County by 87,000 votes.
"We will lose Cleveland by maybe 100,000 votes," Mr. Taft predicted. "I have to get a lot of that back in Hamilton, Butler, Clermont and Warren. You can see how this part of Ohio is critical."
Mr. Taft clearly has plenty of voters left to reach, including people like Alisha Whitfield, 24, a homemaker who was shopping in Jungle Jim's.
"I haven't done enough research so I don't know who I'm voting for yet," she said. "All I've seen is the ads on TV."
Anna McQueary, 39, another homemaker from Bridgetown and mother of three, said she has had too many things on her mind to focus on the race yet. "I was watching TV this morning and I thought, `Gosh, I need to pay attention so I know how I'm going to vote.' "
Jack Goff, 47, and his wife, Darra, 38, are Republicans who plan on voting for Mr. Taft - but they aren't happy with the job that he or any other politician is doing.
Mr. Goff, an unemployed land surveyor, said, "I'd like to see somebody do something about the economy. It's really scary right now."
Shopper Birdie Hunger, 80, of Middletown, said she is voting for the governor because "he's a good, straightforward family man."
Besides, noted her husband, Les Hunger, their grandson is a tutor is Mr. Taft's OhioReads program. "I think a lot of people are in prison because they can't read and nobody cares about them," said the 80-year-old retiree from the Middletown Water Department. "This reading program is a good thing."
Not all shoppers were undecided or leaning Mr. Taft's way, though. Wesley Banks, 44, a technician at Cincinnati Bell and father of five, told Mrs. Taft that Republicans have been in power for 12 years and haven't done anything productive.
"Yes, we have," Mrs. Taft replied. "We're inching forward."
Mr. Banks shook his head. "We've been hearing that for a long time," he said.
After their conversation, Mr. Banks said he is voting for Mr. Hagan. "I feel we've been buffaloed by the Republican Party, who are selling us a bunch of pipe dreams," he said. "They've been in power and there are fewer jobs, fewer opportunities and less pay. I felt like I had to tell them that."
Inside Western Bowl, Michele Acree, 31, a Western Hills mother of two, said she isn't sure who she is voting for but she's leaning toward Mr. Hagan.
"With everything going on with the economy, I don't think I want things to stay the same," she said. "Right now, they aren't very good."
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