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Obama Campaign Seeks Votes in Traditionally Republican Locales

During the latter stages of the U.S. campaign for president, public opinion surveys picked up stonger than expected support for Barack Obama in many places. While political experts say economic troubles helped the Democratic Party nominee, they cite another factor. Obama's campaign has actively pursued voters even in locales Republican nominee John McCain is expected to win. VOA's Jim Fry found one such region in the closely contested state of Ohio.

In Republican-leaning Chillicothe, a picturesque small city in southern Ohio, there are phone calls to make. And mailings to go out.

On a Thursday afternoon, 10 people work in Democrat Barack Obama's campaign office.

With Obama signs in front yards alongside placards for Republican candidate John McCain, Obama supporters say they do not expect to lose badly here.

"Not as much as last time ... not nearly as much as last time," said Father Edward Payne, a local pastor.

Ohio State University political science professor Herb Asher says Obama's field operations are stonger than recent presidential efforts by Democrats. "There are many areas of the state you're not going to win but if you could reduce your deficit in those areas, that really could help you carry the state overall," Asher said.

Ohio's hilly Appalachian region is one of those tough areas for Obama.

Almost all of the state's 29 Appalachian counties voted for the Republican presidential candidate in the last two elections.

In the small town of McArthur, wages are low. The U.S. Census measures income throughout Vinton County at about $20,000 per person.

"It's a nice county. It's a poor county. It's a real poor county," said Leo Amore, who is Vinton County Democratic chairman.

Amore sees an opportunity to break through here. "People around here say there were not many jobs in the first place and now with the nation's economic crisis, one of the mainstays in this town - the lumber industry - has been hit hard. Unemployment in Vinton County has been running at nearly nine percent," Amore added.

Local Republican chairman Charles Brandau is confident of winning the county but worries hard times could sway voters. "That's possible," Brandau said. "They could look at the economy. I hope they look at the whole picture."

Winning issues for Republicans in this region are McCain's opposition to abortion and his support of gun rights.

But on this day, as a local civic service club prepares a 200 year old tree for a history display, Sylvia Wile watches. "I like to know what was going on in the other times, you know - like during the depression," she said ... and contemplates the nation's troubles as the Democrat seeks votes in an unlikely place.