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Kerry Makes Big Push in Critical State of Ohio  - 2004-10-18

With about two weeks go to until Election Day, both the Bush and Kerry campaigns are making a major push for votes in a handful of states that could determine the outcome of the race on November 2. Perhaps no state is getting more attention this year than Ohio, which has seen frequent visits from both President Bush and Senator John Kerry.

"What do we want? Jobs! When do we want them? Now!" the crowd shouts.

These Democrats in southern Ohio want to bring jobs back to their state and they believe Democrat John Kerry is the man to do it.

Ohio has lost more than 200,000 jobs in recent years, many of which were transferred overseas, where the labor markets are less expensive.

As he campaigns around Ohio, Senator Kerry says creating new jobs will be a top priority if he is elected.

"You guys are being asked to support, with your tax dollars, the jobs that go overseas," he said. "Your tax dollars are being used to actually reward a company that goes abroad. I will tell you what. It will take me about a nanosecond to send that up to Congress and we are going to take away that loophole and reward the companies that keep the jobs in America."

During a recent bus trip through southern Ohio, Senator Kerry emphasized his plan to bring back quality jobs to the state and to expand health care, another major concern of voters here.

But in addition to domestic issues, Iraq and the war on terrorism also figure to be on the minds of voters come Election Day.

"[President Bush] Took all of our boys and started a war over there we did not need to have, in my opinion," said Thurman Warnock, a retired machinist in Jeffersonville, Ohio. "I did not mind when he went into Afghanistan, I thought we needed to do that. But not with going to Iraq."

Ohio is being targeted by both campaigns this year, because of its 20 electoral votes. Under the American electoral system, states carry a certain number of electoral votes, based on Congressional representation. The candidate who captures a minimum of 270 out of the 538 electoral votes wins the election.

Even some Ohio Democrats believe Senator Kerry has an uphill fight in the state, given Ohio's past support for Republican presidential candidates.

But Democrat Ramie Pearson says he is working hard for Senator Kerry, anyway.

"I think just talking it up. It is so close in Ohio. Ohio is a pretty conservative state. You know, I talk to everyone I can about it and I think his making a push through here [southern Ohio] and [Senator John] Edwards was also here a few weeks back, I think that certainly helps," he said.

Recent public opinion polls show the state is closely divided between the president and Senator Kerry and that either man could win on Election Day.

The political divide sometimes reaches into families. Deanie Minton is voting one way, her husband another.

"He is voting Republican and I am voting Democrat," said Ms. Minton. "So, I have a mind of my own and I like the issues of Kerry and that is why I am here."

Like other so-called battleground states, where the race is closely contested, Democrats and Republicans from other states are coming in to work for their candidates.

Alison Fleischmann drove all the way from Buffalo, New York, to campaign for Senator Kerry.

"Well, we have to win in Ohio and in Florida and in Pennsylvania and I have friends, gray hairs like me all over country working in all different places," said Ms. Fleischmann.

Republicans are doing the same on behalf of President Bush, who narrowly won Ohio four years ago over Al Gore.

This year, both parties have made an unprecedented effort to register new voters in advance of the election in hopes of boosting voter turnout.

Democratic Congressman Ted Strickland, who represents a district in southern Ohio and supports John Kerry, says the political activity in recent weeks has been intense on behalf of both presidential campaigns.

"Both campaigns, I think, have a made a Herculean effort to win votes in regions like this because this is central, I think, to who is going to win Ohio and I believe, as many people do, that whoever wins Ohio is going to be the next president," he said.

Democrats believe a Kerry victory in Ohio on November Second would go a long way towards putting their man in the White House and the president's supporters feel the same way. No Republican has ever won a presidential election without winning Ohio.