You can’t swing a dead cat without hitting a presidential candidate around here:
- President Bush, defending his record on the economy, told supporters Saturday in an Ohio town where job losses are a major issue that he has a four-year plan for peace and prosperity.
“After four more years, the American economy will continue to be the strongest in the world,” Bush said as his Democratic rival, John Kerry (news – web sites), campaigned in neighboring Pennsylvania.
Bush said factors beyond his control, such as the Sept. 11 attacks and corporate scandals, were to blame for the country’s economic problems over the past four years. He also said the economy was weakening when he took office in January 2001.
Kerry has highlighted the economic woes in Ohio and especially Canton, citing a steelworker whose job was shifted overseas and a company that plans to close three bearings plants in the city.
….Canton is in Stark County, an area that Ohio political analysts say is a bellwether for the rest of the state in presidential elections. Bush won Ohio in 2000 against Democrat Al Gore (news – web sites), and narrowly took Stark County with less than 50 percent of the vote. No Republican has won the White House without carrying Ohio.
Unemployment in Stark County was 6.4 percent in June, compared with 5.9 percent in May but down from 7.3 percent in June 2003.
Protesters mixed with Bush supporters along the bus route. One boy held up a sign that said, “Bush’s last tour.”
Earlier Saturday, the Bush caravan stopped in Berea for a visited the NFL’s Cleveland Browns at their training camp. He was shown around by coach Butch Davis and quarterback Jeff Garcia.
Speaking about offensive tackle Ryan Tucker, Bush cracked: “He went to the same high school as my wife, but he’s not as good-looking.” Both Laura Bush and Tucker went to Robert E. Lee High School in Midland, Texas. Tucker played football at Texas Christian University.
As he prepared to leave, Bush told the squad: “Go get ’em.” [AP]
Canton is an odd little microcosm, encompassing practically every socioeconomic group. I worked at a Canton radio station for several years in the early-’90s, and DJd at a club in North Canton – one of the most dense retail areas in the nation, by the way – until just a couple of years ago.
I’m not sure how I feel about Ohio’s role as battleground state:
- Never has Ohio’s role as a key state in the presidential election been more evident than on Saturday when campaign rallies bring President Bush and Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry within 25 miles of each other in the eastern part of the state.
“It’s no coincidence. It’s by design,” said Melanie Blumberg, political science professor at California University of Pennsylvania.
Blumberg said it’s natural for Kerry to head to Ohio right after the Democratic convention following stops in Pennsylvania and West Virginia. It’s also good strategy for Bush, after lying low for a week during the convention, to make his first appearances in Ohio.
“It just makes good sense. It’s quite important for Ohio to get the recognition,” she said.
President Bush won Ohio in 2000 by 3.6 percentage points. No Republican candidate has won the White House without Ohio.
….The last time Bush was in Stark County in April 2003 he told workers at the Timken Co. that his tax-cut package would improve their economy.
Timken, whose chairman W.R. Timken Jr. is a major donor and fund-raiser for the Republican Party, plans to close its three Canton bearings plants because production has declined, eliminating 1,300 jobs.
While en route to Canton, Bush stopped in Akron where he picked up 10 Timken employees.
He did not mention the company during his 45-minute speech at Canton Civic Center, before an enthusiastic crowd that Bush campaign officials estimated at 4,000 people. But he did acknowledge parts of the country, including northeast Ohio, have lagged behind during the economy recovery.
Terry Pacelli, 47, of Canton, said before Bush spoke that the job losses are an issue, but that voters shouldn’t blame Bush.
“I don’t think any political candidate right now can change that job loss,” Pacelli said. “Kerry has offered no specifics on how he would improve the area’s economy.” [AP]
It’s called a post-industrial economy – no politician can change that.
- Bush’s appearance in Cambridge, south of Canton, on Saturday afternoon takes place about seven hours before Kerry will appear in Zanesville, about 25 miles west along Interstate 70.
Walter Huber, an associate professor of political science at Muskingum College, about halfway between Cambridge and Zanesville, said neither major party candidate came to the area in 2000.
“It speaks to the importance of the state of Ohio in the election,” Huber said. “There really aren’t that many swing states.”
I wonder if I can get Bush or Kerry to mow my lawn, my back hurts.