Ohio becoming post-convention tradition

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 1, 2004

COLUMBUS (AP) - Democrats Bill Clinton, Al Gore and John Kerry did it. So did President Bush and he's doing it again. All included Ohio in their immediate post-convention plans.

Bush plans to return to Ohio for the 11th time this year on Saturday, beginning a campaign trip in Cleveland. The visit will come two days after he accepts the Republican nomination and three days after a stop in Columbus on Wednesday.

However, the competition will not be far away Saturday, when Kerry will bring his campaign to Akron, about 30 miles south of Cleveland. From Cleveland, Bush will travel along Lake Erie to Pennsylvania; Kerry will be winding up a three-day tour that includes stops in Springfield, Newark and Steubenville.

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A trip to Ohio is becoming a post-convention tradition, said Rick Farmer, a political analyst at the University of Akron. Clinton and Gore toured eastern Ohio after the 1992 Democratic convention and Bush came to Akron following the 2000 GOP convention. Kerry introduced John Edwards as his running mate in Cleveland.

Don't expect a letup in Ohio visits until the Nov. 2 election, Farmer said. The candidates, family members, Cabinet members and other familiar names have saturated the state.

''We are no longer looking at twice a week,'' Farmer said. ''It's reaching the point where there's someone in the state every day.''

By the end of the weekend, barring last-minute changes, the two candidates will have combined for as many Ohio visits - 24 - as Bush and Gore had during the entire 2000 campaign.

Gore stopped campaigning in Ohio with more than a month to go before the election and Bush followed suit, visiting the state only twice after Gore's last stand. But the race tightened in its final days and Bush won Ohio by 3.6 percentage points. That taught both parties a lesson, Farmer said.

''Even if Kerry is down seven or eight points, they aren't going to give it up,'' Farmer said. ''Ohio's never going to go to a 20-point swing and I don't think a 10-point swing is going to lead to anybody pulling out because of the 2000 experience.''

Bush returns to Columbus on Wednesday for his second visit in a month. The campaign has scheduled a rally downtown at Nationwide Arena. About 20,000 supporters are being given tickets to the event, Bush campaign spokesman Kevin Madden said. The speech is similar to the one he'll deliver Thursday at the convention in New York, Madden said.

''The president will be making his case again, touting his accomplishments but also laying out a comprehensive agenda for moving the country forward,'' Madden said.

The Saturday trip will feature a town-hall-type meeting in Cleveland and a stop in neighboring Lake County before setting out for Pennsylvania, Madden said.