Obama plans Portsmouth stop

Published 12:18 pm Tuesday, October 7, 2008

CINCINNATI (AP) — Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama will campaign in southern Ohio, a region struggling economically even before the current financial crisis, during a two–day bus trip this week.

His campaign Monday said he will speak Thursday in rallies at Dayton’s Fifth Third Field, a minor league baseball park; Cincinnati’s Ault Park Pavilion; and on the Shawnee State University campus in Portsmouth at 7:30 p.m. The gates open at 5:30 p.m. Details of the campaign swing’s second day haven’t been released yet.

Obama will focus on job creation in the state. Portsmouth is in Scioto County, where unemployment is nearly 10 percent. Four nearby Appalachian Ohio counties have double–digit rates.

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Gov. Ted Strickland, who will campaign with Obama, said the trip should boost Obama’s chances in a swing region of what has been a swing state in presidential elections. President Bush ran well in southern Ohio while carrying the state twice, and so did Democrat Bill Clinton.

“I think it’s important for people to see Barack Obama and to hear him personally, and to understand that Barack Obama is reaching out to them and asking for their support,” Strickland said.

The rural region is more heavily white than most of Ohio, and Obama’s race has been expected to cost him some votes in southeastern Ohio. But Strickland said he thinks the economy will trump such considerations.

“This current economic climate is sad, and unfortunately, it’s hurting a lot of people and families. But I think in the political sense, it is focusing the attention of the people on the economy and away from the more superficial things,” he said.

President Bush narrowly clinched his 2004 re–election by winning Ohio. The state looms as another tight race and crucial to Republican John McCain’s hopes of succeeding Bush.

Terry Johnson, head of the Scioto County GOP, said he welcomes the visit for a couple reasons.

“It never hurts to see and hear as much as possible of the candidates,” he said. “The more I see of Obama, the more I want to vote for John McCain.”

McCain has already campaigned in the county, holding a town hall event at Portsmouth High School.

“I think it’s good to have this much attention focused on our area, even from the Democrats,” Johnson said. “I look forward to any national luminary enjoying our hospitality.”

While Strickland is very popular in his home area, many residents will recall that he was a vigorous advocate for Obama’s primary opponent, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, Johnson said. She captured more than 80 percent of the Scioto County vote in March.

Obama will be in southwest Ohio the same day that GOP vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin is campaigning there, in the Wilmington area.