- The Washington Times - Monday, November 1, 2004

ORLANDO, Fla. — Fay Reedy never has doubted that she would back President Bush for re-election.

Mary Powell only recently has decided to support Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry.

But both longtime residents of central Florida agree that with their votes, what they are really saying is “enough!”

“It’s been hot and heavy for three months, although it’s been four years if you listen to the way the sore losers have complained about the ‘stolen’ election,” Ms. Reedy said.

Election Day cannot come soon enough for many Floridians, who say there has been an unrelenting “air war” of television and radio advertising, as well as a “ground war” of telephone calls, direct mail and ambushes by campaign volunteers staking out supermarket parking lots.

With 27 electoral votes up for grabs, Florida is a tantalizing battleground state. Campaign strategists for Mr. Bush and Mr. Kerry are willing to fight for this prize one vote at a time, if necessary.

“I came home the other night, and there were [automated] messages on my machine from President Clinton, Jesse Jackson, [Florida Congresswoman] Carrie Meeks and others — all Democrats,” said Annetta Wilson, on the steps of the Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church in Orange County, where even the pastor on Sunday urged congregants to get out and vote.

Like many residents, the candidates themselves have turned Florida into something of a second home, with regular campaign appearances snarling traffic and dominating local news.

In the past few days alone, President Bush has barnstormed Miami, Gainesville and Tampa, while Mr. Kerry also has visited Tampa. Laura Bush, daughters Barbara and Jenna, and Vice President Dick Cheney also have stumped in the state, as has former President Bill Clinton and former Vice President Al Gore.

Tens of thousands of volunteers for the presidential campaigns or affiliated groups also have been going door to door, working at phone banks and folding flyers to stick beneath windshield wipers.

Even Halloween has been co-opted: Novelty-shop workers say that Bush and Kerry masks — not to mention perennials like former President Richard Nixon — are brisk sellers. And even the littlest ballerina and Spider-Man are sporting their parents’ campaign buttons while trick-or-treating.

In a state where as many as one-third of all registered voters cast their ballots by last night, it all seems a little desperate.

“I really need this to be over,” said Orlando nurse Sharon McClurkin, standing in a wilting heat Sunday afternoon to cast an early ballot. “Our mailbox is stuffed full.”

“It’s the TV ads I hate,” concurred Veronica Carr, a hotel reservationist who supports Mr. Kerry. “You’ll have five ads during one show, and three of them are the same ad. It’s both parties, and it’s just maddening.”

If the candidates can find voters inside their homes, there’s no surprise they can chase them outside, as well.

“I just can’t escape it,” said Tony, a cab driver who has switched from listening to the radio to listening to cassette tapes because he has so tired of talk radio’s only topic.

“And my passengers talk about politics,” he said, shaking his head. “Even if they don’t, I drive around all day and it’s sign after sign after sign on people’s lawns.”

As he speaks, the air-conditioned cab speeds under a billboard that seems to blame the recent hurricanes on the Bush administration’s environmental record.

“See what I mean?” the driver sighs. “I’m just tired of them both.”

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