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Big names visit Ohio to stump for Strickland

Tight race a draw in battleground state

- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 27, 2010

COLUMBUS, Ohio | Democrats are rolling out the big names President Obama, Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and former President Bill Clinton in a desperate effort to save Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland and maintain their grip on a state critical for the 2012 presidential election.

The weekend campaign lineup reflects Democratic fears that the party could lose the governorship and as many as six House seats in Tuesday's elections. And the impact would extend beyond this year, affecting redistricting and support Mr. Obama would need from the battleground state for his re-election bid.

Having handily won the governorship by more than 23 percentage points in 2006, Mr. Strickland now finds himself struggling to remain in the job against former Republican Rep. John Kasich.

Economic woes have hit the state hard. Ohio's unemployment rate of 10 percent continues to be above the nation's rate of 9.6 percent after the worst recession since the Great Depression. And Mr. Strickland could pay the price.

Rick Schwarz, 54, of Columbus said he hasn't been too happy with the governor, but Mr. Strickland isn't to blame for all the state's economic troubles. "I think he's a victim of the circumstances right now," he said.

Mr. Schwarz, an independent voter who's self-employed, said he would likely cast his ballot for Mr. Strickland, as he did in 2006.

Mr. Strickland, 69, argues that Mr. Kasich, a former Lehman Brothers managing director, embodies "Wall Street values" and has backed policies that cost Ohio jobs. Mr. Kasich, 58, points to what he says is Mr. Strickland's failed promise to turn around the state's struggling economy.

The two gubernatorial candidates are in a tight race. Polls in the last week have shown Mr. Kasich, a former Fox News commentator, with no more than a slim lead. Some surveys have put either man's edge within the margin of error.

Mr. Obama is scheduled Sunday to hold his last rally before Election Day in Cleveland, where he'll be joined by Mr. Biden no stranger on Mr. Strickland's campaign trail. Mr. Clinton also planned to make three stops with the incumbent governor on Saturday, including two rallies in northeastern Ohio and one in Columbus.

The Democratic trio's presence in the state isn't lost on Mr. Kasich. At a campaign event on Monday, he targeted all three leaders.

"Why is Barack Obama coming to Ohio for the 12th time?" Mr. Kasich asked the audience. "Well, he's running for re-election for president. I'm just running for governor. That's why he's coming." He jokingly added that he prayed Mr. Biden would come more often, and claimed Mr. Clinton, when president, had to be dragged "kicking and screaming to the balanced budget."

Both gubernatorial contenders have millions on hand to spend in the final days of the race, recent campaign finance reports show.

In an e-mail to supporters on Tuesday, Mr. Strickland implored people to give more money. "Can you chip in with $10 or more to make sure we have the resources for the final push?" he asked.

In the last several months, Mr. Strickland spent at least $9.1 million on television ads, while Mr. Kasich has spent at least $6.9 million.

Mr. Obama has made at least 11 trips to Ohio as president, though some of the stops were focused on the economy and health care not campaigning for Democrats. Mr. Biden alone has stumped for Mr. Strickland at eight events, and headlined four fundraisers for Ohio congressional candidates, according to his office. Mr. Clinton campaigned for the governor last month at rallies in Columbus and Cleveland.

In a radio interview on Tuesday, Mr. Obama noted the importance of the midterm races in Ohio and urged people to vote.

"Folks in Columbus, Cleveland, Cincinnati all can make huge differences on these races," the president said on "The Tom Joyner Morning Show." "Even though I'm not on the ballot, I need everybody knowing that we need you to get out there."

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