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“You run on what you’ve done,” she said in a recent meeting with the editorial board of the Toledo Blade. “I have something to show, real results. … Dennis is very good at headlines. What can he show that he’s done?”

Mr. Kucinich touches grander themes and visions, including his vocal criticism of the Iraq War and his plans for revitalizing the nation’s cities. “I’ve been relentless in challenging the status quo,” he said. “I’ve been a leader in developing a new industrial policy that will rebuild America.”

But it was Ms. Kaptur who recently won the coveted endorsement of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, which said in its editorial that her opponent in the primary had “wandered far from northeast Ohio.”

Ohio political analysts say voters are being presented with a difficult decision about who they think will deliver more clout for the struggling area.

“It’s tough,” said Ohio State University political scientist Paul Beck. “I would think Marcy Kaptur stands a better chance than Dennis Kucinich because they could attack Kucinich as more to the left, as they could her. She’s had a lot of labor support.”

Pricey race

In fundraising through December, Ms. Kaptur reported more than $706,000 in her campaign coffers compared with Mr. Kucinich’s $121,000, Federal Election Commission reports released last week show. But Mr. Kucinich outpaced his rival in donations during the year’s last quarter, raising $167,388 to Ms. Kaptur’s $143,816.

Most of her donors were from political action committees and Ohio-based organizations, the FEC report shows, while Mr. Kucinich, with a greater national profile, raised money primarily from out-of-state donors. Country music legend Willie Nelson, a longtime friend, played at a Kucinich fundraiser in Lorain last month, even though local Democratic officials have endorsed Ms. Kaptur. Mr. Kucinich has been endorsed by Cuyahoga Democratic leaders, representing his power base in Cleveland, his old district stomping grounds.

Both candidates face the hurdle of expensive advertising in two markets: Cleveland and Toledo. They will face off Feb. 22 at a roundtable candidate forum sponsored by the Coalition for Hispanic/Latino Issues and Progress.

The thrice-married Mr. Kucinich, 65, has been a member of the House of Representatives since 1997. He is the eldest of seven children from a Catholic family and began his political career in his early 20s. Ms. Kaptur, also 65, has been a member of Congress since 1983. She served as a policy adviser in the Jimmy Carter administration and is a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

Political observers are watching the Ohio battle closely. No matter the winner of the primary, a Democrat is likely to keep the 9th District seat in Congress, Mr. Beck said.

“I think it’s a district that is going to probably lean in the Democratic direction,” he said of the general election. “It’s probably one of maybe four districts in the state that Democrats have an advantage in. It’s likely that whoever gets the nomination is going to carry that in the fall.”