FOR Moriah-Melin Whoolilurie of Santa Cruz, Calif., it all comes down to hope.
Disconnected and discouraged about the American political system, she stumbled onto the presidential campaign of Dennis Kucinich while playing in a band at one of the Cleveland Democrat's events. That's when her life changed.
“He gave me the gift of knowing that all I have to do is my own part, and to have faith in the collective system,” she said, standing at the back of Cleveland City Council chambers last week, where Congressman Kucinich, a former councilman and mayor, officially kicked off his campaign.
“If we all come together, we can make things better,” she said. “He will take care of government. He is an amazing man. I have had the chance to look into his eyes and see that he is real. He is real.”
The 24-year-old, sporting a bright red outfit and festive red, white, and blue eyelashes more commonly found amid the party atmosphere of a political convention than at a serious announcement ceremony, said she liked what she heard from Mr. Kucinich. She especially favors his ideas about world peace, health-care insurance, college scholarships for the poor, and the environment.
“Everything he said was something that I felt in my own heart,” she said. “But I never had heard it so eloquently presented, let alone by a politician. He gave me many, many, gifts, one of them hope for peace on earth.”
During his announcement speech, Mr. Kucinich said he would establish a new Cabinet position: Secretary of Peace and Nonviolence.
Such ideas were so inspiring to Ms. Whoolilurie and her husband, John, that they were moved to jump into their modified Mercedes - which runs only on soybean oil (28 miles to the gallon, but it's tough to find a filling station, she said) - and drove from California to attend the Kucinich kick-off.
She said they will stay in Cleveland for a while to volunteer at campaign headquarters, doing whatever she can to help Ohio's entry in the presidential sweepstakes.
He can use the help. A recent poll shows Mr. Kucinich is at just 9 percent - in sixth place - in his home state. In key early voting states in the race for the Democratic nomination, he rates much lower.
But Mr. Kucinich has raised $3.3 million and, according to the Federal Election Commission Web site, still has $785,000 in the bank - enough to keep supporters in soybean oil for at least the immediate future.
wThe U.S. Senate campaign of Democrat Eric Fingerhut was touting that same Ohio poll - conducted by Opinion Strategies, Inc., of Columbus - because it also showed their candidate trailing incumbent Republican George Voinovich, 61 percent to 37 percent.
This is good news for Mr. Fingerhut, spokesman Alex Goepfert claimed, because it roughly approximates George W. Bush's lead over Al Gore in Ohio at about this time the year before the 2000 presidential race.
Mr. Bush went on to win Ohio, but by less than 4 percent. The thinking in the Fingerhut camp is that they could close their gap just as Mr. Gore closed his. Such thoughts keep underdogs coming into the office in the morning.
And there may be reason for some hope. The survey shows that for every Ohioan who believes the economy is better than a year ago, three think it is worse. For everyone who said their personal or family financial well-being had improved, two felt it had worsened.
The difficult challenge for Mr. Fingerhut is to convince Ohio voters that Senator Voinovich is to blame for the struggling economy, and that they can improve things by tossing him from office.
wA check of the FEC Web site Thursday showed nothing, but Friday morning, a new posting for the Kaczala for Congress committee appeared, indicating that Lucas County Auditor Larry Kaczala plans to move forward with a challenge to Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo).
Mr. Kaczala is a Republican. He told workers in his office in late July that he was exploring the idea. He said Friday it is official - he's in.
Also on the FEC Web site is Miss Kaptur's latest campaign finance filing for the third quarter, which shows she has available cash on hand of $813,088. That's a pretty big lead.
Ms. Kaptur has been in Congress since 1983, and has never won less than 56 percent of the vote, election statistics show. Since the 1986 election, she has never won less than 73 percent of the vote. Her high-water mark came in 1998, when she won 80 percent in a race against Republican Ed Emery.-3.77894 -38.54034