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Dennis Kucinich of Cleveland returned to his home state yesterday to continue what he called a “long-shot” campaign for the Democratic Party s presidential nomination.
The Democratic congressman kicked off his Ohio campaign in advance of the March 2 primary election with stops in Bowling Green and Toledo, culminating with an appearance at the East Toledo Family Center on Varland Avenue and meetings with residents of the Weiler Homes public housing development.
Last night, he spoke to more than 1,000 people gathered in a meeting hall at Oberlin College.
But even as retired Gen. Wesley Clark of Arkansas dropped out of the race for the nomination, Mr. Kucinich declared: “I m in. We have the resources to stay in the race.”
He said his campaign had raised $10 million and, because of a reliance on grass-roots organizing and an avoidance of high-priced media buys, is in good financial shape. He pledged to battle on to the Democratic National Convention in Boston this summer, where he said he was pinning his hopes on a deadlocked convention from which he could emerge as the nominee.
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His populist campaign rhetoric focuses on three items: his call for cancellation of the North American Free Trade Agreement, a fast pullout of American troops from Iraq, and a dramatic overhaul of the nation s health-care system.
Bowling Green students, members of the campus Democratic Party club, told him they were concerned about the Iraqi war, to which Mr. Kucinich explained his plan to pull the troops out within 90 days of his taking office.
“We ought to be very concerned about it,” he said. “My presence in this race changes everything because I am talking about issues, and particularly about the war. I am the only one who is saying Look, I have a plan to get out of there. Let s put U.N. peacekeepers in and bring our troops home. ”
Later, he found a warm reception at the Plumbers and Steamfitters Local 50 union hall on Caple Road, near Owens Community College.
“I intend to lead the way to a universal, not-for-profit health care system,” he told 70 people there, where the talk turned to job benefits. “I m the only one running for president who is offering a not-for-profit plan.”
He said he is able to act on behalf of average citizens because he is not beholden to special interests in Washington. At one point stopping his speech to the steamfitters, he stretched his arms straight out to his sides as if to emulate a puppet. He then turned slowly in a circle, telling the crowd his demonstration is “very important to this campaign.”
When he finished a complete revolution, he declared “No strings. There are no strings attached.”
“I understand what people are going through. Coming from Ohio, being in touch with what people go through, the experience I had growing up in the city of Cleveland, make my campaign well-grounded in the needs of the people. I don t need a bunch of advisers to tell me, Well, you re in a working-class neighborhood. Talk about jobs. ”
Mr. Kucinich, a former mayor of Cleveland who was defeated after the city ran into financial trouble, emphasized his status as Ohio s favorite son, and said he will work hard over the next three weeks to defend it.
“You re going to see a parade of people coming through Ohio, and they re going to tell you they know more about Ohio than you do,” he warned. “There is no one running for president who knows more ab out Ohio than I do.”