BOSTON - Conventioneers from Toledo and Northwest Ohio are drinking in the historic Democratic conclave here, savoring the tasty bits of red meat rhetoric and bathing in the close proximity to party luminaries wandering the halls of the FleetCenter.
That's the whole point, convention veteran and Toledo political adviser James Ruvolo said yesterday.
"The first thing is excitement," he said during an interview at a breakfast meeting of the Ohio delegation at the stylish Boston Sheraton Hotel on Dalton Street. "In order for Democrats to win in Ohio, we have to get our base committed to the election. Not just committed to vote, but to work to get others to vote. The people who are here, I think, are enthused with a sense of enthusiasm and a sense of optimism that we can win."
Mr. Ruvolo, a past adviser to President Clinton and Vice President Gore, is the state chairman of Democrat John Kerry's presidential campaign in Ohio.
"Their first job is to go back and communicate that to fellow Democrats," he said.
"I don't think there's going to be a big bounce in the polls because there's not that many undecided voters. But this is going to get Democrats excited," he said.
Lloyd Mahaffey, a local delegate who is president of United Auto Workers Region 2 and an established political figure who hobnobs with big names all the time, said these conventions are special because they offer a concentrated dose of political celebrity.
"I'm sort of in awe, you know?" he said. "A lot of it reg-
isters when you get back home, and start to think of it. I'm still sort of like a kid sometimes, walking around with your eyes wide open."
Lucas County Engineer Keith Earley and his wife, Ruby, are here, though they are observers, not delegates. It is their first trip to a national convention.
"It's certainly an important election. We want to be a part of it," he said. "There are a lot of Ohioans. A lot from northwest Ohio."
Most impressive is "how approachable a lot of the big people are. They're just normal people," he said.
The Democratic National Committee uses the delegation breakfasts and meetings of special caucuses to cycle through the party's luminaries, so that almost everyone gets to hear from someone in person that they might otherwise see only on television.
Former First Lady and U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton was particularly impressive during her speech to the Women's Caucus, Mr. Earley said.
Toledo Mayor Jack Ford has been here since Sunday, and will address the convention this afternoon, just after 4 p.m.
"I'm going to talk about the manufacturing situation in America, how health-care costs keep going up, and how these things affect cities - nuts and bolts stuff," he said yesterday.
Also here, among others, are U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur, state Sen. Teresa Fedor, state Reps. Edna Brown and Peter Ujvagi, and Toledo Councilman Frank Szollosi, who came in several days early to catch the Red Sox-Yankees baseball series.
Sandy Isenberg, the new chairman of the Lucas County Democratic Party, agreed the meetings here help pump people up.
"I just think this group of conventioneers are much more energized, compared to the Gore convention in L.A.," Ms. Isenberg said. "We have had four years of George Bush and Dick Cheney, and I think that all of us coming together are extremely concerned for the future of this country and what the rest of the world thinks of us.
"Northwest Ohio is a very important part of Ohio as it plays into the general election in November. A lot of people were interested in coming and voicing their opinions and being a part of something that will make history," she said.
Jane Wilde of Toledo, a Kerry delegate from the 9th Congressional District, and her alternate, Laura Thomas of Port Clinton, said they have had a great time in Boston - their first trips to a national political convention.
"It's overwhelming. There is so much happening, and so many important people," Ms. Wilde said. "I'm learning a lot. I am seeing how everyone is getting excited to go home and make the big push."
"It is a very different way to participate in the electoral process," Ms. Thomas said. "Sometimes you get very different calls to do civic duty, and this was a very different call. It takes a lot of time and effort and money, but it is certainly well worth it."
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