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Published: Thursday, 10/21/2004

Bush backer flaunts loyalties at Edwards' event in Canton

BY CHRISTOPHER D. KIRKPATRICK
BLADE STAFF WRITER
John Edwards campaigns in Canton, a hard-hit northeast Ohio industrial city. Mr. Edwards said a Kerry administration would reward industries that increase domestic employment. John Edwards campaigns in Canton, a hard-hit northeast Ohio industrial city. Mr. Edwards said a Kerry administration would reward industries that increase domestic employment.
TONY DEJAK / AP Enlarge

CANTON - The man and his dog moved into the energetic throng of Democratic supporters who just heard vice presidential candidate John Edwards speak emotionally at a rally in Canton, a struggling industrial town spiraling down along with the domestic steel industry.

The laid-off steel worker, 50-year-old Bill Blondheim, held a sign in support of President Bush that was twice as tall as the John Kerry signs, some floppy without wooden stakes.

It was like parachuting behind lines and then walking up to greet the enemy.

An older woman in a pink coat and curled white hair screamed close to his face, her eyes watery with anger: "Shame on you. Shame on you," she yelled as the crowd around him thickened and national news reporters with outstretched microphones recorded the back-and-forth.

Mr. Blondheim couldn't be heard much above the screaming, but his sign, a variation of a U.S. Marine Corps saying, was clear: "God, Country, Corps, Bush."

The largely union crowd at the Canton Memorial Civic Center listened to Mr. Edwards deliver his stump speech yesterday detailing what he and John Kerry say is President Bush's failed four years: jobs outsourced overseas, the increasing cost of health care, the loss of life in a bungled war in Iraq, a ban on most new types of stem cell research, a plodding economy.

"I was just trying to get my point across," Mr. Blondheim said. "The best man is already in there."

Mr. Edwards traveled across Ohio yesterday, from Canton to Steubenville, as part of the home stretch before the Nov. 2 election. Each party needs Ohio support and its 20 electoral votes.

Polls suggest entrenched positions of equal force on each side with few fence-sitters.

Mr. Edwards, who at the next rally in New Philadelphia was introduced by retired U.S. Sen. John Glenn, said that the results on Nov. 2 will depend on how many young people turn out to vote.

"Drive by the polls and if there are lines filled with young people, then John Kerry will win," he said.

The political drama and anger that Mr. Blondheim and his dog, Tayzie, sparked yesterday reflect a tight emotional race in a country at war and an election that could hinge on how Ohio votes.

"Sorry about that; this is what's great about democracy. You had every right to be there," said a Kerry supporter as he walked past Mr. Blondheim, after the police broke up the crowd.

For some, like Ray Culberton, with only two weeks until election day, it's really all over but the counting.

He says it's obvious that the President has failed and that the country needs John Kerry.

He used to sell the fire brick used to line steel furnaces so molten metal doesn't seep through the walls.

"There ain't no companies left," said the 62-year-old who worked in the industry for 40 years. He plans to get a job at Wal-Mart, which has a history of hiring retirees, he said.

Mr. Edwards agreed with Mr. Culberton, saying that the President's policy is to give tax breaks to companies that outsource overseas.

He said a Kerry administration would give tax breaks to grow jobs at home, offer paid college for students who first volunteer for two years, allow importation of cheaper prescription drugs, and support greater research into nonoil fuel sources, such as wind and solar.

Contact Christopher D. Kirkpatrick at: ckirkpatrick@theblade.com

or 419 724-6077.



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