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Published: Sunday, 10/31/2004

GOP helpers' phone efforts hit fever pitch

By FRITZ WENZEL

BLADE POLITICAL WRITER

In Lucas County, it is also the temporary site of the county Republican Party, and the combined effort to elect the national ticket and local candidates had the place buzzing yesterday, as locals prepped for the final push to election day.

The work of persuading undecided voters took a back seat to making sure committed Republicans go to the polls Tuesday, county GOP Chairman Bernadette Noe said. But with two major campaign events on the schedule for today, including appearances by Vice President Dick Cheney and several high-profile surrogates, there were also many details to be worked out to make those events go off smoothly.

Mr. Cheney's appearance today at a 9 a.m. rally in a hangar at Toledo Express Airport means the area has hit for the political cycle this week, playing host to all four men on the two main presidential tickets.

Monday, John Edwards, the Democratic vice-presidential candidate, rallied local Democrats at the SeaGate Centre, while running mate John Kerry addressed 4,000 supporters Thursday at Savage Hall on the University of Toledo campus. President Bush met with 10,000 locals Friday afternoon at the SeaGate Centre, where a collection of Republican leaders, including former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, will hold another rally today at noon.

Dozens of volunteers were seated at tables with lists of voters in front of them. The volunteers dialed cell phones, which give them flexibility and portability, said Sean Fox, a Washington consultant who arrived in Toledo last week to help, at the request of the Republican National Committee. He was captain of the phone bank effort.

"This is a lot easier now that we use cell phones," he said. "It used to be that we used a real estate office or a brokerage office. Now, all we need is a garage and a few tables."

Sue Metzger, chairman of the Lucas County Bush/Cheney effort, said the campaign has used an excellent cell phone calling plan that gives users unlimited free weekend minutes.

Alexandra Hertel, who helped organize the phone bank, said they were working to make 25,000 calls to voters in the area today, which would give them an edge in a friendly competition with other local Bush campaign operations around the state.

"Lucas County has invigorated the entire state with its phone call records," Ms. Hertel said. "Today, we are going to kick their butts."

"This is nuts," said Tom Noe, Bernadette's husband, as he surveyed the busy swarm at the headquarters. Mr. Noe, a businessman who is also a major fund-raiser for President Bush and who chairs the Bush campaign for all of northwest Ohio, said he thinks the President will do well Tuesday. "Look at this place. You can't tell me that we're only going to get 37 percent of the vote. No way."

Four years ago, Mr. Bush won 39 percent of the vote in Lucas County, but won the state by 3.6 percent over Democrat Al Gore.

Discovering about 30 people tucked in a back room at the headquarters, all making phone calls, Ms. Noe said "Oh. This is why the parking lot is full." Looking around, she added: "I recognize maybe two faces."

"I don't know how we could have done more. We are so mobilized," she said. "The challenge in the back of my head is, how do I keep them on Nov. 3?"

Contact Fritz Wenzel at: fritz@theblade.com or 419-724-6134.



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