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Published: Sunday, 10/31/2004

Home stretch in area hectic for Democrats



Mr. Weiss, 57, joined hundreds of volunteers in northwest Ohio yesterday by making phone calls on behalf of Democratic presidential hopeful John Kerry of Massachusetts. Campaigning in a key region of this battleground state, Democratic supporters are calling tens of thousands of registered voters and reminding them to cast a ballot on Election Day.

"This is the most critical election in my lifetime," said Mr. Weiss, a professor at Boston College University who will be here until Wednesday. "The American people are divided more than they've ever been on the issues that are critical to our future."

Democratic supporters met with U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo) for coffee and doughnuts yesterday morning before setting out for a day of campaigning. Some volunteers worked in phone banks throughout the region, while Democratic attorneys and law students were trained in what to watch for at the polls on Election Day.

Phone banks and poll training will continue today, in addition to a "trick-or-treat" canvas for Mr. Kerry. Talk show host Jerry Springer is also expected to campaign door-to-door for Democrats in northwest Ohio today.

Toledo's role as a central front in the battle for the White House has given supporters extra motivation, said John Gans, a spokesman for the northwest Ohio branch of the Democratic campaign.

"The expectations are high," Mr. Gans said. "A lot of people around the country, around the world, and around Ohio are counting on people in this county to do their jobs."

Mr. Gans said Democrats will have phone banks and door-to-door efforts on full speed, coupled with literature drops and advertising until Election Day.

Those efforts will be complemented by more appearances from recognizable faces supporting the party. During the final week of the campaign, northwest Ohio has hosted a number of leading Democratic figures including Mr. Kerry, and surrogates like film director Michael Moore, former U.S. Sen. Max Cleland (D., Georgia), and billionaire George Soros.

"We've had a busy week," Mr. Gans said.

To supporters like Mike Vanderhorst, 52, of Toledo, there's a great deal of energy for the Democratic ticket.

"I'm pumped," said Mr. Vanderhorst, who volunteered yesterday by making phone calls for the party. "I've got the adrenaline going."

But he knows it'll take more than momentum to elect Mr. Kerry on Tuesday.

"It doesn't matter how many supporters you have if they don't vote," he said.

Tanya Baker, a 30-year-old from Chicago, is volunteering in Toledo this weekend because she wants to help the Democrats in a battleground state. With Illinois expected to support Mr. Kerry, those itching to volunteer are being dispatched to nearby swing states like Ohio and Wisconsin.

"If you are living in a solid-blue state, they have more volunteers than they know what to do with," she said. "We are taking care of the campaign back home, but we try to help out where we can make a difference."

Contact Steve Eder at: seder@theblade.com or 419-724-6728.

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