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Ex-senator, war vet backs Strickland in visit

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Former U.S. Sen. Max Cleland addresses students at Woodmore High School during a visit to northwest Ohio yesterday. He rallied support for Democrat Ted Strickland for governor.

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The chicken wings, fried pickles, and cheese sticks at Jed's Barbeque and Brew in South Toledo laid untouched yesterday as Max Cleland, a former U.S. senator from Georgia, said that Democratic U.S. Rep. Ted Strickland would end corruption as Ohio's next governor.

"He's taking on the arrows and slings of outrageous fortune," said Mr. Cleland, comparing Mr. Strickland (D., Lucasville) with Hamlet, the Shakespearian hero undone by palace intrigue.

A Vietnam veteran who lost both legs and part of an arm while picking up a dropped grenade during the war, Mr. Cleland visited northwest Ohio yesterday, just as he did last year for the presidential campaign of Sen. John Kerry (D., Mass.).

At Jed's, state Sen. Teresa Fedor (D., Toledo), state Rep. Jeanine Perry (D., Toledo), state Rep. Peter Ujvagi (D., Toledo), and 17 supporters, many of them still displaying Kerry bumper stickers on their cars, greeted Mr. Cleland.

A crowd of 100 met him last night at Woodmore High School in Elmore. After being welcomed by a marching band, choir, and state House Minority Leader Chris Redfern (D., Catawba Island), Mr. Cleland criticized the war in Iraq.

"What we've created is a training ground for al-Qaeda," he said. "As a Vietnam veteran, I have seen this movie before, and I know - I know - how this movie ends."

Lucas Albright, who organized the Elmore speech, said Mr. Cleland's appearance was nonpartisan.

"I think he represents a moderate viewpoint that voters agree with," said Mr. Albright, a Chicago-based financial adviser who wrote a book, Winning the White House in 2008, which argues that the next presidential election pivots on Ottawa County and seven other Ohio counties.

In an interview at Jed's, Mr. Cleland said the presidential election's outcome likely will depend on who becomes Ohio's next governor.

After Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman dropped his gubernatorial bid this week, Mr. Strickland is the front-runner in the 2006 Democratic primary.

It will be the first statewide contest held under the shadow of Ohio's rare-coin investment scandal, which has dropped Republican Gov. Bob Taft's approval rating into single digits.

Although Mr. Strickland has never served in the military, Michael Davis, Jr., an Army sergeant who returned to Toledo from Iraq in February, said the congressman is an advocate of veterans' rights.

Mr. Cleland said that because of scandals involving multiple GOP congressmen and questions about President Bush's justification for the war in Iraq, Republicans are "scurrying like roaches from the sunlight."

He said that Republicans won recent elections because of their superior technology and organization, an advantage that Democrats can overcome with improved voter canvassing and better analysis of precinct demographics.

The former senator said he based this plan on the playbook of Woody Hayes, Ohio State University's legendary football coach.

"That's block and tackle football," he said.

Ohio GOP spokesman John McClelland said that Mr. Cleland was long on rhetoric and short on reality.

"You can block and tackle all you want," he said. "But if you don't have a running game, you're still not going to win."

Contact Joshua Boak at:

jboak@theblade.com

or 419-724-6728.

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