In John Kerry and Ted Strickland's speeches to a cheering who's who of more than 300 local Democrats at the Martin Luther King, Jr., Plaza last night, perhaps what was most telling was simply the date on the calendar.
Typically, such rallies don't happen until early fall, after the candidates have made the county fair circuit, party organizers said. Last night was just 2 1/2 weeks after the primary election, a month before the first local county fair, and 5 1/2 months before Mr. Strickland, a U.S. representative from southern Ohio, faces Kenneth Blackwell, Ohio's Republican secretary of state, in the general election for governor of Ohio.
But this year - when Republican corruption from Columbus to Washington has made headlines - is not typical, Democrats said. And they intend to capitalize on it, first with the Statehouse race and then with the White House, they repeated throughout the rally.
"Ask your Republican and Independent friends: 'Do you think things are better now,' " Mr. Kerry, the Massachusetts senator who ran for president in 2004, told the rally at the Toledo train station where he was campaigning for Mr. Strickland.
He joked that one reason Mr. Strickland gets along so well with Republicans is because he met so many in his previous career - as a prison psychologist.
And he said allegations that Democrats don't have any ideas are indeed true - with a big "if." If ideas mean running up deficits and letting the pharmaceutical companies write the drug bills, he said, "then we don't share those ideas."
Democrats' ideas for the nation, he said, include:
"There are kids who lost their lives because of the decisions he made against common sense," Mr. Kerry said.
Mr. Strickland said the eyes of the nation are on Ohio in national elections, and that gives local residents' votes far more power than people living in one-party powerhouse states, such as California, Texas, and New York.
"We are the privileged citizens," he said of voters who have a good chance to swing the nation. "The key is in our hands. After we give Ohio back to Ohioans in '06, we will take that key and give the country back to the American people in '08."
And that, he said, would set a course back to prosperity by reducing waste and corruption. Tom Noe and Coingate are only a symptom, he said, of what he called the larger problem of an "incompetent, corrupt, and arrogant" state administration.
The rally started with a performance by the J.J. Express Drill & Drum Corps - a group of young people wearing red T-shirts, white pants, and white tennis shoes - and included introductions of numerous Democratic leaders and officials.
Longtime Democratic activist Mary Hollis said the event struck her as "beautiful."
"It was all good," said Ms. Hollis, who wore a big red hat with a Strickland-for-governor bumper sticker wrapped around it.
Most of the Democrats, who were charged $10 each to get into the rally, were from Lucas and Wood counties. But Fulton, Ottawa, and other area counties were represented too.
Denise Boldt, who lives near Graytown in Ottawa County but still sported a Ben Konop for Lucas County commissioner sticker, called the night "fantastic."
"I love Democrats," she said.
Mr. Strickland plans to attend services at Jerusalem Baptist Church in central Toledo this morning and campaign in Akron later in the day.
Contact Jane Schmucker at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-337-7780.