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Woodward's book claims Bush called Blackwell 'a nut' in 2004

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WASHINGTON - Capitol Hill is obsessed with pages these days - mostly, congressional ones who got lurid messages from former U.S. Rep. Mark Foley (R., Fla.).

But Ohioans might be more interested in a different page, from the book that has jockeyed for headlines with Mr. Foley this week.

On page 347 of Bob Woodward's State of Denial: Bush at War, Part III, the nation's best-known investigative reporter recounts a presidential rebuke of Ohio's Republican candidate for governor, Secretary of State Ken Blackwell.

The section narrates Mr. Bush's early morning wait for Ohio's 2004 vote counts, which sealed his re-election.

Mr. Woodward writes that around 3 a.m. - which Mr. Bush called "the latest I've been up since college" - the White House was expecting to hear from Ohio's top election official. That, of course, was Mr. Blackwell, who was co-chairman of the Bush campaign in the Buckeye State.

"Blackwell," Mr. Woodward writes, "a former black-power-saluting student leader who had shifted to the Republican Party, was a lone ranger who shunned party discipline. 'I'm the President of the United States,' Mr. Bush said fuming, 'waiting on a secretary of state who is a nut.'•"

Mr. Blackwell's campaign spokesman, Carlo LoParo, laughed off the account yesterday, noting the $1.5 million that Mr. Bush raised for Mr. Blackwell's gubernatorial run and calling the men's relationship "outstanding."

He said the story refuted some Democrats' accusations that Mr. Blackwell tilted election rules to favor Mr. Bush: "As the book points out, he's been very independent."

A spokesman for U.S. Rep. Ted Strickland (D., Lisbon), Mr. Blackwell's November opponent, said the passage shows Mr. Bush questions Mr. Blackwell's judgment.

"It's kind of sad that the President of the United States would have such harsh words for his campaign co-chairman here in Ohio," said the spokesman, Keith Dailey.

"It raises a question of credibility for both men," Mr. Dailey said.

Contact Jim Tankersley at

jtankersley@theblade.com

or 419-724-6134.

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