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Published: Thursday, 2/21/2008

Candidates zero in on northwest Ohio

BY TOM TROY
BLADE POLITICS WRITER

John McCain arrived in Toledo last night, making him the first of the three leading presidential candidates to campaign in northwest Ohio for votes in the March 4 primary.

Hard on his heels is Hillary Clinton, who will stage a Solutions for America rally tomorrow night at Whitmer High School.

Barack Obama s campaign is planning a rally for Sunday, probably about 4 p.m. but with details not available as of last night, a source said.

All three candidates are campaigning in Ohio, which holds its primary on the same day as Texas, Vermont, and Rhode Island.

Mrs. Clinton must win Ohio and Texas which have a combined total of 390 delegates out of the 4,049 to be apportioned at the Democratic convention in August to stay competitive in the race for the Democratic nomination, political analysts predict.

Yesterday, a Reuters/Zogby International poll showed Mr. Obama surging ahead of Mrs. Clinton nationally with a 52 percent to 38 percent lead.

In Ohio, recent polls have shown Mrs. Clinton in the lead, reflecting her support among older, blue-collar Democrats, and a backing from Gov. Ted Strickland.

Terry McAuliffe, a former national Democratic chairman, rallied a group of about 30 supporters at Mrs. Clinton s headquarters in West Toledo yesterday. Mr. McAuliffe was joined by Janet Blanchard, the wife of former Michigan Gov. James Blanchard.

Mr. McAuliffe hammered on the campaign theme that Mrs. Clinton beats Mr. Obama on readiness.

Hillary Clinton has been through the fires. She has been vetted. She has continually beaten the Republicans, Mr. McAuliffe said. [It s] very important for us to win both of these states.

Mrs. Blanchard said she s known Mrs. Clinton about 20 years.

I admire her so much. I desperately want her to be president of the United States, Mrs. Blanchard said.

Jim Ruvolo, Ohio delegate coordinator for Mrs. Clinton, said the Toledo media market brings the campaigns into contact with voters from the 4th, 5th, and 9th congressional districts. Those districts will elect 14 delegates out of Ohio s 92 Democratic district delegates.

Ohio is clearly very important [for Mrs. Clinton]. Ohio and Texas have a lot to say about who the nominee is going to be, Mr. Ruvolo said.

Mrs. Clinton s 9 p.m. event at Whitmer High School in the Washington Local School District follows an appearance she has planned in Laredo, Tex., earlier in the day.

Meanwhile, the Clinton campaign announced visits by former President Bill Clinton Sunday to Bowling Green and Lima. Details were not available.

Mr. Obama, a U.S. senator from Illinois, enters the March 4 phase of the campaign with momentum from 10 straight victorious primaries or caucuses. He leads Mrs. Clinton, a U.S. senator from New York, in delegates with 1,336 delegates to 1,251, according to the Associated Press. The winner needs 2,025 to claim the Democratic nomination.

Mr. Obama has drawn crowds that dwarf those of Mrs. Clinton, and the size of the venues the campaigns choose for their rallies in Toledo likely will reflect that difference.

While Mrs. Clinton has chosen a high school gym, the Obama campaign was said to be scouting for a hall that could handle crowds comparable to the nearly 7,000 who attended an Obama rally at Youngstown State University on Monday.

The University of Toledo s Savage Hall can manage 9,000 spectators, UT spokesman Matt Lockwood said. He said no campaign had requested to reserve space in the hall as of yesterday.

Mr. McCain s campaign for the Republican nomination reserved 45 rooms in the Park Inn, the former Radisson Hotel on Summit Street in downtown Toledo. His wife, Cindy, and others in his entourage arrived about 4:30 p.m., hotel General Manager Michael Sapara said.

He said Mr. McCain has a party of 25 people and 20 in the media following him.

Mr. Sapara said the hotel has a history of handling traveling political campaigns on short notice, including having rented about 3,100 rooms during September and October of 2004.

We have a great relationship with Secret Service. We know the drill, Mr. Sapara said.

The Arizona senator had a campaign event in Sugar Grove, Ill., last night before his arrival at the Park Inn for the night.

George Kyriakou, owner of Charlie s Restaurant at River Place on Dixie Highway close to I-475, said he understood the campaign was looking for an independent restaurant for Mr. McCain to stop in and his business was mentioned by someone in the Wood County Republican Party.

It should be be exciting, as a Republican and a McCain supporter, Mr. Kyriakou said.

Mr. McCain was not expected to make any other local appearances.

Robert Reichert, chairman of the Lucas County Republican Party, said it s important for Mr. McCain to campaign in Ohio to win the general election.

If he can do 40-plus percent in Lucas County, there s a good chance he could carry Ohio, Mr. Reichert said, recalling that President Bush came to northwest Ohio three times in 2004. President Bush received 39.5 percent of the vote in Lucas County in 2004 and narrowly won the state.

Mr. McCain had 942 delegates toward the 1,191 needed to win his party s nomination. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee had 245, the Associated Press said. Mr. Huckabee is attending events in Texas today.

Contact Tom Troy at: tomtroy@theblade.com or 419-724-6058.



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