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Published: Saturday, 3/1/2008

Ex-president courts Ohio undecided

BY STEVE EDER
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Former President Bill Clinton greets people during a rally at the University of Findlay's Croy Physical Education Center. Former President Bill Clinton greets people during a rally at the University of Findlay's Croy Physical Education Center.
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FINDLAY - With the days waning before Ohioans will head to the polls and vote for the Democratic presidential nominee, many haven't made up their minds.

Many voters say they definitely plan to vote. They say they like their choices. But they just can't decide between the candidates - Sens. Hillary Clinton of New York and Barack Obama of Illinois.

On a five-stop tour across Ohio's northern midsection yesterday, former President Bill Clinton pitched his wife's qualifications to those critical undecided voters in the state, which he believes will have a "big, big stake" in whether Mrs. Clinton or Mr. Obama wins the party's nomination.

"Most people like them both, and they are trying to figure out which candidate will offer the best leadership to change the country," Mr. Clinton told hundreds who packed a gymnasium at the University of Findlay yesterday morning.

Mr. Clinton made the case for his wife to voters in Findlay, before heading to Mansfield, Wooster, and New Philadelphia with former U.S. Sen. John Glenn for more campaigning. At stake on Tuesday are Ohio's 162 delegates at the Democratic National Convention.

"I urge you, that if you support Hillary, to talk to every single person you meet between now and Tuesday, because all the surveys show that there are a substantial amount of undecided voters and there are those that can be swayed," Mr. Clinton said in Findlay.

Plenty of voters came out yesterday to see if Mr. Clinton could help them choose a candidate.

He spoke at each stop about the core issues of the campaign: the war in Iraq, health care, and job losses.

"I'm on a little bit of a fact-finding mission," said Monica Decker, a veterinarian from Marion County, who took her son, Benjamin, 4, and daughter, Rachel, 2, to see the former president speak at Harding High School in Marion earlier yesterday.

Dr. Decker said she usually has decided long before the wee hours of the campaign, but deciding between Ms. Clinton and Mr. Obama has proved difficult.

"It's exciting to have the choice between Hillary and Barack," Dr. Decker said.

Brian Smith, a 19-year-old University of Findlay student, needed some convincing - and wanted to see his favorite former president in action.

"I wasn't sure who I was going to vote for, so I figure any convincing would be great," Mr. Smith said before Mr. Clinton's speech at the university. He hoped to hear plans for keeping jobs from going overseas.

Ashley Blaser, a 20-year-old student at Notre Dame College in Cleveland, said she's leaning toward voting for Mr. Obama, but thought hearing Mr. Clinton speak would help inform her final decision.

"Both candidates are very well prepared," Ms. Blaser said.

Yesterday afternoon at Malabar Middle School in Mansfield, Mr. Clinton spoke directly to the undecided voters: "For those of you who are undecided here, I hope I can sway you."

Mr. Clinton succeeded in convincing Jim Entrup, who came out with his brothers, Bob and Mike, to hear the former president speak in Mansfield. All three left the rally firmly supporting Mrs. Clinton.

"I was undecided until watching this," Jim Entrup, 43, of Mansfield said yesterday while walking out of the school. "The economic policies, the education policies, the foreign polices - he really covered all the bases there."

He added, "If you teetered, [Mr. Clinton] was very influential for undecided voters."

But Joe Johnson, 63, a former GM employee from Mansfield, wasn't convinced. Mr. Johnson went to see Mr. Clinton out of curiosity and plans to continue studying his choices over the next few days.

"He gave good points about our country's situation and recovery," Mr. Johnson said.

For those needing extra help in picking a candidate, Mr. Clinton told crowds during the day that they should vote for his wife because she's a "world-class change-maker" and she won't forget what she heard from people on the campaign trail.

"You want someone who will never forget you," Mr. Clinton said in Marion. "She will never forget you."



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