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Published: Thursday, 10/9/2008

Obama to prepare for debate in Toledo area; campaign not sure about specific location

BY TOM TROY
BLADE POLITICS WRITER

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama has chosen the Toledo area as next week s site for his preparation for the third and final televised debate with Republican John McCain.

A campaign spokesman last night said the choice of Toledo for debate camp speaks to Ohio s importance in this year s presidential campaign.

Ohio s 20 electoral votes are seen as crucial for either candidate, but more so for Senator McCain of Arizona because no Republican ever has won the presidency without winning Ohio.

Senator Obama of Illinois hopes to deny the key battleground state to Mr. McCain in the Nov. 4 election and is campaigning hard here. Mr. Obama this morning begins a bus tour campaigning through tomorrow in five southern Ohio cities Dayton, Portsmouth, Cincinnati, Chillicothe, and Columbus.

A debate prep trip to Toledo could involve two or three days of campaign activities beginning Monday. It would focus national and international news attention on the city.

Greater Toledo s growing national leadership in solar and wind power development would provide Mr. Obama with an opportunity to showcase his plans for a 10-year investment of $150 billion into alternative fuels and energy technologies.

And politically, Toledo is home to a blue-collar demographic that Mr. Obama is trying to secure. Such voters, while Democratic, are often conservative and likely will be the target of efforts by Mr. McCain and his running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.

Mr. Obama will hole up with domestic and economic advisers at a local hotel that was not disclosed yesterday, the campaign said.

But he ll also probably make several public appearances.

The debate Wednesday at Hofstra University, Long Island, N.Y., will be moderated by Bob Schieffer of CBS.

Mr. Obama has made a practice of high-profile debate preparations in a community distant from the debate location. He and his staff prepped for Tuesday night s debate, held at Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn., in Asheville, N.C.

He made at least three public appearances in Asheville during his three days in the city.

The Obama campaign hunkered down in Dunedin, Fla., near Tampa, for two days prior to the debate at the University of Mississippi Sept. 26, although debate camp was upset by the start of the financial crisis.

Recent political opinion polls tend to favor Mr. Obama by a few points in Ohio, which helped turn the 2004 election to Republican President Bush.

Democratic supporters of Mr. Obama have warned him not to make the mistake that 2004 Democratic nominee Sen. John Kerry and the 2000 Democratic nominee, Al Gore, made by not spending enough time or money in the state.

Wade Kapszukiewicz, Lucas County treasurer and a leading local supporter of Mr. Obama, said Mr. Obama s focus until the election will be on the economy, with attention to displaced workers and people worried about losing their pensions and Toledo would be a logical backdrop for that.

I m glad he s coming to Ohio because it keeps the pressure on McCain, Mr. Kapszukiewicz said.

Jon Stainbrook, Lucas County Republican chairman, said Mr. McCain will be back in northwest Ohio. He disputed the notion that Mr. Obama has been here more than Mr. McCain, or that Mr. McCain is ignoring northwest Ohio.

Mr. Obama s last trip to northwest Ohio was at the Toledo main library Aug. 31, after a stop in Lima earlier in the day. He rallied supporters in Monroe the next day.

Democratic running mate Sen. Joe Biden (D., Del.) kicked off a swing through Ohio in Maumee on Sept. 17 after staying overnight in Toledo.

Mr. McCain was scheduled to hold a rally at Centennial Terrace in Sylvania, Sept. 28, but the event was canceled when Mr. McCain suspended his campaign to deal with the financial crisis, Mr. Stainbrook said.

He said Mr. McCain shook hands with people who went to meet him during a stopover at the Hilton Hotel Sept. 2 and at a Waterville-based charity that he visited the same day, where he shook hands in the crowd that gathered.

He s a man of the people; he s not a Harvard lawyer. The Secret Service told McCain not to work the crowd; he went out there anyway, Mr. Stainbrook said.

The political Web site, RealClearPolitics.com s average of telephone polls taken since Sept. 24 showed Mr. Obama up by 48.9 percent to 44.9 percent for Mr. McCain. The most recent poll, by CNN/Time, put Mr. Obama ahead 50-47.

A totally unscientific poll being conducted by the Haas Bakery in Oregon just for the fun of it, and maybe to sell a few cookies, has Mr. McCain with a lead, but Mr. Obama beginning to close the pastry gap.

The bakery, at 2306 Starr Ave., is baking and selling blue-frosted Obama and red-frosted McCain cookies for $1.39 and posting the results daily.

As of yesterday, Mr. McCain led 192-183. But sales of the Obama cookie were, well, on the rise.

I m kind of leaning toward Obama, the way I see the sales, said store clerk Betty Metcalfe, speaking like a practiced political prognosticator.

Mr. Haas said he got the idea from the Retail Bakers of America, which is running the cookie poll nationally.

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



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