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Bleachers were going up and political signs were piling up.
Around the SeaGate Convention Centre in downtown Toledo on Tuesday, workers and campaign staffers were getting ready for today's appearance by GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney. Adam Dagen, an employee of Superior, Wis.-based Sound Central, was steam-pressing a 6-foot by 8-foot Ohio flag brought in for Mr. Romney's appearance in the Buckeye State.
“This is a great opportunity for both campaigns. Ohio is a hot-bed state,” said Steve Miller, general manager of the SeaGate Centre. “We're really excited.”
Just down I-75 to the south, preparations also were under way for a campaign appearance by President Obama today at Bowling Green State University's Stroh Center.
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BGSU Spokesman Dave Kielmeyer said President Obama’s visit marks the first time a sitting president has been on campus in exactly 28 years. Ronald Reagan was at the BGSU campus on Sept. 26, 1984. Gerald Ford was on campus in 1976.
The only other Democratic presidential candidate to visit BGSU was John F. Kennedy in 1959, he said.
“It’s exciting for our students,” Mr. Kielmeyer said. “No matter what your politics are, it is an opportunity to see a sitting President and it’s an opportunity to hear directly from a presidential candidate. If the Romney campaign wants to come to campus in the next few weeks, we’ll certainly make the same arrangements for them.”
Obama for America paid BGSU $11,875 to rent the Stroh Center, a bill that included $2,400 for BGSU police to help with crowd control and $600 for emergency medical technicians/paramedics to be at the event. Mr. Kielmeyer said university policy requires payment for such rentals in advance, and the Obama campaign paid the bill on Monday.
The Romney campaign paid $13,800 to rent the SeaGate Centre, said Carol DuPuis, SeaGate's marketing director.
Despite the excitement of having the president on campus, BGSU faculty and staff members received a message Tuesday from Provost Rodney Rogers and Rebecca Ferguson, chief human resources officer, reminding them that it wasn’t a free day.
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“It is important for us to know that the President’s visit is a political one,” the message read. “University academic and personnel policies remain in effect and so faculty should conduct their courses as scheduled. Classes should not be canceled unless doing so has a purpose related to the course subject matter.”
Faculty and staff were advised that if they wished to attend the event, they had to do so on their own time and account for any time away from work.
Mr. Kielmeyer said BGSU President Mary Ellen Mazey and several of the university's trustees planned to attend today's event.
Tickets for the Obama speech are no longer available. A limited number are still available for Mr. Romney's appearance. They can be obtained at Lucas County Republican Headquarters, 10 S. Superior St., or by calling 419-482-0506 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The dueling appearances show the importance of northwest Ohio and the tightness of the presidential contest despite polls showing President Obama with a slight edge in Ohio, said Lucas County GOP Chairman Jon Stainbook.
“It's obvious it's a dead heat [in Ohio],” he said. “It's a tie. It's up for grabs.”
That’s not the case, according to the latest polls in battleground states. The Washington Post poll on Tuesday had Mr. Obama ahead in Ohio 52 percent to 44 percent among likely voters. The Blade/Ohio News Organization’s recent poll had Mr. Obama ahead by 51 percent to 46 percent.
Jim Ruvolo of Ottawa Hills, a political consultant who is a former Ohio Democratic Party chairman, said he doesn't know if Mr. Obama scheduled his Bowling Green appearance after Mr. Romney announced his visit for Toledo, but, “it wouldn't be a bad strategy.”
He said the President is counting on a strong turnout in northern Ohio, while southern Ohio is traditionally more in the Republican column, so when a Republican comes to northern Ohio, with stops planned in Cleveland and Toledo, the President has to “make sure that folks who are undecided hear both messages on the same day.”
He said Mr. Romney's trip today to the Columbus area is necessary to try to shore up Franklin County that has grown more reliably Democratic.
He said he couldn't recall the last time two presidential candidates were in northwest Ohio on the same day.
Ohio Republican Chairman Robert Bennett also didn't recall candidates being in the same area of the state on the same day, but said Republican President George W. Bush and Democratic challenger John Kerry were in Ohio on the same day in 2004.
He said Mr. Romney and Mr. Obama “are both trying to pin down their base,” and said he believes Mr. Obama scheduled his Bowling Green trip to undercut whatever impact Mr. Romney has here.
“It's a get-out-the-vote election. Notwithstanding these polls, which I don't understand, it's a tight race,” Mr. Bennett said.
“There are certain number of people that have ignored everything and won't focus for a couple of weeks. The undecideds are waiting for the debates,” he said.
Staff writers Tom Troy and Kate Giammarise contributed to this report.
Contact Jennifer Feehan at: email@example.com or 419-724-6059.