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Published: Tuesday, 11/5/2002

Taft plans stop in Maumee in 5-city, vote-day itinerary


CLEVELAND - Two days after a 91-mile “whistle-stop tour” that chugged along for five hours, Republican Gov. Bob Taft chose speed yesterday, hopping a chartered plane to stump in Columbus, Cincinnati, Dayton, Toledo, and Cleveland in a 10-hour stretch.

Today he will reverse the five-city itinerary - including a stop at a polling place at the Lucas County Recreation Center in Maumee and voting in the afternoon in the Columbus suburb of Bexley - before heading to a party that he hopes will be another show of force by Ohio Republicans.

Asked about his leads in various surveys, Mr. Taft said “no poll truly measures who will go out and vote.”

“It's nice to have polls, but I don't trust them. ... We're political junkies. We're living and breathing it every day. The average person is busy. They're trying to get their kids to school and raise a family,” he said.

Although Mr. Taft urged Republicans at each stop to get out the vote today, the governor was relaxed, in contrast to four years ago when he battled Democrat Lee Fisher with TV ads and trench warfare along the campaign trail that did not end until the polls closed.

Only once yesterday did Mr. Taft mention Democratic challenger Tim Hagan, whom he refers to as “my opponent,” and it was to explain why his campaign has run ads attacking Mr. Hagan's record as a Cuyahoga County commissioner.

“We've tried to draw some distinctions between myself and my opponent,” he said.

Instead Mr. Taft stood by Maggie Thurber, the GOP candidate for Lucas County commissioner, as Toledo TV stations asked the obligatory election-eve questions. The governor began the day in Columbus, stopping at three restaurants to help re-elect Dewey Stokes to the Franklin County board of commissioners.

At Hamilton County GOP headquarters, Mr. Taft thanked volunteers making get-out-the-vote phone calls and made a few himself.

“I'm not sure they believe it when they first hear me. I try to say ‘I'm down here in Cincinnati' so they know it's me. People are pretty polite and appreciative,” Mr. Taft said.

The governor also did interviews with several radio stations, urging listeners to vote against Issue 1, a constitutional amendment that would make treatment an option for nonviolent first and second-time drug-possession offenders.

“Treatment versus incarceration, it sounds appealing, but the devil is in the details,” Mr. Taft said. “It will really undermine and severely damage the good work our courts are doing with treatment. It will eliminate the tough-love approach, and it will be a revolving door, and we'd be wasting a lot of money.”

In Toledo Mr. Taft toured Toledo Metal Spinning Co., a 73-year-old business that survived a 1998 fire without laying off workers, said Vice President Eric Fankhauser.

“You're an institution, man,” Mr. Taft told Al Jurowski, an 80-year-old, quality-control employee who has worked at Toledo Metal Spinning 54 years.

From Toledo, Mr. Taft, two aides, a Highway Patrol officer, and two reporters traveled to Cleveland.

“I feel good, but I'll feel better when all the votes are counted,” said Mr. Taft. “I know only one way to run, and that's scared. We've got to get the turnout and make sure our supporters understand this is an important election.”

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