FOREST, Ohio - As a retired American history teacher and collector of more than 4,000 campaign buttons, Jim Taylor knows a bit about the role symbols and slogans can play in a presidential election.
"The guy that gets the most terrific slogan is the one who wins. 'I like Ike,' for example. That's ingrained in all of us," Mr. Taylor said.
In his 18-by-30-foot "history room," as his family dubbed it years ago, the high-energy history buff gestures to a panel of mostly green and white Jimmy Carter buttons. His toothy grin and peanut farmer image "won him the White House," Mr. Taylor said. "It broke him out of the crowd early."
On the other hand, President George H.W. Bush's hard-to-forget line, "Read my lips: no new taxes," may have sealed his fate at the polls.
"I'm convinced that was the probably the final blow for him," Mr. Taylor said.
The former Riverdale High School teacher, who now teaches part time at the University of Findlay and Owens Community College's Findlay campus, is reluctant to predict which candidate will succeed on Tuesday - at least not on the basis of their buttons.
"Not this time," he said, pointing to a display at his Forest home with more than 100 different Kerry and Bush buttons. "Sometimes they stick. Sometimes they don't."
He said John Kerry had a promising start with his slogan "Hope is on the way," but it didn't really catch on.
Mr. Kerry tried to make the
swift boat a symbol of his candidacy, but that got a mixed reaction, Mr. Taylor said. Some admired the senator
for his military service; others were turned off by the anti-war posture he took after returning from Vietnam.
Mr. Taylor said he thinks President Bush has benefited from the "Dubya" moniker which refers to his middle initial, although he's not sure why voters have latched onto it.
"I think the thing Bush uses effectively is the swagger and the cowboy-hat effect," Mr. Taylor said, explaining that the image assures some that the President is true blue like the heroes of the old westerns.
Whichever candidate prevails, Mr. Taylor plans to keep adding to his collection, which started more than 30 years ago with the acquisition of his first Kennedy campaign button.
"It started out with one button in one picture frame," his wife, Jackie, says with a laugh.
To accommodate the still-growing collection, the couple built an 18-by-30 room onto the back of their house, which sits in Hardin County just south of the Hancock County line. The room is lined with presidential busts, banners, autographs, and gadgets.
"What's the sense in having a hobby you couldn't see?" Mr. Taylor, 54, asks. "You know what I'm really proud of? When you go into my room, you don't know if I'm a Democrat or a Republican."
He's not telling, either. He went to see President Bush at the Hancock County fairgrounds Wednesday and drove to Bowling Green in August to see John Kerry.
He admits a fondness for everything Kennedy and has an impressive collection that includes some rare re-election items produced before the president was assassinated in 1963. One, a mini California license plates, reads "JFK 464."
"Kennedy was very inspirational," he said. "It was just a different sort of time."
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