Back to Ohio

Published September 8, 2004 11:58PM (EDT)

When bad polling numbers started to descend around the Kerry campaign over the weekend, campaign spokesman David Wade counseled caution. The election won't be decided by "national public opinion polls," Wade told reporters. "This is a race that's going to be decided in battleground states."

Wade said those words in Ohio, a battleground state where Kerry has now spent at least part of six of the last seven days. It's too soon to tell whether Kerry's efforts will pay off in Ohio, but a new poll shows the size of the hill Kerry will have to climb there. A USA Today/CNN/Gallup Poll to be released Thursday morning has Bush over Kerry 52-43 among likely voters in Ohio. (In other battleground state polls, Gallup says Bush is up big in Missouri, the candidates are tied in Pennsylvania, and Kerry leads in Washington.)

Democrats hope that Kerry's economic message will resonate in Ohio, a state that has lost more than 200,000 jobs during the Bush presidency. But Kerry has had a tough time staying focused on the economy. In Cincinnati Wednesday, Kerry focused on Bush's handling of the Iraq war -- a subject only 13 percent of Ohioans rank at the top of their list of "most important" issues in the presidential race. And while some Democrats are predicting that increased attention to Bush's military record will sway voters, interviews in Ohio suggest otherwise. Again and again, Ohio voters told us that they were not interested in hearing anything further about Vietnam -- from Kerry or from Bush.

Jerry Williamson, a Republican who owns a welding supply store in Lisbon, Ohio, said the arguments about military service end in a tie: "Bush had connections and he used them to stay alive," he said. "Kerry went there and he used it like a stage for his political career." And Jim Mason, a Democrat from Akron who has been laid off twice in the last four years, said that he writes off everything both sides say about Vietnam. "Politicians are just politicians, and they're just throwing stuff at each other," he said. "I wish they'd talk about the future."

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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