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  • Gore rally at OSU raises roof

    Vice president kicks off Ohio primary campaign

    Thursday, February 3, 2000

    BY Darrel Rowland
    Dispatch Public Affairs Editor

    As the Rolling Stones' Start Me Up blared over the loudspeakers, Vice President Al Gore launched what likely will be the make-or-break portion of his run for the Democratic presidential nomination with a rollicking rally at Ohio State University.

    Fresh off his narrow New Hampshire primary victory over rival Bill Bradley, Gore spoke about a range of issues before a crowd of more than 1,500 jammed into the Ohio Union ballroom.

    Gore asked students to imagine a future where there is no pollution, every child has health insurance and America has the best schools in the world.

    "If you want to create that kind of future, I want your help,'' he said.

    "If you want a president of the United States that will move heaven and earth to bring not just gradual, incremental changes to our schools but truly revolutionary improvement to our schools, I ask for your vote.''

    Although the Democratic battle turned increasingly nasty and personal in the days before Tuesday's contest in New Hampshire, Gore did not make even an oblique reference to Bradley in a 20-minute speech interrupted numerous times by cheers and applause.

    Instead, the clenched-fist sermon showcased for Ohioans the post-makeover Gore: ready, willing and able to stand up and fight. In fact, he uttered some form of "I will fight for you'' at least 20 times.

    The vice president acknowledged the role Ohio will play in this year's battle for the nomination. The March 7 primary in the Buckeye State -- along with votes in 13 other states -- is the next big date on the Democrats' calendar.

    "Right here in Ohio, where the rubber meets the ground, where the grass roots begin . . . you can make the decisive difference,'' Gore said.

    Even though he was in Ohio barely three hours, Gore won the endorsement of Columbus Mayor Michael B. Coleman.

    David J. Leland, chairman of the state Democratic Party, said Gore has pretty well locked up support from party regulars in Ohio.

    "He can claim responsibility for a lot of the good feeling people have the economy and the way the country is going,'' said Leland, who has endorsed Gore personally but not as chairman.

    After the Ohio speech, Gore jetted off on Air Force Two to campaign for the grand prize March 7: California.

    He cut short a visit to the other March 7 plum, New York, to fly to Washington for a potential tiebreaking vote on a Senate bill important to abortion-rights supporters.

    Gore's speech offered few specifics. The absence was noticed by some students who crammed into the L-shaped room.

    "To me, it was just like a little party,'' said Scott Klein of Akron, a political-science major now in medical school. "I don't think that he really discussed anything substantial. He didn't really outline anything to me that dealt with the real issues.''

    Klein said he still likes Gore but also plans to check out Republican Sen. John McCain, who upset Texas Gov. George W. Bush in the New Hampshire vote.

    Tracy Greenwood of Toledo, a senior majoring in psychology, said, "I think he really catered to issues that students care about, but I'd like to see a plan of action how he's going to carry them out. I'd like to see something beyond just scratching the surface, and that makes him different from any other candidate.''

    Gore has pushed for $50 billion to make preschool universally available and raises up to $5,000 for public school teachers who meet certain standards in poor and rural areas -- plus an extra $5,000 for "master teachers'' who meet even higher standards in those areas.

    He also wants to offer signing bonuses to recruit teachers from other professions, and he favors testing new teachers.

    Josh Mandel, president of Undergraduate Student Government and a senior communications major from Beachwood, Ohio, said Gore couldn't be expected to lay out his plans in detail in a short address. "I thought he gave a great speech that resonated with students.''

    Gore was unpopular with about 10 protesters upset with him for failing to carry out a 1992 campaign promise to shut down the Waste Technologies Industries incinerator in East Liverpool. As the group's shouts of "What about WTI!'' were drowned out and their homemade signs ripped down by others, Gore remarked, "Let's hear it for the First Amendment! Let's hear it for free speech!''

    Gore's visit was the first of an expected stampede of candidates through Ohio in the weeks leading up to the primary. Bradley is due in Cleveland on Monday.

    The candidates are beginning to focus on Ohio in other ways as well. For instance, Republican Steve Forbes yesterday opened his Ohio campaign headquarters at 16 East Broad St. in Columbus.

    Bush opened his Buckeye State headquarters Monday at 211 South 5th St., Columbus. Robert A. Paduchik is the executive director of Bush's Ohio effort. Paduchik is on a leave of absence as the director of constituent affairs for Gov. Bob Taft, chairman of Bush's Ohio campaign.


    Copyright © 2000, The Columbus Dispatch