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Postman on Politics

Chief political reporter David Postman explores state, regional and national politics.

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February 24, 2008 10:14 AM

A young Ohio Democrat undecided, but starting to lean

Posted by David Postman

BOWLING GREEN, Ohio - Bill Clinton will be here later this afternoon to headline a campaign rally for his wife. If the former president wants to win a vote for Sen. Hillary Clinton he might want to stop by Finders Records, a terrific music store on Main Street.

Tim Friedman, 23, is working today. He’s an undecided Democratic voter. He’s leaning toward Barack Obama in the March 4 primary. But he’s a big Bill Clinton fan and wishes he hadn’t agreed to take a colleague’s shift today meaning he’ll miss the rally at Bowling Green Community Center.

Tim Friedman.

“I’m mad as hell I can’t go,” Friedman told me. He wasn’t old enough to vote for Clinton in either of his presidential elections. His first vote was for Democrat John Kerry in 2004. But he remembers the Clinton years.

“It’s been eight years since I had a president I could listen to,” he said. “I know it seems insignificant with everything we have to face in world affairs.”

But rhetoric means something to Friedman. He’s a student at Bowling Green State University. He’s a business major somewhere between his sophomore and a junior years. He hopes to own his own record store some day. He grew up in Lorain County, near Cleveland.

He says he sees lots of students sporting Obama buttons, but not very many for Clinton and none for Republican John McCain. There’s a connection he sees between Obama and Bill Clinton. Both have a connection with people and know how to make an emotional connection.

And as of today he’s officially leaning toward Obama.

Friedman appreciates Obama’s talk of hope, though he says some see that as conceding somewhat of a bleak outlook on America of today. But he thinks most Americans do feel bleak about the future and that’s why Obama’s optimistic message resonates.

He is not yet in the throes of Obamamania.

“It’s been difficult,” he said. “I think Hillary is fully capable, particularly on health care which is very important.”

Clinton’s attack on Obama for lifting some lines from someone else’s speech fell flat for Friedman. He said:

I think if we had a president who took a couple lines from someone’s speech it’d be a far improvement from what we have now.

Down Main Street I ran into Pam and Earl Blasiman. They’re both 49 and loyal Republicans. There are only remnants of a race in the Republican primary. But the Blasimans are prepared to vote for Sen. John McCain as he finishes up the race for the nomination.

Ohio voters will also vote in local races March 4.

“It’s still important,” said Pam, a jeweler. “It’s our duty.” The Blasimans live in the countryside outside of Bowling Green. The city itself, thanks to the college, is a bit more liberal than from where they come from.

And what do they see for the fall election? Do they think McCain can beat either Clinton or Obama?

Earl: “Somehow, I don’t think so.”

Pam: “I hope so.”

There is so much attention on Ohio and Texas leading up to March 4 I’m almost surprised I haven’t run into candidates on the streets of the small towns and big cities I’ve seen already in my two days here.

There will be a lot of activity in the coming week. Clinton and Obama are going to be in Ohio as well as a long list of surrogates. Tomorrow, Obama’s campaign also kicks off a series of foreign policy town hall meetings where his top advisors will talk and take questions from voters.

Some of that I may try to catch. But my goal this week is to talk to voters more than candidates. Ohio could be one of the most important elections in the Democratic race for the nomination. I want to see what issues people are interested in and how that differs from what we saw in Washington.

Yesterday I drove about 100 miles on a two-lane country road. It was as sparsely populated as any back road in Eastern Washington. I made a few stops but didn’t find a registered voter to talk to.

Between Akron and Findlay.

There were a number of abandoned homes, most with what looked like active farms still operating behind them. In some homes that were still lived in, I saw a number of home businesses where you could buy work boots, horse tack or hunting supplies.

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