Beacon Journal staff writer
Vice President Joe Biden told a friendly audience of more than 700 on Monday that they face a stark choice in the November election: going back to the way things were or toward the way they could be.
''Don't compare the Democrats to the Almighty. Compare them to the alternative,'' he urged students and other supporters at the University of Akron.
The vice president was the star attraction at a rally to re-elect Gov. Ted Strickland.
It was the second time in two weeks that Biden has visited the Buckeye State to shore up the governor's campaign. Former President Bill Clinton joined Strickland in Cleveland last week in the expanding effort to keep the Ohio governor's seat in the Democrat Party.
The first-term governor trails his Republican challenger John Kasich by 17 percentage points in a poll released last week by Quinnipiac University. According to a CNN/Time/Opinion Research poll, Strickland trails Kasich by 7 points.
The economy Ohio's unemployment rate is 10.1 percent isn't helping Strickland's re-election bid, said John Green, director of UA's Ray C. Bliss Institute of Applied Politics, said.
The public has a ''negative view of [Strickland's] handling of the economy. Whether that's fair always comes up. . . .The public gives the incumbent blame when things are going poorly,'' said Green, who did not attend the rally.
Perhaps just as alarming for the Democrats is that the Quinnipiac poll indicated fewer Democrats intend to vote in 2010 than in 2008. Speakers Monday hit that prospect hard.
When early voting starts on Sept. 28, ''stand in line to cast your vote. That would be a beautiful sight to behold,'' Strickland said.
With 2.5 million registered Democrats in Ohio and only 1.4 million members of the GOP, the incumbents can win, said Chris Redfern, chairman of the Ohio Democratic Party.
Speakers in the ballroom at the UA Student Union praised the actions of Democratic leaders in Ohio and the White House when faced with what they said was the failed legacy of past GOP leadership.
Not surprisingly, given that the rally was hosted by the UA College Democrats, speakers went out of their way to praise Strickland's performance on higher education and even the UA soccer team, which is ranked No. 1 in the nation.
''If you live in the state of Ohio, you need to say thank you to Ted Strickland'' for coercing tax-supported institutions into holding the line on tuition in recent years, Yvette McGee Brown, the Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor, told the cheering crowd.
Strickland said that 65,500 more students are enrolled in college in Ohio than when he took office four years ago.
He also told ''my young friends'' that Ohio is slowly inching out of the recession with the sixth-fastest-growing economy in the country.
The speeches struck a chord with Shamir Thompson, an 18-year-old UA freshman from Lima.
She called Biden's talk inspirational and said she could relate to the challenges he painted of families trying to send their children to college.
Her mother took a second job as a respiratory therapist and her father works in a factory, she said.
Republican National Committee spokesman Ryan Tronovitch said in a prepared release that ''another rosy speech'' won't change the fact that Ohio has lost more than 130,000 jobs since the stimulus program was enacted.