Beacon Journal staff writer
CANTON: Former President Bill Clinton urged Ohioans on Saturday to ''take a walk down factual lane'' before Election Day.
Speaking at a Democratic rally for Gov. Ted Strickland and U.S. Rep. John Boccieri of Alliance, Clinton blamed Republicans for the country's economic malaise and said Democrats are just digging out from the deep hole created for them.
He also complained that independent voters are leaning toward Republicans because they are considered more fiscally conservative.
Clinton called this year's election process ''about the most fact-free election'' he's ever seen, saying Democrats didn't drive up the national debt and that Ohio is better off than critics claim.
He praised both Strickland and Boccieri, who are locked in difficult races with Republicans John Kasich and Jim Renacci, respectively.
He cited Ohio as having the sixth-fastest growing state economy and lowest business taxes in the Midwest.
''There is not a better, more effective governor in the entire United States of America than Ted Strickland,'' Clinton said to the partisan crowd of hundreds of people gathered in the back parking lot of Tozzi's on 12th restaurant.
He went on to laud Boccieri for his military service and support of health-care reform and other initiatives.
Boccieri didn't stay for Clinton's entire 46-minute speech. He dashed off the stage after being told that his wife Stacey's water had broken.
Emma Nancy Boccieri, the family's fifth child, was born at 6:10 p.m. at Mercy Medical Center. She weighed 8 pounds, 9 ounces, and was 18 inches long.
''You'd be amazed how many times I take a picture with a very pregnant woman and she immediately gives birth,'' Clinton said as the audience laughed and applauded. ''We got another Democrat. I wish we could register that baby.''
In closing, he urged Ohioans to really consider their vote.
''You gotta have a good governor,'' he said. ''You gotta have policies that support you, not undermine you. Please think about that. I know this is not a traditional political speech, but I ain't running for anything. I can't bear the thought that my country would get the exact reverse result than what they want simply because this is such a fact-free environment.''
The campaign stop also featured Canton Mayor William Healy, Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, and U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Niles. It was the second of three Ohio visits by the former president. Clinton also stopped in Boardman and Columbus.
His speech in Canton started nearly 90 minutes late. As he walked onto the stage, a woman screamed out, ''I love you, Bill.''
''Thank you for saying that. I love Ohio,'' he responded.
The Canton audience clearly came to see Clinton, who was mobbed afterward for autographs. During his speech, people held up cell phones to take pictures and video of him.
Mike Airhart, 43, and his wife Jennifer Betz-Airhart, 30, of Perry Township, said they wanted to see the former president.
''I think he was a great president and is still very active and I have a lot of respect for him,'' Airhart said.
Betz-Airhart said it also was important to support the Democrats.
David and Cheryl Bernardo, both 54 and from Jackson Township, described Clinton as a great speaker.
''He brought to light that we've got a lot of wrong facts and that we all need to become educated on some of the bigger issues and make this an election based on facts,'' David Bernardo said.