Marilyn Miller and John Higgins
Beacon Journal staff writers
With the days winding down till the 2010 general election, the campaign rhetoric is heating up.
Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland and his Republican challenger, John Kasich, each visited Summit County on Wednesday and brought a message to their ardent supporters: I am the right man for the job.
An eight-piece band dressed in red, white and blue energized more than 600 people who showed up Wednesday evening for an ''Oktoberfest Victory Party'' in Fairlawn.
The Ohio Republican Party's bus tour ended a three-day trip across the state for a rally at the Presentation of Our Lord Romanian Orthodox Church Hall.
Republicans were lined up offstage and introduced to the audience like star athletes before a big game.
When the last Republican was introduced, Kasich, the Tom Fries Band wailed Hail, Hail, the Gang's All Here.
Kasich went down the line of Republicans and said it might be the strongest political team in Ohio history. He said the voters also are part of the Republican ticket and part of the team.
The Republican Party didn't have a great message in 2006 or in 2008, he said, but this year the conservative movement is committed as committed as Ronald Reagan was in 1980.
''He understood that government should always be a last resort, not a first resort. . . . We need to run and drive America from the bottom up,'' Kasich said.
''That's why he always supported tax cuts, because when we have more money in our pockets, we're more powerful, our families are better and America is better.''
Leading the list of speakers was U.S. Rep. John Boehner of West Chester, whom event host Summit County Republican Party Chairman Alex Arshinkoff introduced as ''the next speaker of the House.''
Boehner asked the crowd if they have had enough of congressional leaders Rep. Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Harry Reid.
He quoted President Barack Obama, who at a health-care summit said if we have philosophical differences, ''and I quote, 'That's what elections are for.' Well, wasn't he right?
''Washington hasn't been listening to the American people. And guess what? You don't have to take it. We can do something about it. This is the year, and this is the moment.''
A few hours earlier, local Democratic politicians, activists, volunteers and union members packed the Summit County Democratic Party headquarters on Grant Street in Akron to cheer Strickland.
Bill Crooks, president of the Tri-County Regional Labor Council grilled hot dogs and sausages in the parking lot, while organizers with clipboards signed up volunteers to get out the Democratic vote.
When Strickland arrived Ohio AFL-CIO President Joe Rugola fired up the crowd, reminding them that the stakes are high not only for this election, but also for the presidential race in 2012.
''This is a tough fight because the other side wants this state badly,'' Rugola said. ''So this is a blood fight. There is no other way to describe it. And when you're in a blood fight, you swing away and you never stop until you make contact, and that's what we're doing, Governor.''
Strickland told the volunteers that Democrats have the momentum in early voting.
''It's a myth that there's an 'enthusiasm gap' in Ohio,'' Strickland said. ''It doesn't exist. We are ahead of them.
''If the votes that have already been cast were to be counted, we would have won. Now, maybe in August there was a slight enthusiasm gap. But let me tell you this: I believe John Kasich won the election in August, but we're going to win it in November.''