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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Obama knocks on doors, surprises voters

Democratic nominee settles into Ohio for three days of debate prep

The Swamp

Obama canvases door to door Oct 12 2008 small.jpg
Sen. Barack Obama canvasses a Holland, Ohio neighborhood on October 12, 2008.(Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

by Jill Zuckman

Barack Obama jetted back to Ohio today to spend three days preparing for his final debate with John McCain. But before he holed up with his advisers, the candidate began knocking on doors in Holland, Ohio, making his way through a neighborhood of modest ranch and split-level homes.

His move to the Toledo area comes as a new Ohio Newspaper poll puts the race at a dead heat, 48-46 for McCain. That's tightened considerably since the group's September survey had Obama down six points, 48-42.

Sue Sekel, a 43-year old healthcare worker dressed for a day of Sunday housecleaning, opened her front door to discover Obama standing before her.

He asked her what she did for a living and how she was managing in the economic downturn. Sekel said she was doing fine and that she voted early.

Later, she declined to tell reporters who she voted for, but she said, "I told him what I did." She also said Sunday was "the one day I come home to clean ceiling fans and look like crap, and then this happens."

Despite her fluster at finding a presidential candidate on her doorstep, Sekel still snapped a cell phone photo with Obama and said she thought his visit would help him in this working-class neighborhood.

As word spread that Obama was in the neighborhood, a few dozen people gathered across the street to watch, as three teenage girls raced across the street in bare feet and socks, armed with cameras.

"Where are your shoes?" Obama asked them, before taking photos with them and crossing the street. There he shook hands with about a dozen neighbors, asking them what they did for a living and offering words of concern.

Shelly Kretz, a 38-year old Proctor & Gamble worker who lives around the corner, said that she had been on the fence, but that Obama made her a believer with his answers to her neighbors' questions.

"It's really awesome that he takes the time to talk to the middle class and answer questions," she said, adding that her brothers, who live in the neighborhood, were in the group and also were swayed by Obama's appearance.

With 20 electoral votes, Ohio is considered a bellwether battleground state. Since 1944, Ohio has voted for the presidential winner with one exception - the state voted for Richard Nixon over John F. Kennedy in 1960.

In 2004, President Bush edged Democrat John Kerry by just two percentage points, dashing Kerry's hopes for ousting a sitting president.

For the previous two debates, Obama settled in North Carolina and Florida to prepare. This time, he'll be staying in Oregon, Ohio on the banks of Lake Erie.

Taking a break from debate prep, he is expected to hold a rally in Toledo Monday afternoon.

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