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Ohio Remains A Crucial Campaign Stop To Both Presidential Candidates

This story was written by Tim Sampson, The BG News

Call it the new battle of I-75.

But this match-up wasn't between the Bowling Green State University and University of Toledo football teams, this one was between presidential nominees John McCain and Barack Obama.

After McCain announced his vice-presidential running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, in Dayton on Friday, both candidates made campaign stops up the road in Toledo over the weekend.

Obama - fresh off of his formal nomination at the Democratic National Convention last week - made an appearance Sunday afternoon, along with running mate Sen. Joe Biden, on the roof top courtyard of the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library in downtown Toledo.

It was the Illinois Senator's second visit to the Glass City since starting his campaign. In the lead up to the Ohio Primaries in February, Obama spoke before a crowd of nearly 10,000 supporters at the University of Toledo.

This weekend's event was more intimate. Several hundred invited supporters gathered at the library for a town hall style question and answer session with the presidential and vice presidential candidates.

The topic of the event was the economy, in a state that has been particularly hard hit in recent years. In July, the unemployment rate in Ohio was 7.2 percent as compared with the national rate of 5.7 percent, according to the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services.

And the Toledo area has been particularly hard hit. Unemployment in Lucas County was at 9.2 percent in July.

"People are anxious here in Toledo, and in Ohio," Obama said.

The Senator outlined his plan, which includes investing $150 billion over the next 10 years toward developing renewable energy industries - a plan he said will help create 5 million new jobs across the nation.

He praised the First Solar plant in suburban Toledo as an example of new energies and technologies creating new jobs in manufacturing-based cities that have seen factories and plants shutdown and move overseas in recent years.

In addition to developing new industries, Obama also spoke about educating students to prepare them for those new industries. He vowed to "invest in universities which are the anchors of so many cities."

Part of Obama's plan is to create a $4,000 college tax credit and simplify the application process for federal student aid. Obama also spoke vaguely of creating a program to fund education in exchange for some form of community service, saying, "you invest in America, America will invest in you."

The issue of tax breaks was an area for Obama and Biden to attempt to distinguish themselves from McCain and his new running mate.

Touting his childhood in the steel town of Scranton, Penn., Biden stressed that he and Obama both come from middle class roots that keep them more in touch with the average worker than McCain.

"We believe our job, first and foremost, is to help America get back up," Biden said.

Obama said his plan - which calls for $1,000 in tax cuts for "working families" - offers three times as much tax relief for the middle class than McCain. Obama joked the only way McCain's plan provides more middle class tax relief is if anyone making less than $500,000 a year is considered middle class.

Obama's campaign stop comes just two days after McCain's stop in Dayton and a day before the GOP candidate made his own appearance in Toledo.

McCain's appearance was closed to most local media, including The BG News, but according to a report of the event released by the campaign, McCain spoke briefly at the International Services of Hope facility in Perrysburg, Ohio.

McCain apeared along side Linda Greene, the president and CEO of ISOH/IMPACT, to discuss the work her organization was doing to help provide relief for the victims of hurricane Gustav.

There is no word on future campaign stops in Northwest Ohio from either candidate, but with the candidates polling neck and neck in the state and with 20 electoral votes up for grabs, it is safe to assume both campaigns will be returning to Ohio before Election Day.

The Presidential election will be held Nov. 4 and voters in Ohio must be registered by Oct. 6.

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