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Economy of War Biggest Concern

Monday, March 20, 2006 at 7:42 AM

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President Bush is in Cleveland today, where he'll mark the third anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq with a speech at the City Club to rally support for the war. The most recent Gallup poll shows only 40% of Americans believe the war has been worth it. But for many Ohio Republican politicians fighting to retain their seats in the upcoming election, it's not the war itself, but the cost of the war on the economy that's the biggest concern. ideastream's Karen Schaefer reports.

Many Ohio Republicans will tell you they still support President Bush’s pursuit of the war in Iraq. At last Friday’s St. Patrick’s Day parade in Cleveland, about half of those we talked to said they’re fully behind the President. But Darlene Wolf from the Cleveland suburb of Willoughby says she’s begun to have second thoughts.

Darlene Wolf: I’m disappointed. I have questions. I’m thinking that we’re fighting in Iraq, because he’s knows something more than we know. We never found those weapons of destruction. My concern is we’re really there for oil. Get the men home. And start working on our economy here.

Darlene Wolf is not alone. A recent poll shows that Ohio’s 37% approval rating for President Bush is the lowest of any state he won in the 2004 election. Those low numbers may be troubling to Ohio’s Republican leaders, especially those running for re-election. But some say they don’t see the war as the major issue. State Representative Jim Trakas of Independence believes it’s the economy that has Ohioans most concerned.

Jim Trakas: I think that the war is ancillary to the economy. People - there are heightened fears about what their future is, what their childrens’ future is in Ohio and people are looking for answers.

Trakas admits those answers have not been forthcoming from state leadership of his own party. And he says the series of scandals that last year rocked the state’s top Republicans - including Governor Bob Taft - are a serious concern. Republican Congressman Steve LaTourette of Lake County agrees that problems at home, more than shrinking support for the President, are the major issue for the Ohio GOP.

Steve LaTourette: It’s going to be tough for Republicans in 2006 not because of the President’s numbers, but because of scandals that have traveled to the statehouse in Columbus.

But at least one other Ohio Republican is less worried about his party’s apparent vulnerability. Senator Mike DeWine, on the receiving end of a strong challenge from Democrat Sherrod Brown of Avon, tosses off concerns over waning GOP support at the state or federal level.

Mike DeWine: You can’t worry about things like that, you know? I’m going to run my own race.

DeWine and other Ohio GOP leaders have yet to visibly distance themselves from the President. Today Vice President Dick Cheney will also be in Ohio to attend a fundraiser for an Ohio Congressional candidate. And like many other Ohio Republicans, state representative Jim Trakas believes the President’s approval rating over the war in Iraq can still bounce back before the November election.

Jim Trakas: I hope that the President will talk about the reasons why we are currently in Iraq. He’s got to talk about the broad picture of the importance of democracy in the Middle East, bringing democracy to a region that’s never had it before and what that means to the American people.

What it may mean to Ohioans still trapped in a lackluster economy is yet to be seen. Karen Schaefer, 90.3.

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