Face-Time, Local Style

Sometimes, it pays to see a story through a fresh pair of eyes. The candidates certainly hope so.

George Bush made his 17th visit to Ohio yesterday, stopping in heavily Democratic Youngstown to promote the role of community health centers in caring for the uninsured.

During his 45-minute campaign-style “conversation,” Bush said he was working to ensure that “the patient-doctor relationship is the center of health care decision-making, not Washington, D.C.” His visit came on the heels of a trip two weeks earlier by his rival John Kerry, who also touted his own efforts to make health care more affordable.

Today, the national media duly reported all the above. The Washington Post’s Mike Allen also took note of the apparent coincidence of the Youngstown visits by both candidates. The New York Times’ David Sanger wrote that Mr. Bush’s appearance “underscored how intent his campaign was to show that the war had not distracted him from the everyday concerns of voters.” And the Los Angeles Times’ Edwin Chen and Vicki Kemper wrote that the Republicans were not about “to cede the [health-care] issue to Democrats during the presidential campaign.”

All well and good.

This morning, however, readers of the Tribune Chronicle in nearby Warren, Ohio, got a decidedly different angle on the visit.

Reporter Stephen Oravecz captures a funny, down-home candidate being upstaged by one of his hand-picked guests. He notes that Youngstown Mayor George McKelvey, a Democrat, asked to be seated next to the president when they dined together last night at the White House. (McKelvey declined a free trip back on Air Force One.) Oravecz’s colleague, Christina Vanoverbeke, nicely captured the scene outside the theater where Bush appeared, with protestors and supporters squaring off. And, as any good hometown reporter knows, the more quotes from local residents, the better.

The national media are always along for the ride when George Bush and John Kerry hit the road, but it’s the local coverage generated by those visits that explains why the candidates are crisscrossing the country to grab face-time with the voters.

Susan Q. Stranahan

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Susan Q. Stranahan wrote for CJR.