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Campaign Extremes in the Ohio-Kentucky Heartland

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Only the Ohio River separates Ohio from Kentucky, but the two states are a world apart in this election. Ohio is trumpeted as the must-win state for Obama and McCain, with millions of dollars pouring in and near-hysterical media coverage of the Ohio voters' every whim and poll shift. Just a few miles south, we in Kentucky watch the candidates criss-cross Ohio on a daily basis, and are exhorted to help get out the vote -- in Ohio. Teams of Kentuckians car-pool north across the river to help with door-to-door leafleting and phone-banking -- in Ohio.

Meanwhile people like Sue Koplowitz and her brave band of Obama supporters in London, Kentucky, can't get the basics -- the buttons, posters and T-shirts essential to even the most meager grassroots campaign. Irritation about this imbalance can get personal. A day after I got back from reporting on the 9-person Obama rally and Democratic Women's Club booth in London, my son Oliver called me at 8:30 a.m. from Columbus, Ohio, where he is a student.

Though not usually up at that hour, he was wide awake: "Mom! I just voted for Obama!" Filled with the surly envy of Kentuckians for the more fortunate, I listened to his description of camping out overnight in tents on the sidewalk so that he and about twenty-five other students could be among the first to vote ahead of the November 4 Election Day.

In his words:

At around 8AM, we scrummed in front of the door, fresh coffee and donuts brought by our field organizer in our hands--and bolted through the opening door to the Ohio State cheer of "OH--IO"!

The voting process went smoothly, with only mild stress from the slowness of the computers. I walked over and took my place at a booth, the one across from a fellow volunteer. As I passed her, I cleared my throat significantly. She looked up at me. Across the tops of the booths, she put her fist out.

"Terrorist fist jab," she said, and we punched fists.

And so I filled in my first-ever presidential ballot: For Barack Obama.

(That was Tuesday. On Wednesday morning, I watched him cast this very same vote on Keith Olbermann's MSNBC "Countdown.")

In the grip of election envy I took to the internet last night, seeking information about the largely invisible, unfunded campaign silently raging in Laurel County, the rural Kentucky area I visited last weekend. A good place to get a measure of local opinion is via the online community forums that have sprung up nationwide. Variously named "Topix," "City Guide," etc., these forums provide every little town and city with an electronic place to share want ads, gossip, and political debate. I had recently seen ugly -- undeniably racist -- stuff about Obama on one of these forums, so I logged on with apprehension last night. But again, my preconceptions about rural Kentucky soon flew out the window.

Yes, there are the goofy and lurid threads you'd expect:

Who is the cutest 3rd shift employee at Wal-mart?

lesbians at the chicken festival

Does Ur Pastor Peddle The Word Of God For Profit

i wanna fight Lloyd smith and bryan hughes

Not to mention this melancholy cry:

Can a truck driver be faithful?

Scrolling through 200 of the 6901 threads, I also found:

whats ur thoughts about obama

Sarah Beautiful Palin

Want more of the same? Vote John McCain!

McCain was a "Fortunate Son"

Obama raised funds for Islamic causes!!!!!!!

Here I found a universe of lively debate with every shade of political opinion. Even though the posters are anonymous (though most are well-known locally and occasionally outed by name), I saw no outpouring of race hatred. Below is a non-scientific, heavily selective, Obama-focused sampling of what I found. Please keep in mind that these folks are not as elite as huffingtonpost regulars, and tend to use grammatical and text shortcuts. From the 'whats ur thoughts about Obama' thread:

-- What has happened, are these NOBAMA people deaf and dumb? He is racist, antigun and ani-AMERICAN. Look at him he is still clinging to the 60's, and look at the church he and, his family has attended for many years, and I can't believe any true American would even consider this idiot. His wife is the same, with comment's like, I'M NOT PROUD OF MY COUNTRY IN MY ADULT LIFE. How many American's would have even considered after 9-11, especially one associated with anything this guy is, one being his religion!!!! DO your research they hate True Americans. If this guy is elected you people will not have a way to protect your home or family, because, he is the most anti- gun presidential candidate in history, so might as well leave your house unlocked. The thugs, druggies will have a free for all, because all the law abiding people will not have a way to protect their families or property. So you all keep following this idiot.

-- What ROCK do you live under? The thugs and druggies are already having a free for all.

-- Obama kicked McCain's butt tonight.. He' got my vote..

-- I agree. McCain is too old and he used very bad judgement when he chose Palin for a running mate. She is NOT prepared to be president, though she will be a heartbeat away if McCain is elected. Obama is a very intelligent man and will definitely get my vote.

-- Tell us how much are you getting for you vote? I think obama is only paying $10.

-- I'm not getting payed anything. Just use common sense Obama is a all around better person. McCain will not change anything except making the rich richer.

-- hes paying $1000.00 all you have to do is get him elected and next if you are black you will get it, the whites will be all slaves and not allowed to have cash

-- i dont care if nobomma is green or purple he is still a terrorist no way i would vote for him

-- wow you believe he's a terrorist? people can't run for president if they're not u.s. citizens and a threat to someone else. i guess you can believe anything you wish if it keeps you're sad little world of fear from falling apart.

Following a protracted and chaotic yet articulate exchange about abortion, homosexuality, rights and freedoms, comes this great put-down:

put your white nike's on drink your koolaid the mothership is right behind the comet waiting for you.

The 'Sarah Beautiful Palin' thread is waaay gross, but here are two excellent family-friendly comments:

Don't you Nazi have anything better to do at 430 am????? Your boy lost the debate so get over it.

Sara Palin came across as a complete dolt in yesterdays interviews. She is way out of her league. Even some of conservative supporters are suggesting she withdraw. She makes Bush look brilliant.

Dig this slash-and-burn exchange from the 'Obama raised funds' thread:

Obama raised funds for Islamic causes ...

Even if this were true WHO CARES!! I am a registered Republican and right now I am so ashamed of this party that I will be voting for a Democrat in November. This is a time in our country when we need to band together and try to fix our economic nightmare, not twist facts and lie about a presidential candidate. At this point I could care less about how many houses John McCain has or if Barack Obama supports islamic causes. All I want to know is how these two men intend to fix all of the problems with this country. Because if we make this election about democrats and republicans, black vs white, man vs woman, then the only people we will hurt is ourselves.

In sum, I am happy to report that the Presidential campaign is alive and well in Laurel County Kentucky! I'll give the last word to this sardonic poster:

Bill Clinton made my cow go dry and he made the whole state have a drought.