Both Parties Using RVs to Reach Ohio Voters

September 7, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Southwest Ohio’s two political candidates running for statewide office have to log a lot of miles if they’re going to reach voters in 88 counties and in cities more than five hours away.

So Republican Senate candidate Rob Portman and Democrat auditor candidate David Pepper are hitting the road this campaign season in recreation vehicles, the Cincinnati Enquirer reported.

RVs let them stretch out on a couch, phone in one hand, IPad in the other. They can sleep. Heck, they can even go to the bathroom.

“It just makes sense,” said Pepper, whose 29-foot RV is painted in red and black with his campaign slogan, “Shake Things Up – Just add Pepper.”

“With an RV, you’re doing so much more than just driving somewhere.”

These RVs are no stereotypical throwback to the 1970s camper. Instead, they’re a combination campaign office and mobile billboard. Pepper has boxes of T-shirts and stacks of yard signs piled in the back.

RVs as mobile campaign offices have been around for years in Ohio. Gov. Ted Strickland and Sherrod Brown hopped on the Heartland RV Tour through rural Ohio just before the 2008 election, touting President Obama’s candidacy. This year Strickland’s brother Roger Strickland is hitting the campaign trail in the Sportsmen for Strickland RV.

More and more candidates are using them, said Phil Ingrassia, a spokesman for the Virginia-based Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA). “They’re a convenient way to travel while campaigning — or really for any kind of travel.”

Portman did an RV tour last year and liked it so much he leased a 21-foot Chevrolet Coachmen. Campaign officials won’t say how much it costs, but publicly filed campaign reports show that April through June — the most recent reports available — he spent $24,381 on the RV lease and other costs like the graphic detailing. Portman’s campaign did say he’s racked up 11,000 miles since May.

Pepper has trekked 5,000 miles in his Tioga Class C motorhome in just a month, he says. He leased it for $8,500 for the campaign.

Portman faces Democrat Lee Fisher in U.S. Senate seat; Pepper faces Republican Dave Yost in the state auditor’s race. Both Portman and Pepper say the RVs are attention-grabbers.

A candidate can walk in a parade and they look like every other candidate. Walk behind these behemoths painted with campaign slogans and suddenly they’re memorable.

Portman finds himself giving tours. Supporters sign their name on the side.

Portman, whose RV touts the message “Jobs for Ohio,” has been asked for help in people’s job hunts.

“It makes you realize how serious this campaign is,” Portman said.

Most reaction has been positive, they said.

One man was so impressed that Pepper was gassing up himself, he treated Pepper to a Diet Coke.

It’s not unusual to get a thumbs up from other drivers as the RV rolls by.

Just once did Portman’s driver see the “single finger wave.”

Pepper, whose been known to climb behind the wheel himself, said there’s one thing he’s always mindful of – his driving.

“The last thing you want to do is lose votes by cutting somebody off,” Pepper said.

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