Although U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio ranks ninth nationally
among the nine Democratic presidential candidates in a November CNN
poll, the zeal exhibited by his frequently cheering supporters
during his visit to campus yesterday suggests a popularity the
poll does not show.

Janna Hutz
Democratic presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich marches with protesters at Borders Books and Music on East Liberty Street yesterday after delivering a speech to supporters at the Michigan League. (SETH LOWER/Daily)

Kucinich, the first presidential candidate to campaign at the
University for next year’s election, spoke in the Michigan
League’s Courtyard Garden about Iraq, health care and
tuition, before walking to Borders Books and Music to briefly join
a picket line on East Liberty Street in support of the striking
workers.

Organizers were forced to move the speech outdoors after
supporters filled the hallway outside the already over-crowded room
in the Michigan League.

Kucinich, a former mayor of Cleveland, spent the majority of his
speaking time discussing what he called the Bush
administration’s failure in Iraq. He said if he were to be
elected president, he would withdraw American troops within 90 days
and turn the occupation administration over to the United
Nations.

He added that he was the only candidate to present a
comprehensive plan on how to withdraw U.S. troops while still
maintaining Iraqi stability.

“I stand alone among all presidential candidates. We
cannot continue the occupation of Iraq,” Kucinich said.

“We are very lucky to have a presidential candidate who
understands peace. We all deserve Dennis right now,” said Tom
Schmitz, who is walking 8 to 10 hours a day with three other
Kucinich supporters — including his 14-year-old son Tak
— in the hopes of making it from Maine to California to raise
awareness for Kucinich’s candidacy and their visions for
peace.

Kucinich spoke about America’s role in the world, which he
said is being damaged by the nation’s failure to sign weapon
nonproliferation and environmental treaties. “It’s time
for America to re-join the world,” he said.

But Kucinich also talked about treaties he would immediately
withdraw the U.S. from as president, namely the World Trade
Organization and the North American Free Trade Agreement, which he
believes hurts workers. Instead, he said he would replace NAFTA and
the WTO with fair trade agreements.

After speaking at the Michigan League, Kucinich exited onto
North University Avenue toward Borders, where a train-like line of
loudly chanting supporters formed behind him, drawing the attention
of onlookers as the crowd snaked onto State Street.

At Borders, Kucinich walked a few times in a circle with the
striking workers and student activists before speaking to the crowd
about his belief in workers’ “fundamental” right
to unionize. “This effort will be heard all over the country.
They will know it was students standing for social justice,”
he said.

“I was thrilled with how the event turned out. We had a
great turnout, definitely more than we thought,” said LSA
senior Tessa Ditonto, chair of Students for Kucinich.

“He focused a lot on anti-war, foreign policy isses which
is something I think students care about and want to hear
about,” Ditonto added.

LSA freshmen Melinda Kleczynski said she came to the speech
— which she heard about through an e-mail from the College
Democrats — because she was undecided on which Democratic
candidate to support. After hearing the speech, she wished Kucinich
had discussed a broader range of issues.

“He seems like a really cool guy, but I don’t think
he covered a whole lot in his talk. He focused mainly on (Iraq and
health care),”

Kleczynski said.

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