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Government and Politics

Tourists visit Ohio for "political lifestyle"
London-based company leads group to show America's election process.
This story is part of a special series.

Karen Kasler

Ohioans have been living the battleground state lifestyle for months. For the next few days, a few tourists are coming from the UK to Ohio just for that experience. Statehouse correspondent Karen Kasler reports.

Listen to Kasler's full story.

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Tourism with a theme isn’t new. But former BBC and New York Times reporter Nicholas Wood felt there was something missing in the tourism industry. 

“It struck me – if you can have art tours, history tours, why can’t you have serious political tours? So we give people, ordinary people the same opportunity you and I have had.”

So Wood launched Political Tours, designed specifically for the political junkies. The company is bringing a small group to Ohio and Washington to look into the 2012 presidential election. 

“We are seeing farmers just a bit north of Columbus. We’re going up to Cleveland; we’re seeing a get out the vote drive, we’re going to a black church, talking to local community members there, we’re going to a UAW local near the Ford plant, talk about the auto bailout and issues that matter to them. Later we’ll be going to Dayton – we’ll be talking to pollsters, how do pollsters actually work.”

And then it’s off to a few days in DC to meet a poll analyst and visit a major newspaper – then on election day they’ll follow more get out the vote efforts and watch exit polls and election returns at a national TV studio. The Ohio leg of the trip is led by veteran reporter Bill Hershey, recently retired from the Dayton Daily News. 

“I’ve covered every presidential campaign in Ohio since 1980, and I was getting some kind of withdrawal syndrome because I wasn’t actively doing it. And Nick called me up a couple of months ago and explained what he was doing and I thought, well, this is kind of like I covered a campaign, and I said, what the heck.”

Wood’s traveling team is just four members – a few dropped out because of bad weather and an injury. Wood says the American political system is interesting and shocking for him to see in action, and wonders if his tour group will think so too. 

”Well, there’s the money that’s spent on it. I’ve got to say the debate in some ways seems incredibly simplistic, and you have to make quite an effort to inform yourself about the issues. The advertising is obviously very pejorative. I find the debate on most TV stations is quite superficial as well, so there’s not a lot of opportunity to actually get down to some really in-depth understanding of what’s going on.”

Wood’s Political Tours is also doing trips to examine the European financial crisis, post-apartheid South Africa and post-war Kosovo. The company is also going to North Korea, and had planned a December trip to Libya – that’s been cancelled because of security concerns.

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