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 11:30 AM  Tommy builds support in Oskaloosa

Different town, same pitch.

After laying out his story and platform to a group of about 40 at the Smokey Row Coffee House in Oskaloosa, Thompson appears to have won over at least a few likely straw poll voters.

Thompson made his address in a small back room of the coffee and beverage and sandwich shop that featured nostalgia-covered brick walls and a rustic hardwood floor. The shop is adjacent to the town's market square, which features verdant lawns and a historic band shell that is the very definition of Americana.

Robert Sandor, a 20-something from Oskaloosa who was videotaping the event for a local public television station, said he was impressed by Thompson's pitch even though he's a Democrat.

"I'm not usually very impressed when I hear a Republican who comes to town," Sandor said.

"But I have to admit, he actually had a lot of good things, actually, that he said."

Oskaloosa's Angie Binns, 51, said Thompson changed her opinion about his viability as a candidate and called him "incredibly believable."

"You look at this guy and you can see he means what he says," Binns said. "Almost all of the issues he expressed, as far as I'm concerned, he hit right on the money."

However, she said she didn't agree with Thompson's labeling of the Iraq war as a civil war, but said "he addressed that issue very, very well."

Binns said Thompson likely will get her vote in the straw poll. "I'm surprised," she said. "I did not come in here expecting to say that."

Eleanor Coster, 72, of New Sharon, said she listened to Mitt Romney when he visited yesterday and described him as "glib."

"I wasn't terribly impressed, but I am impressed with Governor Thompson," she said.

Coster added that she wasn't considering voting for Thompson in the straw poll before today, but now, she said, "I think I will."

"I think he comes across to me as being very sincere, and that's what I really value," Coster said.

But not everyone was equally impressed. TJ Sandin, 21, of New Sharon, said he thought Thompson answered some of the questions asked in a "roundabout way" and was disappointed he didn't get to ask one. However, Sandin was able to catch Thompson as he walked out and asked him about bio-fuels and alternative energy.

Before leaving, some of the campaign workers considered having Thompson visit the classic car show being held on the market square, but there wasn't enough time.

-- By David Wise


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