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Intrepid political junkies become Ohio tourists

Associated Press Modified: November 2, 2012 at 3:31 pm •  Published: November 2, 2012

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Some people climb Mount Everest or raft the Colorado River. Dorothy Button has chosen a different sort of adventure destination: Ohio amid a U.S. presidential election.

Visiting the farms, churches and union halls of the Midwest might not seem exotic to Americans, but Button is among a small band of international travelers who spent thousands of dollars, crossed oceans and braved superstorm Sandy to get here.

The 70-year-old former wife to the late Australian senator John Button is positively giddy about her trip to the much-talked-about bellwether state in the contest between Democratic President Barack Obama and Republican Mitt Romney.

The trip was organized by Political Tours, which specializes in current affairs travel.

"I just Googled in 'political tours' or something like this, and up came Political Tours. I went, 'Oh my god, this is real,'" she said. "I thought that's exactly what I want to do. Because I wanted to come over here to understand how you actually get people to go to the polls, because we have compulsory voting in Australia, and I'm curious to see the ballot papers, what's on the ballot papers, and to see people go to the voting booths."

Her group is on an eight-day itinerary visiting union leaders, ministers, farmers, teachers and activists across the state.

Their tour also works in a lecture by University of Akron political scientist John Green; visits with the state Democratic and Republican chairmen; a chat with journalists in the newsroom of the state's largest paper, The Plain Dealer of Cleveland; and a one-on-one with a political pollster.

Their tour leader, former New York Times foreign correspondent Nicholas Wood, created Political Tours to give avid current affairs followers a front row seat to locations around the world. He has conceived tours about Greece and the euro; Libya after the revolution; the banking crisis in the United Kingdom; and North Korea after the death of Kim Jung Il.

"The subjects we look at are very diverse, but the key thing is we try to give people firsthand access to the leading issues in current affairs," he said.

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