At crunch time in U.S. presidential elections, the perennial swing state of Ohio gets plenty of attention, blitzed by the candidates and their volunteers. But this time, Ohioans are also being courted from some unusual, far-flung places.
From the west African desert nation of Mauritania, an illiterate 78-year-old woman has been bombarding her nephew in Cincinnati with phone calls urging him to spread the word that Americans shouldn't vote for George Bush. Khadijeto Mint Vall prays five times a day for the president's defeat.
"Allah the powerful must get rid of Bush," she said as she shopped at a dusty market in the capital Nouakchott for vegetables, dates and milk.
In a similar vein from a decidedly different quarter, a left-leaning British newspaper recently hit its readers with a clarion call: "You might help decide who takes up residence in the White House" -- and encouraged them to lobby voters in Ohio.
They have no vote Nov. 2, but non-Americans the world over are going to unprecedented lengths to influence the outcome.
Much of the reason is Bush himself. Even before the Iraq war, his resistance to the Kyoto Protocol on climate control and the international war crimes court was costing him friends abroad. By invading Iraq without United Nations' approval, he has in some eyes become the avatar of a disturbing image: The world's sole superpower run amok.
A slew of opinion polls show that, if the world could vote, John Kerry would win in a landslide. But Bush has his overseas campaigners, too.
Take Ronie Berggren and Erik Bylund, two Swedes who saved up this summer and autumn to pay for a trip through Pennsylvania and Ohio to drum up support for Bush.
"Bush's politics are great," Berggren said.
"Terrorists must be fought because it's the only way to defend democracy in the long run," he added. "We want to show the Americans that they do not stand alone in this fight."
The Internet is giving people everywhere a loud voice -- offering sites at which surfers can cast a mock vote -- and a means to act.
Choi Dae-hoon -- part of a Web-based anti-Bush campaign in South Korea -- said his group has been asking South Koreans to write to relatives in the United States urging them not to vote for Bush. "Elect a madman, you get madness," says their Web site.
A four-week Internet poll by Malaysiakini, the best-known independent news Web site in Malaysia, resulted in 60.59 percent of the 7,991 votes for Kerry, 27.69 for Bush and 11.71 for independent Ralph Nader.
Eric Ossemig, 38, an former Army soldier from Flagstaff, Ariz., who has lived in the Southeast Asian country for 14 years, had promised to cast his real-life ballot according to the outcome.
"It will be my honor to vote on your behalf," he said.
'Are we all Americans?'
In a medieval village perched on a hill in the Italian region of Tuscany, a group of writers, artists and professors are organizing their own mock U.S. elections, to be held Oct. 31.
They announced the initiative in a news release titled: "Are we all Americans? The first American elections for non-Americans."
The pitch is a nod to the headline of an editorial that appeared the day after Sept. 11, 2001, in the daily Corriere della Sera: "We are all Americans."
By the logic of that phrase, said screenwriter Michele Cogo, "Why shouldn't the Italians vote for the elections, too?"
"The planet's destiny is decided in large part by America," he said.
The Guardian's crusade
Then there's the Guardian, reaching out to voters in Ohio's Clark County -- a swing county in a swing state.
In the campaign launched Oct. 13, the newspaper told readers they could log onto its Web site, put in an e-mail address and receive the name and address of an unaffiliated voter taken from the electoral roll.
Some Guardian readers have expressed concern that the campaign could backfire. If replies American voters have sent to The Guardian are any indication, they may have a point.
"Hey England, Scotland and Wales, mind your own business," an American wrote in a letter published on the newspaper's Web site. "We don't need weenie-spined Limeys meddling in our presidential election."