With Republican eyes on the convention in St. Paul, Minn., Barack Obama was in the key state of Ohio — picking up a trip through the Midwest that he had scaled back because of Hurricane Gustav.
Gabrielle Nevin, a single mom and student, set the tone for the event on the Kent State University Tuscarawas campus, introducing Obama through her own story.
"I believe this man right here, Barack Obama, understands my struggle because he has seen it firsthand, as he was raised by a single mother who was juggling school and work," Nevin said. "And I heard he has a plan to help women like me."
More than 200 people — mostly women — turned out for the invitation-only event on the economy, set in a campus garden courtyard. Obama evoked the experiences of Nevin, his own mother, his grandmother and even his two daughters in drawing out his connections to issues that affect working women.
"We still have a situation where women are making 77 cents to every dollar that a man makes on the job. That's why what I've said is that when I am president of the United States, we are going to pass equal pay for equal work," Obama said. "It is a simple principle. It is a basic principle. It is one we are going to make sure is in place when I am president."
Obama followed that up with a hit list of economic platform issues, including his pledge to cut taxes for 95 percent of the middle class, and his plan to generate jobs for the economy by spending federal dollars on boosting green technology and rebuilding America's roads, bridges and other aging infrastructure.
"If people tell you we can't do it, you just remember that we are spending $10 billion a month in Iraq when the Iraqis have $79 billion in surplus that they have parked in a New York bank account and are getting interest for. I don't think that makes much sense," Obama said.
Obama battled over women voters with Hillary Clinton in the primaries and will likely face another challenge with the introduction of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin to the GOP ticket. Obama managed not to utter Palin's name more than twice all day, although it was clear that the Republican vice presidential nominee wasn't too far from his mind.
"People ask me, 'What have you learned about America as you have traveled through 49 states?' The one I've missed was Alaska, and I'm thinking now I should have gone up there," he said.
Later in the day, Obama attended a barbecue across the state. He stood before hay bales and sunflowers doubled over from the heat, and he gave rural voters an earful about his rivals.
"Everybody talked about John McCain's biography," he said. "But nobody talked about how are you going to make the middle class more stable and more solid, and how are you going to create jobs and how are you going to grow the economy? Nobody talked about that. And I wouldn't either, I guess, if I had the same record they had over the last eight years."
Voters here say Obama will need to keep up those jabs if he wants to win over the state his predecessor failed to capture in the past few general elections.