Obama Chides McCain On Economy
ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
Barack Obama spent time this week in states that he failed to win in the primaries. Places like Indiana and Ohio where many white working class voters did not back him. Well now with less than four weeks to Election Day, many of those voters are showing up at Obama rallies. NPR's David Greene chatted with some of them as he followed the Democratic nominee.
DAVID GREENE: Obama gave his stump speech this week at the muddy Indiana State Fairgrounds. This is where I met James Thompson. He'd been listening to Obama from a distance away from the crowd. He handed me his business card through a fence.
Mr. JAMES THOMPSON: Well, I'm a handyman.
GREENE: Turns out, a self-employed handyman.
Mr. THOMPSON: I assist the do-it-yourselfer. I tried to create a recession-proof business about eight years ago. And it's working.
GREENE: For people who are doing like working on their houses and stuff like that...
Mr. THOMPSON: Yes, I help them.
GREENE: James is 49 and as a handyman in Indiana, he's the kind of voter Obama struggled to connect with earlier this year. But James says he'll vote for Obama. He says it's been touching to hear Obama talk about his mom and her losing battle with ovarian cancer.
Mr. THOMPSON: I mean, my father died when I was young and so that kind of gives me more - I feel he's of that cloth that I'm from, man. You know, I feel like I connect with that. I can't connect with John McCain. That's why we're here today.
GREENE: If Obama can keep getting people like James on board, it could bode well for the Democrat. And as people have become more worried about the economy, Obama's turned more personal, talking about his mom, his family and about how he feels like the product of an American dream that he wants to protect.
Senator BARACK OBAMA (Democratic Presidential Nominee): Thank you. It is good to be back in Dayton.
GREENE: He spent time this week in Indiana and then Ohio, both red states and both states he lost in the primaries.
Senator OBAMA: We're going to win this election and you and I together, we're going to change this country and change the world. Thank you everybody. God bless you and God bless...
GREENE: Obama says he's superstitious. He avoids phrases like when I'm president as if to say I'm not there yet.
(Soundbite of song "Signed, Sealed, Delivered")
Mr. STEVIE WONDER: (Singing) Here I am, signed, sealed, delivered, I'm yours.
GREENE: OK. That song does end every event. But to be fair, the campaign has been using it for months, including at a rally this week in Dayton where I met Larry Spanky(ph). He is a carpenter.
Mr. LARRY SPANKY (Carpenter): Well, at the moment, I'm laid off but I'm expecting to start work another week or two as...
GREENE: Larry voted for John Edwards back during the primaries. But now he's an Obama guy. He says he's over the talk about Obama not connecting with working people.
Mr. SPANKY: I think it was a bunch of baloney, really. I think that they were talking down to people and I think that most people would prefer to have somebody that is intelligent, that can speak...
GREENE: As for the elitist label some give to Obama...
Mr. SPANKY: The people talk about him being elite, but you know, who wants a president that isn't elite? We want to have elite military forces, we want to have elite athletes, you know, I think we really need to have an elite president.
Senator OBAMA: How are you? What's your name? Holly?
HOLLY: That's me.
Senator OBAMA: Good to see you. I am going to have a piece of coconut cream pie.
GREENE: Yesterday Obama made a pit stop at a diner in Georgetown, Ohio and reality intervened. One customer Terry Hunley was finishing her fried shrimp and french fries when Obama came to shake her hand. She smiled. Snapped photos of Obama on her cell phone. As for voting for him...
Ms. TERRY HUNLEY: No. Probably not.
GREENE: Why not?
Ms. HUNLEY: Well, I don't know why. I'd rather not say, just, I'm a McCain fan.
GREENE: A few more handshakes later, Obama was on his way again to his next stop an hour up the road. David Greene, NPR News traveling with the Obama campaign.