MELISSA BLOCK, Host:
Tonight, Barack Obama will be addressing the party faithful. Starting tomorrow, though, he and his running mate, Joe Biden, will face a tougher audience. They're planning a joint bus trip through Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan, all battleground states where those financial worries that Michele just mentioned are issue number one.
Obama and Biden will be stressing bread-and-butter economics as NPR's Scott Horsley reports.
SCOTT HORSLEY: Pennsylvania, where Barack Obama travels tomorrow, is home to a lot of blue-collar workers who aren't yet sold on his platform. That's one reason Joe Biden was chosen to help balance the ticket. Biden, the son of a Scranton car dealer, wasted no time last night telling working-class Democrats he is one of them.
BLOCK: I'm here for everyone I grew up with in Scranton and Wilmington. I'm here for the cops and the firefighters, the teachers and the assembly-line workers, the folks whose lives are the very measure of whether the American dream endures.
HORSLEY: Biden stressed that Obama has also worked his way up. Raised by a single mom, Obama passed up a lucrative career on Wall Street to work instead as a community organizer and later, a state senator.
BLOCK: And because Barack Obama made that choice, working families in Illinois pay less taxes and more people have moved from welfare to the dignity of work, and he got it done.
HORSLEY: Democrats are counting on those biographical details to make a connection with blue-collar voters that Obama's policy prescriptions haven't. Obama has promised not to raise taxes on anyone making less than $200,000 a year. But Republican John McCain is still running ads like this one, claiming he's the watchdog of the working class wallet.
(SOUNDBITE OF POLITICAL AD)
U: If elected president, Obama's promises would mean even more taxes, painful taxes when times are tough enough.
HORSLEY: According to the Tax Policy Center in Washington, 80 percent of American families would do better under Obama's tax plan. Only the wealthiest 20 percent would pad their pocketbooks more under McCain's proposal. Nevertheless, McCain told an audience in Racine, Wisconsin last month, the benefits of his tax cuts would, in effect, trickle down.
BLOCK: I'm going to keep current tax rates low and cut others and not because I want to make the rich richer, but because it keeps jobs in America and it creates new ones.
HORSLEY: Obama's campaign has tried to counter that argument with a little history. Obama adviser Jared Bernstein of the Economic Policy Institute notes the U.S. added 22 million jobs while Bill Clinton was president and tax rates were similar to those Obama has proposed. That's almost four times as many jobs that were added during the tax-cutting tenure of George Bush.
BLOCK: Twenty-two million in the '90s, 5.6 million in the 2000s. That, by the way, that 2000s record, the worst record for job growth in the history of this data going back to 1939.
HORSLEY: Democrats insist McCain would merely extend President Bush's lackluster economic record. But the charge hasn't necessarily stuck. McCain is running close behind Obama in Pennsylvania and slightly ahead in Ohio. The Arizona senator's tax-cutting promise is a simpler sell than Obama's more nuanced policy.
And McCain has also hit a nerve with his newfound energy prescription, Drill Here, Drill Now. Montana's Democratic Governor Brian Schweitzer tried to shatter McCain's drill bit at the convention this week, while poking fun at the senator's inability to remember how many houses he owns.
G: If you drilled in all of John McCain's backyard, even the ones he doesn't know he has...
(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERING)
G: ...that single answer proposition is a dry well.
HORSLEY: McCain's gaffe about his seven houses, like his comment that rich begins at $5 million, could provide the kind of useful bumper-sticker shorthand Democrats have been looking for as they reach beyond the Obama fans at Mile High Stadium and try to win over skeptical, working-class voters living a lot closer to the ground.
Scott Horsley, NPR News.
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