With time running out, John McCain floundered against surging voter support for Barack Obama in Pennsylvania and other battleground states that could determine who wins the presidency Nov. 4.
Thousands of Obama enthusiasts packed the Mellon Arena in Pittsburgh Oct. 27, and another huge crowd turned out on the other end of Pennsylvania in Chester the next day as Obama hammered McCain for proposing hundreds of billions in tax giveaways to the rich when 10,000 working families are losing their homes in foreclosure every month. Obama and running mate Joe Biden were attracting these massive crowds with their message of multiracial and regional unity while Sarah Palin continued divisive comments about “pro-American” versus “anti-American” parts of the country.
An army of volunteers has carried Obama’s message door to door in communities throughout western Pennsylvania.
George Edwards, 90, a leader of the Steelworkers Organization of Active Retirees (SOAR), told the World that SOAR and the AFL-CIO-affiliated Alliance for Retired Americans held a big rally in Pittsburgh featuring Hillary Clinton a few days ago. “She gave a very good speech asking people to support Obama,” said Edwards. “I think Obama is going to carry Pennsylvania. I think this is going to be a sweep, a real turning point in our history, like the election of Franklin Roosevelt.”
Obama has built a powerful grassroots coalition, Edwards continued. “I was around during the election of Roosevelt. He too was put in the White House by a coalition. But this time we have a much better coalition. The labor movement was still weak back then. Now they are a real force.”
“What we need today,” he added, “is a new New Deal that provides jobs and health care for working families.”
Carl Davidson, a lifelong peace and justice activist now retired in blue collar Beaver County, said he has been going door to door with about 100 union members every weekend working for Obama.
“I’ve gotten more confident in the last couple of weeks,” he said. “The main reason is the Wall Street crash. It has caused a lot of older workers to break in Obama’s direction.”
In the primary election, Democratic voters in Beaver County cast their ballots 70 percent for Hillary Clinton and 30 percent for Obama. “So the question is how these Clinton voters will vote Nov. 4,” Davidson said.
Now, more and more people are using the “O” word, he said, meaning they plan to vote for Obama as well as the rest of the Democratic ticket.
A high point was a rally at International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 712 in Vanport. Speakers included AFL-CIO President John Sweeney, United Steelworkers President Leo Gerard, Pennsylvania AFL-CIO President Bill George and retired Steelers linebacker Edmund Nelson. Nelson told the crowd, “I’m for Barack Obama because I hate this war in Iraq.”
Davidson chuckled. “That speech got the loudest applause of all.”
Obama draws his strength from the grassroots, Davidson continued. “It’s three movements coming together — the labor movement, the African American people and the young anti-war Obama volunteers. These young people work their hearts out.”
Obama, he said, “understands the tactics of mass movements. His campaign is very innovative. He is the first presidential candidate who understands the Internet, the power of social networking.”
Without understanding the Internet, Obama would not have won the Iowa caucuses last February, Davidson said.
Obama has used the Internet as a tool of mass organization, mobilization and fundraising. Nearly four million donors have contributed more than $600 million to Obama’s campaign, mostly in amounts under $100. “McCain is doing everything the old time, top down way,” said Davidson, while Obama is out-organizing McCain, carrying his campaign into every battleground state, into states McCain thought were safe. “Obama may carry West Virginia. Polls show it is a toss-up,” Davidson concluded.