In Erie visit, Obama zeroes in on economy and war in Iraq
Democratic hopeful attacks Bush failures
By Robert J. McCarthy – News Political Reporter
ERIE, Pa. — If Sen. Barack Obama is to outsmart the pollsters and upset Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton in Tuesday’s Democratic presidential primary election in Pennsylvania, the populist message he preached here Friday must register — and then some.
Obama whipped up a crowd of several thousand students and supporters at Behrend College at Penn State-Erie with constant references to what he called President Bush’s economic failures and presumptive Republican nominee Sen. John McCain’s “more of the same approach.”
He continually zeroed in on economic issues as well as the war in Iraq to draw a sharp contrast with McCain, telling students and residents of this industrial city that those favored by Republican economic policies are thriving while ordinary families are working harder for less.
“When the CEO makes more in a day than the ordinary worker gets in a year, and when the CEO gets great tax breaks and the ordinary worker gets nothing, and when the company goes belly up and the CEO gets a golden parachute and the worker loses his pension,” he said, “then something is wrong.”
….Though he and Clinton have jabbed at each other throughout the last week, he saved most of his ammunition for McCain on Friday as he tried to identify with an area that continues to lose its industrial base.
“Here’s what’s happened since George Bush took office; here’s what John McCain calls ‘great progress,’ ” Obama said. “We went through the first period of sustained economic growth since World War II that saw incomes drop. Eleven million more Americans don’t have health care. Two million more Americans are out of work. Millions of families are facing foreclosure. The poverty rate has gone up. You’re working harder for less, and you’re paying more for tuition, more for groceries, more at the pump. That’s what John McCain calls great progress.”
Obama, who was introduced by Pennsylvania Sen. Robert Casey, repeated some of his standard views in a “town hall meeting” in which he randomly picked six people to ask questions. He reiterated he wanted to abandon the politics that “tears each other down.”
He also explicitly dwelled on his proposals for health care (lower premiums for those who have it, subsidies for those who don’t), tax breaks for “ordinary people who make $75,000 per year,” ending trade agreements that give advantages to countries like China, and new jobs based on clean energy programs.
And when one man on disability asked what he would do for people like him, Obama did not hesitate.
“My first question is always going to be: ‘What can you do for yourself?’ ” he said.
The senator received some of his loudest applause for his statements on ending the war in Iraq.
Audience member Jerry Gorniak, 74, a retired general contractor from Erie, said he was old enough to remember the excitement generated by John F. Kennedy, and believes Obama has exceeded even that.
College students that Obama has rallied to his cause throughout his campaign were on hand Friday. Rae Anne Scully, a freshman international business major from Conneautville, Pa., called him “an inspiration for our generation.”