Obama's journey to Denver takes him through Wis.by Jessica Mador, Minnesota Public Radio
Barack Obama's road to Denver and the Democratic nomination ran through Eau Claire, Wis., yesterday. Economic issues were at the centerpiece of his speech in what is considered a swing state.
Eau Claire, Wis. — The event held at a woodsy hunting and fishing park was small. The campaign bused a few hundred supporters to a lakeside campground, where they enjoyed a barbecue lunch while waiting for the guest of honor.
"The lunch is great. I love barbecue food," said Mark Howe. "I think it's barbecue pork, I haven't tried it yet, but it looks great."
Mark Howe and his buddy came all the way from Minneapolis to see Obama. He says this is the first time he's been this interested in politics.
"I got a call at 10 p.m. last night asking me if I wanted to come here, so that's the kind of stuff that's gotten me really excited about this election," said Howe. "I love volunteering my time for a cause I believe in, but to actually be a part of it and to come to a small event like this where I'm going to be, what, 50 feet away from him, it's pretty amazing for me, a 20 year old."
The barbecue was clearly targeted at the Obama faithful. Most were supporters already. The crowd was overwhelmingly white, with a large number of young people under the age of 30. It seemed the free lunch was a pep rally to energize Obama supporters for the last leg of the campaign.
Obama arrived hungry from a visit to a nearby church.
"I have to tell you, I am starving. I hear you guys have been eating for the last hour. I'm looking for a brat or a burger, or something," said Obama.
After warming up the crowd, Obama got to business. He criticized John McCain as being out of touch with the people of Wisconsin, and he pledged to fight for what he called middle class issues.
"What's going on with people's everyday lives, the folks who are making $20,000 a year or $40,000 a year or $60,000 a year, that are trying to get their kid into college or trying to pay their health care premiums at the end of every month," Obama told the crowd of supporters. "That's who I'm fighting for. That's what built America: that middle class. This election is about you."
The senator promised a tax cut for 95 percent of Americans. He also says he plans to give the middle class three times more tax relief than John McCain's economic plan would provide. He promised to lower health care premiums and emphasize preventive care. He said he will invest in early childhood education, raise teachers salaries and change No Child Left Behind.
And in a state where they are highly prized, Obama was careful to mention his support for gun rights.
Obama ended the day by asking supporters to help get out the vote after this week's Democratic National Convention. This was music to Alta Bragg's ears. The Eau Claire resident says she plans to register voters and visit senior centers, because the stakes this election year are higher than ever.
"What I'm really hoping for with Barack is that he is going to do things differently, I really do," she said. "I really think we need to almost throw out everybody and start in, because there has been so much corruption."
And she says Joe Biden as vice president would help balance Obama's personality.
"I think Biden, he's not such a nice guy. You know, Obama's almost too nice a guy," she sais. "Biden will be much more of an attack dog."
Pundits say Biden can also help Obama win white male voters in states like Wisconsin. Recent polls show Obama and McCain running neck and neck in the state.
After the barbecue, Obama headed to Chicago. He plans to make stops in Iowa, Kansas City, Mo., and Montana this week, before arriving in Denver for the DNC.
- Morning Edition, 08/25/2008, 7:20 a.m.