Notes From the Mahoning Valley
By Alec MacGillis
YOUNGSTOWN -- Ohio's economically depressed Mahoning Valley has no shortage of white working-class voters of the sort with whom Hillary Clinton hopes to do well, which is likely why she campaigned here three times in the past few weeks. Some observations from visiting the region:
1. College kids may be with Barack Obama elsewhere, but that's less the case in places where even the optimism of youth can be overcome by harsh economic realities. Students watching election returns at a pizzeria opposite Youngstown State University here snorted when images of Obama came on the screen, and said they had not voted in the primary because they did not care much for either candidate.
"How can you be president if you don't say the Pledge of Allegiance? How can you not swear on the Bible?" said Patrick Smith, 22, a Youngstown native studying hospitality management, repeating, in exaggerated form, not one but two false allegations about Obama that have been virally circulating on the Internet.
His friend Conrad Sander, 19, a pre-medical student from nearby Canfield, said he had seen about 20 minutes of Obama's speech on a recent visit to Youngstown State but had not been impressed. "I don't think he's true to his word. I don't see anything in his background to back up what he's saying," he said. "There are too many promises. It's a speech about promises."
Sitting at a nearby table, Adrian Hubler, a 25-year-old MBA student, chimed in in agreement. "In an ideal world, with no constraints, sure, then you could do it," she said. Obama, she said dismissively, had been visiting so many college campuses because he was looking for "young idealists" to buy his pitch. She wasn't one of them.
2. The notion that Republicans are voting for Hillary Clinton because Rush Limbaugh told them she would be an easier opponent for John McCain is no mere myth. Mark Adovasio, a campus police officer, said he was planning to vote for McCain in the fall but voted for Clinton today, using Limbaugh's logic: "A lot of people say that McCain's got a better chance against Hillary." Pulling the lever for Clinton was hard, he added. "I thought I would never do that," he said.
3. Working-class white voters in Ohio are a tougher nut to crack for Obama than were their equivalents in Wisconsin, where he held his own among that demographic. The reports in the past few days about Obama's economic adviser assuring Canadian officials that Obama's anti-NAFTA rhetoric was partly just politics did not help. At Clinton's office here, working-class voters who had come out to make phone calls on her behalf settled on a phrase to describe Obama's NAFTA stance: "a double cross."
Web Politics Editor
March 4, 2008; 8:07 PM ET
Categories: Barack Obama , Hillary Rodham Clinton , Primaries , The Democrats
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