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Obama, Biden bring ‘change’ tour to Michigan


BATTLE CREEK, August 31, 2008 (AP): Thousands of mid-Michigan residents decked out in T-shirts and shorts to deal with the summer heat gave Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama and running mate Joe Biden an enthusiastic welcome Sunday as they spoke about their plans for making life easier for struggling workers.


``Folks, if I walked out of this ballpark, down Michigan and back, I bet I wouldn't run into a single person who thought our economy was strong today, unless I bumped into John McCain,'' Biden said, referring to Obama's Republican rival. Many in the crowd booed at the mention of McCain's name.

Polls show the race between Obama and McCain is tight in Michigan, one reason Obama and Biden made the state one of the first stops on their ``On the Road to Change'' tour. With the state unemployment rate at 8.5 percent and the domestic auto industry many of them worked for struggling to stay afloat, the crowd listened intently to Obama's call for change.

Speaking for about 25 minutes, Obama laid out his plan for tax breaks, health care coverage, education and new jobs for the middle class, and got an approving cheer when he said he would withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq. He also tried to counter the deluge of critical ads McCain has been running in Michigan.

``Don't believe those ads you see saying I'll raise taxes, because your taxes will go down,'' he said, going into a litany of what many listening to him are facing.

``I'm tired of reading about ten thousand jobs leaving and twenty thousand jobs leaving ... and no one thinking about what we can do about job creation,'' he said.

After speaking about the preparations being made as Hurricane Gustav bears down on the Gulf Coast, Obama noted that ``we've got a quiet storm that's moving through communities all across America, including right here in Battle Creek.

``It's harder to save, it's harder to retire. People are working harder for less,'' he said. ``People are putting up with a lot of stuff even though their government isn't listening to them. They're not whining.''

He wrapped up with a plea to work for his campaign.

``I've got to have you,'' he said. ``You've got to realize the power in your hands, and if you work with me, I promise you we're not going to just win Michigan, we're going to win the White House.''

Michigan Republican Chairman Saul Anuzis, in Minneapolis-St. Paul awaiting Monday's subdued start of the Republican National Convention, took a poke at Obama, who took his name off Michigan's Democratic primary ballot and didn't campaign in the state until May.

``I'm glad to see Obama back in Michigan getting to know our issues. However, Obama's policies are very similar to (Gov. Jennifer) Granholm's, which failed in Michigan and offer little hope nationally,'' Anuzis said in an e-mail to The Associated Press.

McCain and running mate Sarah Palin plan to make their first joint post-convention appearance at a 5 p.m. Friday rally in Sterling Heights. The event at Freedom Hill Amphitheatre will give Michigan residents their first chance to see Palin in person.

At the Obama rally Sunday in Battle Creek, Michigan Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow praised Obama and Biden, saying they ``understand we're in a fight for our way of life in Michigan.''

Obama fans crammed into bleacher seats and stood in the outfield of C.O. Brown Stadium for hours to see the first black American to win a major party's presidential nomination and Biden, a Delaware senator with blue-collar roots.

The Battle Creek appearance kicked off two days of campaigning in Michigan on their ``On the Road to Change'' tour. On Monday, Obama spoke at Detroit's Labor Day parade and attended a  barbecue in Monroe.

The four-state trip, which started Friday in Pennsylvania, was the pair's first post-convention appearance together. It was intended to shore up support in the critical Midwestern battleground states of Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, and included a brief stop Sunday at a restaurant in Hamilton, Ind.

In a Toledo, Ohio stop earlier in the day at one of the nation’s premier libraries, Obama pledged to help businesses that would bring new alternative energy and high-tech auto jobs to these struggling industrial states. Stabenow said that was what Michigan residents wanted to hear.

``They understand that it's about jobs, jobs, jobs,'' she said of Obama and Biden.

The Twin Connection at Obama’s Town Hall at Toledo’s Main Library, 8-31-08; L-R: Laura Espy-Bell, an MUO resident, has an identical twin sister; Rhonda Sewell, Library spokeswoman, has 8-year-old fraternal twin daughters; and Kristian Brown, WTVG Channel 13 anchor gave birth four months ago to identical twin daughters. Felicidades!

Among the fans was Karla Harrington of Potterville, who proudly showed off an Obama logo painted on her leg cast. She said her son-in-law, Mike Ward of Lansing, added it to her cast.

``They're supposed to take it off in two weeks and I'm not going to let them,'' joked Harrington, who recently had foot surgery. ``If I have to be in misery, at least I can advertise Obama.''

She said she hasn't been so excited about a leader since the days of John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. The 57-year-old already has held a house party to draw more Obama supporters and said she has contacted at least 300 people urging them to support the Illinois senator. She plans to campaign even harder once the cast is removed.

``We need him,'' Harrington said.

Editor’s Note: Kathy Barks Hoffman heads the Lansing AP bureau and has covered Michigan politics since 1986.


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