Obama, Clinton intensify pursuit of white working class
His big lead in North Carolina slips heading into May 6 primary; exodus of whites cited.
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That seemed to mollify many supporters who had turned out in Winston-Salem to hear Obama speak, but some voiced concern about the long-term impact of the Wright controversy.Skip to next paragraph
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"It may affect some people, so we need to get the information out about his policies and stands," says Sheila Fleming of East Bend, N.C. She is white and had been a Republican for 48 years, but says Obama prompted her to switch parties.
Later Tuesday, at a packed high school gym in Hickory, N.C., Obama continued to reach out to working-class voters. He called for creation of green jobs and again insisted that the gas-tax holiday backed by Clinton and presumptive GOP nominee John McCain is a "gimmick" that would save Americans about $28 to $30 over the summer.
"That's about $9 a month.… We have to have some truth-telling in this campaign," he told a rapt crowd. "The crisis families are facing is real … but it's not just gas. It's buying eggs and a loaf a bread." Instead of giving a hiatus from the federal gasoline tax, Congress should enact the $1,000-a-year middle-class tax cut proposed in the Senate last September, Obama said.
Clinton, also crisscrossing North Carolina this week, says the gas-tax holiday would give immediate relief to frustrated motorists and contends that Obama's opposition shows he is out of touch. At a rally here in Salisbury, she portrayed herself as a fighter who understood better than Obama the challenges facing working Americans.
"I'm running for president to stand up for you, because I think you need somebody who's a champion in the White House," she told a cheering crowd.
McIntyre, for one, likes that feistiness in Clinton. So does Guy Fisher, a retired minister who was also at the Salisbury rally. He's voting for Clinton, and his wife is supporting Obama. But unlike McIntyre, Mr. Fisher says he will vote for Obama in November if he's the Democratic nominee.
"Whichever one, it's time for a change," he says.
Tight-lipped North Carolinians
While Obama is favored to win North Carolina, political analysts here note that the state can be unpredictable, in part because people don't always tell pollsters or reporters what they're really thinking. That's particularly true, they say, when race is an issue.
"That has been a factor here, but I don't think race is going to be as significant as it was several decades ago," says Thad Beyle, a political scientist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. "We have much more easygoing discussions now."
Other analysts aren't so confident, pointing to the faces at each candidate's rallies. At Clinton's events, they are predominantly white. Obama attracts a racially mixed crowd. The Wright controversy has also brought the issue of race much more to the fore here, they add.