KITTANNING, Pa. — The steel mills and coal mines of western Pennsylvania helped fuel the nation’s economic engine. Today, old factory shells and boarded-up storefronts stand as bleak reminders of those once-prosperous times.
But the voters in working-class enclaves such as this still are a sought-after prize in presidential politics, and many are belatedly backing Democratic nominee Barack Obama.
In the Democratic primaries, working-class whites consistently supported Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton. Later polls showed them overwhelmingly favoring Republican nominee John McCain.
Now, driven by fears that their personal finances could further deteriorate, many see Obama as the better choice – their thinking in some cases driven more by concern about how McCain would handle the economy than any growing admiration for his rival.
“I don’t know that there’s anything I particularly like about him (Obama), but I dislike McCain, and I dislike the way the country is, and Republicans need to change,” said lifelong Republican Ruth Ann Michel, 64, a retiree shopping in a market in Butler on a recent day. She said her vote for Obama would be her first for a .
While talk in these parts is mostly about the economy, a prominent – if not unspoken subtext – is race. A study of the impact of racial attitudes on the election conducted by The Associated Press with Yahoo News and Stanford University found that whites without a college education were much more likely to hold negative views of blacks than those with a college education.
Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell says a drowning man doesn’t care what color the person is who throws him a life preserver.
“This election is going to be decided when a husband and wife sit at a kitchen table, or a single parent sits at the kitchen table, looks at their bills and figures out who is most likely to help them with their financial condition,” Rendell said. “If the answer’s Barack Obama, nobody’s going to care whether he’s black, green, orange, purple, fuchsia or whatever.”
If you’re drowning and someone throws you a rope, does it matter if the person is white, black, brown, red or yellow?
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