At his second rally in Detroit this month, held yesterday in front of the Detroit Public Library, Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama urged his supporters to help register voters before the Oct. 6 deadline and to bring them to the polls on Nov. 4.
Tens of thousands of supporters crammed in front of the library to hear Obama speak. Obama’s running mate, Joe Biden, also spoke. Both candidates’ wives appeared, but did not speak.
Obama and Biden delivered stump speeches addressing the main issues of the campaign — health care, the war in Iraq, education and the economy. They lashed out against Republican presidential nominee John McCain, criticizing his answers in Friday night’s first presidential debate.
“On issue after issue, from taxes, to health care to the war in Iraq, you heard John McCain make the case for more of the same,” Obama said.
“He kept on asking me, ‘You don’t understand.’ No, I understand. You want more of the same. The same Bush tax policies, the same Bush energy policies, the same Bush Iraq policies. A fifth-grader could understand — it’s more of the same.”
Though Obama criticized the automotive industry for its reluctance to produce hybrid vehicles, the Illinois senator carried a more encouraging tone in his talk Sunday.
“Nothing could be more important than us helping our auto companies retool and get the laws they need so that the fuel efficient cars of the future are built right here in Detroit, right here in Michigan,” he said. “Not in Japan, not in South Korea, but right here in the United States of America.”
Recognizing Michigan and its 17 electoral votes as critical, Obama has frequented the state and made it the backdrop for many important campaign moments. Former Vice President Al Gore and John Edwards both announced their endorsements of Obama in Michigan, and much of the campaign’s resources have been funneled here.
Michigan has generally gone to the Democrats, but is still widely considered a swing state. John Kerry, the Democratic presidential nominee in 2004, won Michigan by just 150,000 votes over George Bush.
As the first-ever black presidential nominee of a major party, Obama hopes to increase turnout among voters in Detroit, a city whose population is more than 80 percent black.
A recent statewide poll conducted by the Detroit Free Press found that Obama leads McCain by 13 percentage points, a seven-point increase from earlier in the month. The poll has a 4.7 percent margin of error.
Much has taken place since Labor Day, when Obama last visited the Motor City. The crisis on Wall Street put the country’s economic woes in the spotlight, and Kwame Kilpatrick stepped down as the city’s mayor in the wake of criminal charges and scandal. New Detroit mayor Ken Cockrel, Jr. helped introduce Obama and Biden at the rally, emphasizing Detroit’s vital role in the US.
“When Detroit coughs, America catches a cold,” said Cockrel, formerly the president of the Detroit City Council.
He said the media’s intense economic focus since the Wall Street crisis is long overdue for many Americans who have been feeling the crunch firsthand. “For so many Americans, for so many people here in Detroit, it isn’t really news at all,” Cockrel said.
Keely Czartorski, a Lahser High School senior who attended the rally, was an example of Cockrel’s statement. Though Czartorski won’t be old enough to vote this year, she has been working hard for Obama in the Birmingham/Bloomfield campaign office.
“I know what it’s like as a family member to have your dad laid off, and my cousins are going through foreclosure right now because of the economy,” she said. “I want to trust in someone who is going to have America’s best interest at heart.”