Democrats cheered on Wednesday when news broke that John McCain's campaign was abandoning Michigan, pulling down its ads and sending staffers to other states.
Almost immediately, an organization called Progress Michigan let loose with a taunt, demanding that McCain keep pouring resources into the state in order to explain to voters his "support for outsourcing" and the "failed economic policies" of the Bush administration.
Many speculated that McCain would now turn his focus to Pennsylvania. But United Steelworkers International president Leo Gerard tells the Huffington Post that the state could soon go the way of Michigan.
"We're seeing -- from the several hundred of our people working every day, hand-billing at the plants -- the last two weeks have really been breaking Senator Obama's way," Gerard said over the phone from his office in Pittsburgh. "In particular, I think folks are sort of not taking John McCain as serious as they were, when they see his vacillation last week. 'I'm not going to debate. I'm going to whip House Republicans into shape. Not."
Gerard also said that the bailout bill is hurting McCain disproportionately. "There's lot of anger at this bailout bill, even though people recognize we have to do something. But our people think it's directly tied to Bush, and they tie bush to McCain. That's the sense of what I've heard back from our people, that the race is breaking out."
A sharp turn toward Obama hasn't been reflected in the polling thus far. However, even as McCain surrogates have repeatedly touted Pennsylvania as a possible pick-up state, Obama has maintained a stubborn lead over the last six months, according to Pollster.com's best-fit line of all surveys taken.
All told, the consistency of Obama's lead in Pennsylvania is not too terribly different from the steady advantage that compelled McCain to bail out of Michigan this week.
Obama is protecting that lead. He delivered a stemwinder to a crowd in Abington, Pennsylvania Friday morning. After referencing the latest dismal job loss numbers, Obama told the crowd that the Republicans have had their turn running the economy. "We've tried it their way. It hasn't worked. And it won't work now. But let me tell you what will work," he said, before ticking off his standard economic litany.
Gerard, for one, also thinks Obama is becoming more comfortable talking about kitchen table issues. His union originally endorsed John Edwards during the primary season. But even after their favored candidate abandoned the race, Gerard recounts that it took the union members several weeks to reach a consensus on Obama -- perhaps, as was widely guessed at the time, because his cool demeanor was not resonating with the white working class audience.
Now, though, Gerard says that perception is turning. "Obama seems to have become more passionate. He seems to be angry about what's gone on. I watched part of his speech [on Thursday]. That kind of speech could go to standing ovations in a union hall. If he can keep that up level of intensity, what I call constructive anger about what the system has done, I think that he'll connect. ... And McCain will wind up campaigning just in Georgia before it's over."
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