THE BLOG
10/20/2008 04:08 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Campaign Journal: Canvassing in Western Pennsylvania

Barbara White Stack is an OffTheBus grassroots correspondent. Each week she contributes a campaign journal documenting her life out on the trail.

This weekend, I spent the most time chatting with people who were not on my list.

The list, compiled by the AFL-CIO, is union members living in Marshall Township in Western Pennsylvania. These could be steelworkers like me, or teachers or ironworkers.

Typically, I ring the doorbell, and no one answers. This is the weekend. People are at kids' soccer games or piano recitals or the grocery store. I had much better success however, when I went out just after the Pittsburgh Steelers game ended Sunday. Lots of happy fans were home then.

When people are home, the most common response I get is a quick thumps up when people see my Barack Obama T-Shirt and button. But in some neighborhoods, those with $500,000 houses and McCain*Palin signs outnumbering Halloween decorations, I have some trepidation about ringing bells.

In one of those housing plans Saturday, my list included a house with no McCain signs but a yard filled with religious symbols, including a wind chime with a cross serving as clapper for metal pipes. I anticipated a tense conversation about abortion and was relieved when no one answered the bell.

As I returned to the sidewalk, a woman in a BMW sitting at a stop sign at the corner motioned me over. "You won't have much success in this neighborhood," she warned.

I agreed that the yard signs didn't offer a welcome mat for Obama backers.

She said she was glad I'd come, though, because she supported the Democrat.

I wondered out loud why she had broken with her neighbors, why she'd smashed stereotype.

She said she'd spent hours researching the two candidates' policies and had come down for Obama. Also, she said, she had a 22- year-old son with Down Syndrome and felt an Obama administration would be better for him than a McCain-Palin one, despite Palin's constant assertions that she would watch out for special needs children as the mother of an infant with Down's.

This woman noted that Palin cut funding for special needs children in Alaska. In addition, she recounted that after the third debate, in which McCain repeatedly described Palin as an expert on autism, her daughter had called her and asked if McCain was unaware that there is a difference between autism and Down's.

As she drove away, a woman came walking down the sidewalk with her two children on scooters. She urged her daughter, a child of about 10, to ask me if I had Barack Obama buttons. The little girl with long brown hair explained that she was going to pull up her tresses for Halloween and dress up as Sarah Palin. She wanted to misspell Alaska on her Miss Alaska sash and wear a Barack Obama Button on her costume. She was practicing her "You betcha" imitation and performed it for me. Maybe not Tina Fey, but it was quite good.

Later, I knocked on a door and was greeted by the house sitter - the boyfriend of the owners' daughter. He said the homeowners - the union members - were solidly for McCain, but he was undecided. This young man said he leaned Republican and was concerned about national security. For that reason and because of experience, he favored John McCain. But he was equivocating because he feared McCain would continue the same failed policies responsible for devastating the economy.

He was thoughtful and knowledgeable and fun to chat with. He's the kind of voter the AFL-CIO sent me out to try to persuade - even if he wasn't on my list.

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