Larry Gonzalez is an OffTheBus grassroots correspondent. Each week he contributes a campaign journal documenting his life out on the trail.
PUEBLO, Colorado--The "Home of Heroes," that's how Senator Joe Biden, in his appearance here last week, described Pueblo, Colorado. Pueblo is the hometown of four Medal of Honor recipients and, in 1993; the City Council adopted the tagline "Home of Heroes" because it can claim more recipients per capita than any other city in the United States. In talking to people around town, there is clearly a proud tradition of sending its sons and daughters to defend our nation. Normally, Biden enjoys large boisterous crowds and while the crowd was appreciative of Biden's visit, it was temperatures in the low 40's, (real feel 25) which had the crowd subdued and smaller than organizers had anticipated. Still, Biden did not disappoint and hit on all the themes that the Obama campaign has been focusing on throughout the campaign; the economy, tax cuts for the middle class and connecting John McCain to George Bush. Both Obama and McCain have made visits here over the last several months, underscoring Pueblo's importance. Al Gore carried Pueblo County by 4,000 votes in 2,000
Pueblo proper and most of Pueblo County is Democratic. In speaking with one local elected official, he pointed out that nearly every elected official in Pueblo was Hispanic. For many in the Latino community, that's political progress. Whether that manifests into economic progress remains to be seen as Pueblo, like many cities, is hurting. Several days of canvassing and we've seen a little bit of everything. Homes seized by banks, alerting "No trespassing, this home has been seized" and other homes in need of repair. Several houses had signs on the front door stating they were "unfit for occupancy," the porch was nearly falling down, we only imagined what the inside looked like, as ordered by the Pueblo housing department.
Obama/Biden signs far outnumber McCain/Palin, but in talking to voters, there is a real cynicism overall about government, that, as one young newly registered voter indicated, "I like Obama, but neither of those guys is going to make a difference in my life."
Still, most folks in Pueblo say they are willing to give Obama a chance considering the debacle of the Bush Administration over the last eight years. They welcome change and hope that a President Obama will deliver on his promises. On B Street, just off of Union Street in the Pueblo business district where the Obama campaign office is located, an oversized Shepard Fairey poster of Obama with the words "Hope" is hanging on the side of the building right above United States Senator Ken Salazar's office. There is a bit more hustle and bustle here, but I still get a sense that there's not a lot of economic activity going on in Pueblo. Although a large turnout of Latino voters is predicted in Pueblo, (Latinos are 44% of the population) it's been a challenge for Obama campaign staff to recruit Latino volunteers for canvassing and phone banking work. Much of the work gets done by out of town staff.
Ramping up the Latino vote is clearly an important strategy for Obama staff and at the top levels of the campaign they have committed the financial resources to achieve that goal. But it seems, here in Pueblo at least, the Latino community is starting to vote in representative numbers, but getting them directly involved in political campaigns is perhaps that next step in the political maturation of the community that has for so long been seen as a paper tiger in American politics.
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