As I arrived in Gary Indiana today, I passed through several residential neighborhoods and noticed many Obama signs. And many more Obama signs. Actually, the most I have seen in the state so far.
It's a beautiful sunny day today, people are out tending their lawns, and people are also working very hard. I arrived around noon in this industrial city in the northwestern region of the state, a half hour or so from the southern industrial tip of metropolitan Chicago. Gary is nicknamed the "City of Steel." So, it was no surprise that I ran into some metal workers on their lunch break.
"[The economy] sucks, but it's always sucked," said Bill Ketchum, who works for Industrial Steel Construction Inc. He sat in his parked semi-truck, wearing an Indianapolis Colts hat and eating his lunch just outside the roadside Vienna gyro stop.
In the distance and around Gary, run-down buildings have boarded up windows. Shops are empty and steel mills have closed down. Gary was founded in 1906 by the United States Steel Corporation. Gary also has one of the highest African American populations in the United States, according to a 2000 census of cities with populations of at least 100,000.
Gary was once a robust city, but now people have left, jobs are gone, and it is rife with crime.
Mayor Rudy Clay states on his website that he believes that "Gary will realize its full potential and will see a resurgence that will surpass many of our visions." When I was en route to Gary, construction work was being done on the highway, but that was pretty far south of the urban zone.
"I don't think it's the federal government's fault, it's union greed," said Ketchum, a Gulf War veteran and self described "hardcore Republican."
"I'm definitely not going to vote Republican, I want a job next year," said Dan, an ironworker at Pangere Ironworks, who showed up at the local gyro stop on his lunch break.
"I don't like the way Obama talks," said Dan, a member of Local 395, who saw Senator Hillary Clinton speak last week with some of his friends from the ironworkers apprenticeship program.
"Most of our locals are supporting Hillary," he said.
"He doesn't mention one word about steel mills and she acts like she's interested," said Dan who has several friends that have lost their jobs.
Obama has been wooing the Indiana working class vote, a demographic that Clinton has had more success courting, most notably in neighboring Ohio and Ohio neighbor Pennsylvania.
Dan said jobs are the issue in Indiana and that Clinton will win Indiana tomorrow.
Before Ketchum drove off in his truck, he said "It's about split, I think." Clinton will win Indiana but as far as the "City of Steel," that's Obama territory. "There's a big black vote around here," said Ketchum.