McCain supporters remain cautiously optimistic

Joe Shearer

‘Spread the wealth’ attacks a winning drive for voters

On a crisp, breezy autumn day last Wednesday, the McCain faithful walked down Steese Road away from Green High School’s Memorial Stadium. Their candidate, Sen. John McCain, and his running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, had just finished addressing the crowd of 15,000 people 20 minutes away from where Sen. Barack Obama spoke yesterday.

With Nov. 4 looming and the Republican presidential hopeful trailing in the polls, supporters left the rally not only with a sense of urgency to beat the traffic, but also to win over undecided voters with new energy and optimism.

Still, friends Patrick O’Hara and Andre Christian didn’t hide their unease over the upcoming election.

“I’m very worried about it, and that’s why we’re here,” O’Hara said.

Christian, a Democrat who is not voting for Sen. Barack Obama, also expressed his concern that too many voters will vote for personality over substance.

“Coming here will absolutely encourage me to talk to more people,” Christian said. “I already have talked to a lot of Democrats – lifelong Democrats – and just tell people to really look and not get caught up in the charisma. And that’s what Obama’s doing. He’s very charismatic. They just need to look at the words and the meaning behind the words.”

With only one week to go in a close race, McCain may have finally found an issue that’s helping him in the polls – unlike when he brought up his opponent’s past associations. Yesterday the Gallup daily tracking poll showed a 10-point spread with Obama in the lead, the latest Reuters/C-SPAN/Zogby daily tracking poll shows the race steadily tightening from an Obama 12-point lead Oct. 23 down to a 4.8-point lead yesterday.

During the rally, Palin referred to Obama as “Barack the Wealth Spreader” in reference to an exchange between the Democratic presidential hopeful and Joe Wurzelbacher, the now-famed “Joe the Plumber,” during which the senator said, “When you spread the wealth around, it’s good for everybody.” In the final days of campaigning, both McCain and Palin are banking on this issue to resonate with voters.

Kyle Conrad, has owned Conrad’s Precision Plumbing in Hartville for 16 years and thinks McCain should keep hammering Obama on this matter. As a small business owner and a plumber, he said he understands Wurzelbacher’s concerns.

“This ‘spread the wealth’ issue is not something that this country is built on,” Conrad said. “It’s built on hard work and determination and the chance for opportunity.”

Worried an Obama presidency might hurt his plans to expand the business and hire more employees, Conrad said he’s taking a “wait-and-see” attitude.

Hudson resident Sherry Hoth shared similar sentiments.

“People around here didn’t come from money and whatever they have, they’ve worked hard for, and they don’t want to give it to other people,” Hoth said. “There’s lots of people who donate and do charity work and help people, but that’s their choice.”

Hoth said McCain should also talk up his foreign policy credentials in order to have a better shot at the presidency.

Though many voters leave rallies with a renewed sense of confidence, Boots Oakes of Massillon said she didn’t believe McCain has so far been forceful enough with some of the issues.

“He does need to become stronger in what he says,” Oakes said. “I guess he can’t do it any other way. I think it really helps to have Sarah there. I think she’s what brought the crowd out.”

But Conrad, remaining cautiously optimistic, has his own prediction for Election Day.

“You always want to peak just before the big game, and I think that that’s where McCain is at right now,” Conrad said. “He’s peaking at the right time. I think Obama peaked a couple of weeks ago. And now with this ‘spread the wealth’ issue that has been brought up – I think it’s a godsend for McCain.”

Contact public affairs reporter Joe Shearer at [email protected].