Local Politics

Obama delivers campaign speech, if not himself, in Charlotte

Posted July 7, 2008 6:31 p.m. EDT
Updated July 7, 2008 7:40 p.m. EDT

— Call it political improvisation. U.S. Sen. Barak Obama spent Monday in St. Louis because of airplane mechanical problems, but he still got through to a crowd gathered in Charlotte – if only by phone.

He took aim at problems in the economy and bashed U.S. Sen. John McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee.

“I thank you for being there," Obama’s voice said from a speaker phone as nearly 100 people who listened to the presumptive Democratic nominee's pitch to improve the economy. "I'm so sorry I cant get a chance to see you guys in person."

Tax credits for college students and another round of stimulus checks to offset the rising prices of gas and food both got mentions.

“I don't need to tell all of you that times are tough,” Obama said. “Everywhere I go all across the country and every time I visited North Carolina, I've heard the same story. I mean families who don't have health insurance for themselves and their children (and) in some cases are at risk of financial bankruptcy if somebody in the family gets sick.”

“John McCain is decent and honorable man, but if you look at the essence, at his economic policies, which are based on a large mass of tax cuts for corporations and wealthy individuals, only a quarter of those tax breaks (will be) going to the middle class,” Obama said.

Obama said that being present in North Carolina will be a goal of his campaign leading up to the election. “I want all of you (to) know in North Carolina we are going to be campaigning actively there,” he said.

"I've never seen young people get out and vote like they have" with Obama’s candidacy, said Rebecca Gomer of the Young Democrats of Mecklenburg County. “We saw that in the primary.”

She said the enthusiasm gives Obama a chance in November.

"If any year the Democrats can take North Carolina, this is going to be it – and we're going to make sure that happens,” Gomer said. If she is proved correct, it will be first time the state has voted Democratic for president since Jimmy Carter ran.

"There's been a tradition of Democrats conceding the state before the battle is even joined," Obama said. “That’s not what is going to be happening this time out.” he planned visits to Georgia and Virginia later in the week.

Former Charlotte mayor and former U.S. Senate candidate Harvey Gantt said he was glad that Obama was “putting the state in play.” The election will be close he said, but Obama can take the state.

Some things, though, no candidate can control.

“He's not a mechanic. There's nothing he can do,” said Pastor Eddie Mobley, one of Obama’s supporters at the middle school where he listened to, rather than watched, the candidate. "He's human. He still cares, and he did make a phone call."