Nation & World

Obama-Biden hit campaign trail with an 8-point lead

PITTSBURGH — Sens. Barack Obama and Joe Biden Friday took the momentum from their party's convention _and the sizeable poll bounce it produced — and plunged deep into the heart of this economically depressed region, where they badly need their energy and economic messages to click.

The Obama-Biden ticket arrived in Pennsylvania with a strong push from their convention. A national Gallup poll conducted Tuesday through Thursday gave Obama a 49 percent to 41 percent lead over McCain. They had been tied last week.

The pair's trip to up-for-grabs western Pennsylvania included visits to a biodiesel fuel plant in Monaca, an ice cream store in Aliquippa and a rally in downtown Beaver.

"I want people here to know that I'm gonna be fighting as hard as I can for them and Joe Biden is gonna be fighting as hard as he can for them to create new jobs in high-growth industries like clean energy," Obama told a local TV reporter in Aliquippa.

These were the first stops on a Labor Day weekend tour of swing states, and Biden — a Scranton, Pa., native with a working-class background — is hoping to help Obama rally reluctant supporters of Sen. Hillary Clinton, who did well here in the Democratic primary.

Obama is stressing economics and energy in this blue-collar industrial region. His first stop Friday, in Monaca, was at Pennsylvania Biodiesel Inc., a start-up company that will provide alternative fuel to trucking companies.

The visit was designed to spotlight both his energy program, which would invest $150 billion over the next 10 years in what Obama calls "affordable, renewable sources of energy," as well as his economic plan. He would end capital-gains taxes for small businesses and start-ups, saying they will "create the high-wage, high-tech jobs of tomorrow." Obama outlined both plans in his acceptance speech on Thursday night.

Chuck Gorman, a retired construction worker from North Hills, Pa., said he thought that Obama's speech was "too long" and that he is grudgingly supporting Obama despite his concerns about Obama's lack of experience because "I have no choice." But Gorman said the selection of Biden makes him more comfortable with Obama because Biden has experience — and working-class Pennsylvania roots. "You can't get much better than Joe Biden; he's a good man," Gorman said.

At Pittsburgh International Airport, many voters said they'd been impressed by Obama's convention speech but that John McCain's surprise choice of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate also had gotten their attention.

One was Margaret Linebaugh of Dublin, Ohio, who usually votes Republican but said she isn't sure about McCain or continuing President Bush's legacy. "It's a tough choice," she said. "Obama gave a great speech. Of course, I wanted a woman. I would have liked to see Hillary be the candidate." As for Palin, Linebaugh said, "I don't know a thing about this woman" but that "I want to hear what she has to say."

Sen. Obama called Gov. Palin in late afternoon from his campaign bus, spokesman Robert Gibbs said. They talked for several minutes. Obama told her she would be a terrific candidate and that he looked forward to seeing her on the campaign trail. He also wished her good luck but not too much luck. Later, Biden also called Gov. Palin to congratulate her.

Obama's acceptance speech was a hit, said Thomas Brogan, a professor of political science at Albright College in Reading, Pa. "No question about it," he said. "He was able to get specific and attack his opponent, but in a very careful way."

History shows, though, that convention bounces rarely last.

Bill Clinton came out of his 1992 convention with a 16-point Gallup poll lead, the biggest bounce in recent times, and won in November by only 5{ percentage points.

The biggest post-convention bounce collapse had come four years earlier. Just after the Democratic convention, Michael Dukakis surged ahead of George H. W. Bush in Gallup's poll, 55 percent to 38 percent, but Bush won the election with a 53.4 percent to 46.7 percent popular-vote majority.

Obama has had similar bounces before: He was up 9 points toward the end of his July trip to Europe and the Middle East, but five days later, he and McCain were tied.

Experts thought that McCain would begin making up ground immediately because his convention begins Monday, but he could face a different sort of problem: Hurricane Gustav.

The storm, which could hit the Gulf Coast early next week, could be "a reminder the Republicans don't need," said Thomas De Luca, professor of political science at Fordham University. The Bush administration's handling of Hurricane Katrina's aftermath in 2005 was widely criticized.

Obama said that Friday, the third anniversary of the day Katrina hit New Orleans, was "a day to remember the disastrously inadequate response from the federal government and pledge that never again will we let bureaucratic incompetence leave disaster victims stranded and alone."

Obama is spending the week of the Republican convention on a bus tour of four key Midwestern and Northeastern states.

In Pennsylvania, the campaign planned to make 100,000 phone calls to state voters Friday, and announced plans to open 28 new field offices for a total of 57.

After a Friday night rally in Irving Square in downtown Beaver, Pa., Obama was to head for stops in the swing states of Ohio, Michigan and Indiana during the Labor Day weekend.

Biden will march in Pittsburgh's Labor Day parade, while Obama will join AFL-CIO President John Sweeney Monday at Detroit's annual Labor Day parade and rally.

All are battleground states that polls show are up for grabs.

(Lightman reported from Denver, Talev from Pennsylvania.)

ON THE WEB

To read the American Enterprise Institute's 'Definitive Guide to the Convention Bounce'

>To read about Michael Dukakis' 17 point poll bulge

To read the CNN-Time Pennsylvania poll

To read recent Quinnipiac swing state polls

To read the Detroit News Michigan poll results

To read the Rasmussen Indiana poll

More from McClatchy:

McCain's VP pick: From beauty queen to ethics reformer

Palin, with reputation as reformer, faces probe over firing

McCain picks Alaska Gov. Palin to run for vice president

Check out McClatchy's expanded politics page

Related stories from Vida en el Valle

  Comments