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Sunday, October 19, 2008

Stumping for Obama in West Virginia

I spent yesterday on a bus with West Virginia Democrats (including Secretary of State candidate Natalie Tennant and chairman Nick Casey, in the campaign photo above), stumping for Obama through the southern coal counties.

Here's the story:

West Virginia's Democratic leaders Saturday embarked on a winding, eight-county bus tour through the south of the state, and in one small mining town after another, they sold Barack Obama to small crowds of Democrats with remarkable directness.

"He is black," was the first thing Kenny Perdue, the state's AFL-CIO president, said. "The gentleman that's in the White House and John McCain — they're white men. And I'm absolutely ashamed of what George W. Bush has done to this country."

The president of the United Mine Workers, Cecil Roberts, spoke after Perdue in a parking lot set in the flat plateau below the remains of a strip-mined mountain.

"I'd rather have a black friend than a white enemy," he said. State Democratic Party Chairman Nick Casey spoke too. Casey, 57, grew up Irish Catholic in Charleston, and he said the bus was following John F. Kennedy's bus route in the 1960 Democratic primary.

"There's a lot of people out there think you're a bunch of inbred, redneck racists," he told a couple dozen people wearing union hats and jackets. "They say you won't vote for a man who's black."

"The rest of the country thought when Kennedy ran we were a bunch of ignorant, inbred religious bigots," he said. "They were wrong, and we made Kennedy president."

As a local judicial candidate spoke in Logan, two of the politicians wandered off to marvel at the scene taking place behind them. There, a polite, black former Marine, Mitchell Cook, was handing blue Obama
bumper stickers and yard signs to drivers pulling into the mall, and even attaching the bumper stickers himself to some of the pickups and battered two-doors.

"Twenty, thirty years ago, if you had a black man stopping cars, handing out signs right here, he would have been shot," said the State Auditor Glen Gainer. "Now they're stopping, asking him to put on
stickers."

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