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Monday, June 23, 2008

Obama to focus on economy in Flint stop

This and other recent visits to Michigan by Obama are great, but a bit anti-climatic. Recall, there was no campaigning in Michigan because the State Party violated the rules by moving up its primary. That there was no campaigning means that many Obama supporters and the rest of the state have not seen him up close and personal. Many of his supporters did travel to states far and wide to campaign for him. But, he is meeting the state and they him. One such stop was the home of the first-down strike, Flint Michigan. This collective action began a recognition of the democratic rights of workers. Here he gave a talk on the economy. Mentioned in the article and giving Barack a fist bump is Dan Kildee whom I had the pleasure of having had in a class. RGN

The road to the White House doesn't necessarily run through Flint, but it's a natural side trip for any Democrat who preaches economic recovery for the middle class.

Barack Obama will take that side trip on the way to a large rally at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit later today. He'll hold a small rally at 11:45 this morning at Flint's Kettering University, a top-rated engineering school (formerly General Motors Institute) that churns out brainpower amid the city's industrial decline.

Obama's message surely will focus on economic issues, said Genesee County Democratic Party Chairman Dan Kildee. The number of Flint-area automotive workers fell from 79,000 in 1976 to around 12,000 now, he said.

"Access to higher education in the knowledge economy is part of Obama's message," Kildee said. "You have a city that's part of the old economy and needs to reposition itself for the next generation of jobs.

"There's a lot of hope that with Obama, we can have an industrial policy that embraces the new economy."

Politically, Kildee said, Flint is a Democratic hub of the so-called I-75 corridor from Detroit to Bay City. That makes it important for a Democratic presidential candidate, though nominee John Kerry didn't visit Flint in the 2004 presidential race.

Flint gained international notoriety in filmmaker and Flint-area native Michael Moore's 1989 documentary "Roger and Me," which cast Flint as an emblem of industrial decline.

Kettering spokeswoman Patricia Mroczek said the Obama campaign's choice of Kettering turned on more mundane issues: The university's recreation center has adequate size, power and air-conditioning for an event that will probably hold fewer than 2,000 supporters. Tickets were given out Friday and all of them went in 90 minutes.

Mroczek said Obama's appearance is an opportunity to promote Flint as a college town. Besides Kettering, there is the University of Michigan-Flint, Baker College and Mott Community College.

"We have more than 25,000 students who come to Flint on a daily basis," Mroczek said. "It represents a new and different and engaging future for our city."

Mroczek said Kettering also is deeply involved in alternative energy research, such as fuel cells.

Kildee said Obama's pending visit has energized local Democrats.

"I've got a lot of old friends I haven't heard from in a long time who want me to get them tickets," he said.

Contact CHRIS CHRISTOFF at 517-372-8660 or

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