Obama courts the over-70 set
CHARLES CITY, Indiana – Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama tried on Thursday to win over members of one of his most skeptical audiences: senior citizens.
Those voters have tended to be a strong base for Obama’s rival Hillary Clinton, a former first lady and New York senator. At 60, Clinton is older than the 46-year-old Obama and is seen by many older voters as the more experienced candidate.
He also expressed empathy for the daily struggles of older people worried about paying for prescription drugs and health care while trying to get by on a fixed income.
In a proposal that was popular with the group, Obama promised to try to eliminate the income tax on their Social Security benefits.
He also underlined his opposition to a temporary suspension of the federal gasoline tax — an idea proposed by presumptive Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain and also supported by Clinton.
Obama said the gas tax suspension “isn’t a real solution” because it would provide, at most, only a short-term fix to the energy problem. He also said it would divert money from the fund used to pay for highway repairs.
One questioner mentioned an idea that Clinton has proposed — suspending the gasoline tax and making up the difference for the highway trust fund with a tax on windfall profits of oil companies.
The questioner, an older woman, asked whether a short-term fix to the energy problem was such a bad thing, remarking jokingly that “a lot of us are nothing but short-timers.”
That drew laughter from the group, prompting Obama to say: “You look like you’re going to be around for a while.”
Obama seemed to impress the crowd after a nearly hour-long visit.
Lavera Schroeder, 82, said she found Obama to be a “normal person” who “talked on our terms” and did not use confusing words or jargon that the group would not understand.
“He said his mother tried to get by,” she said. “That’s how we grew up. We ate molasses and home-made bread.”
But Schroeder said she would not be able to vote for Obama in Tuesday’s primary election in Indiana because she had been in the hospital and not had a chance to register.
– Photo credit: Reuters/John Gress (Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama campaigns at the CMW specialty metals factory in Indianapolis, Indiana, on April 30)