Friday, June 06, 2008

Obama sets stake in Va.; outside media mess up

Seeking rural votes in a swing state, Sen. Barack Obama went to Bristol, Va., yesterday and drew a crowd of 2,500. He made no news, other than making clear he will contest a state that has become a lots less rural since 1964, the last time it voted Democratic for president. But some of the out-of-town news organizations covering Obama made some gaffes worth noting.

"While Virginia was among the states that Mr. Obama won in the primary season, he had trouble here in the southwest," Jeff Zeleny and Adam Nagourney write in The New York Times. "Clinton carried the city of Bristol, as well as the surrounding county, by 67 percent to 32 percent. Four years ago, President Bush won 64 percent of the vote. So the visit by Mr. Obama, which he declared his first official campaign stop of the general-election campaign, was intended to be as rich with symbolism as political strategy." (Read more)

In The Roanoke Times, this was the lead quote in Mason Adams' story: ""Southwest Virginia is an example of so much that is good about this country, but so many people have been forgotten," Obama said. "There are good hardworking decent generous people in beautiful towns all throughout this region, but Washington hasn't been listening to you. It hasn't been paying attention to you. I'm here to let you know I'm going to be paying attention and I'm going to be listening."

Lauren Linn concludes in the Daily Yonder, which has a good map of Virginia's primary results: "As I left I pondered if Obama could win over white, rural, blue-collar Americans. He clearly is not the same as these men and women, even if he attempted to look like them: that was evident throughout the Democratic primary. The response yesterday at Virginia High School was strong and positive, and must have been encouraging to the Obama camp. Maybe, just maybe, there were enough college-educated wealthier voters in that gym to make it work out that way." (Read more)

In the Bristol Herald Courier, David McGee followed Obama's focus: health care. "In his first public appearance since securing the Democratic presidential nomination, Barack Obama promised here Thursday that every American would receive affordable health care by the end of his first term," McGree writes. "Battling self-admitted sleep deprivation since claiming the nomination Tuesday night, Obama spent more than an hour detailing much of his health care plan." (Read more) The paper's coverage was extensive. Nicki Mayo, the content coordinator for, the Herald Courier's Web site, talked with Virginia Tech Professor Robert E. Denton Jr. about Obama’s chances of carrying Virginia and posted this video.

The Herald Courier's editorial board lit into NBC News' Andrea Mitchell for her characterization of the region. As reported by the paper, she said, "This is real [chuckle] redneck ... sort of ... uhm ... bordering on Appalachia ... country." The editorial said, "Bristol doesn’t border 'Appalachia ... country.' It is part of the Appalachian Mountain region. While the region faces challenges, it doesn’t deserve to be the butt of jokes. ... Mocking Appalachia is no different than making racial jokes or ethnic slurs. It isn’t acceptable or professional. Mitchell should be reprimanded by her bosses. A sincere, public apology also is in order." (Read more) UPDATE, June 10: Mitchell apologized for her remarks, Christine Riser of WJHL-TV reports. The Herald Courier's editorial board said the apology "seemed reasonably sincere and gracious. We note that it came relatively quickly, too. However, it’s up to Southwest Virginians to decide whether to accept it or not. We lean toward accepting it, and again extend an invitation to Mitchell to come visit the region. She might be surprised by what she discovers." (Read more) UPDATE, June 23: Foster shares with readers some of the 100-plus comments he received on his "smackdown."

The Washington Post needs a geography and geology lesson on one of the states it covers most. Kristen Mack of the Post reports that Obama "spent the morning courting voters in coal country at a town hall meeting in southwest Virginia," and Tim Craig writes that Obama was "in Bristol in southwestern Virginia's coal country." Wrong. The Appalachian coalfield is north and west of Bristol. It's not far, but they're still not right. Here's a map.

Obama's schedule has him in Raleigh and St. Louis on Monday and one or more unspecified locations in Missouri on Tuesday.

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