Obama holds rally in swing state Indiana

LAPORTE, Ind. Barack Obama lost the Democratic primary in Indiana to Hillary Clinton by 22,000 votes. But the close race energized voters in the state. However, on the issues, many parts of Indiana are more aligned with traditionally Republican positions.

For 32 years, Alan Smith has run the local sporting goods store in LaPorte, Indiana. All around him, he said he sees the times are tough.

"Indiana is certainly in play for one reason and one reason alone, and that's the economy," said Smith.

Smith said he is not about to jump on the Barack bandwagon rolling through Indiana. He has a sign that tells his customers that if they love their guns, Obama is not their candidate.

"You don't have to guess where Barack Obama is on gun control," Smith said.

In 2004, LaPorte was one of only four Indiana counties that went for Democrat John Kerry. This year, it's believed many more may be in play.

"Indiana lost 4,500 manufacturing jobs in September alone," Obama said.

"In Indiana, lots of us that are young don't vote because the state has been red so long and we've been dissolution," said Ian Spry, LaPorte ,Ind., voter.

While Ariz. Senator John McCain was in Florida Thursday, Senator Obama spoke to a crowd of 35,000 in Indianapolis Thursday morning.

Indiana hasn't backed a Democrat for president since 1964 when Lyndon Johnson beat Barry Goldwater.

Indiana residents have voted to send a Republican to the white house in 16 of the last 17 elections.

Why is this reliably Republican state now in play? The economy is a huge factor. Indiana's unemployment rate is approaching a 20-year high. Also helping is the fact that Obama has a lot of money still to spend late in the race. And he's using it to spread his message from the two major urban areas, northwest Indiana and Indianapolis, to the suburbs and beyond.

Obama was in a state un-accustomed to fall appearances by presidential candidates, let alone so many.

"I want everybody who is able and willing to go vote today, if not today, tomorrow. Saturday is going to be open," said Obama.

The appearance in Indianapolis was Obama's fourth in the state since June.

McCain has been there once. His running mate, Sarah Palin, drew more than 20,000 people to a rally last Friday. She's just added another stop in Ft. Wayne this weekend.

LaPorte County Republican Chair Coral Laun said she is happy for the extra attention but nervous because of what it represents - a real threat to the GOP by a candidate she sees as inexperienced.

"As a person that is a county chair, a Republican, I believe that that man has great potential. I believe he needs to be seasoned. Right now, it's still the grape juice, I want him to develop into the wine of which I can enjoy later," Laun said.

Polling in Indiana puts the "swing" in the label "swing state" A new survey released Thursday gives Obama a 10-point advantage over McCain.

But Real Clear Politics' average of all polls shows a much closer race and gives McCain a slight edge. "They are shifting from week to week. People who haven't selected a candidate, maybe one week they favor one candidate and the next week something happens and they're not so sure. So they haven't solidly locked in," said Marie Eisenstein, Indiana University Northwest.

Obama's fundraising edge allows him to have more foot soldiers on the ground working to get out the vote in toss-up states like Indiana. Thursday was Shawn Arnsbarger's first day dialing for votes as an Obama volunteer

"I'm interested in not waking up on November 5 wishing I had done more," she said.

A decision to allow early voting sites to remain open in Gary, Hammond and East Chicago is expected to help Obama's Indiana base. Republicans are counting on Palin's appeal to conservative voters to rally the troops.

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