Montee speaks for Obama at town-hall meeting in Cape

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

U.S. Sen. Barack Obama won't concede rural Missouri voters to U.S. Sen. John McCain in the November presidential election.

Obama's campaign team on Tuesday sent State Auditor Susan Montee to Cape Girardeau to hammer themes that she said should give voters pause to consider the Illinois Democrat. Montee noted that Obama supported the 2008 recent farm bill -- a measure also supported by U.S. Rep. Jo Ann Emerson and U.S. Sen. Kit Bond, both Republicans -- while McCain voted against the measure and said he would have vetoed it if he were president.

And she said that Obama's team won't rest on making points about issues -- more than 35 Obama for President offices have already been opened in Missouri, many in smaller cities and rural communities, including Cape Girardeau.

"The Obama campaign is reaching out to all areas of the state," Montee said during a stop at the 4-H Exhibit Hall at Arena Park. She was there for a town-hall meeting to discuss Obama's proposals designed for rural residents. About 20 people, many of whom are regulars at Democratic events, took part.

Montee's stop is part of an RV tour of 20 cities. Secretary of State Robin Carnahan, U.S. Rep. Russ Carnahan and former governor Roger Wilson are taking part in some of the events.

To counter the tour, Gov. Matt Blunt held a telephone conference call with reporters to promote McCain. Rural voters will respond to McCain's platform for low taxes, less government, gun rights and opposition to abortion, Blunt said in the session with reporters arranged by McCain's campaign.

Montee, however, said rural voters are feeling the effect of inflation and layoffs and that pocketbook issues will dominate their concerns in November.

Obama, who visited Cape Girardeau in May for a town-hall meeting at Thorngate Ltd., issued a statement Tuesday blaming the Republican administration for the company's decision to cut the hours for 335 employees by 40 percent.

"My thoughts are with the families and workers affected by Thorngate's recent decision to shorten its employees' workweek at its Cape Girardeau plant. A few months ago, I visited the Thorngate plant to talk about my plan to help Missouri's working families cope with falling wages, disappearing jobs, and the rising cost of everything from gas to groceries to health care," Obama said in the statement. "This is an urgent reminder that we can't afford four more years of the failed Bush economic policies that John McCain is offering."

During the meeting, health care was a big issue for some people. Retiree Carol Rayner of Cape Girardeau, who carried a portable oxygen bottle, said she has been affected by the Medicaid cuts imposed by Blunt and the Republican-led Missouri Legislature in 2005.

"I worked all my life and paid in, and now they make me turn around and beg for it," Rayner said.

Montee said Missouri will benefit more than many states if Obama's health care plan is enacted. It will provide an opportunity for everyone to purchase affordable health coverage, she said, while retaining choice for people to pick the plan they want.

Those who rely on Medicaid or have no coverage because they have been cut from the rolls will obtain coverage again, she said.

And while Montee noted that federal deficits are ballooning, she said Obama will pay for his health-care plan through repeal of some tax breaks enacted under President Bush for people earning more $250,000 a year.

The start of the Obama RV tour coincided with the release of results from the Missouri Farm Bureau's straw poll from the Missouri State Fair. The people who took part favored McCain 71 to 29 percent. By comparison, Obama ran 13 points behind Attorney General Jay Nixon's share in the governor's race.

Montee said there is time to make up the difference with Nixon, which will make it easier for Obama to carry the state based on votes from St. Louis and Kansas City.

335-6611, extension 126

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