Palin scores TD with Dems at stadium
Gov. Sarah Palin shakes hands with members of the Beaver Area High School football team after speaking at a campaign rally at Beaver Area High School yesterday.
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Sarah Palin invoked Joe the Plumber and Joe the Quarterback last night in a combination political-pep rally in a packed football stadium in Beaver County -- an overwhelmingly Democratic blue-collar region being energetically sought by the Republican ticket in the waning days of the presidential campaign.
Ms. Palin, the GOP vice presidential nominee, invoked native son Joe Namath's upset win with the New York Jets in the 1969 Super Bowl and attacked Democratic nominee Barack Obama's economic proposals as socialism.
"He's hiding his agenda of redistributing your hard-earned money," Ms. Palin, the Alaska governor, told a raucous crowd at the Beaver High School Stadium.
She cited Mr. Obama's encounter earlier this month with Joe Wurzelbacher, a Toledo, Ohio, plumber who pressed him to explain his tax policies. At the time, Mr. Obama cited his proposal to raise taxes on incomes over $250,000 as an attempt to "spread the wealth."
"Somehow Joe accomplished something none of the rest of us has been able to do. He got our opponent to finally state his intentions in plain language," Ms. Palin said. "Joe the Plumber said it sounded like socialism. Now is not the time to experiment with socialism."
Even before Ms. Palin invoked that term, some in the crowd were shouting it, with one adding, "Tell him to go back to Indonesia. Tell him to show his birth certificate."
Ms. Palin pointed out a man in the audience who carried a sign labeling himself, "Bill the Mechanic."
Noting later press revelations about Mr. Wurzelbacher, who turned out not to hold a plumbing license and who owed back taxes, Ms. Palin declared: "Bill, I've got to warn you -- the press knows who you are."
Chants of "Leave Joe Alone!" followed as Ms. Palin continued to lace into the man she called "Barack the wealth-spreader."
Last night's speech, in a county once dominated by labor Democrats, marked a stepped-up attack on Mr. Obama's policies, both economic and social.
She began the speech with a surprise endorsement from Jeff Beltz, the coach of the Beaver Area High School Bobcats football team, who said the Republicans have "demonstrated that they understand the importance of the individual, the importance of tradition, and the importance of consistency."
The turnout, accompanied by an endorsement amid that area's holy of holies -- high school football -- suggested a growing shift in Beaver, a onetime Democratic stronghold that was carried by the last Democratic presidential ticket by a scant 51 percent.
Emblematic of the shift were people such as Jason Colangelo, a self-described Democrat and son of a retired Democratic steelworker who he said would be appalled to hear that his son was planning to vote Republican.
"The word Republican was a swear word in my house," said Mr. Colangelo, who said he became irate after hearing U.S. Rep. John P. Murtha, D-Johnstown, criticize the behavior of American Marines during an incident in Haditha, Iraq, and, later, Mr. Murtha's comments calling Western Pennsylvania "a racist area."
Mr. Colangelo said his sudden anger was long in building, and reflected a resentment toward Democratic politics in Beaver.
"I'm tired of hearing that old mentality of the Democrats where they just think they can control everything and I think it's time for a change," he said. "They've controlled pretty much everything as far as the political machinery is concerned. It's been an awakening for me," he said.
Ms. Palin, who unveils what the campaign is calling her first public policy speech this morning at the Airport Marriott, made pointed reference to the McCain-Palin ticket's position on abortion and promised as well to be an advocate for special needs children.
Six months ago, she gave birth to a son, Trig, who has Down syndrome.
"John and I, we have a vision of an America where every innocent life counts. Where everyone is given a chance to contribute and where every child is cherished. That is the spirit that I want to bring to Washington," she told the crowd.
She promised to show families with special needs children "that they have a friend and an advocate in the White House."
She struck one decidedly local economic chord, calling for energy independence and adding a new line to her party's convention chant.
"We'll develop clean coal technology and we'll be looking to you here in coal country to help us achieve that goal," she added. "We'll drill here. We'll drill now. Drill, baby, drill. Mine, baby, mine."
Ms. Palin's visit came as polls continued to show the Republican ticket behind in Pennsylvania, a crucial state with 21 electoral votes.
With less than two weeks before the election, Mr. Obama continues to hold a commanding lead among likely voters in Pennsylvania, according to the latest Quinnipiac University poll released yesterday.
The poll shows Mr. Obama with a 13-point lead. He also holds a 5-point lead among white voters and blue-collar voters, groups Democrats have lost in Pennsylvania in recent presidential elections. White men still back Mr. McCain, said Clay F. Richards, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.
While polls show a wide margin on average, at least one this week suggested a possible tightening in the race and Gov. Ed Rendell has pressed the Obama campaign to come back to the state to do battle.
First Published October 24, 2008 12:00 am