The Obama campaign has stepped up its efforts to make sure Philadelphians — African-Americans in particular — get out and vote for President Barack Obama on Nov. 6.
“It’s more important now than ever before. In particular, because of the choices that are laid out, especially for the African-American community,” said Setti Warren, mayor of Newton, Mass., during a visit to the city this week.
The Obama campaign has been bringing people from Massachusetts to Pennsylvania — a battleground state — for the last several weeks to discuss what Obama’s Republican opponent Mitt Romney was like as governor. Warren was in Philadelphia Wednesday for a few hours attending community meetings and speaking to reporters before heading to Harrisburg for more meetings.
Aware of Pennsylvania’s new voter ID laws, Warren urged all Philadelphians to make sure they had the required ID, and that they plan in advance to get what they needed.
“These are things that affect the African-American community directly,” he said. “So, it’s more important than ever to get people to register with these new laws on the books so that they can vote for the president in the fall.”
Obama holds an edge in Pennsylvania, according to a Quinnipiac Poll released Wednesday. It showed Obama with a 6 point lead over Romney, with 45 percent of Pennsylvanians saying they backed the president, over 39 for Romney.
Obama has the overwhelming support of African-American voters. According to the latest Gallup Poll, 83 percent of Blacks support the president. That number has dipped slightly in recent months, falling slightly from more typical levels above 85 percent, but it remains far higher among Blacks than among other ethnic groups.
And, Obama has worked hard for African Americans, Warren said, ticking off a list of things that included: $960 million invested in minority-owned businesses; working to keep Pell grants, which give Black youth a better chance to get to college, and stimulus funding for the Head Start program that allowed 61,000 instructors to remain on the job or be added to the program.
“For those families that are trying to put food on the table, trying to pay for health care, trying to pay the mortgage, we need a president that understands that,” said Warren. “Mitt Romney does not understand that.”
Romney has been on a bus tour of the state in recent weeks, and he contends it’s Obama who is out of touch.
“President Obama has offered no hope for the future, and he has left American families to bear the burden of his failed policies,” he told reporters at a campaign stop last week. “Too many American families have experienced a lost job, faced foreclosure, or been forced to spend their kids’ college savings just to make ends meet. These are not statistics — these are our fellow Americans. In America’s small towns, you don’t find despair — you find boundless optimism. We know we can make America better, and that is why I am running for president.”
Warren disagrees, and wants Pennsylvanians to see the Mitt Romney he’s seen.
“I believe strongly that we’re at a critical juncture in this country,” he said. “I also feel strongly that people around this country, in Pennsylvania, need to know Mitt Romney’s record. I was there.”
The mayor of a suburban Boston town of about 85,000 people, Warren describes Romney’s tenure as governor as a “failure.”
Romney was governor of Massachusetts from 2003 to 2007. He won the state’s highest office with a campaign that is remarkably similar to his run for the presidency.
“It was a failed track record he had in Massachusetts, and I don’t want to see him do it to the country,” said Warren.
As a lifelong resident of Newton, Warren said he’s watched as Romney’s policies weakened the middle class through outsourcing state jobs and tax breaks for the wealthy.
“He advertises himself as a businessman that can cure the problems of the country,” Warren said. “But the facts are we were 47th in job creation. He used the same method of outsourcing that he did in the private sector. We lost 40,000 manufacturing jobs … and he actually vetoed legislation in the state that would have prevented outsourcing.”
Personally, Warren, the father of two children — a 1- and 4-year-old — worries about what Romney would do to education if he’s elected.
“He wants to get rid of the Department of Education,” said Warren, adding that Romney cut education spending in Massachusetts, which among other things, increased the number of children in each classroom.
“If this is the kind of leadership he’s promising, it’s not what we need right now as a country,” said Warren.
A veteran of the Iraq war, Warren served in the Navy in Iraq in 2007 and 2008. He comes from a family with a military tradition. His father was in the Air Force and Navy Reserve.
His story is like that of many other African Americans, he said, His parents were both from New York City, his father from Harlem and his mother from the Bronx. Both were active in the Civil Rights Movement, travelling to North Carolina to fight. Military service gave the family the tools it needed to settle comfortably into the middle class.
His father eventually became assistant secretary of education for Massachusetts.
“If not for that ladder of opportunity that the United States of America provided my parents … they would have never gotten to Newton,” he said. “So, for me this election is about the future, about families like my own. This is a president that gets it — that knows that the greatness of America is about leveling the playing field.”