Global Politics

This American Life in Pennsylvania

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Ira Glass, host and executive producer of "This American Life"

Glass and his producers spent last month in Pennsylvania to try to find out why Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama and Republican candidate John McCain think they can win in that state. They talked to some of the citizens doing on-the-ground campaigning, went door-to-door, and found some surprising developments there. "This American Life" host and executive producer Ira Glass tells "The Takeaway" what they learned.

According to Glass: "The targets of opportunity for McCain are two areas. One is moderate voters in the suburbs around ... Philly ... but the other target, and this is where they think they have a shot at this state, are Reagan Democrats -- working-class Democrats -- who went overwhelmingly for Hillary in the primary. Remember, Hillary won by nine points in Pennsylvania, and a large of that vote were these working-class voters, and so McCain has really targeted these people.

"In fact, one of our producers, Nancy Updike, went out with a group called Democrats for McCain, door-to-door in Scranton ... and she found that as they went door-to-door the thing that struck her most was how incredibly soft the support for Obama was there."

One of the interesting things Glass found in Pennsylvania was how unions were dealing with the Democratic candidate and the race issue. According to Glass, "There's this guy, Richard Trumpcard, the treasurere of the AFLCIO, who's been going around giving this speech to unions about how unions have to confront the race question ... it's this very inspiring speech where he says, you know, 'we have to get in front of this, many of our members aren't going to vote for a black guy, here's how you do it,' and he demonstrates how you do it. So one of our producers, Lisa Pollock, was curious to see if union people were really taking his advice, and she spent the last month basically tracking down union members to see, 'are you having these conversations, are you confronting the question of race?'

"She had all sorts of people who said 'yes', they absolutely are; she had a lot of union guys who said they've been more actively campaigning for Obama with their co-workers than they have been with anyone else."

The "This American Life" special from Pennsylvania airs this weekend on PRI Affiliate stations across the country.

"The Takeaway" is PRI's new national morning news program, delivering the news and analysis you need to catch up, start your day, and prepare for what’s ahead. The show is a co-production of WNYC and PRI, in editorial collaboration with the BBC, The New York Times Radio, and WGBH.

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