Saturday, October 10, 2015

The Obama Whistlestop Tour

In which a candidate takes ten hours to get from Philadelphia to Harrisburg.

The Obama Whistlestop Tour


Larry Eichel reports...

7:15 p.m.

The train has left Lancaster and is heading to Harrisburg, for the first time traveling at normal speed -- as opposed to a crawl.

In Lancaster, several thousand people turned out. Some locals said they represented every Democrat in that Republican country.

From Obama, more of the same, very tough on Hillary. He talked again about her strategy of throwing the kitchen sink at him, as he likes to put it.

Said the candidate: "I'm not interested in mimicking what the Republicans did the Clintons over the last 20 years. She learned the wrong lesson. I don't want to be come them [Republicans]. I want to change our politics."

He also asked his listeners who they wanted answering the 3 a.m. phone call of the Clintons, someone who got it right on the war in Iraq (that would be himself) or two people (Clinton and John McCain) who didn't.

On to Harrisburg. 


4:30 p.m.

Now preparing to leave Downingtown, the third stop. As we head further west, the crowds have been getting smaller and the rhetoric more intense.

Last night in Philadelphia, Obama accused Clinton of having adopted a "kitchen sink" strategy. Now, he said in Downingtown, it's getting worse. "The china's flying," he said. "Now, the buffet's coming at me." And so on.

The official crowd estimate in Wynnewood was 6,000. I'm not great at crowd estimating, but I'd guess 2,000 in Paoli, 1,000 in Downington. Or thereabouts.

On to Lancaster. 

2:55 p.m.

Just finished stop number two in Paoli. Compared to Wynnewood, the speech was bland and the crowd quite a bit smaller. But there was one memorable moment.

Obama was doing his usual bit about all the things "we can't afford to wait" to do. One of them is to repair the nation's crumbling infrastructure. As he was saying the words, he looked around at his surroundingz. The Paoli train station is not exactly a work of art. It's rundown and rusting. So he adjusted.

"All across the country, we've got stations that look like this," he said, "that need to be rebuilt."

So there it is. Obama trashes the Paoli station.

On to Downington.


Barack Obama's daylong train ride from Philadelphia to Harrisburg is under way. He just finished his first stop, giving a 30-minute speech to several thousand people at the Wynnewood station.

Obama is traveling on a special, four-car Amtrak train. The last car, Georgia 3000, has a deck on the back, covered with red, white and blue bunting, where the candidate can stand and wave.

In his speech at Wynnewood, he reprised a lot of the themes from his Philadelphia rally last night, saying this was the time for the voters of Pennsylvania to declare independence from the old, gotcha politics

During the speech, he had a little give-and-take with the crowd. At one point, he referred to his Philly speech and someone yelled out, "I was there!" His reply: "I saw you."

Now we're on what's being called "a slow roll" through Bryn Mawr station. The train is moving about two miles an hour, and Obama's on the back waving.

More to come.

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About this blog

The Inauguration: Jan. 20 blog brings you coverage of President-elect Barack Obama's transition into office.

It's written by political journalists from the Philadelphia Inquirer. Send us your comments -- and news tips -- at this address.

Thomas FitzgeraldThomas Fitzgerald joined The Philadelphia Inquirer in 2000, and has covered Harrisburg as well as city, state and national politics for the newspaper. He was a “boy on the bus” in the 2004 presidential campaign and during primary contests in 2000 and 1996.

Nathan Gorenstein has covered politics and government in the city, state and nation for the Inquirer. He's worked in the city hall bureau, had a stint on the business desk, and once covered the suburbs. After serving as assistant regional editor, he was named editor of the "Politics" web site.

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