Scranton Becomes Election Day Hotspot

First “The Office,” now the election…

FT: Voter turnout appeared strong in Pennsylvania on Tuesday, as more than 100,000 Obama volunteers scoured the state on which John McCain has focused his attentions in the final weeks of the US presidential campaign.

“I had to stand there and think about it,” said John H., a 28-year-old contractor in the small north-east Pennsylvania city of Scranton, as he left a polling station in an American Legion veterans’ centre. “I think both of them will do a good job.”

The contractor ultimately chose John McCain, because of Mr McCain’s personal history as a Vietnam veteran, and his experience. He also refused to accept that blame for the economic crisis lay solely with the Bush administration.

…Scranton, a town of just over 70,000, has taken on an outsized significance in the presidential election, coming to symbolise those blue-collar white voters whose socially conservative values – and, some whisper, racism – has made them suspicious of Mr Obama.

It is an older and whiter city than the national average, long declining alongside America’s fading manufacturing industries. The Scranton metropolitan area suffers Pennsylvania’s highest rate of unemployment.

…National polls began showing a widening lead for Mr Obama as the economic crisis escalated in September. In recent days, Mr McCain has competed for the state’s 21 Electoral College votes in an attempt to offset losses from states that voted for George W. Bush in 2004, including Virginia, Colorado and New Mexico.

This effort has made Pennsylvania, and in particular its swing areas such as Lackawanna County, a central election battleground. Chris Doherty, Scranton’s Democratic mayor, said that “turnout looks higher than we’ve seen for a long, long time”.

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