As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Thursday, August 07, 2008

The Wilmington Factor

I guess the McCain campaign is going to visit lots of grocery stores and paint Obama as a "job-killing machine" to even out the economic gap between the two. It may just work. Since the media largely stays out of policy fights, the facts of the issue, that McCain will continue Bush's war on the middle class while Obama will have concern for working families, will be obscured, and McCain telling shoppers how to stretch their dollar could make him appear to be in touch with ordinary American's struggle.

But there is a way to combat this, with a very powerful and straight-forward narrative, a story that happens to take place in the one swing state McCain absolutely can't lose if he wants a shot at the Presidency.

At a town hall meeting in Portsmouth, Ohio last month, McCain was confronted by a woman about the closure of a DHL air park in Wilmington, Ohio, shuttering 8,600 jobs. McCain talked all sweet to the lady about job retraining and re-education, but basically said that there was nothing he could do to bring those jobs back to Wilmington.

Turns out that McCain's own campaign manager, a registered lobbyist, had a hand in that closure.

Little known to [Wilmington] citizens, McCain and his campaign manager, Rick Davis, played roles in the fate of DHL Express and its Ohio air park as far back as 2003. Back then, however, their actions that helped DHL and its German owner, Deutsche Post World Net, acquire the Wilmington operations resulted in expansion, not retraction.

In a private meeting Thursday, Wilmington residents will ask McCain for help in stopping DHL’s proposal to quit using the airport as a hub, which could cost more than 8,000 jobs. DHL says that it wants to stay in the freight business but that it can stem financial losses if it can put its packages aboard the planes of a rival - United Parcel Service - before delivering them in DHL trucks. UPS flies out of Louisville, Ky., so the proposed change would render the Wilmington airport unnecessary.

None of that was anticipated in 2003, when McCain and Davis, who was a Washington lobbyist before managing the presidential campaign, first got involved. Several Wilmington civic leaders said that what happened in 2003 created an economic gain for their community, lasting several years.

But because that gain, and now the prospective loss, came from the decisions of a foreign-owned corporation, look for some Democrats and labor to seek to tie Wilmington’s current troubles to McCain.

Essentially, Rick Davis brokered a deal to shift DHL's operational control to a foreign corporation, who eventually cut the jobs in a cost-saving maneuver. Local leaders worried in 2003 about the impact of a merger on their community, and within a few years that's exactly what happened. This has become an election-year issue in Ohio.

U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, urged Republican presidential candidate John McCain to press DHL and its German owner, Deutsche Post, to preserve jobs that could be lost if DHL hires United Parcel Service for its U.S. cargo airlift work.

McCain, the Arizona senator, scheduled a campaign stop in Wilmington today, Aug. 7, to meet privately with community activists trying to save at least 8,000 jobs at DHL's Wilmington air freight hub. McCain was also to visit Lima.

Sen. Obama, by the way, met with community leaders in Wilmington a month ago. If I were part of his campaign, the ads about backroom deals to eliminate American jobs and destroy small communities would already be up and running. This perfectly fits the theme of the old ways of Washington, with McCain's lobbyist-infested campaign out of touch with the consequences of the policies he pushes.

It's worth remembering that the election is not about one national campaign monitored by tracking polls, but 51 separate campaigns (the states and DC), all with their own parochial concerns. The Wilmington story will resonate throughout Ohio and probably elsewhere in the industrial Midwest. This is a pretty familiar story. Obama needs to run with it.

Labels: , , , , , ,