CLIPS: Kerry’s back in state that aided him in ’04 to stump for Obama (04/07/08)

Of The Patriot-News

Nearly four years ago, Sen. John Kerry stood outside the Capitol in Harrisburg, telling an estimated 20,000 supporters why they should make him their president.

Sunday’s return visit to the midstate, which included two stops in Carlisle and one in West Hanover Twp., was a bit different.

Stumping for Sen. Barack Obama , his appearance at the Local 520 union hall in West Hanover attracted about 50 people, most of them union members and Obama volunteers. Earlier in the day, Kerry, D.-Mass., had stopped at Obama ‘s Carlisle field office and mingled with supporters at a luncheon at Cumberland County’s Democratic headquarters.

“We try to do these smaller events on purpose so people really have the opportunity to talk with them,” said Debbie Mesloh, an Obama spokeswoman.

Now a surrogate for Obama ‘s presidential campaign instead of the Democratic nominee for president, Kerry is making his pitch without the spotlight that followed him in 2004.

Entering the plumbers’ and pipefitters’ union hall unceremoniously from the back of the room, Kerry greeted the crowd with a relaxed, “Hi, everybody.”

He spoke without a microphone, as his voice traveled easily enough to the back of the five rows of chairs, several of which were empty.

ABC-27 and WGAL-TV Channel 8 were the only television stations to show up for the day’s final appearance.

“With your help, I won the primary here in Pennsylvania,” Kerry said of his 2004 victory. “With your help, I won the general election here in Pennsylvania.

“And with your help, we’re not going to break this winning streak now.”

While Kerry spent much of his hour listing reasons that voters should support Obama , he praised Obama ‘s Democratic opponent, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton.

She has every right to continue fighting, he said.

“As long as we all agree that no matter what happens in this, we’re going to come together at the end of it,” he said. “And we are going to guarantee that as Democrats, we’re going to vote a Democrat into the White House.”

He wasn’t so kind, however, to Sen. John McCain, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee.

In response to a question about torture from a Vietnam War veteran, Kerry accused McCain of being inconsistent on torture of enemy combatants, climate change and tax cuts.

“There are two John McCains,” he said. “One was Senator McCain up until 2004. Now you have Nomination John.”

Kerry said he chose to endorse Obama because he believes Obama can better unite the country.

Gary Zohn, 57, a federal worker from Enola, said he heard lots of similar promises in 2006, when his vote helped a Democratic takeover of Congress. He said he hasn’t gotten what he wanted.

He became agitated during a back-and-forth with Kerry during the question-and-answer session. Despite efforts by campaign and union officials to move to the next questioner, Kerry kept his cool and continued to engage Zohn.

“I’m happy to have this conversation with Gary,” Kerry said.

“You still don’t understand what’s happening with this country,” Zohn said.

“Yes, I do,” Kerry countered.

Kerry said he, too, is frustrated by the issues Zohn brought up — earmarks, the Iraq war and the culture of politics.

“That’s why I’m here, man,” Kerry said. “I’m here to elect Barack Obama so we can make that change.”