A stop to mop on campaign trail
Obama shows aptitude for laundry, rustiness on turkey sandwich-making and ease with bread-and-butter issues during stint with home health worker
Carla Marinucci, Chronicle Political Writer
Thursday, August 9, 2007
It wasn't a full day, just a couple of hours really, but his early-morning shift Wednesday to serve breakfast, mop and clean bathrooms for an elderly man in a clapboard East Oakland house delivered Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama a refreshing moment in the 2008 presidential campaign: a chance to be a candidate without a script.
Escaping what he termed the "bubble" of staged events and fancy fundraisers, the Illinois senator tentatively but earnestly smoothed the white chenille bedspread of John Thornton, 86, a disabled and housebound former concrete mason who needs round-the-clock home health care.
"My wife says my making the bed is a little shaky," Obama sighed, as he wrestled with the wrinkles. "The laundry and the breakfast, I can handle."
Obama's Oakland stint was part of a creative campaign by the Service Employees International Union to focus the presidential campaign on the issues of working people. On Wednesday, he became the fourth Democratic presidential candidate to "walk a day" in a service worker's shoes -- a scripted event of a different kind that highlighted the power of one of the Democratic Party's strongest constituencies, organized labor.
Obama was led through his 6-9 a.m. shift in Alameda County, a stronghold of the service workers union, by a smiling, energetic home health care worker named Pauline Beck, 61. Beck bathes, dresses, feeds and cares for Thornton for $10.50 an hour.
While Beck's life -- struggling to make ends meet with two jobs and regular visits to the food bank -- couldn't be more different than the 46-year-old Democratic presidential candidate's, she came away feeling "he just cares about people. ... He wanted to know about me, yes, he did. He really wanted to feel what I did."
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