BOARDMAN, Ohio Barack Obama expressed hope Saturday that the lessons learned from Hurricane Katrina three years ago would help to protect the Gulf Coast from Hurricane Gustav this time. His running mate, Joe Biden, urged people to pray that the levees in New Orleans hold.
Obama and Biden visited a diner in this Youngstown suburb, an area that Hillary Clinton carried during her failed presidential bid. The Democratic candidates and their wives chatted with diners and told reporters that a properly orchestrated evacuation would be key to protecting the Gulf Coast.
“It wasn't last time, and hopefully we've learned from that tragedy,” Obama said as he left the diner, heading to a memorial service for the late Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones, the first black woman to represent Ohio in Congress. She died Aug. 20 from a brain hemorrhage caused by a ruptured aneurysm.
Biden said the Gulf Coast appears better prepared for a major hurricane this time than it was for Katrina, which left New Orleans and surrounding areas submerged. He said it appeared officials had learned from Katrina, and he praised moves to make major highways one-way routes out of the storm-targeted areas.
“It looks like they're incredibly well prepared, much better than they had before,” Biden said. “Just pray to God that those levees hold.”
Northeast Ohio, a Rust Belt region where the economy has struggled, supported Clinton's presidential bid in March. Obama carried the Democratic stronghold of Cuyahoga County, with Cleveland, but lost 83 of 88 counties.
Since then, Obama has been a frequent visitor in the area, trying to connect with the white, working-class voters who have eluded him thus far.
Obama began airing an ad Saturday in northeast Pennsylvania featuring Biden and his birthplace of Scranton, Pa. Biden is scheduled to campaign in Scranton on Monday.
“It's good to be coming home and bringing home a friend,” the ad says.
The spot underscores one of the ways the campaign intends to employ Biden — as an ambassador to blue-collar enclaves in key battleground states and as a running mate who can address doubts working-class voters may have about the nominee.