How Barack Obama Became Mr. Unpopular
By MICHAEL SCHERER Michael Scherer – 1 hr 27 mins ago
The Barack Obama that most Hoosiers remember voting for can still be found on YouTube. He stands before a cheering Elkhart high school gymnasium in August 2008, tireless, aspirational, promising a new America of jobs and hope. "We can choose another future," says the newcomer with the funny name. "So I ask you to join me."
Today that view of Obama is harder to find in Indiana. A couple of weeks back and a dozen miles west of Elkhart, hundreds gathered in another school gym - except this time it was for a job fair. With the local unemployment rate above 12% and rising again this summer, about a third of the employer display tables stood empty. Julie Griffin, who voted for Obama in '08, sat down at the room's edge, well dressed and discouraged. After 23 years as a payroll administrator at a local RV plant, she got laid off 18 months ago. "Really, what has he been doing?" she said when I asked about Obama's efforts to help people like her. "I guess I don't know what he is doing." (See TIME's 2008 Person of the Year: Barack Obama.)
Across the gym floor, Joe Donnelly, Elkhart's pro-life, pro-gun Democratic Congressman, worked the crowd. He was part of the moderate wave that won Congress for Nancy Pelosi in '06, and he was re-elected with 67% of the vote while campaigning for Obama in '08. The President has since returned to the region three times, but Donnelly is nonetheless fighting for his political life. In a recent television ad, an unflattering photo of Obama and Pelosi flashes while Donnelly condemns "the Washington crowd." This is basically a Democratic campaign slogan now: Don't blame me for Obama and Pelosi. "I'm not one of them," Donnelly told me when I caught up with him. "I'm one of us."