- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 26, 2008

BARRACKVILLE, W.Va. | Even though the name has a different pronunciation, this might just become Obama Town.

Tucked in northern West Virginia‘s coal country, this town of fewer than 1,300 people is filled with white, working-class voters who provided Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton a 41-point primary win and fueled speculation that a black presidential candidate couldn’t carry the state despite its historical Democratic tendencies.

Now, Sen. Barack Obama‘s campaign signs dot the landscape, reflecting a shift that has taken the state from being a lock for Republican Sen. John McCain into a battleground in the final days of the campaign.

Patrick Powell is an unlikely Obama voter, and said he doesn’t even like the man. His wife is frustrated that Mrs. Clinton didn’t win, and his good friend blasts Mr. Obama as unpatriotic and refusing to recognize the American flag.

But all three of them say they won’t be voting for Mr. McCain.

“There’s no hope for West Virginia,” said Mr. Powell, who is 40, unemployed and unable on his wife’s Applebee’s wages to afford costly medicine for regular violent seizures that have left him with deep scrapes and scabs on his hands and face.

“Look at all the foreclosures, look at all the banks and the Dow and all that. We can’t go for another four years of that, and it’s going to take Obama at least that long to get rid of it,” he said, a cigarette burning between his fingers as he sat on his front porch.

“I ain’t got a choice,” he said. “I don’t like him, but we’ve got to do something about it because if we put another Republican in there it’s going to be back like the ‘30s, we’re going to be in a bigger Depression than we was then.”

That sentiment has helped give the Mountain State battleground status - vice-presidential nominee Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. stumped in Charleston on Friday. Local Democrats insist there is no reason Republicans should win - they are outnumbered in West Virginia.

Seven October polls of West Virginia voters average out to a single-digit lead for Mr. McCain, with most showing the Republican in the lead, one showing the men tied and another putting the Democrat ahead. President Bush won the state by 13 percentage points in 2004.

Named in the 1700s for settler John Barrack and about 15 minutes from Fairmont, Barrackville has no postman, so townsfolk often gather at the post office.

Rose Munro, a single mother who frequently must choose between buying groceries and paying the electricity bill, at first didn’t want to hear any political talk.

“If it has anything to do with Obama, I don’t want him,” she said. “I just don’t like his views.”

She referenced false e-mail rumors questioning Mr. Obama’s patriotism, which, along with e-mails wrongly calling him a Muslim - he is Christian - are reasons Mr. Obama lost this state and wasn’t counting on its voters for a Nov. 4 victory.

But Miss Munro said, “The Republicans have done nothing. … If I had to choose, it would be Obama even though I’m not too thrilled with either one of their campaigns.”

The spot for town gossip is the Shop N Go, where a novelty gift supplier has set up a display with neon-colored Obama swag and patriotic McCain pens. A clerk said the items are far from top sellers, but she keeps Obama signs behind the counter. Local Democrats supplied them, and there have been several takers here in Barrackville.

“Otherwise known as Barack-ville,” said Connie Pirner, 53. “At least in my house it is.”

The special-needs teacher and registered independent said townspeople avoid talking about politics but there is no doubt the economy is swaying West Virginia toward the Democrats. For example, her husband builds in-ground swimming pools and has had three recent cancellations.

Mrs. Pirner held up a copy of the Wall Street Journal and said: “Look at the headlines. How could you vote for anybody but Barack?”

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