ARNOLD — With dozens of laid off autoworkers on stage behind him, Democratic vice presidential candidate Joe Biden pledged Thursday to do more for the middle class if he and Barack Obama are elected.
Biden said the union autoworkers did right by their employer, but 2,400 of them in nearby Fenton lost their jobs this fall as the economy soured. The workers at Chrysler's South Assembly Plant in Fenton rolled the last Dodge minivan off the assembly line Wednesday, two days ahead of schedule.
"At the end of the day, it's ultimately about jobs," Biden said.
Biden outlined ways the Democratic ticket would help the middle class — cutting taxes for working people and small businesses, ending the nation's dependence on foreign oil and investing in the country's infrastructure.
He said ending the war in Iraq would help America reclaim respect in the world and help domestically.
"Stop spending $10 billion a month in Iraq, and spend it creating jobs here in the United States," he said.
The two presidential campaigns are hotly contesting Missouri, where a recent poll conducted for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and television station KMOV showed Obama and his Republican rival John McCain about even among likely voters. Obama himself was to address a rally late Thursday at MU in Columbia.
McCain's running mate, Sarah Palin, also campaigned in the state on Thursday. She told a Cape Girardeau audience that McCain would fix the economy, lead America to victory in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and move toward energy independence.
Later Thursday, both Biden and Palin moved on to Pennsylvania, another state where both campaigns are still working hard although Obama has a lead in polling there. Palin spoke to 6,000 in the Erie, Pa., convention center. And Biden addressed 1,000 supporters in the Lycoming College gym in Williamsport, Pa., just hours before Palin was to appear in Williamsport.
Biden spoke to more than 500 people at Fox High School in Arnold, a suburb of St. Louis and part of Jefferson County, where New York Sen. Hillary Clinton bested Obama in the Democratic presidential primary.
But several audience members Thursday were enthusiastic supporters of Obama. They don't like the direction the country is headed and like Obama's ideas on the economy and health care.
Displaced autoworker Matthew Kinloch, 47, of Fenton, who worked for Chrysler for almost 25 years, called Biden's speech encouraging.
The married father of two said his family can survive for about six months without a paycheck but said he's got to find some work. Kinloch, among those who shared the stage with Biden, felt Obama and Biden could make a difference in his life if elected.
"They're looking out for middle-class people," he said.