Before arriving in Rock Hill for a rally Saturday night, Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama spoke by phone with Herald reporter Jessica Schonberg. Here's some of what he had to say:
Q: Originally, you planned to have a town hall-style meeting. Why did you opt for a rally the second time around?
A: "It's difficult to schedule a town hall meeting with more than 1,000 people. There was a lot of interest. We'll do a rally this time and once people hear what I have to say we'll try to hold a town hall meeting."
Q: So you plan to be back?
A: "I hope so."
Q: If you are elected, what can you do to help places like York County where industry has moved out and many people have been laid off or otherwise left without jobs?
A: "The main thing is for the president to understand that the economy is not working for a whole lot of people. It's been good for Wall Street, it's been good for corporate CEOs, but for the average worker they've seen their wages flatline.
"We need fair trade policies and strong labor agreements. We need to make sure countries like China are not devaluing currency to make their exports cheaper and our exports more expensive. We should keep tax breaks for companies investing in the U.S. We need to improve our education system and provide lifelong training. We have to focus on economic development, especially in rural areas."
Q: How can you stay connected from Washington, and possibly the White House, to the needs of people in small-town America?
A: "One of the nice things representing the state of Illinois is that once you get out of Chicago, it's small-town America. I've worked on agriculture and other issues affecting small towns.
"I know how hard people work, how solid the values are of the people in rural and small-town America, but I also recognize the challenges.
"Many towns have relied on one business that is now gone. We need to use the government and local resources such as community colleges to invest in infrastructure in these communities.
For more of Jessica Schonberg's interview with Barack Obama, visit Jessica's blog at http://community.heraldonline.com.