October 24, 2008

Ground Game

This American Life goes to Pennsylvania, a battleground within a battleground, to figure out why, and how, John McCain and Barack Obama both think they can win there. And we get to know the ordinary people who've become the candidates' most forceful foot soldiers.

Sonya Naugle, at a McCain-Palin rally in Lehigh Pennsylvania. "Actually this is the way I always dress. I had this look long before I knew who Sarah Palin was.

"I wear my hair up. Actually I've been wearing it up for years. And these glasses I had way before I knew who Sarah was. I actually even played basketball in college like she did. So there's a lot of similarities. And I have a special needs child.

"There are a lot of people who think I'm Sarah. It's nice. Because I strongly support Sarah, and if there's anybody I would look like, I'd choose her. I'm a diehard republican."

The online versions of this episode contain a slighter expanded version of Sarah Koenig's story about Obama volunteers registering students to vote, and an entire extra act at the end of the show. This last act couldn't fit into the broadcast version of the show because of time considerations. It's an aircheck from Steve Corbett's talk radio show at WILK-FM, in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton.

Pictured: Sonya Naugle, a Sarah Palin look-alike. Host Ira Glass interviewed Sonya at the Republican National Convention—you can listen to that interview here.


Host Ira Glass goes to a McCain rally in Lehigh, PA, outside of Allentown. Obama has double-digit leads over McCain in almost every poll. So why does McCain still think he has a shot? (5 minutes)
Act One


In Scranton, there's a "Citizens for McCain" office. But really, it's a "Democrats for McCain" office; flipping Democrats is vital if McCain is going to win. Producer Nancy Updike spent some time with these anti-Obama Democrats, who apparently have a message that's pitch perfect for their fellow disgruntled party members. (9 minutes)
Act Two

State College

While McCain gathers stray Democrats, Obama is trying to find new ones—in the reddest part of the state. To do that, his campaign has launched enormous registration drives, especially among college students. Producer Sarah Koenig followed registration workers around State College, home to Penn State University, to see how they were doing. (13 minutes)
Act Three

Union Halls

No one much likes to talk about it out loud, but everyone knows it's true: There are a lot of people out there who say they won't vote for Obama because he's black. To fight this problem, Richard Trumka, secretary treasurer of the AFL-CIO, has been traveling around the country giving a speech to fellow union members. It ends with a plea: You must stand up, and deal with race directly. Talk about it. Producer Lisa Pollak spent a month hanging out with union members, eavesdropping on their conversations, to see if Trumka's directive was working. (17 minutes)
Act Four

State College, Part Two

We continue our story about voter registration in State College, where there are only a few days left until the registration deadline. (7 minutes)