From NBC's Ron Allen
SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Sen. Clinton just went along on the morning commute with Jason Allen Wilfing of South Bend, who works at a sheet metal plant. They stopped for gas in his white pickup truck at a Marathon station where the price for regular is $3.75 a gallon. Clinton and Wilfing are now "commuting," to his job, in a motorcade, a motorcade that incidentally included eight low-gas mileage SUVs.
It was all quite contrived, like many campaign events, with Secret Service in the back seat of the truck and a swarm of media at the station. However, this one seemed a bit more "unnatural," shall we say, than most. And Sen. Clinton admitted because of her "special circumstance," she hasn't bought gas in a long while. But it's an example of how determined Clinton is to win over working-class voters by showing her concern and understanding of "kitchen table" issues.
While the gas dial was rolling up to $63.67, Clinton and Wilfing "chatted" about the high price of groceries and how rising fuel costs are affecting many aspects of family life.
Clinton also made a pitch, when asked about it by reporters, for her "gas tax holiday," which would suspend fuel taxes for the summer months. While Sen. Barack Obama and others have called the proposal a "gimmick" that only would save most families about $28 over the summer, Clinton says small businesses, trucking firms, farmers and families driving off for vacations would save much more. Clinton seems determined to make this a defining issue over the remaining days of the campaign.
Clinton also talked about how there's a need to "sound the alarm" about how high prices are hurting families. She talked about how it's a question of the nation's priorities while pointing out that the government bailed out Wall Street investment bank Bear Sterns, but she says, has done little for working-class families.
And there was more. Clinton talked about the need to investigate the energy markets, an unregulated business she says should be investigated for "market manipulation." She also called for more pressure on the OPEC "cartel," which she said operates a monopoly that should in some ways be more accountable under U.S. anti-trust laws. Much of that has become part of her stump speech here in Indiana, where her main theme continues to be "jobs, jobs and jobs."
We're now at Delux sheet metal, where Clinton is chatting with workers assembled on the factory floor here for her remarks.
"We've got to gather the political will to take on the oil companies," she said.
Quite a morning commute for one of the company's workers. And, in case you're wondering, the Clinton campaign did pay for her commuter buddy's gas. She just said someone told her the prices in some places went up 20 cents a gallon overnight.
"I'm asking people who work hard for a living ... to support me," she just said, adding that the country needs a "fighter" and a "change maker" in the White House.