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Ready to Be Heard, Celebrants Flock to the Nation’s Capital

His attitude is in line with new polls showing Americans will be patient with Obama. While they’re confident that Obama can turn the economy around, they’re prepared to give him years to do so.

The Carsons use Ohio as an example of Obama’s opportunity. At first, Terry Carson had been dubious that Obama would carry Ohio, a state with many working-class white residents. But Saturday as the Carsons worked the room of Ohioans, from elected officials to grass roots party regulars, they heard a cheer go up when a big-screen television showed Obama arriving in Washington by train, just a few miles away. Yes, Obama had won Ohio over.

The worsening economy made a huge difference in pushing Ohio’s working-class voters over to Obama’s side, Carson says. Now Obama must find an answer to their economic prayers. Carson favors pumping more money into the still-faltering banking system and funding building projects that create jobs.

The Carsons have weathered the recession better than many Ohioans, whose state unemployment trust fund has run dry. The price tag for attending the inauguration was steep enough to keep away some of the Carson’s political colleagues. Ohio Democrats organized many events and reserved a block of rooms at the Mayflower Hotel downtown, where the four-night package came to $4,000 a couple.

The Carsons opted for the party Saturday night, a Sunday gala dinner, a ball on Tuesday and a few other events. But to save money, they’re staying at their daughter and son-in-law’s apartment on Capitol Hill. April, a lawyer with the liberal group Alliance for Justice, took in her parents instead of renting out her apartment for thousands of dollars, as neighbors had done.

“I guess I owe you big time,” Janet Carson says to her daughter. Even when the apartment’s pipes temporarily froze Saturday, raising the possibility they might have no running water, the Carsons could not be dissuaded from making the trip.

On inauguration eve—Martin Luther King Day—Obama is scheduled to launch Renew America Together, his call for Americans to make an ongoing commitment to better the lives of others in their communities and their country. Obama and his wife, Michelle, and Vice President-elect Joe Biden and his wife, Jill, will kick off the program by performing volunteer work in Washington.

Back in the Carsons’ home, Geauga County, Democrats are organizing a food drive and other volunteer events. That’s the sort of revival of 1960s activism the Carsons love.

“When you see people’s lives being made better and the country going in the direction you think it should, it’s rewarding,” Janet Carson says. “It’s the frosting on the cake for all the work we’ve done for eight years.”

Tamara Lytle was a correspondent and Washington bureau chief for the Orlando Sentinel from 1997 to 2008.

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