This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: June 10, 2008 - Barack Obama ended his campaign swing through St. Louis on Tuesday after attending a fundraiser in downtown and visiting a hospital. The visit was part of a Midwestern trip that is expected to take him to Wisconsin on Thursday. A trip to Iowa on Wednesday was canceled due to flooding.
His visit to Missouri was the second in a month, underscoring the importance of this state to Obama's hopes for the November election. Last month, he visited Cape Girardeau, Mo., a Republican stronghold.
At Barnes-Jewish Hospital, the presumptive Democratic presidential candidate chatted with several nurses about medical procedures and talked with some patients about their health insurance coverage. Among the patients was Raymond Bisher, 52, who retired as a St. John police officer after being diagnosed with congestive heart failure in 1998.
In a lengthy conversation, Bisher told Obama how Bisher's wife worked two jobs in spite of suffering from rheumatoid arthritis herself. One of Bisher's four sons is a soldier in Iraq.
Obama paid special attention when Bisher said his wife's weekly medical treatment consists of weekly shots costing $1,500 a piece.
Obama responded, "That's $6,000 a month. Wow." He then promised Bisher that health care would be a "big priority" if he's elected president. As he departed, he told Bisher, "Your wife sounds like a good woman... You tell your son we're thinking of him and praying for him in Iraq."
At the Democratic fundraiser the night before at St. Louis' Renaissance Hotel, Obama was greeted by a variety of his supporters for himself as well as rival Hillary Rodham Clinton's supporters. To underscore the importance of unity in the campaign, Rachel Storch, who headed the Clinton campaign drive in Missouri, introduced him.
The message from Storch and Obama was that Democrats have put any animosity from the presidential primaries behind them and were united to win the White House in November.
At the fundraiser, Obama paid tribute to Clinton and thanked backers who had supported his candidacy from the beginning. He called Sen. Claire McCaskill, one of his strongest supporters, "somebody you want in a foxhole." She and Rep. William Lacy Clay did not attend the fundraiser, but sent family members.
According to some reports, the $500 a ticket general reception and the $2,300 VIP reception were expected to generate about $1 million for Obama's campaign.