After finally beating then-Sen. Hillary Clinton in those grueling Democratic primaries, Obama launched his general election campaign right here. And then proceeded to carry the commonwealth of Virginia - first time for a Democrat in 44 years - on his way to winning the White House. Now he's hoping Bristol will help engineer another improbable victory on health care reform.
After a town hall in North Carolina, the president is literally taking his sales pitch to the produce aisle here at the Kroger supermarket. Most employees here are union workers who have generous health benefits. The conventional wisdom back in Washington is that the insured don't want to pay higher taxes to pick up the tab for the 46 million who are uninsured.
But over the course of the last two days, I've talked to a lot of supermarket employees and was surprised to learn that the assumption the president's critics are making could be wrong. Democratic - as well as Republican - employees told me they would be willing to pay higher taxes to get a reform bill, with a few important caveats the president will have to pay attention to.
Phil Younce, a frozen food clerk who voted for McCain, told me he's worried Obama is rushing the health push just like the stimulus battle. "Like the last one, too hurried, lot of mistakes, things that shouldn't be," he said.
And Steve Shipplett, the producer manager at Kroger, also had a warning for the President. Despite being an Obama voter, Shipplett told me he's nervous that his benefits may be taxed to cover the uninsured, and he's worried about whether this will prevent him from having the money to retire in a few years.
"He's going to have to spit out some numbers and let the public know exactly what it's going to cost them and what they're going to have to give up," Shipplett told me, adding: "That's where he's going to have step up and sell it to us. He's going to have to sell us - you know let us know what it's going to cost us and what's going to happen if we don't address this issue now."
But Shipplett said he believes the President has mostly sold him on the notion that the current skyrocketing costs are unsustainable, and he's willing to step up despite his reservations. "We've got to do something, and if it means me paying these taxes to get this reform through I would begrudgingly do it, yes," he said.
And back in the frozen food aisle, Younce said as a Republican he'd be willing to pay his fair share too. "No matter what, somebody has to pay for it," he said. "Comes to us, the people working. And we'll have to pay for it one way or another. I just hope we can come up with a plan that is worth paying for."
It's important to note both men are making under $250,000 a year, and the president has reiterated his promise not to raise taxes on people in that income category. Nevertheless, both men said they could live with Obama breaking that promise as long as the rich pay their fair share, and the president lays out some specifics showing this plan will actually work - so their hard-earned tax dollars don't wind up down the drain.