SELMA, ALA. - John McCain has a long way to go to convince Juanita Gibson of anything.
Gibson, who's black, stood outside the auto shop where she works Monday, eyeing a mostly white crowd gather across the street for the kickoff of McCain's "It's Time for Action" tour. It will take McCain, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, to some of the United States' poorer precincts in an effort to show that he's a different kind of Republican.
Gibson pondered whether the Arizona senator had taken much action to help people like her. "Not that I know of," she said.
That sums up the challenge facing McCain as he tries to woo independent voters and perhaps even break the Democratic stranglehold on voters in places such as rural southwest Alabama. Other stops on his tour this week include economically stressed Youngstown, Ohio; Appalachia in Kentucky, and the Ninth Ward of New Orleans, which was devastated by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
"It's unlikely his campaigning will change many votes," said Earl Black, a political scientist at Rice University who specializes in Southern politics.
Alabama's Seventh Congressional District, where McCain spent most of Monday, is 62 percent black, with a poverty rate of 24.7 percent. It went for Democratic nominee John Kerry by nearly 2-to-1 over President Bush in 2004.
But, Black said, the trip likely will help McCain in a broader sense, as it reinforces the sense among voters nationally that he's a Republican with an independent streak, occasionally making common cause with Democrats.
McCain wouldn't say whether the legacy of Bush or of the Republican Party would make it harder for him to connect with poor and black voters.
"The American people will judge who they want to vote for not necessarily by the past ... but how that person is going to handle their future," McCain said. "Vision, motivation and plans in ways that we can improve people's lives.
"There must be no forgotten places in America, whether they have been ignored for long years by the sins of indifference and injustice, or have been left behind as the world grew smaller and more economically interdependent.''