Mike's lunch truck sits, red and conspicuous, in a dirty cityscape of bricks and industry in workaday South Philly.

The noise here at Front and Pattison Streets is endless: I-95 highway whine and truck roar, along with clanking, booming sounds from warehouses and produce-packing plants.

Blue-collar people tend to work closer to noise, closer to moving parts and potential peril.

Their tough lives make them two things: hungry for Mike's old-school protein - eggs and beef, mostly - and wary of any presidential candidate who seems unfamiliar.

That's why many of Mike's customers are leaning toward Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton.

"Her husband did a good job," says Eddie Sheehan, 31, of South Philadelphia, who works packing fruit in a huge industrial freezer. "She probably will, too."

As though his bones are permanently iced from the job, Sheehan stays dressed in coveralls and a thermal sweatshirt even in the warmer outside air.

Like lots of endlessly polled blue-collar workers in the state, Sheehan sees the New York Democrat as a known, experienced hand who would focus on core economic issues such as the loss of jobs due to foreign trade and the expense of health care.

(Sheehan and the other Mike's customers were interviewed last week, before Sen. Barack Obama's comments about job losses and bitterness in small towns.)

Many working people have said they are against the war, which could cut Sen. John McCain (R., Ariz.) from the equation.

As for Obama, the Illinois Democrat, a few pollsters suggest that the racial element may influence how this group votes.

Sonny Russino, a 47-year-old short-order cook in Mike's truck who seems heated by something other than his grill, comes close to articulating the argument.

"This country isn't ready for a black president," he says.

"Obama has too much luggage. He is bringing too much of the past - racism and slavery - into the future. And his pastor says bad things about America.

"There's too much of this Afro-American thing in the country these days. Like in the music world, with rap. It seems to me they all want to take charge."

In the stark world of race and politics, two African American fruit packers have a different reason for eschewing Obama.

Sheila McClain, 47, of Frankford, and Karen Baker Williams, 48, of North Philadelphia, hit Mike's for lunch and did the "I am woman" thing.

"Obama's too inexperienced," Williams says. "And a woman's point of view is better."

"You're right. She's OK," McClain agrees. "Her being a woman, she'll do a good job."

"You know, I was holding a Hillary poster getting on a bus the other night," Williams explains, "and the bus driver says: 'Don't you get on this bus holding that. I'll beat you up.'

"I told him: 'You try it. I'm still going to vote for this female.' "

But, the savvy Mike's eaters will tell you, if Obama bears the burden of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Clinton carries the sniper foulup: She erroneously stated she was under fire while visiting Bosnia in 1996.

That's what two of Mike's customers, one black and one white but both blue-collar, bat about as they wait for their sandwiches.

"The sniper thing started to steer me away from her," says James Bright, a 30-year-old African American warehouse worker from North Philadelphia. "That's fake to me."

George Hibbs, 54, a white trucker from Hopewell, N.J., who is weary of $4-a-gallon diesel fuel and rising tolls, nods in working-man solidarity.

"The thing is, Obama and Hillary - they've never been one of us," he says.

"But they act like they are," Bright adds. He says he's resigned to a McCain victory because white men always win.

"You think he will?" Hibbs asks. "Not much will change if he wins. It'd be like Bush."

"Maybe," Bright says. "You want Obama? I guess I like the way he's campaigning."

"Very clean, right?" Hibbs responds.

"Right," Bright says. "And it's amazing how the young people like him."

"I just pray for all of us, man," Hibbs concludes. "There's stuff going on that you and me can't control."

It's the blue-collar man's lament, widely felt in and around Mike's truck: So much of life is out of our hands. What can the little guy do?

"I know it," Bright agrees. "You just take care out there.

"And watch out for yourself."