Obama and the Grassroots
03-31-2008
Two weeks ago, I argued that the criticism that Barack Obama’s crucial speech on race was not sufficiently focused on winning over blue-collar Democrats was misplaced. My sense at the time was (and still is) that the speech was designed primarily to stabilize support among two key Obama constituencies, white-collar progressives and African-Americans. While the Rev. Wright controversy will likely see a return engagement in the general election, recent polling data suggests that Obama has indeed, at least for now, shored up his base of support and weathered the initial political firestorm.
 
So, how does Obama appeal to the significant group of working-class Democrats with whom he has underperformed in the primaries, and who are sometimes depicted as harboring underlying racial resentments? My suggestion two weeks ago was that he would have to win over those voters one state at a time, through traditional retail politics at the grassroots. It now appears that the Obama campaign has adopted precisely this strategy in PennsylvaniaAn early tip-off came last week, when the campaign announced that Obama’s Iowa state director, Paul Tewes, was being brought in to run the Pennsylvania effort, no doubt with the hope of replicating the campaign’s grassroots success in the Iowa Caucus. Whether this new approach will pay sufficient dividends by the April 22nd primary remains to be seen, and the campaign is hedging its bet by also going up with lots of television advertising in the state.


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