Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Maybe There's Something to that 50 State Strategy

Recently Time magazine had an article discussing the Obama campaign's decision to move staff members and volunteers out of North Dakota and into Minnesota and Wisconsin. While this seems like a prudent move on his part, there are some strange questions percolating in the mind of this young Democrat.

#1) Why does the media seem to think that this is news-worthy? I mean, I'm not necessarily surprised that Barack would move workers away from North Dakota, but honestly, the fact that he is no longer implementing a "50 State Strategy" warrants its own article? The fact that he had staff workers in these blood-red states should have made more news at the outset. Some people may think that this is hubris on Obama's part, "He doesn't just want to win, he wants to win everywhere" etc. Having looked at the way he has run his campaign up till now, I tend to give him a little more credit. Instead of trying to win a state like North Dakota of Montana (where the polls were surprisingly close up until recently) he was (and still) is trying to set the groundwork for his grass-roots organization. Maybe he can't win ND or MT this year, but there is always midterm elections to think about as well as re-election. I tend to think of this as forward thinking rather than idiotic if it is a bit idealistic.

#2) There is a certain trend to Obama's campaign that is a tad disconcerting to me. I may have written about this earlier, but I think it is worth repeating. Barack had a tendency to appeal to everyone, everywhere when it isn't exactly practical. The first example of this that I noticed was in the Pennsylvania primary that he lost to Hillary in April. He was out in Scranton, driving through Amish country, criss-crossing the eastern half of the state and apparently staying away from Philly like the plague. I know he doesn't want to be seen as the "urban" candidate, but honestly, it pays to encourage your base. Now I don't think anyone will ever know how many votes he drummed up for himself in rural PA, but I do think he really could have spent the time and energy in and around Philly and made sure turnout was through the roof. Interestingly, however, he seems to be doing well in Pennsylvania these days despite losing to Hillary. Perhaps this has something to do with him introducing himself to the rest of the state while he was confident that the Philly area would come through both in the primary and in the general election. For those of us who are so terrified of a McCain/Palin administration (and more importantly to me a McCain appointed Supreme Court), we are a bit nervous that his strategy will backfire.

Part of me wants to believe that Barack knows what he's doing and will prevail while another practical part of me wants to share a little quote from the West Wing. "You only need one." Referring to that one vote that puts you over your rival. So while Time magazine and many others may think it was foolish to invest time and energy in traditionally red states, it may profit in the end. As tempting as it might be to move every volunteer from the country to Ohio and Florida, Obama won't run his campaign that way. For one thing, he will need to campaign with the Udalls in NM and CO if he wants to significantly increase his majority in the Senate, but he also has other things to think about. Red states aren't going to magically turn purple just because Bush is wildly unpopular. The thing is, you have to start campaigning there. Even if Obama is just planting the seeds that will be reaped by successive generations of Democrats, it's a start. You won't get anywhere by ignoring half the states in the Union when it comes to National office and I think Barack is genius for seeing that fact. Maybe all his talk about hope for the future isn't strictly rhetorical after all.

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