- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 26, 2008

— Forget soccer moms, security moms and NASCAR dads — the ultimate swing group this year may be the former party stalwarts each campaign is angling to poach from the other party, and chief among those are supporters of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton.

On Monday, Sen. John McCain struck first, with Republicans deploying surrogates and running a new commercial featuring a Clinton delegate who was ousted from Democrats’ nominating convention and is now supporting Mr. McCain.

“I am exactly like millions of other Clinton supporters. I do believe people will come out and support Senator McCain,” said Debra Bartoshevich, a Clinton supporter and one-time delegate who was kicked off the convention list earlier this summer after she said Sen. Barack Obama wasn’t qualified to be president.

“I know there are more delegates. I spoke to a lot of delegates who are in the same position I am in, but they are not ready to come out yet,” she said.

Mr. Obama counters this week with speeches from the convention by two Republicans, former Rep. Jim Leach of Iowa and Jim Whitaker, mayor of Fairbanks, Alaska.

Campaigning in Davenport, Iowa, at an event designed to convince independents and Republicans to support him, Mr. Obama was introduced by longtime Republican Randy Wehrman.

“Republicans across the country like myself are just as eager as Democrats an independents to elect a leader with new ideas and a proven ability to work with all sides,” Mr. Wehrman said. “To some here today, at one time that person might have been John McCain, and it might have been for me, too, back in 2000 [when he was] the self-described original maverick. However, I imagine the reason you are sitting here today is because you are wondering, like myself, what happened to the maverick.”

Going after the other party’s voters is standard practice, and both parties like to have prominent crossover figures speak at their conventions.

But this year the competition is more intense. On the one hand, polls show fewer voters identify as Republicans than did four years ago, while on the other side, Mrs. Clinton has shined a spotlight on a group of Democrats uneasy with Mr. Obama as their nominee.

Republicans are trying to exploit that opening, scoring their biggest coup in having Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, the 2000 Democratic vice-presidential nominee, speak at their convention’s opening night.

They are also bringing four Democrats to Denver on Monday, at least three of them former Clinton supporters, to explain why they are backing Mr. McCain.

“I have been a Democrat for over 30 years. I have been a lifelong Hispanic. Well, Obama has ignored us. He does not even know we are around,” said Silverio Salazar, a former Democratic Party activist in Pueblo, Colo., whose cousins are Sen. Ken Salazar and Rep. John Salazar, both of whom are supporting Mr. Obama.

“I strongly feel it’s our duty and our obligation to get out there and let these Democrats and these Hispanics know, it’s OK, you don’t have to vote Democratic just because your ancestors did.”

Carly Fiorina, a top adviser to Mr. McCain, has been traveling the country to try to build support for the Republican among women, Democrats and independents.

Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett said Monday she is using some of her time in Denver doing counterprogramming with women who had supported Mrs. Clinton, working to convince them to support the Illinois senator.

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