- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 27, 2008

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

“My friends joked that I spend so much time talking about this man I should be getting paid,” Joan Sadoff, of Philadelphia, said about her “holding court” on Sen. Barack Obama, whom she has supported “from Day One.”

Instead, Mrs. Sadoff, a documentary filmmaker and former social worker, will be spending $1,000 her own money “going to Denver to volunteer with 8,000 people” at the Democratic National Convention this week to witness the historic nomination of Mr. Obama as the party’s candidate for president of the United States.

As she prepared to go to Denver two weeks ago, Mrs. Sadoff said her main reasons for supporting Mr. Obama is his stance against the Iraq war , his plans to withdraw troops and his approach to foreign policy with “the possibility of diplomacy being back on the table.”

“At the top of his agenda is meeting with leaders of other countries ,” she said.

A clinical social worker, the mother of four and grandmother of eight, the 70-year-old Mrs. Sadoff said she pays close attention to how people communicate, especially how well they listen.

“He knows how to listen … and I can picture [Mr. Obama] taking that skill to Syria, Pakistan and the Middle East and sitting down with them and trying to find a place where we can find common ground, and let that be the place to start,” Mrs. Sadoff said.

“I’m Jewish and I’m very comfortable with him in terms of Israel,” she added.

Monday, as Mrs. Sadoff traveled to Denver, Dr. Robert L. Sadoff, a forensic psychiatrist and director of the Center for Studies in Social-Legal Psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania, discussed his wife’s “passion” for the Democratic candidate, the couple’s political concerns and activities, and Mr. Obama’s running mate.

The couple is delighted with Mr. Obama’s selection of Delaware Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr., as his running mate.

“I’m absolutely thrilled. He’ll bring balance and energy to the ticket,” said Mrs. Sadoff, noting that Mr. Biden is sometimes referred to as “the third senator” from Pennsylvania.

Given Mr. Biden’s acknowledged acumen in foreign affairs, Dr. Sadoff said, “he’s a good choice for VP.”

As longtime members of the World Affairs Council, they met Mr. Biden at a 2003 national conference of the organization in the District. Dr. Sadoff remembered that Mr. Biden “was bright and seemed to know what he was talking about.”

The Sadoffs are writing a book about the women featured in the award-winning film “Standing on My Sister’s Shoulders,” which they co-produced with director Laura J. Lipson. It is about unsung heroines of the civil rights movement.

The optimistic Sadoffs predicted that the Democratic ticket would get a bounce in the polls after the convention.

Both parties usually receive a boost after their conventions, but few things are following a traditional pattern this election year. For one, the economy surpassed the war and foreign policy as the main concern for voters.

A CNN poll released last weekend after the Biden announcement showed the candidates running neck and neck . Sen. John McCain, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, was backed by 47 percent of the voters, as was Mr. Obama.

Fifty-four percent of registered voters in the telephone poll said Mr. Biden’s selection as a running mate was an excellent or good decision. That number rose to 73 percent among registered Democrats.

However, previous polls conducted throughout the summer indicate that the majority of voters think Mr. McCain is better qualified to be commander in chief .

While Mr. Biden fills the foreign affairs gap in Mr. Obama’s resume, his choice does not guarantee votes from swing states or a blue-collar constituency the ticket needs. He is from one of the smallest Democratic states in the country and even though he comes from Catholic, working-class Pennsylvania roots, the 35-year Senate veteran could still be labeled as an East Coast elitist. A Washington insider, Mr. Biden also could weaken Mr. Obama’s “change we can believe in” mantra.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson, author of “The Ethnic Presidency: How Race Decides the Race to the White House,” wrote in his column for thedailyvoice.com that Republican conservatives hope that Mr. Biden’s liberal record and support of civil rights will be a liability with Southern voters.

Like many voters, Mrs. Sadoff’s decision is not swayed by the vice-presidential candidate. She says that “a Barack Obama comes into our lives once in a lifetime.”

While in Denver this week, Mrs. Sadoff and her friend, Elissa Rubin of Santa Barbara, Calif., will be stationed under a tent near the Center for Performing Arts to pass out leaflets, some about the environment. In the evening, they will line up to use a roving pass to gain entry to the convention hall.

It doesn’t bother her that Mr. Obama is criticized for lack of experience. “No one is ever experienced enough. You learn on the job and Obama is a fast learner,” she suggested.

“He’s smart, and I need my president to be smart,” Mrs. Sadoff said. “We haven’t had smart for eight years and we’ve suffered terribly because of it.”

All the more reason for those not so passionate, undecided voters - who make or break elections - need to take a long, hard look at what each candidate is offering beyond “holding court” at their respective conventions.

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