- The Washington Times - Monday, June 30, 2008

Can an “Obamlet” with “Baraccoli” be a useful tool to win the presidential election? Sen. Barack Obama’s team hopes so.

On Saturday, more than 4,000 people hosted Unite for Change house parties - some with cutesy food names - in honor of the presumptive Democratic nominee, an effort to build the campaign’s grass-roots supporters into a force that can’t be stopped in November.

It’s part of the multifaceted “persuasion army” Team Obama hopes to build to do much of its work in the final days of the election, convincing neighbors block by block why the Democrat should be president.

“You’ll start planning how to build this movement across the country in the weeks and months ahead,” the campaign instructs supporters for the do-it-yourself political parties. “We’re counting on you to keep it going through November.”

From the garlic capital of the world in Gilroy, Calif., to Levittown, Pa., Obama supporters reached out to their friends and neighbors - especially ones who aren’t yet registered voters or who backed Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton during the Democratic primaries and caucuses.

Ersula Cosby, an Obama voter from the Philadelphia suburb, organized her neighborhood party with a focus on Clinton backers because she recognized “there were some hard feelings” that lingered after the state’s hotly contested April primary.

“It’s great to address that issue on a local, personal level. It’s better to hear it coming from your good friend, as opposed to being told by the party what you have to do,” said Ms. Cosby, a lawyer who is new to grass-roots politics. One guest was a Clinton backer who will vote for Mr. Obama but acknowledged she needs to “convince a lot of my friends” to follow suit.

The campaign aims to duplicate those efforts across the country.

“A human being talking to one human being as a swing voter trying to figure out what to do in this election is a very powerful thing,” Obama campaign manager David Plouffe told reporters last week.

He said it’s a sort of “persuasion army” that will help voters “sort through” political news and ads.

Alastair Rami of Northwest Washington offered a brunch menu with “Baraccoli Obamlets” to woo “Hillary Clinton supporters and independents and anyone else who hasn’t yet made up their mind.”

“Whether you’re an old political pro, someone just getting involved for the first time, or someone who just likes a free brunch and stimulating political discussion, swing on by,” he touted on his MyBarackObama page.

The Obama Web site allows supporters to network and find local events from sign-making to wine tasting on behalf of the candidate.

From a grass-roots organizing standpoint, the site for Sen. John McCain offers little more than press releases and the presumptive Republican nominee’s schedule.

Members who sign up for the McCain network receive a welcome e-mail from the candidate suggesting two ways to get involved - a donation, and through the “online action center” to “help spread John McCain’s message to your family, friends, neighbors and co-workers.”

But the Republican does not provide as many outlets for doing so - a voter who signs up to be part of the Virginia team comes to a page with the latest McCain ad and his national schedule, not a Virginia-specific grass-roots page.

By comparison, the Obama Virginia page on Sunday offered a commonwealth-specific blog, four voter-registration events for that day and also presented five regional Virginia groups voters can join to network with fellow fans.

Mr. Plouffe said he thinks the Democrats can “exploit” the “enthusiasm gap” showcased by many polls that indicate more people are “very” excited about Mr. Obama than feel the same way about Mr. McCain. A recent poll pegged the “very enthusiastic” figure at 40 percent for the Democrat and just 13 percent for the Republican.

He also noted the campaign is confident it can expand the electoral map because of its grass-roots support.

“If we want to go try and register people in a community on the weekend, we can do that by asking people to show up somewhere,” he said, adding the McCain enthusiasm numbers suggest his percentage of willing volunteers must be “pretty low.”



Click to Read More

Click to Hide