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Obama has many surrogates, McCain has few
Voters in Wisconsin got to see Barack Obama while his wife, Michelle, courted Colorado and Missouri residents and former President Bill Clinton appealed to Floridians.
And that was just yesterday.
A deep bench of Democratic firepower - paired with star power from the likes of Bruce Springsteen and Jay-Z, who will hit the trail for Mr. Obama this weekend - is allowing Mr. Obama to take his campaign to several states every day.
Sen. John McCain, by contrast, has fewer stars and is playing on a smaller map. The Republican nominee rarely splits from his wife, Cindy, and shares a stage more often than not with his running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.
The joint campaigning allows the Republican ticket to electrify far larger crowds than Mr. McCain was able to attract earlier in the year, but it also means the campaign can cover less territory.
On any given day, 10 to 15 Obama surrogates are fanned out across several battleground states, spreading the Obama message from Miami to Las Vegas.
Mr. Obama has Stevie Wonder and even the reunited Grateful Dead on his side. Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher starred in a Web video reminding Americans to register to vote. They join Queen Latifah, Kal Penn and Sean Astin, all of whom have recorded Web ads on Mr. Obama’s behalf.
Mr. Springsteen and Billy Joel will hold their first-ever joint concert Oct. 16 in New York to benefit Mr. Obama. Mr. Springsteen also will headline free concerts in Columbus, Ohio, and Philadelphia this weekend, a final push before Monday’s voter-registration deadlines. Rapper Jay-Z is doing the same in Miami and Detroit.
Republicans have their own voter-registration push this weekend, and Republican National Committee spokesman Alex Conant scoffed at the rock stars aiding the Democrats.
“I guess they’re impressed by Obama’s Grammy. But regular voters will be more impressed by McCain’s judgment and experience,” he said. Mr. Obama won a Grammy Award for the audio recording of his book.
On the Republican side, some of the bigger political stars have yet to headline large rallies for Mr. McCain, a longtime senator from Arizona.
An aide to California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who at this point is the biggest “star” in the party, said the Republican will hit the trail this fall and “do what he can to help the senator.”
Former New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, the most sought-after politician in 2006 to hit multiple campaign events for Republicans, will play a “very active role,” an aide said.
But nothing’s on the calendar for either man.
President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney still are big fundraising draws, but remain unpopular with voters, so it’s unlikely they will be campaigning at McCain-Palin rallies. Neither man attended the Republican convention.
The former candidates are supporting Mr. McCain, but have yet to play a major role with voters.
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney spends most of his days aiding the McCain campaign’s economic message by appearing on television. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee is busy with has his own TV show. Former Sen. Fred Thompson of Tennessee gave a barnburner speech for Mr. McCain at the party’s convention and since then has appeared at at least one rally in Northern Virginia last month.
Next to Mr. Obama, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and her husband are the biggest crowd draws in the Democratic Party.
Despite their resounding endorsements at Mr. Obama’s convention, their efforts have been scrutinized at every level, with pundits suggesting their support isn’t strong enough because there are still hurt feelings over Mrs. Clinton’s primary defeat.
Mr. Clinton, whose Wednesday Florida rally for Mr. Obama drew so much interest that it was moved to a larger venue, defended his wife last week. He said he didn’t think any losing candidate “in 40 years … has ever done as much for the nominee.”
It’s true. She has participated in more than 40 rallies, fundraisers and speeches in at least eight states on Mr. Obama’s behalf since dropping out of the race in early June. Her donors and events have helped him raise more than $10 million.
New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, an early Obama endorser after ending his own White House bid, has been out on the trail in full force and has helped move his state from the tossup column to lean toward Mr. Obama on Nov. 4.
Former Sen. John Edwards was a big “get” for the Obama team when he endorsed the Democrat back in May. Though he’s dropped off the political map after admitting that he had an extramarital affair, his wife, Elizabeth Edwards, remains popular in the party.
On Wednesday at a North Carolina town-hall meeting, she ripped into Mr. McCain’s health care stance as an example of how he would drastically harm residents in her home state.
Singer-songwriter Carole King hit 12 Ohio towns to persuade voters, while actors such as Don Cheadle, Forest Whitaker and Hill Harper have stumped in Florida and Missouri. Top Obama booster Oprah Winfrey has not held a rally for her candidate since February, but she just may appear again in a battleground state.
The superstar efforts are designed to boost voter registration as state deadlines near. Many states are beginning their early-vote programs, something the Obama team used successfully in the primaries and is continuing to push.
“Election Day isn’t ahead of us; it’s already here,” Obama campaign manager David Plouffe told supporters in an e-mail Wednesday.
“Early voting has begun in eight states - including the key battleground of Ohio, where voting begins today - and it will be starting in a dozen more over the next two weeks,” he wrote.
“With voting already under way, we’re racing to register voters and get the high turnout we’ll need to win,” he said. “What we do - or don’t do - in these next 34 days will determine whether America gets the change we need or four more years of the same.”
About the Author
Christina Bellantoni is a White House correspondent for The Washington Times in Washington, D.C., a post she took after covering the 2008 Democratic presidential campaigns. She has been with The Times since 2003, covering state and Congressional politics before moving to national political beat for the 2008 campaign. Bellantoni, a San Jose native, graduated from UC Berkeley with ...
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