Obama's Focus Turns to "Everyday People"

Following a double digit loss in the Ohio primary and a high single digit loss in Pennsylvania, Barack Obama’s campaign is undergoing what First Read has termed a “re-launch,” and focused on the economic woes of everyday people. Articles appeared today in the New York Times, Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal about this style and policy shift designed to pursue the blue-collar votes that have recently proven elusive for him.

From the Washington Post:

Sen. Barack Obama came this past weekend to this factory town, where the loss of hundreds of jobs at the Delphi auto parts plant was only the latest blow, and told 2,000 voters that the way to fix things was not just to vote for him -- but to join a bottom-up mass movement to change the way government works.

He didn't put it that way exactly. But in a noteworthy shift, the Illinois senator is trying to reach working-class and middle-class voters by arguing more explicitly that the reform ideas driving his campaign can address the economic troubles that threaten their way of life. Supplanting lobbyist influence with citizen activism, uniting the country beyond petty partisan gamesmanship and bringing more candor to government, he argues, are not just abstract goals, but concrete steps that can level the playing field and lead to a more equitable distribution of the nation's wealth.

"When we push back the special interests, when we unify the country, when we speak honestly with the American people about our challenges, there's nothing we can't accomplish, nothing we can't do," he said here. "When we unify the country, we will change our economy."

Much also has been made about the cosmetic changes the campaign is undergoing. Obama recently showed off his basketball skills in Indiana (where the sport is sacrosant), and has reverted to a common practice from earlier in the campaign: going without coat and tie and rolling up his sleeves.

From the Wall Street Journal:

During his weekend tour of Indiana, Sen. Obama shed his suit jacket and rolled up his shirt sleeves. Rather than pace up and down the stage like a law professor addressing a lecture hall, the Illinois senator has taken to speaking more often from behind a podium.

"If you had watched the last few weeks of this campaign, you would think that all that politics is about is taking hits and bickering," he said. "There's no serious discussion about how we're actually going to bring back jobs to Anderson."

The candidates are turning their attention to the economy at an important time. Global food shortages are starting to have effects at home, and the San Francisco Chronicle today documented the ongoing economic shift that will force many Americans to accept a new standard of living due to the weak dollar.

At NDN, we agree that far more attention needs to be paid to the economic woes of everyday people. NDN President Simon Rosenberg recently blogged on the need to keep political attention on laying out an agenda that restores broad-based prosperity, which the Globalization Initiative has been advocating for the last three years.

With the economy on the wrong track, the candidates need to pick up their rhetoric and provide a cogent narrative on America’s place in the new globalized economy. While it may be easy to pander on these issues for short term political advantage, greater benefit, to both candidate and nation, will come from providing a convincing argument that deals with the realities of globalization. Hopefully, a renewed focus on everyday people will do just that.