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Obama to Shift Event Strategy

Image has not been found. URL: /wp-content/uploads/2008/10/obama-pappu.jpgSen. Barack Obama meets with the press corps aboard his campaign plane. (Snapshot: Sridhar Pappu)

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio–What’s a birthday for a presidential candidate without some quality time with the press? Last night, near the end of a flight from Boston to Youngstown, Ohio, Sen. Barack Obama, the presumed Democratic presidential candidate, came back to offer cake to his press corps and, of course, ended up answering questions from a few — including yours truly. As some of you might remember, in my piece exploring whether or not Obama could actually be a closer, campaign communications director Robert Gibbs had said the Obama camp would focus on smaller events, shunning large venues–with the obvious exception of Obama’s coming party acceptance speech at Invesco Field in Denver.

Politics-150x150_4992.jpg
Politics-150x150_4992.jpg

Illustration by: Matt Mahurin

After talking to reporters about, among other things, his European trip, his daughters’ fondness for the Jonas Brothers and spending the previous day relaxing with a beer, I asked him about the new small-venue approach.

“Well,” Obama said, “You know, even before our foreign trip we were doing a lot more of those.”

“Do you prefer those to big events?” I asked.

“You know, I do at this point,” Obama said. Only because I think that, you know, we’ve had rallies with 15,000 people, with 20,000 people, with 70,000 people — and there’s a lot of excitement behind those. But there’s not a lot of interaction with voters. And, you know, part of what I want to be able to do over the next three months is to lay out, in very clear, specific terms, the choice that voters are going to have in this election. And I think that our ability to inspire voters, and generate interest and excitement in the political process — I think that’s a powerful tool.

“I think the fact that McCain’s camp tries to make that into a weakness as opposed to a strength is clever politics, But it doesn’t understand the degree to which we’re going to have to have a different kind of politics — where people are excited and interested in their government — if we’re going to tackle some of these problems. So I think they’re missing the boat there.

“But what is true is that, in the next three months, what’s most important is the voters go into the polling places with a clear idea of what the choices are,” Obama said. “And listen, there’s gonna to be some voters who say ‘I feel more comfortable with the approach that has been taken over the last 8 years. John McCain’s not going to offer a fundamental change from what we’ve been doing over the last eight years, he’s going to take her around the edges, around it, and that’s what I’m comfortable with. It makes me feel like the best we can do.’

“And I’m making a different argument,” he concluded. “I think we have to have much more fundamental change. That is an important debate to be had. And I think I can have it more effectively in some of these smaller venues.”

With that the senator went back to the front of the plane to retrieve pieces of cake, gladly accepted by a press corps exhausted from the day’s events and looking forward to a night in a couple of motels in Youngstown. Ah, the glamour….

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