Obama brings in women to fight for female vote after Palin speech
September 7, 2008
BARACK Obama will increasingly lean on prominent Democratic women to undercut Sarah Palin and John McCain, dispatching Hillary Rodham Clinton to Florida tomorrow.
The fear that the Alaska governor could take away female votes secured by Clinton has also seen Obama’s team create a rapid-response unit to deploy senior female Democrats to battleground states.
Clinton’s campaign event in Florida, her first for ADVERTISEMENT Obama since the Democratic convention, will include a forceful response to the searing attacks and fresh burst of energy that Palin injected into the race with her convention speech on Wednesday, Obama aides said.
With the McCain-Palin team courting undecided female voters, including some who backed Clinton in the Democratic primaries, Obama aides said they were counting on not only Clinton but also Democratic female governors to criticise Palin – and, by extension, McCain. Those governors include Janet Napolitano of Arizona and Kathleen Sebelius of Kansas.
Still, within the Obama campaign and among Democratic officials nationwide, talks are well under way about how the party should treat Palin in the campaign – and what Obama and his running mate, Senator Joe Biden, need to do to regain the offensive after the Republican convention.
Some Democrats were urging Obama’s campaign not to underestimate the potential power of Palin’s speech, even among voters not aligned with either party. On liberal talk-radio shows and on left-leaning blogs, some Democrats said the Obama campaign should fight back hard to avoid being caricatured as John Kerry was four years ago when he ran against President Bush. Some party strategists warned Palin’s personal narrative as a “hockey mom” with a special-needs child, would appeal to some undecided women voters.
“What McCain has done with Governor Palin’s nomination is aim right at a demographic that Obama needs to address quickly: non-college-educated women,” said Mike McCurry, a former spokesman in the Clinton White House. “They need to maximise Biden’s ability to reach out to them, but at the end of the day, it is Obama who has to get that very, very critical group.”
Advisers to Obama predicted that the buzz over Palin would fade and the race would quickly turn back into a contest between McCain and Obama, despite the McCain campaign’s efforts to compare Obama’s experience unfavourably to Palin’s.
David Axelrod, the Obama campaign’s chief political strategist, said Obama would not raise questions about Palin’s experience. Axelrod said the campaign would work instead to impress upon voters the seriousness of the race and continue to try to link the McCain-Palin team to Bush.
“For someone who makes the point that she’s not from Washington, she looked very much like she’d fit in very well there when you see how she brings the attacks,” Axelrod said.
Advisers to Clinton said that she stood ready to help the Obama-Biden ticket, but urged the campaign not to overestimate the impact Clinton could have, noting she had other commitments this autumn, such as campaigning and fundraising.
Still, Mo Elleithee, a Clinton spokesman, said he believed she could make a difference with some voters who feel lost in the current economy.
“Anyone who was inclined to support Hillary Clinton typically did so because of her focus on middle-class, bread-and-butter issues,” Elleithee said.
Obama, last week brushed aside any worry that he might have about Palin’s criticism of his biography and political record in her convention speech. “I’ve been called worse on the basketball court, so it’s not that big of a deal,” he said.