Barack Obama, please shake up your national staff
by desmoinesdem, Fri Aug 24, 2007 at 06:01:56 PM EDT
Back in June, I urged Barack Obama to fire the scheduler who put him at a west-coast fundraiser instead of at the Iowa Democratic Party's Hall of Fame dinner in Cedar Rapids. It seemed crazy to me for Obama to pass up a chance to address 1,000 Democratic activists in Iowa, especially since he wasn't hurting in the fundraising department.
I've long questioned the wisdom of David Axelrod's strategy to make the Obama campaign about Obama's inspiring personal story and his quest for consensus and post-partisanship.
Now I read in the Des Moines Register on Friday that Barack Obama will skip the September 20 AARP forum in Davenport.
John Edwards, Hillary Clinton and Bill Richardson will be there. But Obama will miss the chance to address more than 2,000 Iowa seniors, as well as the national public television audience who will watch the event.
Last week the Obama campaign announced plans to skip many of the remaining forums held by interest groups, and his national campaign manager explained the decision to the Register:
The number of events threatened to take Obama off his own game plan, his national campaign manager David Plouffe said.
"Otherwise, our schedule would be dictated by dozens and dozens of forums and debates, and we think the most important part of this process is individual interaction with voters," Plouffe said. "We benefit greatly when we're out there meeting with voters at our own events."
A lot of pundits and bloggers applauded Obama's decision, saying there are too many debates and forums. I see their point, but on the other hand, interest group forums raise questions that might not come up often on the campaign trail. I like the idea of the candidates being forced to address these issues.
Plus, I think it's risky to turn down an invitation when your rivals will all be there.
But even if I agreed with Obama's general strategy to attend fewer of these forums, the last one I'd skip is the AARP forum in Iowa.
Think about it: Obama does well with the under-30 crowd, but many (most?) Iowa precincts have a very small proportion of voters under 30. The majority of caucus-goers are likely to be over 50. The Register notes:
That group also has carried disproportionate clout in recent caucuses, according to Iowa Democratic Party statistics.
In 2004, 64 percent of the people who participated in the Democratic presidential caucuses were 50 or older. In 2000, the figure was 63 percent.
If Obama is going to do well in Iowa, he'll have to improve his numbers with the over-50 set.
Iowa State University political science professor Dianne Bystrom said she would have thought Obama would have made an exception for the AARP forum.
"He may not think that's his political base," said Bystrom, whose expertise includes debate strategy. "But it's the older voters that go to the caucuses, and I think he's really passing up an opportunity to speak to those voters."
Obama has a great Iowa staff led by Paul Tewes [update: I was wrong--John Norris's wife Jackie Norris is on Obama's staff, not John Norris]. But his national campaign handlers need to have their heads examined.
You may wonder why I care, since I am supporting Edwards for president. But I don't want Obama to do poorly in Iowa. I want him to finish ahead of Clinton.
To do that, he'll need to do better with older voters. I hope he'll turn up in Davenport on September 20 after all.