One of lessons Barack Obama appears to have learned from his defeat in Pennsylvania is that blue collar Democrats think that political change would be nice, but economic change would be better. Obama and his wife have made the economy their central theme while campaigning in Indiana and North Carolina.
While talking to steelworkers in Munster, IN on Friday, Obama said, “Here in Indiana, we’ve seen almost 100,000 well-paying manufacturing jobs, vanish…”These jobs aren’t just a source of income. They’re a source of dignity,” Obama said. “It’s not just the job that leaves.” He also stressed his organizer roots, “Working in the shadow of the steel plants just up the road, as a community organizer helping people find jobs after the mills closed, I feel a special connection to this area.”
In Asheville, NC yesterday Michelle Obama said, “Life has gotten harder, not easier, for working people. Barack will work every day to make that bar even.” Comments such these mark a shift in the focus of the campaign. Obama has always talked about the economy, but now the campaign is actively courting a group that is one of the pillars of support for Hillary Clinton, white blue collar voters.
Obama has consistently struggled with this group, and bigger concern is that they are the most likely bloc to migrate over and support John McCain in the fall. So while it appears on the surface that Obama is trying to win a nomination, what is really happening is that he is making his initial overture to a group of voters whose support he will desperately need in the fall.
It took his campaign a while to realize that this group of voters had heard the Democratic political change message before. Jimmy Carter ran on it in 1976, Bill Clinton ran on it in 1992, and John Kerry tried to run on it in 2004. Heck, FDR was the original change Democrat in 1932. (Sorry, younger Obama fans, but his political change message is nothing new).
The key to winning over blue collar Democrats is jobs. These are voters that are ripe for Obama’s taking. All he ever needed to do was talk to them about what they care about, and I am glad to see that he finally has. This week was the first step in a successful general election strategy.