April 20, 2008


Barack Obama's campaign finds a culture clash in Philadelphia -
The city's entrenched, quirky political system isn't a natural fit for a campaign staff that talks grass-roots. And what's this about no cash payouts? (Peter Nichols, Los Angeles Times, April 20, 2008)

PHILADELPHIA — Hal Sawyer figures he knows just what is needed to deliver his precinct for Barack Obama in the gritty world of Philadelphia politics.

He has rigged up his Dodge Caravan with a loudspeaker so he can drive through his neighborhood in northwest Philadelphia urging people to come out to Obama events. He has reams of contacts as a local committeeman, part of the city's entrenched Democratic Party machine.

So when Sawyer walked into an Obama campaign office and asked for a yard sign, the response took him aback. They said they didn't have any.

"Then I tried to play the 'I'm a Democratic committeeman' card and 'I need materials for my voters and stuff for election day.' And their response was nothing, zero. 'You're a what?' "

The mutual puzzlement underscores the culture clash within the coalition working to elect Obama here. In the run-up to the Pennsylvania primary Tuesday, there is a deep divide over the best tactics to use in this city's quirky political culture.

On one side is the city's aging Democratic apparatus, a collection of pro-Obama ward leaders and committee people whose tools of persuasion are yard signs, campaign hats, buttons, stickers and "street money" -- cash handed out before the election to juice turnout.

On the other is the Obama campaign team, a network of young aides from out of state who eschew the traditional trappings of a campaign and think that elections turn on intangibles: grass-roots organization and an ever-expanding web of volunteers motivated by a deep belief in the candidate.

All you really need to know about Barack Obama--and why he felt he needed the racial cred that Reverend Wright could lend him--is that Ronald Reagan's lilly-white campaign manager understands urban politics better than the Senator.

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 20, 2008 7:34 AM
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