Obama hones style in search for working class vote
WILMINGTON, North Carolina |
WILMINGTON, North Carolina (Reuters) - With his shirt-sleeves rolled up, Democrat Barack Obama unveiled signs of a new campaigning style on Monday as he sought to win over elusive working-class voters who have largely backed his opponent, Hillary Clinton.
Obama, a senator from Illinois and the national front-runner for his party's White House nomination, lost last week's Pennsylvania primary election to rival Clinton, a senator from New York, largely because of lukewarm support from blue-collar workers.
Obama said on Friday he would fine-tune his campaign and remind people of his humble roots.
On Monday, with his tie on but coat off, Obama did just that. He spoke about religion, reminded listeners he had been raised by a single mother and told the crowd he wanted to take their questions rather than spend time giving a long speech.
"I want you to be able to lift the hood, and kick the tires, you know, take me out for a test drive a little bit," he said at the beginning of his first event.
The event was one example in a handful of incidents that show Obama adjusting to a prolonged state-by-state nominating process in which he has not been able to knock Clinton out despite his lead in votes and delegates who determine the party's nominee in the November election.
Scheduled events are part of that shift. In recent days Obama has done more town hall-style meetings than big rallies. Accustomed to bounding on stage at large events to loud music, he now arrives with his introducer, usually a local citizen with economic problems to share, which he listens to intently before taking over the podium.
Sometimes criticized by reporters for not taking questions often enough, he has given three press conferences over four days.
On Sunday he allowed cameras to film while he attended church in Indiana, something he often does privately while reporters are left behind.
The Clinton camp, meanwhile, said Obama was changing his style while their candidate continued her success by focusing on economic issues in big states that Democrats must win to beat Republican John McCain in November's general election.
"While Senator Obama retools his stump speech to reach middle and working class voters, Senator Clinton is going to continue doing what she has successfully done in Ohio and Pennsylvania -- reach out to those Americans who work hard for a living and need a champion in the White House," Communications Director Howard Wolfson in a statement.
Wolfson noted that Clinton did well among voters in those states who identified the economy as their No. 1 issue.
"By contrast, Senator Obama continues to perform poorly with blue collar voters, raising serious concerns about his ability to successfully compete in key industrial swing states," he said.
In the days leading up to the Pennsylvania vote, the negative tone between both campaigns increased steadily, despite promises from both sides that the party would be united in November.
Obama said on Monday he would abstain from negative tactics ahead of the next major contests on May 6 in Indiana and North Carolina -- and beyond.
"I am going to spend all of my time talking about you and how we are going to make sure that you can live out your American dream," he told the audience, adding, in a swipe at Clinton, that focusing on "superdelegates" was not in their interests.
Clinton needs the support of superdelegates -- party leaders and elected officials -- to overcome Obama's lead and clinch the nomination.
(additional reporting by Deborah Charles in Washington; editing by David Wiessler)
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