President Obama counseled supporters Wednesday evening "not to get too bogged down" in details when explaining his record to voters during the campaign.This is actually a reprise of the 2008 campaign's quasi religious "how I came to Obama" strategy:
The president, in a video conference with supporters Wednesday night from Chicago, encouraged his backers to focus on broad themes when it comes to his policies on taxes and war, instead of the specifics of individual policies. "I think the key is not to get too bogged down in detail," the president said last night.
"If somebody asks about taxes, nobody is really interested in hearing what precise marginal tax rate change would you like to see in the tax code," Obama said. "What they want to know is that our campaign stands for a fair, just approach to the tax code that says everybody has to chip in, and that it’s not right if a hedge fund manager is being taxed at a lower rate than his or her secretary."
On Afghanistan and Iraq, Obama said: "If somebody asks about the war, whether it’s Iraq or Afghanistan — if it’s Iraq, you have a pretty simple answer, which is all our folks are going to be out of there by the end of the year. If it’s Afghanistan, you can talk about, look, we think it’s time for us to transition to Afghan lead and rebuild here at home. So, again, it’s a values issue: Where are we prioritizing our resources?"[...]
Obama said his campaign, led by Jeremy Bird, his national field director, would take the lead in ensuring that volunteers have good talking points to take out on the campaign trail. The president said his administration would also lay out new initiatives that would help his grassroots volunteers sell his record.
The president, himself a past community organizer, also said it wasn't so bad for volunteers to tell questioners that they don't know the answer.
"He looked at me, and the look in his eyes was worth 1,000 words," said Mack, now a regional field organizer. Obama hugged her and whispered something in her ear – she was so thrilled she doesn't remember what it was.The last I heard, Marshall Ganz was fairly disillusioned about what he had wrought.
Then Mack brought home the point of her story for the crowd of 100 or so eager volunteers, sipping coffee and watching a PowerPoint presentation in the Obama campaign office on a recent Saturday.
"Did that make more impact on you than if I had talked about his health care plan or his stance on the environment?" she asked.
On the verge of a hectic few weeks leading to Super Tuesday, the crucial Feb. 5 multistate primary including California's, Mack wanted to drill home one of the campaign's key strategies: telling potential voters personal stories of political conversion.
She urged volunteers to hone their own stories of how they came to Obama – something they could compress into 30 seconds on the phone.
"Work on that, refine that, say it in the mirror," she said. "Get it down."
She told the volunteers that potential voters would no doubt confront them with policy questions. Mack's direction: Don't go there. Refer them to Obama's Web site, which includes enough material to sate any wonk.
The idea behind the personal narratives is to reclaim "values" politics from the Republican Party, said Marshall Ganz, a one-time labor organizer for Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers who developed "Camp Obama" training sessions for volunteers.
When people tell their stories of how they made choices and what motivates them, they communicate their values, Ganz said in an interview.
"Values are not just concepts, they're feelings," Ganz said. "That's what dropped out of Democratic politics sometime in the '70s or '80s."
"Just follow Barack's lead and be honest with them," the Web site advises. "You don't need to debate policy or discuss the day's headlines. You have a very personal reason for investing your time and energy in this campaign – that is the most compelling story you can tell."
Indeed, participants in the Saturday morning precinct-captain training were already adept at telling their Obama-conversion stories.
Libbie Coleman, a 61-year-old microbiology teacher at McClatchy High School, read Obama's books last spring.
"I've been a voter for 40 years," she said. "I feel like I've been needing to hear these things for 40 years."
Faced with a politician who spoke to her heart, Coleman said, she had no choice but to become involved, for the first time, in a political campaign.