Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Obama defies red-state, blue-state politics

Idaho For Obama picks up steam leading into Super Tuesday


By GREG STAHL
Express Staff Writer

Barack Obama

It's primary election season, and Sen. Barack Obama is the only Democratic presidential candidate working for support in Idaho.

The Democratic caucuses will be Tuesday, Feb. 5, at the Community Campus in Hailey, and Obama's Idaho operatives are hoping their efforts have paid off.

"We've seen a lot of activity in the last couple of weeks, and tons of interest," said Chani Wiggins, the Idaho for Obama communications director. "We're just really excited about this surge of interest in Barack Obama here in Idaho."

Wiggins works as legislative director for Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-MO., but she has taken a two-week vacation to work on the Obama campaign during the two weeks leading up to "Super Duper" Tuesday.

In Blaine County, Obama supporters have been hosting primary-watch parties and events during other states' caucuses and primary elections. It's an effort that campaign representatives believe is working.

But the question remains: Why is a blue candidate working so hard for support in a small Western red state?

"By proving he can win an extremely red state, he proves his appeal to independents and Republicans, as well as Democrats," said Michael Ames, a Blaine County co-chair for the Obama for America campaign. "In a state as red as ours, where Democrats have fared so poorly for so long, he ends up relying on the need to turn people out who have been disenchanted. Democrats in Idaho have been disenchanted for so long they have lost interest."

Ames said the caucus is like life: 95 percent of it is showing up.

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"If he can get an Idaho Democrat involved—the disenchanted and disengaged—then he can get the whole country involved."

Wiggins answered the question this way.

"This race is going to be so close," she said. "The race is looking more and more like it's going to be between Obama and (Sen. Hillary) Clinton. You can't take any delegate for granted, and I think the fact that we've got such strong support in a red state looks really good."

Also, Wiggins said, Obama is a man who has worked across party lines throughout his career, so working in a red state is nothing new to him.

"It's a really close race, and every delegate matters," she said. "The nominee, the Democratic nominee, can be chosen by the difference of just a few delegates. You cannot take anything for granted."

Ames said Obama is opening six offices in Idaho and has several paid staff members. He said it's the most expensive Democratic presidential political organization in Idaho, potentially ever, and at least as long as anyone can remember.

"I think that just proves how much Sen. Obama values the political will of people in these so-called red states," Ames said. "To take Idaho for granted relies on the politics of old, where we have red states and blue states, conservative and progressive. I think the new politics will be far more inclusive of all citizens in every state."

By definition, a caucus is a meeting of supporters for a political party or movement. The purpose of the Idaho caucuses is to determine how the state's 23 delegates are divided between the democratic candidates.




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