Friday, June 27, 2008

All Obama Politics is Local

As we get ready for the Big Dig through November, and slosh through the political mud sure to be slung by the Republicans everywhere in NJ, we can be sure we have the Team Obama covering our backs.

Like Chairman Dean's 50 state strategy covered the nation, so goes Team Obama. This from our fine friends at Governing.com, regarding Texas local races. Let's hope Team Obama does the same in NJ:

Obama to bring campaign fight, funding to Texas
Democrat hopes to at least drive up turnout and influence local contests

WASHINGTON — Barack Obama's campaign will send money and staffers to Texas and other heavily Republican states to help elect Democrats in congressional and local races, officials said Wednesday.

"Our strategy orientation is to play offense," said David Plouffe, Obama's campaign manager, who announced the strategy at a news conference.

While Plouffe conceded that the Illinois Democrat was unlikely to defeat Republican John McCain in Texas, he said the move into the state is part of a strategy to boost other Democrats and train Texas volunteers who would later be sent to battleground states.

Obama's 50-state strategy, he said, is designed to help the party increase its majority on Capitol Hill and to try to regain control of state legislatures, including Texas, where the Democrats need to pick up just five House seats to control the chamber.

Another goal is to force the Republicans to spend money in "red" states so they have less available for swing states.

Obama's aides told the Houston Chronicle that the Texas expenditures could increase party turnout in targeted races for Harris County district attorney, sheriff and county judge.

The national campaign's presence in the state also could help Democrats in closely watched Houston-area congressional races for the seats of incumbent Democrat Nick Lampson and Republican Michael McCaul.

"It'll help us create a government majority," said Plouffe. "In a state like Texas, there's House races, there's state Senate races, and we're going to encourage people to get involved in their local elections."

The campaign, Plouffe said, intends to tap into the grass-roots organization it built during the primary season, eventually using some of its volunteers to help in more competitive states such as Colorado, New Mexico, Virginia and Ohio.

"We have got a lot of volunteers from these states and want to make sure we have a way to use them," he said.

At a June 12 meeting of contributors in Houston, Obama's top strategist, David Axelrod of Chicago, said the campaign first would deploy 15 staffers to help with voter registration, according to Harris County Democratic Party Chairman Gerald Birnberg.

Showing national appeal

Among the many reasons for the deployment, Axelrod explained, is that the campaign wants to demonstrate its national appeal and presence.

Axelrod also said the campaign is interested in electing Democratic state lawmakers who would help decide election boundaries for U.S. House seats in Texas and elsewhere in later years.

Obama also wants to be able to tell prospective Texas campaign contributors that some of their money would be spent where it was raised.

The Obama campaign has no immediate plans for advertising in Texas' 19 media markets. The first general election advertising blitz will focus on 18 states that are believed by campaign strategists to be competitive. Those include several that went for George W. Bush in 2004, like Alaska, Montana, North Dakota and Georgia.

Party resurgence

A spokesman for the state Democratic Party, Hector Nieto, said the decision by the Obama campaign is "obviously good news for us."

Cal Jillson, a professor of political science at Southern Methodist University, said that by sending professional staffers to Texas, the Obama campaign can supplement what he said was an improving Democratic Party organization in the state.

"I think that the reason the National Democratic Party would be putting money into Texas is to continue the Democratic resurgence" in the state, Jillson said,

The Democrats, he said, are not likely to win statewide contests but could prevail in areas where the party is on the upsurge, such as Harris County.

Pollster Ralph Bordie, who conducted an IVR poll in Texas, said that Obama could bring out new voters, particularly African Americans and youths.

A high turnout of those groups could affect down-ballot contests such as the race for the 10th Congressional District, which stretches from Austin to western Harris County. McCaul is in a tight race against Houston lawyer Larry Joe Doherty, according to some polls.

Alan Bernstein also contributed to this report.

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