Barack, Bowling and Blue Collar Voters

Jonathan Cohn made an interesting observation today I hadn’t seen before.
For the last two weeks or so, as my colleagues can attest, I’ve been asking everybody I know whether they recalled ever seeing Barack Obama stand outside a factory and greet workers as they walk in for their shift. It’s one of, if not the, most cliched moments in politics. But I couldn’t recall Obama doing it — and neither could any of my colleagues.
Now, I hardly watch any television news, but that sounds right to me. But come to think of it, I can’t recall seeing Hillary Clinton or John McCain outside a factory, either. Maybe there aren’t enough factories anymore; maybe presidential campaigns have decided to embrace newer models of outreach.

But Cohn’s broader point is nevertheless compelling — Obama still isn’t doing as well with working-class, blue-collar white voters as with most other groups, and the more he does to try to connect with them, the better off he’ll be. With this in mind, Paul West had a report on Obama’s latest swing through Pennsylvania that’s worth reading.
On Saturday night, Barack Obama went bowling for the first time in 30 years.
Part of his new effort to get closer to working-class voters, the presidential candidate grabbed a bite at Altoona’s Original Texas Hotdogs, then strapped on a pair of size 13 1/2 shoes at Pleasant Valley lanes, to cheers from patrons. He never loosened his tie and the bowling wasn’t pretty — basketball’s his game — but from a public-relations standpoint, it was a ten-strike.
“Sen. Barack Obama makes a surprise visit to Altoona today,” the local CBS TV station announced during the NCAA basketball playoffs.

Catching up to Clinton in Pennsylvania still strikes me as unlikely, but intermixing 22,000-person rallies in State College and a game of bowling in Altoona strikes me as an inherently good idea.

What’s more, the article notes that Obama has been traveling by bus throughout Pennsylvania in as low key a manner as possible.
To promote his regular-guy themes, Obama is midway through a six-day bus tour that is taking him from one end of the commonwealth to the other, his longest campaign swing in a single state this year.
Rolling across the steep hills and narrow valleys of the western Pennsylvania countryside, his bus does not advertise its presence. There is not so much as an Obama bumper sticker, much less a campaign banner, on the outside of the rented luxury liner, named for Harry Truman by a Nashville firm that caters to celebrities.

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