Less dessert

Obama gets back to basics with some long-overdue, Hillary Clinton-style messages for kitchen-table voters.

Published August 21, 2008 1:13PM (EDT)

The Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll out earlier this week showed the presidential race tight but also confirmed the no-brainer fact that the economy is the opportunity for Barack Obama to put some distance between himself and John McCain. Frankly, not until this week has the Democratic nominee truly ratcheted up the level of meat-and-potatoes stump speaking that in many ways allowed Hillary Clinton to climb back into the post-February stages of the Democratic primary.

But Team Obama now seems to get it. The candidate was in small-town Virginia Wednesday talking dollars and sense:

[Obama] spoke to workers laid off from nearby factories at a packed town hall meeting in a cavernous warehouse here used by Patrick Henry Community College to train workers in the auto-racing industry. U.S. flags and race cars surrounded the stage.

"You're worried about the future. Here people have gone through very tough times," the Illinois senator said. "When you've got entire industries that have shipped overseas, when you've got thousands of jobs being lost ... That's tough."

This is not sexy or glamorous stuff. No JFK comparisons to be had here. No cheering German crowds. But this is what works.

That old saw about a tough primary making the nominee better didn’t become an old saw for no reason. Say what you want about how Hillary Clinton ran her campaign, but she did leave behind a nice electoral recipe for Obama to use.

Obama has the votes of those who want the flash, the dessert. He should save that stuff for later and stick to stuff that has real meat on the bone for most Americans.

By Thomas Schaller

Thomas F. Schaller is professor of political science at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the author of "Whistling Past Dixie: How Democrats Can Win Without the South." Follow him @schaller67.

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