Michelle Obama, the Politics of Turnout, and the Politics of Race | Arkansas Blog

Monday, December 31, 2007

Michelle Obama, the Politics of Turnout, and the Politics of Race

Posted By on Mon, Dec 31, 2007 at 6:28 PM

We made it out of Des Moines to head about an hour east to the great little college town of Grinnell where Michelle Obama had an event at a retirement center a few blocks from the Grinnell College campus.  Check the jump for a report.

About 150 folks--mostly residents of the center and random Grinnell citizens--filled the community room at the center.   Michelle Obama is a more restrained speaker than her husband.  She's also funnier, although her humor has an edge, e.g. her joking about her mother's disappointment that Barack hasn't made enough money.

This event, like most this week, is about promoting caucus turnout and about assauging lingering doubts of voters.  Each are particularly crucial for the Obama.   As I mentioned last night, there is consensus that if turnout is through the roof (150,000 or above as compared to turnout of about 122,000 in 2004) then Obama is the beneficiary.   Turnout in places like Grinnell, a liberal college town that is prime Obama turf, needs to be high.   I talked with a couple of Grinnell College students who say that organizers are attempting to use social networking technology to get students back to town to caucus.  But, this is uncharted territory.    Obama spent most of her speech answering whatever doubts might linger about Obama: That's he's "tough" enough (noting he had survived the "mean, tough, bloodtough politics" of Chicago) and that he's "experienced" enough.  But, she also attempted to sell Obama's racial background as a plus for her husband--that he "crosses lines of race," that he brings with him the communitarian values of the African-American community where he organized, that his success is emblematic of change, and that his election would send a message to the world that American has changed.    I'm still grappling with it, but there are simply some fascinating racial politics going on in Iowa this year.

I'm off to check out New Year's Eve in Des Moines.  I'm sure some interesting tales will follow.

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