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The Obama Camp Asks LGBT Dems For Help 

The Obama Camp Asks LGBT Dems For Help 


Obama's highest ranking gay staffer implored LGBT delegates Wednesday to get involved in the election, one of several clear pushes by the campaign this week to tap the resolve of our community.

Barack Obama's out deputy campaign manager, Steve Hildebrand, made an impassioned appeal to the DNC Convention's LGBT caucus Wednesday, just 65 days before Americans cast their votes for president in November.

"I believe that our campaign has not done the effective job it needs to do to persuade and convince LGBT voters that Barack Obama is someone who will lead for them, who will fight for them, fight for us," Hildebrand told some 300 gays gathered at the Colorado Convention Center. "That's a failure on behalf of our campaign in my opinion, and I've played a role in it. What we need is for all of you to be our voices in our communities and to work tirelessly to give every single day, as much time as you can give, to know Barack's record and to know John McCain's failed record and to go out and talk to people who care about the future of LGBT people in this country."

For any gay voter waiting to hear someone from the Obama campaign ask for their support, there it was. Hildebrand's speech was a crystallizing moment in a cascade of events this week signaling that the Obama camp believes it both needs the LGBT community to win in November and has not yet closed the deal with this constituency. Three major convention speeches - those of Sen. Hillary Clinton, President Bill Clinton, and Sen. Ted Kennedy - have included references to LGBT Americans. Among the hundreds of events taking place this week, Michelle Obama was dispatched to the LGBT delegate luncheon Tuesday, where she spoke for nearly 30 minutes. And following the news of the passing of Del Martin - the beloved lesbian who finally legally married her longtime sweetheart Phyllis Lyon in June - Barack Obama issued a personal statement to the press.

"Michelle and I were deeply saddened to hear that Del Martin had passed. Del committed her life to fighting discrimination and promoting equality. Our thoughts and prayers go out to her spouse Phyllis Lyon, and all those who were touched by her life," it read.

The campaign also released Wednesday, for the very first time, an official side-by-side comparison between Barack Obama and John McCain on LGBT issues, contrasting their stances on concerns like adoption, the Defense Of Marriage Act, HIV/AIDS prevention, and gays in the military.

Listening to Hildebrand speak to the caucus Wednesday was like listening to a high school coach bare his soul on game night and ask his team to dig deep despite what trials may have come before.

"Don't play games, don't let anyone play games," he said. "We know what it's been like in the last eight years and we knew what it was like in eight great years of the Clinton administration where we advanced the agenda for our community in a big way. That's when I came out, that's when I felt comfortable, that's when I felt proud. And for the last eight years, I'm just as proud as I can be, but they're not helping us. And I have a hard time when people like me are Republicans, because I don't get it. I don't get it. They're not on our side. Not that people in our party are perfect, but they're a whole Hell of a lot better. And we should be as partisan as we can be."

Reached by phone following the caucus, Hildebrand acknowledged that Sen. Clinton had a huge gay following during the primaries and said he was concerned that not all LGBT voters had made the conversion.

"I think we're worried that we haven't done a good enough job of getting Barack's record and his positions in front of gay voters," Hildebrand said. "We've got to make up some time. So it was important for Michelle to make that appearance yesterday ... and it was really important that we take the opportunity at the convention - where we have a record number of LGBT delegates - to really ask for their help and to really put them to work."

Asked if he thought gay voters - who usually account for about 4% to 5% of voters in national exit polls - could significantly influence the election's outcome, Hildebrand responded, "I believe that at least 12-14 states this election will be decided by 2-3 percentage points one way or the other, and if we do our collective work persuading LGBT voters to support Barack, I think it can make a big difference."

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