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Obama Gets Back
to the Issues

Obama Gets Back
to the Issues


The Obama campaign is getting back to the basics this week, talking about the economy, swing states, and shoring up the Democratic base. The campaign also finally sits down with Philadelphia Gay News, making good on that blank page publisher Mark Segal infamously ran alongside the publication's interview with Sen. Hillary Clinton.

The Obama campaign is sticking with the issues this week. After losing last week to a full-bore discussion of Sarah Palin and lipstick and pigs (not necessarily in that order), Sen. Obama has spent the week driving home messages about the dire economy in his speeches while his surrogates reached out to interest groups one by one, swing state by swing state with LGBT concerns resting right at the nexus of both.

Not only did the campaign hold a conference call with reporters Wednesday designed to remind the LGBT community that Sen. Obama backs repeal of the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy, the Illinois senator finally granted an interview with the Philadelphia Gay News that was set to hit stands Thursday.

Among other things, he hit the military theme again, telling PGN he would not use an executive signing order to overturn the ban.

"I want to make sure that when we reverse 'don't ask, don't tell,' it's gone through a process and we've built a consensus or at least a clarity of that, of what my expectations are, so that it works," Obama said. "Although I have consistently said I would repeal 'don't ask, don't tell,' I believe that the way to do it is make sure that we are working through a process, getting the Joint Chiefs of Staff clear in terms of what our priorities are going to be. That's how we were able to integrate the armed services to get women more actively involved in the armed services."

In an interview earlier this year, Sen. Obama told The Advocate that he would not use support for repealing the ban as a "litmus test" for choosing his Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The PGN interview could be considered a PR move of sorts for Sen. Obama in a battleground state where he may have ruffled some LGBT feathers. During the heated primary with Sen. Hillary Clinton, the Obama campaign declined to speak with PGN, prompting publisher Mark Segal to run the paper's interview with Sen. Clinton alongside a blank space where Sen. Obama's interview would have gone. Pennsylvania's 21 electoral votes are considered critical to Democrats in November -- many pundits say Obama cannot win the election without winning the state and recent polls show him in a dead heat with John McCain there.

The campaign also dispatched Vice Presidential nominee Sen. Joe Biden, who hales from Scranton, to Pennsylvania earlier this week, mainly to court white blue-collar workers, a demographic that helped deliver the state to Sen. Clinton during the primary, and Catholic voters, who have been getting a barrage of messages from conservative bishops warning them against voting for candidates who show support for abortion rights (i.e. Barack Obama and Joe Biden).

While the military served as a vehicle for wooing LGBT voters this week, elsewhere the Obama campaign happily pivoted to the economy after news that financial firm Lehman Brothers collapsed and the Federal Reserve bailed out insurance behemoth American International Group.

Even as former Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan said last Sunday that the country was in the worst economic shape he had ever seen, John McCain came out Monday morning saying that he still believed "the fundamentals of our economy are strong." The McCain campaign made several attempts later in the day to re-frame the Arizona senator's comments, but the Obama camp, clearly viewing the statement as a gaffe, didn't waste any time releasing an ad that posited in black and white text, "How can John McCain fix our economy if he doesn't understand it's broken?"

As a candidate who has admitted that the economy is not his strong suit, McCain and his spokespeople would seemingly rather get back to discussing national security, Gov. Palin's lipstick or almost anything else.

McCain's New York chairman, Edward Cox, attending a Log Cabin Republican event Tuesday, told The Advocate that McCain would carry New York (he pulled within five points of Obama in a Siena College poll this week) and win the election overall -- but not based on fiscal know-how.

"This is a national security election, the first one since 1988. If it's a domestic election, it's a partisan election. People get very partisan when they're fighting over domestic politics," Cox said. "We've got an unpopular war out there and we've got issues around the world. That raises things to a different level. People are looking for a President who will best protect and defend the people of this country."

That's a distinctly different lens than the one Democratic strategist James Carville was looking through on CNN's The Situation Room Tuesday. Referring to McCain's statement about "the fundamentals," Carville predicted, "I think that September the 15th will be the day that John McCain's chances for the presidency pretty much evaporated. Barring some big gaffe by Obama, this race is essentially over. This is like the 16th time he's defended this economy has being fundamentally strong."

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