COMMENTARY: Obama Hits the Road

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  • Fresh from his rousing fire-up-the-troops address at the Democratic National Convention, President Barack Obama will crisscross the country this weekend, traveling to New Hampshire and Iowa before boarding a campaign bus to roll through Florida as the nation’s most recognizable salesman.

    Make no mistake: As America’s first black president running for re-election to the White House, Obama must make the most compelling sales pitch of his remarkable political career to convince skeptical voters that he can realistically create jobs, get the economy back on track, and put money in the pockets of struggling middle-class Americans.

    It will take plenty of plainspoken conversations from Obama given the ferocious Republican assault on his leadership, an unemployment rate that’s holding steady at 8.3 percent, and a race that’s neck-and-neck, but I believe Obama is committed to his old-school, community-organizer-style crusade to uplift Americans and help improve the quality of life for those in need.

    In the next 60 days, however, Obama will need to lose the suit coat, roll up his sleeves, and leave the professorial rhetoric and spreadsheet analysis to his policy advisors.

    Voters just want straight talk.

    “I won’t pretend the path I’m offering is quick or easy,” Obama told a cheering crowd Thursday during his nomination acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention. “I never have. You didn’t elect me to tell you what you wanted to hear. You elected me to tell you the truth. And the truth is, it will take more than a few years for us to solve challenges that have built up over decades. It will require common effort, shared responsibility, and the kind of bold, persistent experimentation that Franklin Roosevelt pursued during the only crisis worse than this one.”

    On Saturday, Obama will kick-off his two-day Florida bus tour with grassroots events in Seminole—near St. Petersburg, —and Kissimmee, Florida. Obama will make stops in Melbourne and West Palm Beach on Sunday. And next week, Obama will campaign in Colorado and Nevada.

    With the latest polls showing the race between Obama and Republican Mitt Romney is virtually tied, Obama, starting Friday, plans to hit the road to tell voters that he will create one million manufacturing jobs by 2016, recruit 100,000 math and science teachers over the next 10 years and train two million workers for substantial jobs at community colleges.

    But today, while 12 million Americans are out of work, Obama is asking the nation’s voters to do something difficult that goes against the grain: be patient. His message to Americans in Florida: Give him another four years to fix an economic problem that he promised to address in 2008.

    “But when all is said and done – when you pick up that ballot to vote – you will face the clearest choice of any time in a generation,” Obama said inside the Time Warner Cable Arena. “Over the next few years, big decisions will be made in Washington, on jobs and the economy; taxes and deficits; energy and education; war and peace – decisions that will have a huge impact on our lives and our children’s lives for decades to come.”

    “On every issue, the choice you face won’t be just between two candidates or two parties,” the president added. “It will be a choice between two different paths for America. A choice between two fundamentally different visions for the future.”

    On the campaign trail , Obama must create a sense of urgency and enthusiasm among voters of all races and backgrounds. He must rally seniors, shore-up his African-American base and solidify the Hispanic vote. He must also persuade independents to align themselves with his campaign while also convincing Jews that he remains a strong supporter of Israel.

    The president will also try to connect with young Americans, a crucial voting bloc. There were 644 young delegates at the Democratic National Convention, and 285 of them are college students. In 2008, Obama won among voters age 18-29 by a 34-point margin, 66 percent to 32 percent, and the Obama campaign wants to continue that momentum.

    Obama campaign strategists say the November election could be the closest presidential contest in history and the cliché that “every vote counts” cannot be overstated in this election, which is why the black vote – and black turnout in particular – could be the key to Obama’s re-election.

    “It’s going to be a tight race,” Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel told CNN. “It’s going to come down to a few voters in a few states. The public is not very excited about Mitt Romney.”

    What concerns many black Democrats is this: Can Obama create the same level of unbridled enthusiasm among black voters as he did in the historic 2008 election? Maybe not. But the president needs to remind black voters that he’s looking out for their interests and encourage them, in personal terms, to pack the polls in November.

    Civil rights groups are leaving nothing to chance. The NAACP announced an historic partnership With the major African-American Baptist Conventions to promote voter registration through the NAACP’s This Is My Vote! campaign.

    In the last year, more than 30 states introduced voter suppression laws that disproportionately impact African-American voters. This partnership, NAACP officials said, will combat these attacks and ensure high voter participation through coordinated registration, education, and Get Out the Vote efforts that will reach millions.

    “But know this, America: Our problems can be solved. Our challenges can be met. The path we offer may be harder, but it leads to a better place,” Obama said. “And I’m asking you to choose that future. I’m asking you to rally around a set of goals for your country – goals in manufacturing, energy, education, national security, and the deficit; a real, achievable plan that will lead to new jobs, more opportunity, and rebuild this economy on a stronger foundation. That’s what we can do in the next four years, and that’s why I’m running for a second term as President of the United States.”

    Spoken like a true salesman.
     

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