How could it possibly be good news for Democrats that polls show that roughly one in four primary voters who supported Clinton still say they aren't sold on Barack?
Simple. Most national polls also show that, while the race is tight, Obama maintains a narrow lead. As the Democratic Convention and campaign proceed, the odds are very good that the more these voters know about Obama and McCain, the more they will ultimately come home to the Democratic Party. These unconvinced Democrats represent 4% to 5% of the entire General electorate. If they move to Obama, his lead over McCain will substantially increase -- particularly in the key swing states of Ohio, Pennsylvania and Michigan where many reside.
Obama has an unusually strong appeal to independent voters and young people. That's what accounts for his current narrow lead. The fact that one of the campaign's key target constituencies includes voters who normally vote Democratic, greatly increases the likelihood of victory for the Democratic ticket. The odds are good that voters who have traditionally voted Democratic will ultimately break for the Democrat.
If the situations were reversed -- if McCain were slightly ahead and had not yet consolidated most Republicans behind his candidacy -- Democrats would have a much more difficult task. Here, the odds would be equally good that the unconvinced Republicans would ultimately break overwhelmingly for McCain when they finally walked into the voting booth.
Joe Biden's selection as Obama's running mate is aimed squarely at bringing those reluctant Democratic voters home. They are mainly older white working class voters. They don't need to be convinced the country needs change. People whose incomes are stagnant and face ever rising prices don't have to be convinced of that. But they don't want change that they fear will make things worse either. They have to be reassured that Obama will in fact give them change they can believe in -- that from their point of view Obama is "safe" pick. They need to be convinced that he understands people like them -- that even though he's African American and grew up in Hawaii -- he will reliably stand up for white working class people who live in Scranton or Dayton or Grand Rapids. They need to believe that he's one their side.
Biden's choice itself sends that message. The Catholic kid from a working class family connects instinctively to older working class Democrats. Having him on the ticket to validate Obama should help enormously over the next two months. And Biden is a battler who will not hesitate to draw clear distinctions between the "more of the same" Bush-McCain trickle down economic program and Obama's bottom up vision for the future.
The more these voters get to know Obama, the more comfortable they will feel. But just as importantly, the more they learn about the real McCain, the more they will come to understand that he's no longer the "maverick" of 2000. Instead -- especially when it comes to the economy -- a McCain Presidency would be nothing more than a third Bush term.
Obama and his campaign can do a lot to attract unconvinced Democrats. But the people who are most important at closing the deal with this group are other rank and file working class Democrats. The most persuasive messengers in the battle to convince these voters are their own neighbors. That's why if we don't want to wake up on November 5th facing four more years of right wing rule, every progressive in America needs to enlist today in the Obama field campaign.
The Obama campaign is setting up the best field operation in the history of American presidential politics. If you want to make sure that reluctant Democrats get with the Obama program the field program gives you a way to personally do something about it.
Get on the phone, go door to door and help recruit an army of other volunteers -- especially volunteers from neighborhoods rich in unconvinced Democrats; volunteers who themselves will pound on doors and call their neighbors, and put up Obama yard signs. That kind of voter contact sends the most convincing message around: "My neighbors Henry, and Bill and Sandy support Obama, so he must be OK."
Human beings are pack animals. They travel in packs. They like to be in the mainstream. They feel safety in numbers. They want their friends and neighbors to validate their choices -- especially if they seem a little risky. It's up to us to build the organizations that allow people's neighbors to tell them directly that Barack Obama is safe -- that he's on their side.
Communication like that is more important than all the great TV spots and cleaver earned media plays in the world. And it's the kind of communication that every progressive in America can help to generate.
More than any presidential campaign in modern political history, the outcome of this campaign will depend on the work of millions of everyday volunteers: persuading voters who are not yet in our corner, and to motivating those who won't vote unless they are mobilized. That makes this an election that is truly ours to win or ours to lose. The outcome is literally in our hands.
Robert Creamer is a long time political organizer and strategist and author of the recent book: Stand Up Straight. How Progressives Can Win, available on Amazon.com. This week he is attending the National Democratic Convention in Denver.
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