During a conference call with national female supporters on Monday, Barack Obama and his aides outlined a comprehensive strategy to target female supporters who could be on the fence between his and John McCain's candidacies.
The plan included intense focus on McCain's opposition to equal pay legislation, which aides to Obama believe resonates beyond female voters; sending out prominent female surrogates to serve as political "ambassadors"; limiting focus on Gov. Sarah Palin in favor of McCain himself; and breaking through the media's propensity to focus on conflicts and gaffes.
"We have got a lot of work to do and I can't do it without your help," Obama explained. "In recent weeks, we have seen Republicans up to their election year tricks. In his campaign ads, John McCain and Sarah Palin - I'm being generous here - distorted my record. They inflated their own. They ran an ad accusing me of promoting teaching sex to kindergartners when in fact the bill called for ensuring that our children learn how to protect themselves from sexual abuse. That is one of the more egregious examples. And with all these antics I'm going to need all of you on call to set the record straight."
"All of you, as prominent women that the American people listen to," the Democratic nominee continued, "are going to be some of our most important ambassadors in this process. To the extent we can get people to pay attention to choice involved on issues like health care, the Supreme Court, pay equity, I am absolutely confident we will win. But we are going to have to cut through a whole lot of noise and the media's propensity to cover scandal, gaffe, polls or attacks."
The National Women Leaders Conference Call came as part of a greater effort on behalf of the Obama campaign to solidify a portion of the electorate that, with McCain's choice of Palin as VP, seems more up for grabs than at any previous time in this election.
A Hill Democrat told the Huffington Post that female lawmakers will hold an event this week focusing on equal pay legislation. In addition, the Obama campaign on Monday rolled out the endorsements of "hundreds of national women leaders in fields ranging from business to women's rights, from astronauts to athletes, from former governors to cabinet secretaries." The list includes Stacey Snider, Chairman of DreamWorks, Linda Chavez-Thompson, Executive Vice President Emerita, AFL-CIO, and Olympic gold-medalist Dominique Dawes.
Speaking on the phone with many of these individuals, Obama implored them to start reaching out on their own to help recruit female support. "Don't wait for our call," he said. "I need you to talk to your colleagues, get on the radio, write op-eds in the newspapers, talk about what is really at stake in this election."
There were several issues on which the campaign suggested these pseudo-surrogates focus. Equal pay, opposition to choice, and the economy were some of them -- Sarah Palin was not.
"I know we are getting a little distracted by discussion about Sarah Palin, but I think it is important for all of us to focus on Sen. McCain," said Dana Singiser, a strategist for Obama. "Ultimately, of course, he will be president, he will be choosing Supreme Court justices, he will be steering the federal government, and we know a lot about him and where he stands on issues that are important to women. The contrast between John McCain's record and his positions and Sen. Obama's really could not be any more stark. I go back to equal pay because, given where we are with the economy, we are finding with the polling that pocket book issues really are what is top of mind for women voters. Whether we are talking about jobs or health care or gas prices, this is what women voters and really all voters are concerned about."