How Not To Pick a Venue

A campaign blog.
May 20 2008 12:04 PM

How Not To Pick a Venue

For a candidate trying to combat portrayals of himself as a fey elitist, Obama could be choosing his speaking venues more carefully.

A headline in today’s Des Moines Register announces that Obama "returns to D.M. today for east-side rally." The city’s east side is home to many of the sort of white, working-class voters Obama has struggled to win over; you’d think he was trying to reach out. But read further down, and you see that it’s actually the "East Village" where he’s speaking.

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Trailhead reader and Obama supporter Doug Cutchins describes his disappointment: "[T]he East Village is a wholly different entity – it’s the gentrified, buy-warehouses-and-turn-them-into-condos-with-an-art-gallery neighborhood of Des Moines. Yuppie latte central. So instead of reaching out, he’s playing to his base (and stereotypes)."

Obama might as well be holding his rally in Park Slope, Brooklyn. Here’s how Adam Nagourney described the area in the New York Times back in December: "The East Village streets, spread out under the State Capitol, were aglow with lights — lavender, icy blue and, of course, red and green — strung out for Christmas. They were bustling with boutiques, bookstores, coffee shops, culinary stores and Smash, an edgy T-shirt shop where the proprietors were listening to Band of Horses while making slightly off-color T-shirts celebrating the Iowa caucuses."

You can’t blame Obama for wanting to return to the site of his first major victory, and the rally is just blocks from Iowa campaign headquarters. But Clinton’s Kentucky win will be yet another reminder of Obama’s weakness among blue-collar whites. In the past week, Clinton has dropped her argument that Obama can’t win this group, presumably because of the negative reaction to her comment about "hard-working white Americans." But with venue selection like this, Obama is practically making it for her.

Christopher Beam is a writer living in Beijing.