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Sweet column: Maria Shriver, Caroline Kennedy, Oprah Winfrey helping Obama target female, GOP and Independent voters. Stevie Wonder drops by.

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(this is a longer version of the print column)
LOS ANGELES — The Obama campaign pulled off a tour de force on Super Bowl Sunday afternoon in targeting female, independent and Republican voters at a rally featuring a surprise endorsement from Maria Shriver, the wife of GOP California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. She was joined onstage by Shriver’s cousin Caroline Kennedy, Oprah Winfrey and Michelle Obama.

The only man in what was designed as an all-female lineup was Stevie Wonder, who just came by Pauley Pavilion on the campus of the University of California, Los Angeles to attend the hastily arranged rally. He sang an a cappella riff the audience joined in with just two words: Barack Obama.


“Follow your own truth,” said Shriver, whose uncle is Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.), who endorsed Obama, and whose husband endorsed Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) for president. “I’m standing here because I want to be here. I wasn’t on the schedule, and I thought to myself when I woke up this morning, I thought, there is no place I should be but right here today.”

The rally comes just before the “Super Tuesday” caucuses and primaries in California, Illinois and 20 other states. A San Francisco Chronicle poll published Sunday showed Obama has cut into the lead of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) and is in a position to overtake her in California, which offers a prize of 370 delegates.

Winfrey delivered a stemwinder, now practiced after appearing for Obama last year in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina and hosting a fund-raiser for him at her estate near Santa Barbara. Winfrey pressed the case that women who are leaning to Clinton because she is a female should change their minds.

“This election itself is a declaration of victory for womens rights and civil rights. And now we are free…We are free to vote our minds and our hearts. We are free to be led by our hearts. We are free from the constrictions of gender and race. And so for the first time, we can just vote as we believe. And we can do that because that was what the struggle was for,” Winfrey said.

After Obama won Iowa, Winfrey said some women “had the nerve to say to me . . . ‘you are a traitor to your gender.’ I was both surprised by that comment and insulted because I’ve been a woman my whole life and every part of me believes in the empowerment of women, but the truth is I am a free woman.”

Kennedy, who was in Washington D.C and Denver for Obama last week, covered some of the same ground for this new audience. “I am here today because I have never had a candidate who inspires me the way people say that my father inspired them. But I do now,” she said.

Another spouse of a presidential hopeful, former President Bill Clinton, stumped at several African-American churches in the Los Angeles area in the morning, flying to New Mexico in the afternoon to watch the Super Bowl with Gov. Bill Richardson, who has not made a formal endorsement since dropping his own White House bid.

The rally was a testament to the organizing power of the California Obama campaign. The rally location — at the home of the UCLA Bruins — was announced about 6 p.m. Saturday and a crowd of about 6,500 came through e-mail chains, word of mouth and local news stories. As many as half of the expected votes may have been cast, since California early voting started Jan. 7, which cuts to Clinton’s advantage.

Shriver, whose husband comes out of California crossover politics, is helpful because Obama is trying to capture California voters who did not affiliate with Democrats or Republicans and who may be paying attention to him now—and who did not already vote. Californians could start absentee voting on Jan. 7 and almost half the expected vote may already be done. Independents can vote in the Democratic primary but are banned from the GOP contest.

Obama argued he can woo Independents and Republicans better than Clinton during a Sunday interview on CBS’ “Face the Nation” where he told host Bob Schieffer, “I don't think there's any doubt that the Republicans consider her a polarizing figure.

"Now, keep in mind, I don't expect that should I become the Democratic nominee that I'm going to be immune from some of the attacks that I think the Republican spin machine is so accustomed to. But what we have found -- this is true in Illinois when I was running for the United States Senate, I think it's going to be true nationally -- is that the tone that I take, the ability to disagree without being disagreeable, the willingness to listen to Republicans about some of their ideas, even though I may not agree with all of them, I think that creates a different climate. And I think that we can attract independents and Republicans in a way that Senator Clinton cannot."

6 Comments


During this campaign Senator Obama has referred to his work on a nuclear energy bill as one of his major accomplishments while in the US Senate. A recent New York Times article looked at his work on this bill and found that one of his biggest contributors the Exelon Company, a nuclear energy company, and the GOP had a lot of influence in the changes to this bill, that anti-nuclear energy groups in Illinois were very unhappy with these changes, and that Obama’s campaign manager worked for Exelon. While Obama and his campaign have tried to explain this away what he can not seem to explain is why he calls this one of his biggest accomplishments when it did not even pass the US Senate.

This is not the only time Obama has stretched the truth in this race as he has also claimed that he does not take lobbying money when he has taken federal lobbying money in his past races and takes state lobbying money now, has claimed to hate outside independent groups but is not trying to prevent them from helping him, and has claimed to have run a positive campaign when he also is using Republican like tactics to attack Hillary on her universal health care plan while Obama claims to have an universal health care plan but his plan will not cover between 10 and 20 million people.

And Obama says that Hillary will say anything to get elected? When will the people and the press start to look at Obama’s statements?

I fully agree with Eric's comment above. The press seems to have largely given him a pass on some of this comments. We need to critically examine Obama's record with minorities and women's issues before jumping on his bandwagon.

Hillary teared up again today on the East Coast! And this is the person most Americans want as President. We can do must better than this voters, we really can. Why is it that most voters can't seem to get this election thing right?

The extremely privileged women on the podium don't seem to register with me. They just don't. With the Obama campaign (and I understand it's Axelrod) pulling out the Harry and Louise ads to distort Clinton's truly universal health care plan (I hope she penned a nice thank you note to John Edwards for giving her the courage to revive it after the misogynist thrashing she took while in Bill's white house) is astonishing.
I know the Obamas are connected with the Daley Administration. I hope they don't circle the wagons like that crowd. I am going to sit back and watch the 2 candidates' behavior and vote for Edwards in the primary--just to see what happens and see who's got further
'splainin' to do. Not cynical. Not against destiny. Just this isn't my first campaign where I was alert and involved. I hope all the kids who are newly interested in politics stay with it and start reading newspapers again. That's 'change' we can deal with--otherwise it's just a Weimar Republic rally.

Perhaps there is hope for Edwards-the only candidate to put a media reform plank in his platform. The Fairness Doctrine, which Ted Kennedy apparently forgot having fought for was something that Oprah Winfrey violated the spirit of when she refused to have any other candidates on her show. The 'shut up and enjoy the Obama express' soured me, after I'd volunteered for it. We need to question how the media will treat Obama before he goes up against McCain--not after. I think he would be an excellent v.p..

Whose the fifth woman, come on no one has mentioned her name?

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Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Lynn Sweet published on February 4, 2008 1:48 AM.

Sweet: UPDATE Maria Shriver endorses Obama.Stevie Wonder just shows up at UCLA rally for Obama with Oprah Winfrey, Caroline Kennedy and Michelle Obama. Clinton Penn's Obama memo.UPDATE "yes we can" VIDEO was the previous entry in this blog.

Sweet: Obama campaign manager David Plouffe memo lowers Super Tuesday expectations. is the next entry in this blog.

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