In a just completed Tuesday morning conference call, the Obama campaign focused on an important constituency--Republicans. Obama during the primary called Republicans who support him "Obamacans" and the word has entered the political lexicon.
Former Rep. Jim Leach (R-Ia.) former Sen. Lincoln Chaffee (R-R.I.) and former Bush White House intelligence advisor Rita E. Hauser were on the call, touting Obama's foreign and fiscal expertise. More important to the group, Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) is not rival Sen. John McCain (R-Az.).
Chaffee--who reminded reporters on the call he left the GOP party and voted for Obama in the Rhode Island primary, but still claims creds as a Republican-- said "it's a different John McCain" who is running for president in 2008. McCain's reversal on making tax cuts permanent and offshore oil drilling and his foreign policy alignment with Bush/Cheney has "fractured his credibility," Chaffee said.
Leach, winding up a stint as interim director at Harvard's Institute of Politics, said McCain represented the prospect "we will have more of the same."
Leach coming out for Obama is no surprise. After the conference call Leach and I chatted and he told me he gave a speech at Princeton before the Iowa caucus where he was very "positive" about Obama, and a version of that speech played as an essay in some Iowa newspapers before the crucial Iowa vote that Obama won.
Leach will be returning to Princeton's Woodrow Wilson Center. In the run-up to the Republican conference call, Leach conferred with Obama campaign manager David Plouffe and national political director Patrick Gaspard.
The question of whether Republicans will be at the Democratic convention was asked during the call but there was no direct answer. Leach said if invited to attend by the Obama campaign, "in all probability" he would go." END UPDATE INSERT
The campaign will soon launch a website targeted to Republicans billed during the call as very "innovative."
After the call, I e-mailed Obama spokesman Josh Earnest--who handled Iowa communications in the pre-caucus era of this long campaign--asking what is the innovation. Said Earnest, "we expect to use the website to engage Republicans across the country and give them the opportunity to get involved in this campaign." END UPDATE INSERT
Said Hauser, "the effort is to get people, Republican people, to vote for Obama."