We’re both absolutely awful at bowling.
His bowling night is part of his Reinvention Tour 2008, where he tries desperately to connect with working class white voters, as Jonathan Cohn at TNR notes:
For the last two weeks or so, as my colleagues can attest, I’ve been asking everybody I know whether they recalled ever seeing Barack Obama stand outside a factory and greet workers as they walk in for their shift. It’s one of, if not the, most cliched moments in poiltics. But I couldn’t recall Obama doing it–and neither could any of my colleagues. I also didn’t find any references to such events on Lexis-Nexis, either–although, in fairness, it’s not so easy to search for that sort of thing.
I thought that was indicative of Obama’s biggest poiltical problem: His inability to connect with working-class white voters. It was the reason he’d struggled in Ohio–and, I presume, the reason he’s been so far behind in Pennsylvania. And while there’s no simple fix, I’ve always thought Obama just needed to spend more time interacting with blue-collar voters and establishing the kind of relationship he now lacks.
Lo and behold, that’s just what he doing. As Paul West reports in the Baltimore Sun, Obama’s ongoing tour through Pennsylvania is a break with the recent past. He’s not filling basketball arenas with thousands of activists and college students. Instead, he’s hitting bars, bowling allies, and–yes–factories.
As the article explains, he’s also trying to fly under the radar, in the political sense. He’s riding in an unmarked luxury bus, not a garish campaign caravan. He’s making himself available to all sorts of local press, but not national. And his staff isn’t even announcing all of these events early.
There are a lot of things about campaigning that are annoying, and politicians trying to act as “men and women of the people” are frequently on that list. Don’t get me wrong – there are polticians out there who have and can successfully connect with voters on a man to man level (the late Senator Paul Wellstone comes to mind), but when I see Mitt Romney acting like he knows how to grill out, or John Kerry in 2004 pretending to be a connoisseur of Philly Cheese steaks and looking silly asking for Swiss cheese rather than Cheese Whiz, my eyes roll. Sometimes, heck, most of the time, it’s much better if these guys just stick to what they know best: politics.
In related news, one thing BO and I will never have in common is that no one will ever be able to say with a straight face that I am like Nelson Mandela, as feminist author Alice Walker wrote in this Guardian puff piece about The Chosen One. Walker, I should note, wrote the book We Are The Ones We Have Been Waiting For, which, incidentally, just so happens to be a phrase Obama has been known to say on the campaign stump. I certainly hope Walker isn’t talking about this Nelson Mandela …