Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama is “the reborn Adlai Stevenson,” appealing to many intellectuals and academics but lacking support among blue-collar voters, says Karl Rove, former deputy chief of staff in the Bush White House.
In an Op-Ed piece for the Wall Street Journal headlined “Is Obama Ready for Prime Time,” Rove observes:
“Obama is befuddled and angry about the national reaction to what are clearly accepted, even commonplace truths in San Francisco and (Chicago’s) Hyde Park. How could anyone take offense at the observation that people in small-town and rural American are ‘bitter’ and therefore ‘cling’ to their guns and their faith, as well as their xenophobia?
“Why would anyone raise questions about a public figure who, for only 20 years, attended a church and developed a close personal relationship with its preacher who says AIDS was created by our government as a genocidal tool to be used against people of color, who declared America's chickens came home to roost on 9/11, and wants God to damn America?
“Mr. Obama has a weakness among blue-collar working class voters for a reason.”
Stevenson, like Obama, was noted for his intellectual demeanor and advocacy of liberal causes. He served one term as governor of Illinois and ran unsuccessfully for president against Dwight Eisenhower in 1952 and 1956.
He appealed to many intellectuals and members of the nation's academic community, but Republicans and some working-class Democrats ridiculed what they perceived as his indecisive, aristocratic air. During the 1952 campaign, influential columnist Joe Alsop used the word “egghead” in an article describing Stevenson's problems in wooing working-class voters, and the nickname stuck.
Stevenson won only nine states in 1952 and lost the Electoral College vote 442 to 89.
Like Obama, Stevenson was known for his inspiring rhetoric, which in Obama’s case “is a potent tool for energizing college students and previously uninvolved African-American voters. But his appeals are based on two aspirational pledges he is increasingly less credible in making.
“Mr. Obama's call for postpartisanship looks unconvincing, when he is unable to point to a single important instance in his Senate career when he demonstrated bipartisanship. And his repeated calls to remember Dr. Martin Luther King's ‘fierce urgency of now’ in tackling big issues falls flat as voters discover that he has not provided leadership on any major legislative battle.”
Rove concludes: “Voters saw in the Philadelphia debate the responses of a vitamin-deficient Stevenson act-a-like…
“Mr. Obama is near victory in the Democratic contest, but it is time for him to reset, freshen his message and say something new.”
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