February 23, 2008

Obama, Taking It For Granted?

Last year, John McCain took a lot of criticism for skipping CPAC, the annual convention of the conservative base he now needs to woo. This year, Barack Obama may make the same kind of misstep, regretfully declining to attend the State of the Black Union forum in New Orleans, explaining that campaigning in Ohio and Texas will take priority. Hillary Clinton managed to carve out some room in her schedule to attend, however:

The annual State of the Black Union forum boasts a number of famous names as it gets under way in New Orleans, but this year's event is getting much more attention for who won't be there.

Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-New York, was the only major presidential candidate to accept an invitation to attend.

Her rival, Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, declined, as did Republican presidential hopeful Sen. John McCain of Arizona.

But it's Obama's absence that's prompted both controversy and a backlash against Tavis Smiley, the organizer of the event who has openly criticized Obama's decision.

The backlash against Smiley is a little strange. He has received death threats and his family has been harassed for daring to criticize Obama. One might have thought that some of the angry e-mailers and callers may have shared Smiley's frustation that the highest-profile black politician in America couldn't have found his way to New Orleans for a brief appearance, especially since Texas is fairly close to New Orleans.

Hillary managed to make the trip, even though she has overwhelmingly lost the black vote. She needs to get some traction there, and Obama's refusal to attend may help, especially in nearby Texas. It may help even more with the African-American superdelegates that have begun wavering in their support for her.

For that matter, an appearance by John McCain would not have hurt, either. Republicans should start focusing on outreach to events like this, and McCain doesn't have any pressing need to be somewhere else at the moment. He has all but wrapped up the nomination, and can now focus on the general election and on party-building. It would also tweak Obama's nose to appear at this forum while Obama skipped it.

Skipping CPAC last year was a mistake for McCain, but one he could remedy with an appearance this year. Obama won't get a second chance to make it up to people who may resent his diminishing the event by his absence.

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H/T to Memeorandum for this story: The annual State of the Black Union forum boasts a number of famous names as it gets under way in New Orleans, but this year’s event is getting much more attention for who won’t be there….. …..... [Read More]

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