Presidential candidates try to appeal across party linesby Tom Scheck, Minnesota Public Radio
The campaigns for president are shifting from attracting their core base of supporters and are focusing on swing voters. Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain have been highlighting their ability to work across party lines by using supporters from the opposite party to speak for them.
St. Paul, Minn. — Every election is determined by the swing voters who don't associate themselves with either party. Remember the suburban soccer moms a few years ago?
This year, political analysts say working class, white males may be up for grabs. Both Barack Obama and John McCain are working to win those middle of the road voters by showcasing their bipartisan support.
"I think there are an awful lot of moderate Democrats, independent thinking Democrats who find his leadership style appealing," said Tim Penny about John McCain.
Penny, a former DFL Congressman and the Independence Party's candidate for governor in 2002, is a national co-chair of McCain's campaign.
The McCain campaign reminded reporters earlier this week that Penny is one of several non-Republicans who are backing McCain this year. Penny said he and McCain both started in Congress in 1982. In fact, he said the two co-chaired the original porkbusters coalition in the 1980s.
"Those of us who have been in Washington know how tough it is to buck the party line or buck the party's interest groups and when you see someone like McCain that's demonstrated an ability to do that in order to get things done, in order to find that common ground, it really speaks to me," he said.
While the McCain campaign highlights support from Penny and some former Hillary Clinton supporters, the Barack Obama campaign highlighted support from an Eden Prairie resident who has a son serving in Iraq.
"Like so many of you, I used to be ambivalent about politics. In fact at one point, I was even a Republican," said Joanne Syverson as she introduced Barack Obama to a crowd of 17,000 at the Xcel Energy Center last week.
Obama won the Democratic nomination that night and was working to show that the race for the general election had begun. Syverson said she became disgruntled with President Bush and the Republican Party.
"One politician, I thought, was as good as another, but through the years that proved to be wrong," she said. "These last years especially have been a wakeup call to Americans. We need change!" University of Minnesota political science professor Larry Jacobs said the campaigns are working to convince two groups that their candidate has bipartisan support.
He said the first is the media, who shape a candidate's image through the stories that they write. Jacobs said the second is the group of independent voters who don't typically pay attention until a few weeks before election day.
Jacobs said about 75 percent of voters have already made up their minds. He said the next five months of the campaign will focus on winning the support of undecided, swing voter.
"We're going to see an enormous amount of money and effort geared to try to woo them over," he said. "What we know about the swing voters is that they do not like nasty bickering. What better way to appeal to try to get a member of the other party to step forward and endorse your candidate."
Jacobs said because there is so much cynicism about politics some swing voters may not believe the candidates are really trying to work across party lines.
He said many voters may make up their minds this year based on which candidate they think can best deliver on core issues like health care, the economy and the war in Iraq.
- All Things Considered, 06/11/2008, 5:20 p.m.