DENVER—Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama's vaunted no-state-ignored ground organization during the hard-fought primaries was the key to his victory. But there were two states where his grassroots game was never tested: Michigan and Florida, whose contests were boycotted after officials scheduled them earlier than party rules allowed.
Obama campaign official Josh Earnest said today that organizers know there's work to do on the "field component" in those two crucial battleground states. And on Sunday, Obama and his running mate, Joe Biden, will head to Michigan for a two-day swing that includes a Labor Day appearance in Detroit, the nation's poorest city in a state that has been hit hardest by the country's economic downturn.
Earnest says that the campaign is poised to launch into the fall battle with the economy as its top issue. And labor officials say Michigan will provide a stark tableau of things gone wrong.
Saundra Williams, president of Metropolitan Detroit AFL-CIO, said that in Michigan the fall election will be "all about jobs. About doing something about NAFTA. About doing something to stop shipping jobs overseas."
Sitting in the bright sun at Invesco Field this afternoon with fellow Michigan delegates awaiting Obama's acceptance speech, Williams, who extended the Labor Day invite to Obama, says that "people in Detroit are laid off and hurting."
She wants to hear the new nominee speak directly to labor union members about his position on the Employee Free Choice Act, which would provide stronger protections for workers seeking to form or join unions, as well as the Employee Free Choice Act, which would prohibit unions from making membership a condition of employment—seen by Williams and other labor leaders as anti-union. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has made passage of the EFCA one of its key issues.
Michigan labor organizers have already deployed on Obama's behalf, Williams says, and on Sept. 8 will gear up the phone banks. Obama spokesman Josh Earnest says that while the campaign builds its field forces in Michigan and Florida it enjoys at least one benefit: the parties in both states are unified.
And so are their delegations, Williams says. "The convention has gotten people fired up to go home and work," she says. And with only 70 days until the election, those are words the Obama campaign needs to hear in a state where polls show he has a only a razor-thin lead.