Job One For Michelle

One of the great ironies of the presidential race so far is that John McCain and his campaign strategists seem to be succeeding in efforts to brand Barack Obama as a much-dreaded “elitist”, despite the fact that Obama comes from a far more modest background and is far less wealthy than his Republican rival.

One worrisome sign: in a recent poll sponsored by George Washington University done by Democratic polling firm Lake Research Partners and the Republican firm The Tarrance Group, McCain is gaining ground while Obama’s edge is slipping on several key measures reflecting that shift.

Asked who better “represents middle class values”, McCain moved up from 34% to 37% between May and August, while Obama’s tally fell from 58% to 52%.

On the question of who better represents the quality “fights for people like me”, McCain inched up from 33% to 39%, while Obama fell from 53% to 48%.

While Obama still has the edge, the trend line is obviously worrisome. Democratic strategists say much of the problem is that many voters still don’t know that much about Obama, who he is, and what his background truly is. He’s got to fill in the blanks quickly – before McCain does it for him -- if he wants to convince voters that he’s got their interests at heart and will do a better job tackling their top priority, reviving the economy, than McCain.

That’s why much of spectacle that will be showcased in the prime time coverage of this week’s convention at Denver’s Pepsi Center will focus on convincing the American people that he is the candidate who best understands and can identify with their problems.

First up with the task is Obama’s wife Michelle, who will talk tonight about their lives, how they got where they are, and their commitment to middle class values centered on family and hard work. Expect a heavy emphasis on the tough times each faced growing up and overcame – she, raised in a working class family that faced many sacrifices; he, raised by a single mother who vowed to be a better father to his daughters than the father who abandoned him. Obama and his strategists know that if he is going to pull ahead, it’s critical that average voters come to identify more with him – and believe he identifies more with them and their struggles -- rather than that guy with all the houses.

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