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The Key Piece Of Obama's Strategy

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The Key Piece Of Obama's Strategy

Politics

The Key Piece Of Obama's Strategy

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ALEX CHADWICK, host:

Roger Simon is chief political columnist for politico.com, where we go several times a day. Right now, Roger and others who covered this campaign are trying to piece together what happened and why and what it all means. We spoke earlier.

Mr. ROGER SIMON (Chief Political Columnist, Politico.com): I think the crash of the stock market, along with a shooting war in Iraq and a shooting war in Afghanistan made wonkiness less toxic and less unappealing. The Democrats would always field these sort of wonky smartypants candidates. And...

CHADWICK: Michael Dukakis and John Kerry.

Mr. SIMON: Michael Dukakis and John Kerry, you know, Al Gore, and they were clearly knowledgeable. But the Republicans would always say, yeah, but you wouldn't want to have a beer with them. They don't understand you. They don't understand the American people. And even though our candidate - George W. Bush comes to mind - may not be an intellectual powerhouse, he understands real people.

And, in fact, there has been in American politics for a long time - you can go all the way back to Adlai Stevenson in the '50s is a prime example - an anti-intellectual fear in American politics, that intellectuals really didn't get it, and they shouldn't be put in high office. But the relative wonkiness of Obama and Joe Biden seemed more appealing to the relative unwonkiness of John McCain and especially Sarah Palin. And I think that helped removed the taint, really, of being smart.

CHADWICK: You're a old Chicago reporter, which is where President-elect Obama is now, at his home. You write in your bio, I'm going to be buried in Chicago when I'm gone, I can continue to participate in politics. I just wonder, are there Chicago lessons here? Does this seem like a Chicago thing to you at all?

Mr. SIMON: When I first interviewed Barack Obama, it was a few days before he announced for the presidency in February 2007. I interviewed him at his Senate office in Washington, and I said, you know, your opponents, Hillary Clinton's people and John McCain's people, are saying you're just not really tough enough for this. And he sat up in his chair, where he had been slouching, and said, you know, I come from Chicago politics. He says, I know how to fight a fight, and I'm no pushover.

And while President-elect Obama's campaign was never overwhelmingly negative, he ran some tough ads, and every time Senator McCain took a shot at him, Obama responded. You know, the nickname that had been given him was Obambi because people thought he was just this sort of doe-eyed character who wasn't - didn't really have a tough center. But, indeed, he did prove to have a tough center and a very disciplined attitude toward politics.

But the second part is, you can't underestimate how important it was him to have been an organizer. He was an organizer on the south side of Chicago. And at every - or almost every rally, from the earliest days of Iowa, Obama would name his local organizers from the stage. And he'd call them up, and he'd say, you know, I was an organizer. And its lousy pay, and it's hard work, but these are the people. And not just the upper staff people, but the people down in the trenches. They really can make the difference between victory and defeat.

CHADWICK: We're talking with Roger Simon. He's chief political columnist for politico.com. One last thing, Roger. You've been covering politics for a long time. Many people say this is an extraordinary campaign, an extraordinary election season that we've had. Have you learned anything?

Mr. SIMON: Oh my gosh, I think we have all learned that this is a different country than the one we grew up in, even if you voted for Barack Obama or didn't. I mean, I don't think you could have gone to bed on election night or woken up the morning after and not felt a little better about your country, that history had been made.

That certainly, all the problems of America regarding race and prejudice had not been solved, and in fact, we may have only taken the first step, but you could just see it in the faces of Americans, see it in the faces of ordinary people, that a small step had been taken on a new day for this country. And that good feeling will doubtlessly fade, but right now, it's sort of a time to enjoy what could be a new era for American politics.

CHADWICK: Roger Simon of politico.com. Roger, thanks for being with us again on Day to Day.

Mr. SIMON: Hey, thanks so much for having me.

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