Obama: McCain wants ‘campaign to be about biography’


Obama speaks to a crowd on a farm in Dillionvale, Ohio

Obama speaks to a crowd on a farm in Dillionvale, Ohio




Obama at an economic forum in New Philadelphia, Ohio.

Obama at an economic forum in New Philadelphia, Ohio.


Writ Large is on the road this week, embedded with the Barack Obama campaign. 

DILLONVALE, Ohio—The politician who became famous in part because of his life story said Wednesday that the presidential race isn’t about biographies or personalities.

“I don’t know what John McCain is thinking,” Sen. Barack Obama told a crowd at an eastern Ohio college, “but I am going to be talking a whole lot about issues.”

Obama’s comments came as a response to remarks made the day before by John McCain’s campaign manager, Rick Davis.

Davis told the editorial board of the Washington Post that “this election is not about issues,” said Davis. “This election is about a composite view of what people take away from these candidates.”

Seeing the opening, Obama pounced, saying the Republicans were trying to steer the campaign away from issues such as the stagnant economy, because that’s where they hold a disadvantage. And it gave him a ready-set opportunity to promote his economic agenda.

Obama, of course, has long trafficked in his own compelling biography, even writing a book about his life as the son of a Kenyan father who was raised by his Kansas-born single mother. And even as he derided the McCain campaign, he couldn’t help but strike some well-worn personal chords himself, taking about the financial struggles of his mother and grandmother.

Many observers believe that McCain’s choice of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin was a bid to create a ticket centered around the marketable image of two maverick personalities—and dent Obama’s charismatic aura in the process.

Obama suggested as much Wednesday, saying that Davis “wants to make this campaign about biography.

“Let me say this– I mean being a [prisoner of war] for six years, it’s extraordinary the courage and resilience John McCain showed. You know, nobody disputes it– we all honor it. And we all admire it,” Obama said. “But for me–and I think for you–the measure for the next president is how effectively is he going to be make your lives better. How well is he going to help create new jobs?”

Davis later qualified his remarks, saying in essence that the race wasn’t only about the issues, that voters would need to make up their minds as to the “character” and “leadership” of the two candidates.

Ironically, Obama spent much of his time last spring in places like Ohio defending himself from charges by Hillary Clinton’s campaign that he was running on his biography, rather than on a record of achievement.

Obama returned to the trail Wednesday after taking the preceding day off to monitor the damage caused by Hurricane Gustav, and he came back to the swing-state of Ohio just three days after he last campaigned here. Thursday will find him in another battleground state, Pennsylvania. He’ll hold a rally in Pittsburgh early in the day.


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