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At convention, Obama aims to snare blue-collar voters

DAVID ESPO
At convention, Obama aims to snare blue-collar voters
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., walks off of a plane with his wife Michelle in Chicago on Saturday, Aug. 23, 2008. The stage was Michelle’s at the Democratic National Convention’s opening night on Monday, where she delivered a prime-time speech introducing her to a national television audience. But the biggest star in Denver is her husband, who hopes to persuade reluctant middle-class voters to swing behind his candidacy. (Photo: AP /Alex Brandon)

Author: AP /Denver Post, Hyoung ChangDemocratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., walks off of a plane with his wife Michelle in Chicago on Saturday, Aug. 23, 2008. The stage was Michelle’s at the Democratic National Convention’s opening night on Monday, where she delivered a prime-time speech introducing her to a national television audience. But the biggest star in Denver is her husband, who hopes to persuade reluctant middle-class voters to swing behind his candidacy.

DENVER — On the eve of the Democratic National Convention, Barack Obama said Sunday he hoped a week of political speechmaking would persuade reluctant middle-class voters to swing behind his bid for the White House, while Republicans sought to stir discontent among Hillary Rodham Clinton’s supporters.

Clinton was having none of it. In a gesture of unity, Obama’s rival in the bruising battle for the nomination was expected to release the delegates she won in primaries and caucuses, telling them in midweek they are now free to join her in supporting the victor.

Obama, bidding to become the first black president, campaigned through swing-state Wisconsin, then flew home to Chicago to work on the acceptance speech he will deliver before 75,000 partisans on the convention’s closing night.

Previewing the week ahead, Obama said he hoped convention viewers would conclude, “He’s sort of like us. He comes from a middle-class background, went to school on scholarships. He and his wife had to figure out child care and how to start a college fund for their kids.’”

Clinton outpolled Obama among working-class voters in many states through the winter and spring, and Sen. John McCain and the Republicans have worked relentlessly in more recent weeks to depict the Illinois senator as an elitist who is out of touch with blue-collar concerns.

With Democrats descending on their highly fortified convention city, party officials worked energetically to assure a harmonious week.

Thousands of blue signs that read simply “Unity” were stockpiled inside the Pepsi Center for distribution to convention delegates at whatever moment Obama’s high command deemed appropriate.

And on a unanimous vote, the party’s credentials committee restored full voting rights to delegations from Florida and Michigan. Both states were stripped of their voting rights earlier in the year in retaliation for holding primaries before party rules allowed.

“The only way we will be successful is if we are unified as a party and all Democrats know we are full partners,” said Chris Edley Jr., a member of the panel.

The Democrats were meeting with public opinion polls giving Obama a modest advantage at best in the race to become the nation’s 44th president. McCain has been on the political offense in recent weeks, and he has successfully cut into what had been a slightly more comfortable lead for the Democrat.