New York Democrats should consider Barack Obama as one of their own.
That, more or less, is going to be his message as he campaigns in Washington Square Park on Sept. 27 and, according to campaign aides, tells an expected crowd of thousands how his time as a Columbia student in the 1980’s shaped his career and politics.
“He will talk about his experiences as a young man in New York and the impact that has had on who he is today,” said Jen Psaki, the spokeswoman.
Ms. Psaki said that the rally will “show that he has an organization here, a presence here, and that he is proud of the strong base of support he has throughout the city.”
Mr. Obama’s campaign clearly hopes to undermine the hardening conventional wisdom about Mrs. Clinton’s prohibitively dominant position in the primary by producing a dramatic show of strength right on her home turf, and his aides have spent much of the week aggressively pushing the notion that he can compete here.
Since his arrival in New York on Sept. 24, on what is at least his 16th trip to the city since declaring his candidacy, Mr. Obama has held fund-raisers, appeared at endorsement announcements, given interviews to local media and sat down on New York-based talk shows, all building toward the rally at Washington Square Park.
One may well ask whether, at this late stage in the game, he wouldn’t be better off spending his time in, say, Iowa.
But even without a realistic chance at winning the primary in New York, there are plenty of reasons for the Obama campaign to invest time and resources here. Not only is New York still the nation’s preeminent source of political contributions, but it’s also a potential wellspring of detachable Democratic delegates. New York’s primary is on Feb. 5, and Democrats divide their 151 delegates proportionally. If the primaries in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina don’t yield a clear winner—and the Obama campaign has no choice but to operate on the assumption that they won’t—then a good chunk of New York’s delegates are likely to be in play.
Mr. Obama’s current stopover began at the Juilliard Room of the Omni Berkshire Place off of Madison Avenue, where he received an endorsement from the city’s Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association. He took the opportunity to make the case for his viability in New York and nationally.
“This endorsement today is only one part of a grass-roots movement that we’re building in New York,” Mr. Obama said after shaking the hands of each uniformed officer standing behind him like a navy blue curtain. “It’s all part of an effort to reach out to New Yorkers and build a campaign from the bottom up in this state and across the country.”
After receiving the endorsement, he attended a fund-raiser in the evening called “Barack on Broadway,” at which Grey Gardens star Christine Ebersole sang for him, the cast of Hairspray performed for him and Oscar-winner Marcia Gay Harden read for him.
The next day, which Mr. Obama spent campaigning back in Chicago, his staff and volunteers fanned out across Harlem, SoHo, and downtown Brooklyn and Bedford-Stuyvesant, passing out flyers promoting the Washington Square rally. At Union Square, desks taped with Obama placards sat in front of the major subway entrances. On one of them, a rock paperweight held down photocopied information packets about Mr. Obama that addressed everything from his biography to his positions on veterans, senior issues, foreign policy, LGBT rights, health care and the “American dream.”
One Obama supporter, Zoe Rothberg, 29, who runs a fashion business in Brooklyn, picked up information about the rally and said she was pleased her candidate was taking the fight to Mrs. Clinton on her own turf.
“Bring it on,” she said. “It’s confrontational, but in a way he needs to be confrontational to win.” Amanda Raines, a 23-year-old legal assistant from Westchester, also picked up some information about the Illinois senator, but said she had not made up her mind whether to support him or Mrs. Clinton. She said she thought Mrs. Clinton might bring back the relatively happy days of Bill Clinton’s administration while Mr. Obama had a special “appeal.”
She said she was downtown for jury duty, and that if she was still on call by rally day on Thursday, she would be interested to hear what Mr. Obama had to say.
“I’ll try to stop by,” she said.