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Obama's folks argue he'd head stronger Dem ticket

December 11, 2007 | 10:05 pm

Almost every campaign tries to set expectations and impressions of itself quietly behind the scenes. A favorite tool is the conference call where a campaign puts its supporters or experts on the line with reporters from around the country.

Today was Barack Obama's turn. On the line was Tom Daschle, former Senate majority leader and National Obama co-chair, Ray Mabus, former Mississippi governor, and Rep. Russ Carnahan of Missouri, historically a bellwether state in presidential elections. Also on the line was The Times' Robin Abcarian.

Not that this call had anything to do with countering a New York Times poll saying Hillary Clinton was more electable. But the point all three wanted to drive home was Obama's crossover appeal to Republicans and independents, which they felt would put more states in play for the 2008 election. "With Barack Obama at the top of the ticket," said Mabus, "I think you will see a much more favorable outcome for Democrats all the way down the ballot come November."

Obama, Mabus added, "is seen as the unifying candidate, the candidate who appeals most broadly across lines here." No data to prove this, but these guys are experts.

Noting that his home state of South Dakota is "bright red," Daschle said Obama was the best Democratic candidate to draw Republican and independent votes. "He addresses the yearning I see among people from all walks," Daschle said, "who want this country to come together, to build consensus, to find common ground."

Then Abcarian asked the $64 question: So does that mean that Hillary Clinton is bad for Democrats?

They all rushed to deny that. "I am not saying that," said Daschle. "The excitement level among Democrats is much greater than it is on the other side. The strongest in that strong field is Barack. He has the ability to help. It's just that he's so much stronger."

Contention made.

-- Andrew Malcolm