Brenda Earvin joined 1,700 residents of Elkhart, Ind., who crammed into a high-school auditorium this week to hear President Barack Obama pitch his stimulus package. “He could be making phone calls from Washington but he’s here,” she told the local paper, The Elkhart Truth, “and that’s a blessing for us to see him come to Elkhart.”
Earvin is also a blessing for the president. Back in Washington that night, Obama held a press conference in the White House and referred to Elkhart a dozen times. His message depended heavily on using Earvin and her friends to stand for every worker “whose lives have been turned upside down because they don’t know where their next paycheck is coming from.”
I’m still the guy you voted for, he was saying. I still care about real Americans. And Congress better pass my economic proposals or those real Americans will suffer the consequences, and penalize the politicians who didn’t help them.
Obama’s trip to Indiana – and later visits to Florida and Illinois – show that he’s adopting one of the most common techniques used by recent presidents to communicate with voters. It’s called “campaigning to govern,” a phrase originally coined by political scientist Charles O. Jones, and essentially it means that presidents must travel outside of Washington to generate support for their proposals back in the capital.