Monday, February 25, 2008

Republican 'Obamacans' could be key to Obama victory

It's one of his funniest campaign jokes, getting huge laughs, but it underscores what could be absolutely crucial to Barack Obama's White House hopes: the fact that some Republicans secretly back him.

"There's one right there, an 'Obamacan,' that's what we call them," the Democratic senator declared last week after winning primary contests for his party's presidential nomination in Maryland, Washington DC and Virginia.

"They whisper to me. They say, 'Barack, I'm a Republican, but I support you.' And I say, 'Thank you. Why are we whispering?'"

Obama has cracked the joke in every campaign speech since his win in Iowa on January 3. He tells it with a stage whisper into the mike, and can get a stadium packed with 16,000 supporters to burst out laughing.

But the point is not just to warm up the crowd: Obama is also underscoring that he has the ability to win the presidential vote, and then to govern effectively, transcending partisan strains, unlike his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton, who is reviled by conservatives.

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