Saturday, June 21, 2008

Obama Endorses Bush Supporting Georgia Democrat

From "In an unusual move, Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama is backing U.S. Rep. John Barrow in a contested primary election.

On July 15, Barrow, who is white, faces state Sen. Regina Thomas, who is black, in a Democratic primary likely to attract overwhelmingly black turnout.

The Savannah congressman supports policies such as the war in Iraq and President Bush's tax cuts, which Obama and Thomas oppose.

His campaign is airing radio ads featuring Obama in his 12th Congressional District. "We're going to need John Barrow back in Congress to help change Washington and get our country back on track," Obama says. "He's ... standing up to the ... Republicans who go right down the line with George Bush."

Obama said Barrow will help lower fuel prices and provide access to affordable health care and good-paying jobs.

"It's kind of surprising," said University of Georgia political science professor Charles Bullock. "Party leaders usually don't want to get involved in a contested primary, thinking they don't have anything to gain."

Bullock said the endorsement likely will sway at least some black voters who are inclined to vote for Thomas.

Thomas, a Savannah lawmaker, disputed that. "People have their own minds," she said. "I'll win whether Obama, Bush or Clinton endorses him. My record speaks for itself. So does John's. He votes the Bush agenda."

Ed Feiler, a local Barrow supporter, said the endorsement speaks well of Barrow.

"This shows that he does a very balanced job of representing a district with very different kinds of people," the Savannah businessman said. "It shows he can talk to everybody and that he works hard to deal their concerns."

But Mary Osborne, who was Obama's Chatham County coordinator in Georgia's Feb. 5 Democratic presidential primary, said she is disappointed.

Osborne, a Savannah alderman, said Obama might not be familiar with Barrow's voting record.

Kevin Clark, another local Obama supporter and a leader in the gay rights community, said he was "sorely, sorely disappointed."

Clark said Barrow failed to stand behind the pro-gay-rights positions he took in his 2004 Democratic primary campaign.

Osborne and others suggested the endorsement was a reward for Barrow's support of Obama for president. Barrow backed Obama as he rounded up support from so-called "superdelegates" such as Barrow. Thomas did not back Obama until around the time he locked up the nomination.

"I'm sure there's a matter of trade-offs," Osborne said. "That's how things are done in politics."

But others noted that Barrow also is helping Obama with a major voter registration drive.

"Absolutely not," Barrow responded when asked about payback speculation.

He acknowledged that he differs with Obama on some issues. "But he's trying to make the economy work for the middle class, and so am I," Barrow said. "It doesn't mean he agrees with me 100 percent, or that I agree with him 100 percent."

Obama campaign spokeswoman Amy Brundage made a similar point.

"Sen. Obama believes that Congressman Barrow has worked hard to bring change that families in his district deserve," Brundage said."