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Obama + Indy Star Editorial Board

Common bonds

Obama says he can relate to Hoosiers

By Mary Beth Schneider

Posted: April 26, 2008

Struggling to connect with blue-collar voters whose support he needs to help clinch the Democratic presidential nomination, Sen. Barack Obama on Friday conceded he’s got to do more to show that his life mirrors theirs.

Obama’s problems winning over the working-class vote cost him this week’s Pennsylvania primary, which he lost to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, and could hurt him when Indiana’s voters go to the polls May 6.

On cable news shows and in newspaper columns, Obama’s difficulty in bonding with those voters, a crucial part of the Democratic base, have been blamed on everything from his supposedly aloof demeanor to his well-tailored suits that make him fit for a GQ magazine cover and his poor bowling skills.

Friday, talking to reporters outside Joe’s Junction Phillips 66 gas station on Indianapolis’ Westside, Obama said his job now is to “just remind people of where I come from.”

He is, he said, not so different from the people of Indiana.

“I was raised in a setting with my grandparents who grew up in small-town Kansas, where the dinner table would have been very familiar to anybody here in Indiana — a lot of pot roasts and potatoes and Jell-O molds,” he said.

Obama said he “doesn’t want to go out of my way to sort of prove my street cred as a down-to-earth guy.”

He laughed about his image being anything “elitist.”

“I basically buy five of the same suit, and then I patch them up and I wear them repeatedly. I have four pairs of shoes,” he said. “Recently, I’ve taken to getting a haircut more frequently than I used to because my mother-in-law makes fun of me.”

But, he said, “I will be fighting as hard as I can to make sure that people understand why I got in this race in the first place, how I got where I am today, and then when they understand that, I think they’ll recognize themselves.”

A few hours later, at a ( link) meeting with members of the Indianapolis Star’s Editorial Board, Obama said that he’s not going to do anything “drastically different” in Indiana to try to appeal to those voters.

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