Anti-Palin Strategy a Focus of Walk for Change

Supporters of Sen. Barack Obama walked from Freedom Plaza to the Lincoln Memorial, where several spoke.
Supporters of Sen. Barack Obama walked from Freedom Plaza to the Lincoln Memorial, where several spoke. (By Jonathan Newton -- The Washington Post)
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By Bill Turque
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, September 14, 2008

For several hundred supporters of Sen. Barack Obama, the destination for yesterday's 1.5-mile Walk for Change was the east side of the Lincoln Memorial.

But the conversation usually managed to find its way to the subject of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R), who has transfixed the political world since Sen. John McCain presented her as his running mate Aug. 29. Some polls show the race tightening as a result of her selection.

"This whole Sarah Palin thing has thrown a wrench into the plan," said Tina Vehorn, 30, who moved to the District from Chicago last month. "But he'll recover."

David Sobelsohn, an advisory neighborhood commissioner from Southwest Washington, said Obama needed to "take the gloves off" to neutralize Palin, who has cut into the nominees support among white women.

"He needs to have the prominent women in the Democratic party attack Sarah Palin," Sobelsohn said, specifically mentioning Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.).

The midday march was sponsored by Diversity4Obama, a grass-roots group designed to show the breadth of support for the Democratic nominee. It began at Freedom Plaza before heading down 14th Street to Constitution Avenue, where passing motorists signaled their support with a volley of horns. Marchers chanted "No more lies!" and "Yes, we can!"

Organizers said their permit allowed for 5,000. But no more than a tenth of that turned out at the Lincoln Memorial for reggae music, speakers and a voter registration drive on the warm, late-summer afternoon. Many dispersed into the shade of the trees along the Reflecting Pool rather than use the chairs directly in front of the stage.

Those at the microphone had Palin on the brain as well.

"You've got 50-50 odds of a pit bull knowing anything about foreign policy," said emcee Aaron Cunningham, a local Obama organizer, referring to Palin's acceptance-speech joke about lipstick as the only thing separating a hockey mom from a pit bull.

Edward, 35, who declined to give his last name for fear it would damage his medical practice, said Obama and Palin are historic figures. But he also believed that Palin was a phenomenon destined to fade.

"The more she's exposed, the less she'll shine," said Edward, who vowed that if McCain and Palin won, he and his friends would move to Canada.

"A lot of people left after 2004," he said. If McCain and Palin win, "we're all leaving."

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