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Thursday, April 24, 2008

Basketball primaries

Did you catch this news item from the AP today? Barack Obama's campaign is offering young Indiana campaign workers the chance to play basketball with the candidate:
Obama's campaign has been intensely focused on new voter registration ever since staff arrived in large numbers back in mid-March. The campaign... [is] offering high school and college students who register their peers the chance to play basketball with the senator.
In the Hoosier state, this is a politically savvy move.

Indeed, several of the next primaries are in states that are basketball crazy -- Indiana and North Carolina on May 6 and then Kentucky on May 20. This March, the largest cities in these states had some of the "highest average television rating[s] and share[s] for the run of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament." Of the top 56 TV markets, Louisville finished #1, Charlotte was #2 and Indianapolis was #4. Additionally, Raleigh-Durham finished #10.

Is Obama's link to basketball authentic? Yes.

Barack Obama was a high school basketball player (footage here). His brother-in-law is a college head coach. Most importantly, Obama has continued to play basketball into adulthood -- the offer to young staffers isn't an awkward gimmick.

Even the NY Times has noticed Obama's love of basketball:
From John F. Kennedy’s sailing to Bill Clinton’s golf mulligans to John Kerry’s windsurfing, sports has been used, correctly or incorrectly, as a personality decoder for presidents and presidential aspirants. So, armchair psychologists and fans of athletic metaphors, take note: Barack Obama is a wily player of pickup basketball, the version of the game with unspoken rules, no referee and lots of elbows. He has been playing since adolescence...
That rough-and-tumble vision of pickup basketball might not jell completely with Obama's "change" agenda, but consider these elements:
...over the years, Mr. Obama’s gymmates have become loyal allies and generous backers....Though some of these men could afford to build courts at their own homes, they pride themselves on the democratic nature of basketball, on showing up at South Side parks and playing with whoever is around. At the University of Chicago court where he and Mr. Obama used to play, “You might have someone from the street and a potential Nobel Prize winner on the same team,” Mr. Duncan said. “It’s a great equalizer.”

It is a theme that runs throughout Mr. Obama’s basketball career: a desire to be perceived as a regular guy despite great advantage and success...
For fans in Kentucky, Indiana, and North Carolina, here's the money quote:
“I dream of playing basketball,” Mr. Obama said in a television interview
As frequently as he can, over the next month, I think Obama should appear with a basketball in his hands.

Based on this CNN footage, it appears he can shoot.

If he can win Indiana and North Carolina on May 6, the long campaign may be over.

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