Crafting the Obama Brand

The Chicago Tribune looks at plans dating back to February 2005 to create the “Obama Brand” in preparation for a future run for the White House. The initial plans looked at running in 2012 or 2016, but have been moved up a little:

The plan they hatched focused on concrete, achievable goals that included delivering for Illinois, fitting in at the Senate and developing cross-party alliances while avoiding the limelight.

They would schedule Obama on trips that traversed two-lane country roads throughout Illinois. He would do his duty raising money for fellow Democratic senators during the “Power Hour,” a regular telephone fundraising commitment set up by party leaders. And he would sit through lengthy committee hearings to wait his last-place turn as the most junior member to ask a question.

First and foremost, the Obama team placed a high premium on working well with others.

“So much of what happens around here depends on relationships and on a committee chairman’s willingness to help you out,” said Chris Lu, Obama’s legislative director. “It helps if those relationships are strong.”

Obama built a strong relationship, crossing party lines, with Richard Lugar:

“He does have a sense of idealism and principled leadership, a vision of the future,” Lugar said. “At certain points in history, certain people are the ones that are most likely to have the vision or imagination or be able to identify talent and to manage other people’s ideas. And I think he does this well.”

Obama deserves credit for being an early opponent of the Iraq war, but once in the Senate became overly cautious:

In keeping with the pattern of his political career, he moved cautiously. During the summer of 2005 he considered proposing a plan to partition Iraq. But he backed off the idea as advisers raised two key concerns: that the proposal was fraught with complexities and that he could be seen as overstepping his expertise.

Ultimately Obama delivered a more modest speech in November 2005, five days after Murtha’s call for a troop withdrawal. In that address, he called for reductions in U.S. troop strength but not a timetable for withdrawal.

In a Senate debate the following June, Obama voted against an amendment proposed by Feingold and former presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) to set such a timetable.

Only after Obama announced his presidential exploratory committee did he introduce legislation this January that sets a date for withdrawal of U.S. combat troops. By then the high-profile, bipartisan Iraq Study Group also had endorsed a deadline for troops to leave.

In May he voted against continued funding of the war, after Bush vetoed a funding package that included a timetable for withdrawal by March 31, 2008.

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