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Obama: A dearth of policy?

The Washington Post has a story that will keep the McCain and RNC press shops humming today. It's about Obama's lack of policy proposals. "Obama has not emphasized any signature domestic issue, or signaled that he would take his party in a specific direction on policy, as Bill Clinton did with his 'New Democrat" proposals in 1992 that emphasized welfare reform or as George W. Bush did with his 'compassionate conservatism' in 2000, when he called on Republicans to focus more on issues such as education."

"Obama's campaign is 'clearly politically transformative, it's clearly from a policy standpoint been cautious,' said James K. Galbraith, a liberal activist and economist at the University of Texas at Austin who had backed former senator John Edwards in the early primaries."

More: "David Axelrod, Obama's top political adviser, said that the campaign will devote more staff members to policy (there are now seven) and that the senator's speeches will increasingly highlight his proposals. 'The next six months is going to be about competing visions for this country,' he said. 'Obama is looking forward, and his policies will reflect that.'"

"Obama's domestic policy proposals, including expanding health care to all Americans and offering tax cuts for the middle class while raising taxes for those who make more than $250,000 a year, differ little from those that Clinton and other Democrats have proposed during the primaries. His ideas for solving the nation's housing crisis are similar to those of congressional Democrats, offering aid to people who cannot pay their mortgages and proposing a second economic stimulus package." 

For how many months has Obama had to clarify those comments about rogue leaders he'd meet with? The New York Times is the latest to jump on this again. "In an interview on Wednesday, Mr. Obama, of Illinois, sought to emphasize, as he and his aides have done continually over the last few days, the difference between avoiding preconditions for talks with nations like Iran and Syria, and granting them automatic discussions at the presidential level. While Mr. Obama has said he would depart from the Bush administration policy of refusing to meet with certain nations unless they meet preconditions, he has also said he would reserve the right to choose which leaders he would meet, should he choose to meet with them at all."

"The issue presents one of Mr. Obama's biggest political and policy tests yet as he appears headed toward a general-election contest against Senator John McCain of Arizona: How to continue to add nuance to a policy argument that he views as a winning one, without playing into a fierce round of accusations that he is either shifting positions or appeasing the enemy." 

Reuters writes, "Talking to reporters on his plane from Denver to Chicago, Obama was asked if the race for the November general election against Republican John McCain begins after Tuesday's votes. 'Yes,' he responded. Asked if he will be the winner of the Democratic nomination at that point, he said, 'I believe so.' The Illinois senator, 46, predicted he would be in a 'pretty strong position' to clinch the nomination after a Saturday meeting by party officials and Tuesday's votes."

The Washington Post reports that the "co-director of Barack Obama's presidential campaign in Puerto Rico is a Washington-based federal lobbyist for the government of Puerto Rico. Ethics watchdogs said that the high-profile role of Francisco J. Pavía appears to contradict the Obama campaign's ethics guidelines, which forbid federal lobbyists from working on staff. But Obama spokesman Bill Burton said Pavía is an 'active volunteer' -- not a paid staffer -- and can hold the job without running afoul of the campaign's rules."

More: "'It sounds like a conflict with Obama's policy,' said Melanie Sloan of the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. 'They need to provide an explanation.' Burton said that Pavía's role with the campaign was permissible but that the rules were not airtight. 'This is not a perfect solution to the influence of special interests in Washington,' he said. 'But it is a symbol of the effort that Senator Obama is going to make to decrease the influence that the special interests do have.'" 

Bloomberg News looks at Obama's potential downballot effect. "In 2006, Ohio Republican Representative Steve Chabot barely survived the electoral drag of the Iraq War, congressional scandals and an unpopular president. Barack Obama's presidential candidacy this year may deliver a knockout blow."

"More than a quarter of the voters in Chabot's Cincinnati district are black, the highest concentration for any incumbent House Republican in a competitive race this fall. Obama's likely spot at the top of the Democratic ticket may fuel a surge in turnout among black voters that could help the party pick up a half-dozen new House seats."

Kerry pollster Mark Mellman pens a New York Times op-ed that makes the case that Obama is doing better with white working class voters than either Kerry or Gore.