Aug. 11, 2008
By Karin Caifa
WASHINGTON -- Pictures of Barack Obama hitting the links, jogging on the sand and just soaking up the sun in the lush, beachy confines of the state where he was born, Hawaii, give every indication that the presumptive Democratic nominee is on vacation this week. So it stands to reason that journalists and politicos can stand down from their veep vigil for the duration of his island getaway. Right?
Put down your pina colada. An e-mail from Obama campaign manager David Plouffe jolted many a Beltway Blackberry Sunday night, conveying the notion that a running mate announcement could be imminent. And, OMG, you could be among the first to know via text message.
Dropping in in-boxes with the subject line, "Barack's VP: Be the First to Know," last night's message encouraged supporters to give their cell phone number or e-mail address, in order to be among the first to find out who Obama selects. "You have helped build this movement from the bottom up," Plouffe writes, "And Barack wants you to be the first to know his choice."
"No other campaign has done this before," Plouffe concludes. "You can be part of this important moment."
It's seen as a clever campaign move on a few fronts. First, the timing of Plouffe's e-mail stokes speculation and generates buzz around the Democratic veepstakes even while Obama is off the trail. It also moves the Democratic spotlight from the salacious details of John Edwards' recently admitted extramarital affair.
Second, by encouraging supporters to forward the e-mail to others to let them know about this "special opportunity," it allows the campaign to potentially harvest a whole new list of addresses and cell phone numbers. That way the campaign can keep in touch in the crucial crunch time between the vice presidential pick and Election Day.
And third, it's unconventional. Obama's campaign has largely been based on what some call a "different" kind of politics, and sending a text message is very different from - and more inclusive than - the usual swing state rally where the two candidates traditionally take the stage together for the first time.
Is it realistic to expect Obama to make his decision known this week? Probably not. In addition to Obama's vacation, presidential candidates have shied away from making such announcements during the summer Olympics. If we spot Evan Bayh, Tim Kaine, or any of the other rumored Obama shortlisters on the islands, we'll get suspicious. But for now, we'll say, mahalo (or, thanks) for the veepstakes break.