Election 2008

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Alex Brandon/AP

Obama Faces Supporter Backlash as Stances Suggest Move to Center

July 07, 2008 04:19 PM
by Christopher Coats
After primary victories in June made him the presumptive Democratic nominee, Barack Obama’s critics and supporters alike are debating his apparent move toward the political center.

30-Second Summary

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For a man often considered one of the U.S. Senate’s most liberal members, Barack Obama has taken some surprisingly conservative stands recently.

Obama agreed with a July 3 Supreme Court decision striking down a handgun ban as unconstitutional, and said he supported the death penalty for convicted child rapists. He also said he will vote for one of President George W. Bush’s key legislative priorities, a bill granting immunity to telecommunications companies that aided federal domestic surveillance efforts.

Predictably, his opponents charge the candidate with “flip-flopping.” But Obama’s supporters are also divided on whether his apparent courting of political moderates is the sign of a strong candidate heading into a tough election—or waffling that could lose votes.

The Obama campaign insists the candidate’s recent actions are in line with his general election platform, but he has alienated many supporters. Currently, the largest group on the official Barack Obama Web site are opponents of his stance on the telecommunications immunity bill.

Columnist Arianna Huffington says such moves toward moderation were “a recipe for disaster and loss” for John Kerry in 2004, and for Hillary Clinton in this year’s primaries. But a former Clinton supporter sees such strategies as necessary to win the presidency and expressed support for Obama’s recent shifts. “I’m pleased that he’s reassessing his position,” she told the Middle East News. “It’s a tough world out there. This is not a game for wimps.”

Meanwhile, some observers see John McCain also moving toward the center in a similar effort to broaden his appeal.

Headline Links: A move to the center

Background: Surveillance at the fore

Reactions: Less support, less money

Opinion & Analysis: Recipe for disaster or necessary move?

Reference: Obama’s positions

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