Barack Obama on Thursday sent a clear signal he was planning an aggressive general election campaign by asking Howard Dean, the controversial chairman of the Democratic National Committee, to stay on in his post.
By Edward Luce in Washington
The move puts Mr Obama firmly in the camp of Democrats who argue the party should compete in all 50 US states against those, led by Rahm Emanuel, an influential lawmaker from Illinois, who say it should focus its resources on swing states, such as Ohio and Florida.
Mr Obama’s decision reflects his campaign’s belief that he can extend his appeal beyond traditional Democrats to independents and moderate Republicans, which puts mainstream Republican states, such as Virginia, Colorado and North Carolina, within his reach.
It also reinforces Mr Obama’s theme dating from his speech to the 2004 Democratic convention that America is a “purple” country as opposed to one divided between red (Republican) states and blue (Democratic).
“Over the last three years, the DNC staff has worked tirelessly to ensure that the Democratic party is strong in all 50 states,” Mr Dean said in a statement. “The DNC and the Obama campaign are now working together to continue this effort.”
Mr Obama also on Thursday reinforced his message of “cleaning up Washington” by instructing the DNC, which has fallen under his control since he became the presumptive Democratic nominee on Tuesday night, to adopt the same ethical standards as his campaign for fund-raising.
The DNC, which is badly cash-strapped compared with its Republican counterpart, can no longer accept money from federal lobbyists or political action committees – campaign fundraising vehicles that are operated by interest groups. Both Mr Obama and John McCain, the Republican nominee, have a reputation for promoting ethics reform on Capitol Hill.
“The DNC will uphold the same standards [as my campaign] – we will not take a dime from Washington lobbyists,” Mr Obama said at a town hall meeting in Virginia. “We are going to change how Washington works. They will not run our party. They will not run our White House. They will not drown out the views of the American people.”
Mr Obama’s latest steps continued the flurry of activity since he crossed the threshold on Tuesday night to get a majority of delegates. It also follows Hillary Clinton’s roller-coaster ride since Tuesday night when she gave a defiant speech that eschewed acknowledgment of Mr Obama’s victory over her only to cave into pressure to concede late on Wednesday night. Mrs Clinton will formally concede at an event in Washington on Saturday.
Mr Obama, who on Wednesday set up a three-person vice-presidential search committee, has said he plans to talk to Mrs Clinton in the next few weeks. That conversation would cover her role at the party convention in late August as well as the possibility of the former First Lady becoming his running mate.
On Thursday Mrs Clinton’s campaign issued a statement denying any ambitions of joining Mr Obama’s ticket but leaving open the possibility. “While Senator Clinton has made clear she will do whatever she can to elect a Democrat to the White House, she is not seeking the vice-presidency, and no one speaks for her but her. The choice here is Senator Obama’s and his alone.”
Obama officials have made it clear that he is unlikely to select a running mate until July at the earliest. Mrs Clinton had made it clear she was “open” to the possibility of joining his ticket.