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Commentary: How Obama can get beyond Rev. Wright

  • Story Highlights
  • Martin: Obama has denounced Rev. Wright; now must go on vigorous offensive
  • Obama must say he is running for president, not Wright
  • Martin: He must drive home issues like jobs, college costs, threats to Roe v Wade
  • Martin: Remind blue-collar, rural voters a McCain vote hurts their economic interests
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By Roland S. Martin
CNN Contributor
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Join Roland Martin for his weekly sound-off segment on Live at 11:10 a.m. Wednesday. If you're passionate about the topic, he wants to hear from you.


Roland Martin says Sen. Barack Obama must fight back after the damage Rev. Wright inflicted on his campaign.

(CNN) -- Let's not kid ourselves. The Rev. Jeremiah Wright was going to be a part of this presidential campaign through November, whether Sen. Barack Obama smacked his former pastor upside the head, or not.

Now that he has taken the necessary steps to separate himself from Wright, Obama must go on his most vigorous offensive to date and make it clear that he is running for president, and not Wright.

Sen. Hillary Clinton is doing all she can to make the case to undeclared Democratic superdelegates that Obama is a wounded duck because of Wright; that she has a better shot at winning white working-class voters; and he's not tough enough to take on Sen. John McCain.

With that said, Obama is leading among the pledged delegates and the popular vote. He's also significantly closed the gap between himself and Clinton in superdelegates. Bottom line: He's winning.

But now it's time for him to ratchet up his message and to take back the stage from Clinton, McCain, and of course, Wright. One way to do that is to be far more forceful in advocating his position and direction for the country. Here are a few suggestions:

Michelle Obama on "Anderson Cooper 360"
Michelle Obama speaks out about the Wright controversy to CNN's Anderson Cooper.
Tonight, 10 ET

Let voters know that you will be calling the shots, not Wright. I've seen e-mails from voters who say they will not vote for Obama because of Wright. The junior senator of Illinois must challenge them directly.

Tell them flat out that Wright will not keep their homes from foreclosure.

Tell them that Wright has absolutely nothing to do with gas prices doubling under the presidency of George W. Bush.

Make it plain that your name is on the ballot and not his, and you're the guy who has the right plan to transform the country.

Have your supporters increase the book sales of Alan Greenspan. McCain said last year that the economy wasn't his strong suit, and that he needed to read up on the books of the former Federal Reserve chairman. I would put some of those young supporters to use and have them greet McCain at every campaign stop with a copy of a Greenspan book. Even print up some Greenspan masks and hound him to death.

Then you must back that in-your-face campaigning with an economic message that speaks to the masses, especially those blue-collar voters. Show them that the Bush tax cuts that McCain wants to continue will benefit those same business owners who are shipping their jobs overseas.

Tell blue-collar voters that the hedge fund owners that are snapping up companies and slashing their jobs don't care about them, and will be happy to fund the campaign of McCain.

Make the case that he might be a good guy, but he's more concerned about the tax bracket of his wife (she's worth in excess of $100 million) than the middle- class voters in Ohio and Pennsylvania.

They say you've got a white problem? Tell those white rural voters that voting against their economic interests is political suicide.

Make it clear to women, especially white women, that Roe v. Wade will be extinct if McCain wins. The next president is going to choose three Supreme Court justices.

There is no way -- no way -- that the religious right will let a President McCain appoint anyone with a moderate bone in his or her body. Remember Harriet Miers? Bush even said he knew her heart, and they told him to go to hell.

What Obama has to tell those women, who are supporting Sen. Hillary Clinton in huge numbers, and will be disappointed if she's not the nominee, is that sitting at home on Election Day, or crossing the aisle and voting for McCain, virtually assures that a woman's right to choose what to do with her body will be taken from her.

I would run an ad slapping a large "C" for conservative on the faces of Justices John Roberts, Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas, and Antonin Scalia, and make it clear that three other justices will likely step down.

If McCain chooses, the new justices will vote with the conservative bloc. That is a day the pro-choice movement never wants to see.

Make college tuition a cornerstone of your campaign. You and Michelle paid off your student loans three years ago -- why keep that such a secret? Hit folks over the head with it.

With Sallie Mae cutting back and being more selective on student loans, parents' ability to pay for their kids to go to school is a huge issue. Push it. Hard. Don't let it be just one of many items on the list.

Convene a panel in Indiana, North Carolina and Oregon of parents and young folks and let them express their fears about not being able to go to college and get a good job. There isn't a parent, aunt or uncle who isn't concerned with that issue.

The war still matters. I'm watching Lanny Davis, a big-time Clinton surrogate on "Larry King Live," challenge Obama's judgment on attending Wright's Chicago church for 20 years. Obama must re-engage the electorate and say that the judgment of Clinton and McCain has led to a war that has cost us 4,000 lives and billions of dollars.

Those costs are real. Don't let it slide by. Ratchet up the sound. Don't let voters forget for a second that the wrong choice was made by your opponents.

A lot of folks are assuming the doom-and-gloom scenario for Obama. Everyone is saying he's toast, and this race is over. But we forget that conservatives really don't love McCain, and the evangelicals aren't hot in love with him either.

Go back to who you are: Mr. Change. Drive the issues home in a more forceful manner. The election is little more than six months away, and a whole lot can happen between now and November 5.

Roland S. Martin is a nationally award-winning journalist and CNN contributor. Martin is studying to receive his master's degree in Christian communications at Louisiana Baptist University. You can read more of his columns at

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the writer. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

All About Barack ObamaJohn McCainHillary ClintonJeremiah Wright

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