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Obama's Hunt For The Elusive 'bubba Voter'

In the new issue of The Weekly Standard, Matt Labash has a very enjoyable follow-up to his 2005 profile of Democratic operative Dave "Mudcat" Saunders. Labash has once again sought out Saunders because the latter is an expert at appealing to 'Reagan Democrats' or 'Bubba Voters' or small town Americans get the idea. Saunders seems most exercised by what he views as the elitism of the Democratic Party in Washington and its unwillingness to reach out to the people "Mudcat knows best." So Saunders invited Labash down to Virginia to explain how Obama could win over the Appalachian belt. 

But two problems immediately reveal themselves. First off, Saunders is intent on brandishing stereotypes of "elite" Democrats, which only exacerbate the situation he is supposedly trying to combat:

He's speaking of the breed of mostly Northeastern elitist liberal that he encounters even on his own campaigns: condescending, green around the gills from consuming too much arugula, with overdeveloped thumbs from clacking nonstop on their Blackberries, all of whom jealously guard their titles such as "deputy campaign manager of the coffee pot."

One wonders whether Mudcat has ever encountered Republican campaign staffers, who also tend to have Blackberries, jealously guard their titles, and even (gasp!) complain about food on the campaign trail. Mudcat also dislikes the way Democratic elites view the average Americans:

Part of the reason they don't think they can do it, Mudcat says, is they regard Appalachian/bubba voters with condescension. Mudcat blanches at Dems' constantly moaning about such people voting against their economic self-interest by voting for Republicans.

It is here that the real problem reveals itself. Take the following anecdote:

Just to illustrate the sort of cultural shorthand by which Dems hand Republicans the truncheon to club them with, [Mudcat] pursues the issue of guns. While nobody's going to take anyone's gun away in a country of 90 million gun owners, he says,

Why make our members vote for bulls-- bills that'll get 'em beat in November? It's all perception--nothing's going to pass. Yet the deal is, Democrats are perceived as anti-gun. And so with a slogan like "Close the gun show loophole," what are the first four words of that? "Close the gun show." Bubba doesn't mind an instant check, but closing the gun show is all he can hear. He doesn't need to hear "loophole," after he's heard the first four words.

Now just imagine for a moment that Howard Dean had said this. The clear implication is that 'Bubba' is, er, not smart enough to understand more than the first four words. Or that 'Bubba' does not have the capability to focus on more than four words. Either Saunders is being condescending, or he is revealing something about his beloved 'Bubba Voter' that proves the argument he believes elitist Democrats are making. Now take the following excerpt:

Mudcat doesn't deny that Obama's race could be a factor. Since Obama doesn't come around Appalachia much, having taken a powder in places like West Virginia and Kentucky, "nobody knows about Obama out here. All we know is that he's black. That's all we know. That's all anyone wants to tell us. The damndest thing I've ever seen.'

Again, the joke here is at whose expense? Exactly whose fault is it that all anyone in Apalachia knows about Obama is that he is black (and presumably Mudcat is not arguing that this one bit of information is helpful to Obama with 'Bubba' voters)? And, again, imagine Dean saying the same thing.

Mudcat's tongue-in-cheek email to Labash, however, is proof that the former certainly does have a sense of humor:

The Klan meets right after church so we can all walk over together. The Grand Dragon has scaled the weekly program back a bit. We were planning on burning seven crosses tomorrow night, but with gasoline prices being where they are, we can only afford to burn two. I know how much you like to fish. I'll take you to a hole over behind Cousin Gertie's trailer, but you must fish alone for awhile as I have not seen Cousin Gertie for several months and need to get "caught up." You can stay in the spare bedroom, at least until she warms up to you a little bit. We probably won't be able to sleep much anyway because nobody can cook up a mess of Crystal Meth like Cousin Gertie.

--Isaac Chotiner