Barack Obama's latest way of connecting with ordinary voters is to have dinner with them. In promoting the events, which are for anyone who donates $5 or more to the Obama campaign fund, and those who wish for the chance to attend just need to sign up for the opportunity, Obama's email argues: "At a time when Washington lobbyists and special interests are poisoning our politics with their influence, Barack Obama wants to sit down with you and hear what’s on your mind".
The response to the release of the first video of the event is said to be highly positive. Tim of Chehalis, one of the guests at the first 'dinner', is reported as saying "This is one of the coolest events I've ever witnessed. Ordinary citizens are never afforded this kind of opportunity -- to sit down with someone who might be the leader of the free world and have the opportunity to discuss policies and issues". While only a few may have the opportunity, such effects can start a ripple across voters, building a highly positive perception of the type of leader Obama may be. His position in the polls may also well have a strong influence on his party when they select their nominee, so doubly effective.
There is a striking contrast. While perhaps a little irrelevant now, Blair's dinner guests present a less positive image of politics and politicians in the UK. After several demands for the guest list to be published by Liberal Democrat Norman Lamb, it is revealed that guests included singer and gossip column star Charlotte Church and her boyfriend, rugby player Gavin Henson. Also we have TV presenters Vernon Kaye, June Sarpong, Lorraine Kelly and Richard Madeley; journalists David Aaronovitch, Adrian Chiles and Jane Garvey.
Why this was kept secret is perhaps because of the cost of all of this schmoozing, particularly as it suggests the UK Prime Minister was fairly starstruck and after being knocked for entertaining celebrities during the 'Cool Britannia' phase in the late 1990s, carried on with a circle of celebrities. Maybe he was picking up tips for his performances. Perhaps if Blair had, and Brown or Cameron in the future, picks up a few tips from Obama there may be less of a sense of politicians living in their own little world and not understanding the real people.