REST ASSURED, Philadelphia. Come Election Day, there will be street money.
According to U.S. Rep. Bob Brady, the local Democratic Party chairman, Sen. Barack Obama's general-election presidential campaign in Philadelphia will be run different from his primary operation, which relied more on volunteers than on Democratic ward leaders and did not provide street money on Election Day.
"We're not going to pay for votes or pay for turnout," Obama said before the Pennsylvania primary.
But Brady said that the campaign has promised street money to pump up turnout in November. And now that Obama is the official nominee, his campaign will team up with the city's Democratic ward leaders, who traditionally help get out votes.
An interesting and so-far-unanswered question is whether Obama will campaign more in Philadelphia than he did during the primary to stoke turnout in his strongest political base.
"They told me there are going to be resources here," Brady said. "That's what we do in Philadelphia; we pay people to work. They understand that."
Craig Schirmer, Pennsylvania director for the Obama campaign, would not talk about street money. But he did say that the campaign would be working closely with the local Democratic apparatus.
"As a campaign, we really are enjoying working with Congressman Brady and Mayor Nutter and Congressman Fattah," he said.
Ward politics in the city presents a unique set of challenges to the Obama campaign.
Paying money to ward leaders and other supporters represents exactly the kind of transactional politics Obama has run against. His primary campaigns were fueled on Internet-based fundraising and on grassroots organizing rather than on traditional political relationships.
When he came to Pennsylvania, Obama ignored pleas to fund street operations in Philadelphia. He did spend record sums on TV advertising, but still lost the state to Hillary Clinton by nine percentage points. Some insiders said that he should have worked harder at driving out his base in Philadelphia, even if it meant handing out some Election Day cash.
"The apparatus was not energized," said Al Spivey, chief of staff to Councilman Curtis Jones and an expert in Philadelphia elections. "They can't just do this campaign with ads."
Now Obama needs a big win in the city to win Pennsylvania. Both Sen. John Kerry and Al Gore were carried to Pennsylvania victory on the backs of massive wins in Philadelphia - Kerry winning Philly with a margin of more than 400,000 votes, Gore with a margin of 350,000.
Brady estimates that Obama must win Philadelphia by 500,000 votes to ensure winning the state. Because Obama may not have the same support in central and western Pennsylvania as Kerry or Gore, Brady thinks a bigger Philly margin is key.
"I think we're going to need that because of the middle part of the state," said Brady. "McCain plays right in there."
Schirmer would not discuss vote margins.
Polls put Republican candidate Sen. John McCain, who has made repeated visits to Pennsylvania throughout the summer, within striking distance in the state.
"I haven't seen any map that doesn't show Pennsylvania is a true swing state in this election," said political consultant David Dunphy.
The path to winning elections in Philly includes street money, cash doled out to ward leaders who use the money to pay party committee people to work their voting divisions on Election Day, and sometimes for other expenses like meals or transportation or to hire extra workers.
During the primary, the Obama campaign didn't pay street money to the Democratic City Committee, which Brady said wasn't unusual given that Obama hadn't been endorsed by the local Democrats - they chose not to endorse. Still, competing candidates often give election cash to supportive ward leaders to boost turnout.
Obama didn't do that in the spring. When some ward leaders who backed him complained, many predicted it would cost him votes. Obama survived the resulting bruised feelings and strained relationships, but experts say it would be harder for him to stiff the party now that he's the endorsed candidate.
"In the fall I think there is going to be an expectation of City Committee that just like in the Kerry campaign and just like in the Gore campaign there will be money moving into City Committee for election-day activity," said political consultant Ken Smuckler.
Does working with the local party and paying Election Day cash damage the campaign's image as a grass-roots operation?
"I don't think it's a contradiction of our message to work with people who also support Senator Obama," said Schirmer. "I think Senator Obama likes a big tent, and we're going to have an organization that helps us win Philadelphia decisively."
Besides working with the local political establishment, many said Obama simply needs to show up in town.
Philadelphia has been largely missing on Obama's list of campaign stops. During the Pennsylvania primary Obama did one big rally on Independence Mall the Friday night before the primary election and brief spurts of hand-shaking in several neighborhoods on primary day.
"He's got to get in the neighborhoods," said Maurice Floyd, a former city commissioner. "I remember when Bill Clinton came and he went out on 52nd and Market. He has to do that - just to reassure his voters that he cares about their vote."
Schirmer said that Obama will be here, but was vague as to when.
"I think you'll see Senator Obama in the state frequently, I think you'll see him in Philadelphia as well," he said. "Nobody gives you these elections; you have to go out and earn it."*