x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Obama's bid draws American home

An American living in Dubai is giving two months of his time to work for Barack Obama's campaign for US president.

Nathan Wilson.
Nathan Wilson.

DUBAI // An American living in Dubai is giving two months of his time to work for Barack Obama's campaign for US president. Nathan Wilson, 28, left the UAE last weekend to help organise the last stages of the Obama campaign, which he called "a historic period of time". It is the second successive US presidential election in which Mr Wilson, a consultant with the public relations firm Impact Porter Novelli in Dubai, has worked for the Democratic Party.

He volunteered for the primary campaign of Howard Dean in 2004 and, later that year, the John Kerry-John Edwards White House ticket. He is hopeful that the result will be better for the Democrats this year. "Certainly, we have a candidate on the Democratic side who is very exciting, who even people who do not support him like," he said in an interview before he left. "We have blanket media coverage, making it something that has not just taken Americans' fascination, but the rest of the world's, too.

"I sit here in Dubai and watch people in my office who are not even American taking an interest in the election. "And from a personal standpoint, he is someone who can restore America's image in the eyes of the world. I don't think he goes all the way, but we have squandered a lot of goodwill and capital through the Bush administration, and now we have a chance to show people we are serious about diplomacy again."

During his two months' leave from Dubai, Mr Wilson is expected to work with the sizeable press corps covering the Democrats, arranging interviews for media across the US. He is also expected to act, in his words, as "a glorified roadie", to organise regional events anywhere in the country at short notice. Mr Wilson will be involved in an election that has focused on personality, from the high-profile media campaigns of Mr Obama and Hillary Clinton to the frenzy following the nomination of the Alaska governor, Sarah Palin, to be John McCain's Republican Party running mate.

Mr Wilson said: "The candidates now have to come out on the stage in 50 states and say 'here I am in a nutshell', and keep people interested for long enough. "But I do not think people are voting just on personality - we have American Idol for that. I hope we treat our election with a higher regard. "I think people are worried more about how they are going to send their kids to school than the personality of who is going to the White House.

"I do not think the American public will view this as a popularity contest. "I do not think it is in their best interests and I think we will hold our presidential candidates to a series of rigorous tests." Mr Wilson has lived in Dubai for a year and a half and was previously in Qatar. He joins the Obama campaign at a time when media interest is focusing more on Ms Palin and the Republicans. "A lot of this is over-analysis; that happens every four years," said Mr Wilson, who predicted that the economy, unemployment and experience, not foreign policy, would remain the key issues of the election.

"Candidates get a bump after the conventions. You can see that historically. The same thing happened after the nomination of Joe Biden as the Democrats' vice presidential candidate, and then after the conventions. "Most of the polling that is out there is in response to a hectic three-week window and I am not sure that, until we get closer to the election, the polls have an incredible amount of weight."

He added: "I am going to be proud to have taken part. It is a historic period of time, with the first African-American candidate running for president. "You cannot say enough about that and about what it means. You could be against every single thing he stands for, and yet we have got an African-American running for president." @Email:rhughes@thenational.ae Campaign coverage, a16