Barack Obama and Bill Clinton may still have quite a bit of fence-mending to do.
Still, wrapping up his three-week economic tour, Obama today is holding the kind of wonkfest that would warm the heart of the former president, who became famous for holding a series of them during his 1992 campaign.
The "summit on ensuring America’s competitiveness in the global economy" at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, according to Obama's campaign, "will bring together economic, educational, community-based, and industry leaders to discuss the challenges facing our workforce and craft solutions for the 21st century."
In introductory remarks, the presumptive Democratic nominee says he's been listening on his cross-country tour to the stories of Americans struggling to make ends meet.
"It’s time for us to recognize that these individual stories connect to a larger American story," he says in prepared remarks. "All of us have a stake in our common prosperity. When folks are struggling out on Main Street, that pain is going to trickle up to Wall Street. And just as we must provide relief to Americans who are struggling, we also have to recognize that we’re failing to put ourselves in a position to compete in the global economy."
To fix that, Obama says, means alternative energy to free America from foreign oil, providing world-class education and affordable healthcare, and improving the nation's infrastructure, among other priorities.
In a pre-buttal to Obama's appearance, Republicans in a conference call on Wednesday argued that Obama's economic proposals would harm America.
The local GOP chairman, Jim Roddey, even made reference to Obama's much-dissected remarks during the primaries about struggling to connect with small-town voters in Pennsylvania who, "bitter" about their economic fate, "cling" to guns or religion.
“I don’t know maybe [Obama’s] punishing us for still being bitter or something, but for Pennsylvania, I think his proposals are an absolute disaster,” Roddey said.
Republican John McCain, meanwhile, plans a town hall meeting in Cincinnati -- the latest in a series where he challenged Obama to appear.
His campaign has also issued a strongly worded memo in which senior adviser Steve Schmidt argues that "Too many in Washington are putting politics first and country second."
"For John McCain, country first is how he has lived his life and how he has worked in Washington," the memo says.
As for Obama, while "certainly a fresh face, his campaign offers more of the same old typical politics that have broken Washington. In his time on the national stage, he has consistently put his party and his self-interest first."
Schmidt cites as evidence Obama's reversal last week on public financing for the general election, his rejection of McCain's invitation to the joint town halls, and his loyalty to liberal activists on Iraq and energy policy.
"There has never been a time when Barack Obama has bucked the party line to lead on an issue of national importance," Schmidt writes. "He has never been a part of a bipartisan group that came together to solve a controversial issue. He has never put his career on the line for a cause greater than himself."
UPDATE: The Democratic National Committee responded with a memo of its own, citing a series of polls that suggest that many voters believe McCain would mean a third term for President Bush and don't trust him on issues.
"Four months after becoming the presumptive Republican nominee, John McCain has still failed to connect with the American people," the memo says. "As recent polls show, Senator McCain has not made inroads with voters on key issues of character and values as voters continue to view Senator McCain as out of touch."
About Political Intelligence
Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.