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Friday, March 30, 2007

The '08 Democrat's Central Question

Who is more likely to build the political consensus to face the issues of today?

Is it Hillary? She's been detested for years by the right. Moreover, she is running as someone who has seen it all before, and can handle all the Republican attacks.

Is it Edwards? He ran with Kerry in 2004 and never has had a reputation for reaching out to conservatives. He wants to change America, but half of America is Republican, and he won't be able to do much without them.

Or is it Obama? He's running a campaign that calls for eliminating slash and burn politics, working across the aisle, and coming together as Americans to solve the difficult issues of today. During his years as a community organizer, his time as the president of the Havard Law Review, his eight years in the Illinois State Senate, and his two years (and counting) in the U.S. Senate, Obama has been praised by both Democrats and Republicans for listening to his opposition and developing practical solutions to tough problems.

Donate to Obama before 3/31 Deadline

March 31st is the quarterly reporting deadline for presidential candidates. Hillary Clinton is running as the unstoppable candidate. Someone who has taken all the right can give, and knows how to beat them. While Obama won't raise more than Hillary this quarter, if he is able to surpass expectations, then he can start to undermine the image of Hillary, the inevitable, and persuade voters that there is more than one possible candidate in the Democratic Primary. Donate now!
(Note: the donation with that link is credited to Obamapedia.)

MSNBC's Chuck Todd previews the Democrats fundraising announcements:
Clinton: Thanks to $11 million in leftover senate funds, there's no doubt who will be the cash Queen of the Quarter. The questions that remain with her money include: 1) How big will the gap be between Hillary and Obama. 2) How fat is her payroll? And for those Clintonistas complaining about the absurd expectations some of us have in regards money, you have just one person to blame: ex-DNC Chair Terry McAuliffe. His donor bullying combined with $1 million per Hillraiser bragging had many of us early on convinced Hillary would average $50 million a quarter. Maybe that's unfair, but Terry can be a salesman to both positive and negative results. The gut says her number, minus general election money and the transfer will be in the low 30s. Toss in those other two categories and she might get to $50 million for the quarter.

Obama: Something tells me we're in for a surprise. Maybe not in total raised (though $25-30M isn't out of the question). It's the total number of donors that will make folks stand up and take notice. If he has more total donors and is within $5 million of Hillary overall, then we may have to start referring to both of them as "co-frontrunners."

Edwards: In a vacuum, the Edwards camp seems to be quite pleased with their fundraising. Remember, in '03 Edwards won the first money quarter with nearly $7.5 million raised. It's likely he'll more than double that number and yet still finish behind Hillary and Obama. It will be possible to track some of the post-Elizabeth announcement money when the report is officially filed April 15.

The rest of the Dem field: The battle for fourth place will be interesting if the campaign that finishes fourth is closer to Edwards than fifth. Smart money is on Chris Dodd to finish fourth thanks to his golden insurance and banking gavel. But keep an eye on Bill Richardson's totals. That guy is a tireless campaigner and he may do better than we think. Frankly, it's possible all of the second tier Dems raise $5 million+, a truly remarkable feat, given that just two did it in 2003-04.

Obama in College

The Tribune coverage continues with a short article about Obama's time at Occidental and Columbia. Maurice Possley writes:
Kenneth Sulzer, who lived in the same dorm, remembered long discussions about politics, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and a possible reinstitution of the draft. Obama was "relatively quiet. But when he spoke, his opinion was respected," said Sulzer, now an attorney in Los Angeles. "He was on the thoughtful side, even at that age."

Obama hits Chicago during 'Council Wars'

Bob Secter and John McCormick from the Chicago Tribune have written a four page, detailed article about Obama's days as a community organizer following his graduation from Columbia University up until his enrollment at Havard Law School.

Much has been made of Obama's ability to bridge feuding conservatives and liberals in Illinois, and before that at the Harvard Law Review, where in 1990 he became its first black leader. As a presidential candidate, he bills himself as a uniter who can usher in a post-partisan era where Washington fights less and gets more done.

The path to his party's nomination, though, runs through Democratic primary voters still chafing from years of conservative Republican rule. And what Obama highlights as an eagerness to plow common ground with political opposites, some voters may view as a sign that he lacks firm principles or an ability to stake and hold his ground.

Obama firmly rejected that notion. "There are a set of principles that I care about. And there are people I'm fighting for in this campaign," he said in a recent interview. If any Republican, or Democrat for that matter, opposes those principles, Obama vowed to "go after them with everything that I've got."

The art of working with one's enemies comes straight out of Community Organizing 101, the on-the-job course in human relations and activism Obama took in the mid-1980s alongside low-income residents in the Roseland community and the Altgeld Gardens public housing development.
It's an interesting look into what shaped the Obama we know today.

I've had enough of this Obama black enough talk

Lois Hatton writes in the USA Today:
Some have suggested that his Harvard education, his white mother and his privileged background separate him from the experiences of mainstream African-Americans. The son of a Kenyan, Obama has a different heritage than most African-Americans whose ancestors came to the USA chained in the holds of slave ships. Obama's father came to America by choice and without the leg irons and chains of slavery.

This unique heritage, however, does not nullify Obama's blackness or isolate him from understanding the needs of other African-Americans. Black leaders have always been the most articulate, the most educated and the most elite members of their race.

Right on! Hopefully, this media theme is dead. It assumes black voters vote mainly on the basis of race. No, black people, like everyone type of people, are looking for a candidate that will be the best president. That being said, Obama won 90% of the black vote in the Illinois Senate Primary. He has demonstrated that he can prove to the black voters in Illinois that he is a qualified candidate. And I don't see anyone reason why that won't translate nationally. The polls of black voters favor him over Clinton a little bit now. In the future, they'll probably favor him a lot.

Illinois Political Insider Rich Miller wrote:
Ten months before the March 2004 U.S. Senate primary (about where we are now before the Iowa caucuses), Obama's own polls showed him winning just 34 percent of the black vote. About a month before the primary, African-American voters began ''breaking'' in large numbers to his candidacy. As they began focusing on the campaign, black voters saw he was viable, liked his message and a significant percentage finally realized he was African American. He ended up winning just about all their votes.

This same pattern has been repeated time and time again during the past 25 years here. Harold Washington didn't start off his campaign with the majority of black support against a white female with a huge war chest and the powers of patronage and incumbency, but he certainly ended that way. Like Byrne, Hillary Clinton is almost universally known and has a strong record of backing issues important to many Democratic African-American voters. Obama is far less known. It's perfectly natural that, right now, many black voters are siding with Clinton. But, if Obama's candidacy remains viable through early next year, I'd bet that the vast majority of African-American voters will end up with him.
The real question: is the media smart enough to realize Obama is black enough? For a while I doubted they could do it, but they may just be smart enough.

Glenn Thrush Reports False Non-Story about Obama

On March 15, Glenn Thrush wrote a article titled, "Like Clinton, Obama avoids a query." The piece began with an alarmist tone:
If gays and lesbians were looking for a champion to dispute Gen. Peter Pace's claim that homosexuality is immoral, they might have expected Hillary Rodham Clinton or Barack Obama to leap forward.

Not quite. While both Clinton and Obama are courting gays and lesbians, and would allow them to serve openly in the military, the Democratic front-runners have been curiously reticent about challenging the statements of the chairman of the Joints Chiefs of Staff.
Last night, Obama responded to the story on Wolf Blitzer:
"I'm not sure that the story got out there properly. I mean, what happened was I was leaving a firefighters' union meeting and trying to get in my car and did not respond to a reporter's query at that point. I wasn't responding to reporters period because I was trying to make a vote. Subsequently I made it very clear. I don't think that gays and lesbians are any more moral or immoral than heterosexuals and that I think it is very important for us to reexamine the don't ask, don't tell policy because it's costing us millions of dollars in replacing troops that by all accounts are actually doing a good job but are simply being kicked out of the military because of their sexual orientation."
Glenn Thrush responds:
It was a hectic scene and perhaps he misremembered. We asked him versions of the "immorality" question three times as he was leaving the convention, twice during a long ride on an escalator, and once at the door of his car. He responded twice, then jumped in his car. Contrary to the assertion that he wasn't answering reporters' questions, Obama did also respond to a Brazilian reporter quizzing him on ethanol.

This exchange was later reported by Christi Parsons of the Chicago Tribune in an article titled, "Reporter challenges Obama's account of Q&A."

So was Obama telling the truth? Yes.

Luckily, Lynn Sweet of Sun Times reported the entire exchange.

Democratic White House hopeful Barack Obama was running a little behind schedule. He had just delivered a speech to the International Association of Fire Fighters at the Hyatt Hotel on Capitol Hill...

As Obama was rushing to leave the hotel, a reporter for a Brazil broadcast outlet tossed Obama a question about a pending U.S.-Brazil biofuels agreement and whether he supports lower tariffs on ethanol. Support for ethanol is a major issue in Iowa -- the state with the first presidential vote next January, so Obama was cautious with the potential Iowa landmine. "We need to take a look at the agreement before I comment on that," he said.

Then a Newsday reporter, Glenn Thrush, said to Obama, "What do you think about Gen. [Peter] Pace's comments that homosexuality is immoral?"

The question was a follow-up to the statement the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff made to the Chicago Tribune editorial board, that homosexual acts were immoral.

"I think traditionally the Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman has restricted his public comments to military matters,'' said Obama. ''That's probably a good tradition to follow. ''

Obama was asked again. "What do you think of the characterization of homosexuality as being immoral? Sen. Clinton was asked that this morning on 'Good Morning America.' Do you think homosexuality is immoral as Gen. Pace has asserted?''

At that, Obama reframed the question to refer to the military's "Don't ask, don't tell" policy and he said, "I think the question here is whether somebody is willing to sacrifice for their country, should they be able to? If they are doing all the things that are needed to be done." He ignored a third try.

The statement of Obama in question is "At that point, I wasn't responding to reporters."

1. The Brazilian reporter's question was before the homosexual immorality questions, so Obama could be referring to the point after the Brazilian reporter's question.

2. He didn't answer the Brazilian reporter's question anymore than he answered the homosexuality question. His answer to the Brazilian reporter's question was: "We need to take a look at the agreement before I comment on that," He gave a quick answer to the Brazilian and two quick answers to Glenn Thrush. This can't be considered a situation where Obama was "responding to reporters." In what Glenn Thrush described as "hectic scene," Obama was hurrying to his car, and none of his answers were longer than a couple sentences.

Another manufactured Obama story.