Tags: Barack Obama

Obama’s In! Hillary’s In! Richardson Is In! And South Carolina loves... Joe Biden?


With John Edwards, Barack Obama, Hillary Rodham Clinton, and Bill Richardson in the top tier, and Tom Vilsack, Chris Dodd, and Smeagol Dennis Kucinich running as well*, the Democrats have a full house, a mix of veterans and new faces, inside-the-beltway candidates, outside-the-beltway candidates…

So if Joe Biden goes and wins the South Carolina Primary, it’s going to be hilarious. (As opposed to Hillary-ous.)

Think about it. Vilsack either wins Iowa, or causes it to be split so that no one gets out with an impressive win. Nevada goes for Edwards because the unions love him. (Or maybe Richardson displays some Western-state appeal?) Either Obama or Hillary win New Hampshire. And then South Carolina goes for Biden, lousing up the momentum of everyone else.

At this point nothing is certain, but we may not see a rerun of 2004, where Kerry had the nomination more or less sewn up after winning New Hampshire…

*And maybe Al Gore! And maybe Wes Clark! And maybe (oh, please! oh, please!) John Kerry! And…

Tags: Barack Obama , Bill Richardson , Chris Dodd , Fred Thompson , Hillary Clinton , Horserace , Joe Biden , John Edwards , John McCain , Mike Huckabee , Mitt Romney , Newt Gingrich , Rudy Giuliani , Sarah Palin , Something Lighter , Tommy Thompson

Overshadowed By You Know Who, Bill Richardson Announces He’s In, Too


Poor Bill Richardson. “And in other news, this other guy announced he was running for the Democratic nomination, too.”

In his interview with Stephanopoulos, Richardson made it clear that he will try to leverage this background by drawing a contrast between the extent of his experiences and those of his likely competitors for the nomination.

“The next president must be able to make us energy independent, must be able to make schools better, create jobs, give the American people, every American, a fair shot,” said Richardson. “To get that done, you need real-life experience. All I’m saying is, a lot of these folks can make speeches about all these things. I’ve actually done it.”

Richardson also is a resident of a western state, making him unique among the major candidates for the nomination.

Richardson’s unique in a lot of ways. Hispanic. Governor (not counting Vilsack). Represents a red state (again, not counting Vilsack). Varied resume.

Then again, there’s this unfair rumor thing that’s been floating around…

Tags: Barack Obama , Bill Richardson , Chris Dodd , Fred Thompson , Hillary Clinton , Horserace , Joe Biden , John Edwards , John McCain , Mike Huckabee , Mitt Romney , Newt Gingrich , Rudy Giuliani , Sarah Palin , Something Lighter , Tommy Thompson

The First Hillary Argument Against Obama: His Glow Will Fade?


On Hillary’s web site, pollster Mark Penn has a column on why she can win. One part that stood out to me:

Some of the commentators look at the ratings of people who have not yet been in the crossfire, and say they might have a better chance. Recent history shows the opposite. The last two Democratic presidential candidates started out with high favorable ratings and ended up on Election Day (and today) far more polarizing and disliked nationally (see the CBS poll below). Hillary is the one potential nominee who has been fully tested, with the Republicans spending nearly $70 million in the last decade to try to defeat her. She is not just strong, but the strongest Democrat in the field. Hillary is the only one able to match or beat the Republicans after years of their partisan attacks on her.

“Not yet been in the crossfire”… I wonder which rival for the Democratic nomination Penn is referring to?

In other news, there’s been a lot of questions about the timing of this – why a Saturday?

A Saturday announcement means that the news of the exploratory committee is most likely the top story in Sunday’s newspapers, usually the most-read edition of the week. It could or should dominate the Sunday morning shows, for whatever that’s worth. It may step on Obama’s announcement from earlier in the week, even though the timing seems highly reactive.

For the second-tier candidates – the Tom Vilsacks, this Chris Dodds, the Tom Tancredos, the Jim Gilmores – announcing an exploratory committee is genuine news, since few people see it coming. For the lawmakers who have had presidential buzz surrounding them for years – the John McCains, the Rudy Giulianis, the John Edwardses, and most clearly, the Hillary Clintons – announcing the filing of papers for an exploratory committee is really more of a formality. Perhaps Team Hillary realized there was not much point in putting off the inevitable.

UPDATE: Over in the New York Post, John Podhoretz is impressed. “The simple phrase Hillary used to announce her presidential bid yesterday – “I’m in, and I’m in to win” – is the best political sound bite in years… In any case, the Obama Moment has passed. This is not to deny Obama’s formidable challenge to Hillary or the profound seriousness of his candidacy. But he’s a little like the winner of “American Idol” going up against a rock superstar who has spent decades in the spotlight.”

Tags: Barack Obama , Bill Richardson , Chris Dodd , Fred Thompson , Hillary Clinton , Horserace , Joe Biden , John Edwards , John McCain , Mike Huckabee , Mitt Romney , Newt Gingrich , Rudy Giuliani , Sarah Palin , Something Lighter , Tommy Thompson

In a Poll Full of Democrats, Democratic Candidates Have Considerable Support


The great Patrick Ruffini looks at Newsweek’s latest poll, finds their sample was 26 percent Republican and 37 percent Democrat (!), re-weights it to compare to the 2006 election, and finds (surprise!) very different results.

I’m not going to complain if a poll has more Democrats than Republicans, but come on, Newsweek. A gap of 11 percent suggests you’re not even trying to get your sample to resemble the pool of voters who actually show up on Election Day.

In other weekly newsmagazine news, I picked up the international edition of Time magazine yesterday, the one with “Does Sending More Troops To Iraq Make Any Sense?” as the lead story. I counted about five and a quarter pages of ads – the first three pages, and both sides of the back cover.

I wonder if the international edition is doomed

Tags: Barack Obama , Bill Richardson , Chris Dodd , Fred Thompson , Hillary Clinton , Horserace , Joe Biden , John Edwards , John McCain , Mike Huckabee , Mitt Romney , Newt Gingrich , Rudy Giuliani , Sarah Palin , Something Lighter , Tommy Thompson

Hillary Is ‘In It.’ Last Name to be Determined Later.


To the surprise of no one, Hillary’s running. (And the logo is “Hillary for President, not Hillary Clinton for President.”) Video here.

As she says, she’s not just starting a campaign, she’s beginning a conversation. Which is probably something like a “listening campaign,” which is how she began her campaign for the Senate in 2000.

“We all need to be part of the discussion, if we’re all going to be part of the solution.”

So no opt-outs, huh? We can’t choose to not be part of the discussion, nor to choose to not be part of the solution?

“All of us have to be part of the solution.”

Oh. I wonder if some part of that statement got cut off? “That’s why I’m setting up reeducation camps around the country, so all of you can get with the program.”

“Let’s talk about how to bring the right end to the war in Iraq and to restore respect for America around the world.”

“Let’s talk about how to bring the right end to the war within my party over my position on Iraq, and to restore respect for my position as frontrunner.”

“How to make us energy independent and free of foreign oil. How to end the deficits that threaten Social Security and Medicare.And let’s definitely talk about how every American can have quality affordable health care.”

Okay, my only observation during this point is that on the video, apparently the cameraman fell asleep, because her head is centered, then right, then left a bit, then up and then down. Maybe someone decided that the standard head-on shot could be softened by slow movements of the camera a few inches one way, then another way.

You know, after six years of George Bush, it is time to renew the promise of America. Our basic bargain that no matter who you are or where you live, if you work hard and play by the rules, you can build a good life for yourself and your family.”

I kept waiting for Hubby to pop up in the background and give her the thumbs up on his oft-used phrase, “people who work hard and play by the rules.”

“I grew up in a middle-class family in the middle of America, and we believed in that promise. I still do. I’ve spent my entire life trying to make good on it.”

I have lived my dream of spending eight years living in public housing, and wish to do it for another eight more.

“Whether it was fighting for women’s basic rights or childrens’ basic health care. Protecting our Social Security, or protecting our soldiers. It’s a kind of basic bargain, and we’ve got to keep up our end.”

You know, our soldiers are actually pretty good at protecting themselves. But I’m sure they can sleep easier, knowing Hillary Clinton is watching over them.

“So let’s talk. Let’s chat. Let’s start a dialogue about your ideas and mine.”

Let’s not.

“Because the conversation in Washington has been just just a little one-sided lately, don’t you think? And we can all see how well that works.”

Oh, come on. There have been two sides in Washington – on one side, the corrupt pork-barrel-loving free-spending big government greedheads who want open borders and to use the public trough as a way to line their own pockets, and then on the other side, we’ve had the Democrats. I take it back, Senator Clinton is absolutely right. The conversation in Washington has been one-sided; it could use some actual conservatism.

“And while I can’t visit everyone’s living room, I can try.”

Americans, please lock and deadbolt your doors.

“And with a little help from modern technology, I’ll be holding live online video chats this week, starting Monday.”

“I got the idea from my husband. Since leaving office, Bill has been raving about how much fun he has chatting for hours and hours with ‘young former constituents’ over the Internet.”

“So let the conversation begin. I have a feeling it’s going to be very interesting.”

Total agreement, Senator. Good luck.

UPDATE: Brian asks, “so when was this taped? The greenery in the background is not today in Chappaqua.”

Didn’t they have a warm spell lately? An early bloom? Or is Hillary in warmer climes? Or are we looking at evergreens in the background?

Tags: Barack Obama , Bill Richardson , Chris Dodd , Fred Thompson , Hillary Clinton , Horserace , Joe Biden , John Edwards , John McCain , Mike Huckabee , Mitt Romney , Newt Gingrich , Rudy Giuliani , Sarah Palin , Something Lighter , Tommy Thompson

Are Hillary’s People Saying That Obama Attended a Wahhabi Madrassa?


I think if Team Obama is smart, they will get out ahead of this story as soon as possible.

Are the American people ready for an elected president who was educated in a Madrassa as a young boy and has not been forthcoming about his Muslim heritage?

This is the question Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s camp is asking about Sen. Barack Obama.

An investigation of Mr. Obama by political opponents within the Democratic Party has discovered that Mr. Obama was raised as a Muslim by his stepfather in Indonesia. Sources close to the background check, which has not yet been released, said Mr. Obama, 45, spent at least four years in a so-called Madrassa, or Muslim seminary, in Indonesia.

“He was a Muslim, but he concealed it,” the source said. “His opponents within the Democrats hope this will become a major issue in the campaign.”

When contacted by Insight, Mr. Obama’s press secretary said he would consult with “his boss” and call back. He did not.

Sources said the background check, conducted by researchers connected to Senator Clinton, disclosed details of Mr. Obama’s Muslim past. The sources said the Clinton camp concluded the Illinois Democrat concealed his prior Muslim faith and education.

“The background investigation will provide major ammunition to his opponents,” the source said. “The idea is to show Obama as deceptive.”

Jonah wonders if Hillary’s people would really leak this to Insight magazine (no offense to the folks over there, but one wonders how eager Democrats are to give hot material to the conservative press). On the other hand, maybe this is a warning shot from Camp Hillary.


The word “madrassa” is an explosive one in our politics. Okay, bad word choice there. It is a word that evokes strong visual images, few of them good. A lot of Americans are having strong feelings about Islam these days, and for many it is a suspicion of the faith itself, after the violent reactions to the Danish cartoons, the Pope’s speech, the Dubai Ports World deal, the threatened death penalty for Abdul Rahman, the Afghan who converted to Christianity… If the madrassa in question is tied to the Wahhabi sect, as the story suggests, this story will be huge, and it will shift Obama from the “likeable” category to “untrustworthy” category for a sizeable number of Americans.


I just bet a Muslim friend that if this story gets legs, the words “Manchurian Candidate” will be used in discussions about Obama, unfair as it might be.


This story may be more smoke than fire – but it’s the sort of thing that a candidate can’t let fester for long.


UPDATE: Two thoughts from (ah, I nearly said “TKS”!) Hillary Spot readers that I should have addressed.


Hillary Spot reader Steve writes, “The most probable path I see this taking, is one that strengthens Obama. In your post you mention the Afghani convert sentenced to death. If Obama admits that he was Muslim but converted to Christianity, he instantly becomes an apostate and moves up on the list of people Islamists hate. It is not hard to imagine the charismatic Obama giving a heartfelt narration about his coming to Jesus and rejection of his former faith. This whole story could work to ingratiate him with Christian conservatives and right-wing anti-Islamists if he becomes the target of a Sharia fatwa.”


While Gregory asks, “This is a pretty [gutsy] gamble on Hillary’s part, don’t you think?  The chance she sees, I’d wager, is it could end Obama.  But with Hillary’s prints all over the hot potato, the risk is also that it might blow up in her face.  After all, the Democratic base considers itself politically correct, and the whiff of race/religion-baiting in this story will make Democrats feel uncomfortable.  I have to wonder, if this story has legs, how long will it be before Hillary, already percieved as, well, a [rhymes with witch], comes to be seen as…a bigot?  Lots of sins are forgivable among Democrats, but intolerance is not forgivable.”


Boy, this race didn’t take long to get interesting, did it?

Tags: Barack Obama , Bill Richardson , Chris Dodd , Fred Thompson , Hillary Clinton , Horserace , Joe Biden , John Edwards , John McCain , Mike Huckabee , Mitt Romney , Newt Gingrich , Rudy Giuliani , Sarah Palin , Something Lighter , Tommy Thompson

Some comments on sacrifice from the Democratic frontrunners


There’s been a lot of talk of sacrifice among our aspiring commanders-in-chief.


John Edwards, recently:

“My own view about it is we ought to ask America to be patriotic about something other than just war. We ought to ask Americans to be willing to conserve; to be willing to sacrifice.” 

Hillary Clinton, very recently:

“I believe America can confront any problem if we’re willing to make some tough decisions… We’ve not been asked to make any tough decisions. The president hasn’t called for sacrifice from any of us. We’re not asked to even turn the lights off and conserve energy in order to limit the amount of money that is flowing to regimes that are antithetical to our interests.” 

Barack Obama, a few months ago:

“Moreover, if we progressives shed some of these biases, we might recognize some overlapping values that both religious and secular people share when it comes to the moral and material direction of our country. We might recognize that the call to sacrifice on behalf of the next generation, the need to think in terms of ‘thou’ and not just ‘I,’ resonates in religious congregations all across the country.”

And then there’s another recent comment on sacrifice, with some very different ideas, from Glenn Reynolds, yesterday:

For “sacrifice,” I think that incumbent politicians should term limit themselves to a single additional term. Also, there should be a ban on private non-commercial jet travel, and limousine service in large metro areas, for the duration of the war. And a 100% excise tax on movie tickets and DVDs . . . 

I seemed to remember thoughts in a similar vein from Glenn, so I went waaaay back into the archives, and found these gems:

OKAY, ONE MORE: I just saw Dick Gephardt on NBC. Every time I see him he repeats the same two points: Americans need to pay more in taxes, and accept less freedom. We all need to sacrifice. Hey Dick — what have you sacrificed? Er, besides your eyebrows, I mean?

And another, from right after 9/11:

In all my grief and horror as the story unfolded on the television Tuesday, I couldn’t help but notice how Peter Jennings kept talking about how “Things would [have to] change in this country” in the wake of the attacks, that “we” would have to accept less freedom and like that. It made me angry. The reason is that the “we” is spurious – Peter Jennings and Dick Gephardt don’t mean that _Peter Jennings and Dick Gephardt_ will have less freedom. They’ll still fly first class; they’ll wait in the VIP lounges; they’ll continue to have access to the airwaves to say what they deem to be sayable. They mean that the _rest_ of us will have to change. What they mean is that the _differential_ between their lives and our lives “will have to” increase. I’m old enough to remember when air travel was something rich people did. When I was a lad, my grandfather was not CBS, nor NBC nor ABC – to spread his socialist opinions he had to resort to haranguing the neighbors. Free enterprise and the free exchange of ideas put everyone who wants to in the sky and on the net. Drive up the cost of travel in the name of security, and the cost of communication in the name of security, and travel and “publication” become, once again, the purviews of the elite. . . . 

War and crisis are good for business if you are in broadcasting or government. For that reason, we mustn’t expect official media to defend any rights but their own in the coming struggle.


(Hard to believe that the BlogFather once had that much snark in him, huh?)


Anyway – these comments illustrate that politicians love the word ‘sacrifice,’ so long as it is generic, and doesn’t really get that specific. It’s a concept easy to endorse in theory, when one pictures oneself making a small sacrifice, and the greater share of the burden on those we deem most ‘deserving.’


If an aspiring president laid out exactly who they expected to make the sacrifices, and what those sacrifices would be, they might find a little less applause.


Tags: Barack Obama , Bill Richardson , Chris Dodd , Fred Thompson , Hillary Clinton , Horserace , Joe Biden , John Edwards , John McCain , Mike Huckabee , Mitt Romney , Newt Gingrich , Rudy Giuliani , Sarah Palin , Something Lighter , Tommy Thompson

Remembering the Gut-Level Connection With Voters


On my reading pile this year is finishing up Applebee’s America: How Successful Political, Business, and Religious Leaders Connect with the New American Community, by Clinton strategist Doug Sosnik, Bush strategist Matthew J. Dowd, and former AP political correspondent Ron Fournier.

The fact that I didn’t finish it last year probably reveals that I have found it uneven so far – fascinating political tidbits, followed by dry, vague descriptions of religious or business trends that didn’t keep my interest.

Interspersed throughout the book are short descriptions of conversations the authors had with ordinary voters, usually at some Michigan-area Applebee’s. Those snippets of conversation reminded me that I am very, very different in my thinking from “average” Americans. You almost certainly are as well; the average American doesn’t read political web sites or blogs.

In fact, lots of voters out there base their voting decisions on ephemeral, vague, intangible feelings about a candidate, rather than his or her stands, policies, beliefs, etc. A couple examples:

HOWELL, Mich. — Debbie Palos is a prochoice nurse and the daughter of a Teamster who cast her first two presidential ballots for Clinton. Her friend and neighbor Lynn Jensen supports abortion rights, opposes privatization of Social Security, and thinks President Clinton was the last president “who gave a hoot about the middle class.” … Both opposed the war in Iraq.

Yet they both voted for President Bush in 2004.

“I didn’t like doing it, but the other guy was too radical for me,” says Jensen, a thirty-three mother of two…

“I don’t think much of Democrats anymore,” says Palos. “Besides, I may not agree with President Bush on everything, but at least I know he’s doing what he thinks is right.”

That sound you hear is the heads of former Kerry strategists exploding, as they learn that they failed to persuade longtime Democrats and Iraq war opponents that their man “is doing what he thinks is right.” Another conversation, later in the book:

More than a year after the election, Palos still struggled to answer the question, “Why did I vote for Bush?”

“I don’t know.” …

She was disappointed with the president. He hadn’t performed well after Katrina, “and this war hasn’t exactly turned out as he promised.” Yet there was something about him that still struck a chord.

“It’s just the whole measure of a man,” she said. “When I voted for Clinton, I did it on gut instinct. I look at a person, and I try to see through their eyes to their values.

“Who knows if I know everything on policy,” she added, “but I can get a sense of who a person is.”

Another example:

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — George Heier is sipping a cup of coffee at his usual table, between the bar and the bathrooms and within sight of the front door. “I like to see my friends coming in,” he says.

Even the politics is unfamiliar in his new hometown, Blue Springs, Missouri. “Hell, they’re all Republicans out there,” he says with a laugh. The Roosevelt Democrat and veteran of D-Day opposed the war in Iraq and President Bush’s domestic policies yet voted with the majority in his new community. “I backed Bush because I liked him, and even though I didn’t support what he stood for, at least I knew he stood for something.”

Another example, same vein:

“Even when we don’t agree, you know what I believe and where I stand,” Bush said at his 2004 nominating convention. Watching the convention from her suburban Chicago home, Bonnie Kohn rubbed the goosebumps out of her arms after that line. A Democratic-leaning voter, she had been on the fence about the 2004 presidential race. “I decided right then and there that even though I couldn’t put my finger on it, there was something about that guy that made me feel safer. Something gut level about him made me trust him. He had me thinking that we were all in this together,” she said months later. Polls suggest that there were many more like Kohn who opposed the war but voted for Bush because they thought he had the Gut Values to keep them safe.

It’s worth keeping in mind as we see the argument that Obama is too liberal to win the nomination, and/or the presidency. In this case, a certain number of antiwar, Democratic-leaning voters who often preferred the liberal stand on issues voted for the Republican, almost entirely based on hard-to-measure emotional connections with the President.

If George W. Bush could connect with voters like Palos, Jensen, Heier and Kohn, I think there’s a good chance that Obama can establish that same gut values connection.

UPDATE: For those of us who are a little more policy-wonkish, James Pethokoukis, a senior writer at U.S. News & World Report has written a great summary of Barack Obama’s views on trade, taxes, and entitlements. He calls it “a sneak preview of Obamanomics.”

Tags: Barack Obama , Bill Richardson , Chris Dodd , Fred Thompson , Hillary Clinton , Horserace , Joe Biden , John Edwards , John McCain , Mike Huckabee , Mitt Romney , Newt Gingrich , Rudy Giuliani , Sarah Palin , Something Lighter , Tommy Thompson

Trying To Answer the ‘How’ As Well As the ‘Why’ With Polls


Fascinating post by Chris Bowers, over at the left-of-center MyDD, expressing frustration about polls that tell us what Americans believe, or how they feel about a subject like Iraq, but comparably little about why they feel that way.

He looks at an open-ended question from a poll his site conducted last year, asking people why they supported or opposed the Iraq war, back in March 2003. The key graphs:

Despite its flaws, this poll offers some important insights. First, most people who support / supported the war did not mention Iraqi freedom or WMDs. The most common rationale, making up nearly half of all responses, centered around the idea that invading Iraq was a form of self-defense against terrorism / appropriate reaction to 9/11 (see support reasons 3-6). Even the generalized, amorphous rationales of support reasons 7-11 are roughly equal to the WMD and Iraqi freedom rationales combined. This poll appears to indicate that most people who support / supported the war just wanted to do something in response to 9/11 to protect themselves from future terrorism, even if that terrorism didn’t have WMDs. Even people who supported the war didn’t buy into, or at least care quite as much about, either freedom in Iraq or any weapon stockpiles Hussein may or may not have had.

On the other side of the coin, people who opposed the war overwhelming did not do so just because they didn’t believe there were WMDs, or because of the general paucity of allies in the invasion. In fact, the most common responses centered a general opposition to war, or at least pre-emptive war (opposition reasons 1, 3, 7, 10 and 11). Another common response was that people felt lied to, as seen in rationales 5, 8 and 9, where people felt the war was being conducted for reasons other than those most commonly stated. After that comes the idea that the war was either not being conducted properly, or at least was not connected to the “war on terror” and 9/11, as seen in responses 4 and 12. Only then comes the idea that there weren’t actually any WMDs.

Recognizing the challenges of putting together poll results on an open-ended question, these results reinforce certain gut instincts about the post-9/11 electorate attacks. I suspect the base of the Republican party – probably heavily represented among war supporters – is still significantly focused on terrorism, even five years after that infamous Tuesday. And I suspect that a significant chunk of the Democratic party’s base voters is essentially pacifist; “war is not the answer” is their answer to almost any foreign policy crisis.

It’s probably worth keeping this in mind as we watch Hillary Clinton attempt to gradually morph into a critic of the Iraq War; she’s always going to have a significant gap between her stances and the preferences of her base voters.

Maybe some loon’s book wasn’t as far off as some people thought.

Tags: Barack Obama , Bill Richardson , Chris Dodd , Fred Thompson , Hillary Clinton , Horserace , Joe Biden , John Edwards , John McCain , Mike Huckabee , Mitt Romney , Newt Gingrich , Rudy Giuliani , Sarah Palin , Something Lighter , Tommy Thompson

Rasmussen Has Hillary, Obama Virtually Tied Among Democratic Primary Voters


David Weigel over at Reason thinks this site will need a name change sooner rather than later, after looking at the latest Rasmussen poll.

He notes, “from 34 percent to 22 percent in one month, as Edwards and Obama have risen up… I poked around for a 1999 poll to see if Gov. George W. Bush was this weak when that race started. Nope. He had a floor of about 40 percent and consistently trounced his nearest competitor, Liddy Dole. I’d like to hear Hillary backers spin this (they won’t bother, it’s one poll), but for the former first lady and presumptive nominee since Nov. 8, 2004 to score under 30 percent in ANY poll is absolutely pathetic.”

I’ll permit myself a moment of gut instinct: How does the less liked candidate (Hillary)overcome a more likeable candidate (Obama)? When is it too early to go negative? How much does going negative hurt Hillary?

UPDATE: The Iowa Caucuses are about a year away, and Zogby recently polled Iowa Democrats: Edwards 27, Obama 17, Vilsack 16, Clinton 16.

On the Republican side, Giuliani 19, McCain 17, Gingrich 13, Rice 9, Romney 5. For what it’s worth.

Tags: Barack Obama , Bill Richardson , Chris Dodd , Fred Thompson , Hillary Clinton , Horserace , Joe Biden , John Edwards , John McCain , Mike Huckabee , Mitt Romney , Newt Gingrich , Rudy Giuliani , Sarah Palin , Something Lighter , Tommy Thompson

Hillary Talks Timing on NPR


Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, back from Iraq, Afghanistan, and other countries (including Turkey, I believe), talked a bit on NPR about the timing of any announcement of her presidential campaign.

INSKEEP: And one other quick question, Senator. As you know, Sen. Barack Obama made news yesterday by taking a step toward a presidential run. As you consider what to do and when to do it, is there a reason for you to hold back from announcing?

CLINTON: You know, I am not influenced by anybody else’s timeline. I am trying to just pursue my own analysis and assessment.

INSKEEP: What is it that you don’t know?

CLINTON: There is a lot involved in doing this effectively, if you are going to take the plunge. When I’m ready to make an announcement, I would love to talk to you about it.

INSKEEP: Is there a date you think by which you must decide, given the dynamics of this – the fundraising and people necessary?

CLINTON: There is a timeline that I have had in mind, and I’m going to stick with that. I look forward to talking with you about it in the future.

INSKEEP: This spring, perhaps?

CLINTON: (laughter) Well, you’re very good Steve. But I’m just going to go far with my planning, but what’s really important to me now, is not what’s going to happen in a year or two years from now, but what we’re going to do to protect American troops, what we’re going to try to do to stabilize Iraq, what we’re going to try to do to win in Afghanistan and protect America’s interest throughout the region.

Audio can be found here.

Tags: Barack Obama , Bill Richardson , Chris Dodd , Fred Thompson , Hillary Clinton , Horserace , Joe Biden , John Edwards , John McCain , Mike Huckabee , Mitt Romney , Newt Gingrich , Rudy Giuliani , Sarah Palin , Something Lighter , Tommy Thompson

Foreshadowing Quotes, Oddities, and Stories About Obama from the Archives


The kind of odd, funny, or revealing things you find with Lexis-Nexis… 


From a profile of Barack Obama by Linda Matchan, “A Law Review Breakthrough,” The Boston Globe, February 15, 1990:

“I thought, ‘This guy sounds like he’s president of the country already,’” said John Owens, a former co-worker from Chicago, during a telephone interview. “I’ve never met anyone who could leave that impression after only five minutes.”
From a profile on Obama by Tammerlin Drummond, “Barack Obama’s Law: Personality: Harvard Law Review’s First Black President Plans a Life of Public Service. His Multicultural Background Gives Him Unique Perspective,” The Los Angeles Times, March 12, 1990: 

After graduation next year, Obama says he probably will spend two years at a corporate law firm, then look for community work. Down the road, he plans to run for public office… 

Yet some of Obama’s peers question the motives of this second-year law student. They find it puzzling that despite Obama’s openly progressive views on social issues, he has also won support from staunch conservatives. Ironically, he has come under the most criticism from fellow black students for being too conciliatory toward conservatives and not choosing more blacks to other top positions on the law review. 

“He’s willing to talk to them (the conservatives) and he has a grasp of where they are coming from, which is something a lot of blacks don’t have and don’t care to have,” said Christine Lee, a second-year law student who is black. “His election was significant at the time, but now it’s meaningless because he’s becoming just like all the others (in the Establishment).” … 

Few students at the law review were prepared for the deluge of interview requests for Obama from newspapers, radio and television stations. Strange letters of congratulations began arriving. 

Shortly after the elections, a package turned up at the law review office with no return address. Obama said he hesitated to open it because of the spree of recent mail bombings targeted at civil rights activists nationwide. When the package was finally opened, inside were two packages of dim sum, with no explanation.


Some students made light of the media invasion, posting a memo titled “The Barack Obama Story, a Made for TV Movie, Starring Blair Underwood as Barack Obama.”

David Margolick, “At The Bar: Witnesses For the Positive, Promising Young Black Men Adorn A Harvard Calendar,” The New York Times, January 11, 1991:

Troy Chapman read all about them: Some were convicted of beating up a jogger in Central Park. Another was accused, falsely as it turns out, of murdering a pregnant woman in Boston. It was high time, Mr. Chapman concluded, to present a different portrait of young black men like himself. For that he turned to his colleagues at Harvard Law School.


Mr. Chapman, a third-year law student at Harvard, is responsible for a calendar now hanging in dormitory rooms and dean’s offices throughout Cambridge as well as in Washington, Atlanta, Los Angeles, Chicago and other cities. Each month, a photograph and personal profile focuses on a different member of the law school’s black male population.

A few generations back, one would have had a hard time putting together even a pair of black men at Harvard Law School, let alone a calendar. Instead, Mr. Chapman faced the pleasant chore of choosing from among the 90 or so black men now enrolled there — a task in which he was assisted by some of the school’s 110 black women. So intense was the competition for a place as monthly pinup that even Barack Obama, the first black president of The Harvard Law Review, did not make the cut.

If Obama wins the presidency, his friend John Owens is going to rank among the all-time great prognosticators… 

Tags: Barack Obama , Bill Richardson , Chris Dodd , Fred Thompson , Hillary Clinton , Horserace , Joe Biden , John Edwards , John McCain , Mike Huckabee , Mitt Romney , Newt Gingrich , Rudy Giuliani , Sarah Palin , Something Lighter , Tommy Thompson

Is Obama ‘The Canary In the Coal Mine’ For the Hillary Campaign?


Over in the New York Sun, I’ve got a column about Republican strategists, and how they’re closely watching Obama. The editors of the Sun, rightfully cautious about quotes from unnamed sources, trimmed out a few comments from a GOP campaign guru about how he sees the new dynamics in the Democratic primary. Still, I find them thought provoking, so here’s what got left out:

“When Obama can get that many people left, right and center to stand up and salute, it’s the canary in the coal mine for the Hillary campaign.” This guru concludes Sen. Clinton “now has the uphill battle for the nomination, and while it’s not impossible for her to win the White House, it suggest the country is going to have to be dragged kicking and screaming into another Clinton presidency. It’s because they know she means at least four more years of the same – the psychodrama, the partisanship, division, the Republicans being angry and bitter for the next four years.”

This smart fellow concluded that after many years of intense partisan passions – since Bush’s election? Impeachment? The 1992 campaign? – the American people seem to be yearning for someone who is not “highly charged” – the anti-Howard Dean, perhaps.

Having said that, Obama faces a Herculean challenge before him. It’s a fine line between heroic and holier-than-thou, and a nice guy image is easy to lose; all it takes is one intemperate moment, one ad to be deemed “mudslinging”, one moment in a debate where a comment comes across as too harsh.

Tags: Barack Obama , Bill Richardson , Chris Dodd , Fred Thompson , Hillary Clinton , Horserace , Joe Biden , John Edwards , John McCain , Mike Huckabee , Mitt Romney , Newt Gingrich , Rudy Giuliani , Sarah Palin , Something Lighter , Tommy Thompson

Why Is Obama Okay With Lawmakers’ Spouses Working For Their PACs?


Dick Morris may be overstating it a bit by calling it “Obama’s First Blunder”, but the Illinois senator’s recent vote opposing a reform that would ban Congressional spouses from collecting a salary from a lawmaker’s political action committee does seem like easy attack-ad fodder:

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), who opposes wives cashing in on their husbands’ positions, voted righteously in favor of the reform and will probably use the Illinois senator’s vote against him in the presidential primaries.


When a legislator hires his or her spouse on the campaign or PAC payroll, he is effectively converting contributions to his campaign committee into personal income that flows into the family’s checking account, blurring the line between contribution and bribe.


In the past, senators and House members routinely hired their spouses and other family members on their public payrolls. In the early 1940s, for example, Harry S. Truman hired his wife, Bess, to work on his Senate staff. She got $2,500 a year in salary at a time when senators themselves only earned $8,500. But nepotism on the public payroll is now banned.

So inventive congressmen and senators have filled the void by hiring family on their campaign or PAC payrolls. Hiring family members and paying them with campaign donations is, if anything, more pernicious than doing so with public funds. Where tax money is involved, the sin is against the taxpayer for wasting his funds. But where campaign contributions are involved, the congressman is profiting personally from the largesse of special interest donors. In plain English, that’s a payoff.

(Morris does slip the knife in there quite subtly in that first paragraph, doesn’t he?)


Still, for a guy like Obama whose signature accomplishment in his first two years in Congress was an attempt at earmark reform, it’s an odd, and avoidable mistake to wish to preserve spousal employment in collecting donations.


Tags: Barack Obama , Bill Richardson , Chris Dodd , Fred Thompson , Hillary Clinton , Horserace , Joe Biden , John Edwards , John McCain , Mike Huckabee , Mitt Romney , Newt Gingrich , Rudy Giuliani , Sarah Palin , Something Lighter , Tommy Thompson

Obama: “I’ll Be Filing Papers Today to Create a Presidential Exploratory Committee.” Party to be Named Later.


Obama has spoken, and he seems so… normal. He even works in a reference to “media hype” about himself.

This section stood out to me:

I certainly didn’t expect to find myself in this position a year ago. But as I’ve spoken to many of you in my travels across the states these past months; as I’ve read your emails and read your letters; I’ve been struck by how hungry we all are for a different kind of politics.

So I’ve spent some time thinking about how I could best advance the cause of change and progress that we so desperately need.

The decisions that have been made in Washington these past six years, and the problems that have been ignored, have put our country in a precarious place. Our economy is changing rapidly, and that means profound changes for working people. Many of you have shared with me your stories about skyrocketing health care bills, the pensions you’ve lost and your struggles to pay for college for your kids. Our continued dependence on oil has put our security and our very planet at risk. And we’re still mired in a tragic and costly war that should have never been waged.

Notice some words missing there that you might expect? “Bush”, “Cheney”, “Republicans”?

In fact, notice which word is missing from his entire opening statement?


Obama isn’t running against Republicans; he’s running against partisanship itself.

UPDATE: And this didn’t take long. A GOP source is e-mailing around two Obama statements:


“I Have Neither The Expertise Nor The Inclination To Micro-Manage War From Washington.” — Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL):


“We Need To Look At What Options We Have Available To Constrain The President.” — Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL):

Tags: Barack Obama , Bill Richardson , Chris Dodd , Fred Thompson , Hillary Clinton , Horserace , Joe Biden , John Edwards , John McCain , Mike Huckabee , Mitt Romney , Newt Gingrich , Rudy Giuliani , Sarah Palin , Something Lighter , Tommy Thompson

Oprah? Actually, Obama’s Website Gets the First Word


It’s not quite confirmation that Barack Obama will announce his candidacy on Oprah tomorrow, but the Chicago Tribune’s political blog – which you figure would be plugged-in with Obama’s people – writes:

Some important political figures should be hearing from Sen. Barack Obama today. A source said the likely presidential candidate has arranged phone calls with political leaders for today.

Speculation has been building that an announcement on Obama’s presidential intentions in imminent.

Speaking to reporters outside St. Mark Cathedral in Harvey on Monday, Obama said an announcement was coming “very soon.”

Oprah Winfrey’s web site also is curiously silent on the subject of her show this Wednesday. Obama has previously indicated he may make an announcement on a presidential campaign on her highly rated television talk show.

The reaction from a wise GOP consultant (not Obi Wan; I have to get this other guy to decide on his nickname) was, “Announcing on Oprah could be potentially very smart… I’m glad she’s also from Illinois, because that means she can’t be his running mate… Christopher Dodd goes on Imus and announces his candidacy, Obama goes on Oprah. I know which show I’d rather have my candidate make his announcement.”

UPDATE: Hotline Blog reports Obama is filing papers today, and will announce on his web site.

Tags: Barack Obama , Bill Richardson , Chris Dodd , Fred Thompson , Hillary Clinton , Horserace , Joe Biden , John Edwards , John McCain , Mike Huckabee , Mitt Romney , Newt Gingrich , Rudy Giuliani , Sarah Palin , Something Lighter , Tommy Thompson

Anthony Weiner, Going After Edwards and Defending Hillary with a Little More Octane


Yesterday, I suggested the statement from Clinton spokesman Howard Wolfson in reaction to John Edwards’ speech on Iraq was a bit bland to earn the headline HILL JABS AT JOHN.

To refresh, Edwards said:

“If you’re in Congress and you know this war is going in the wrong direction and you know that we should not escalate this war in Iraq, it is no longer OK to study your options and keep your private council, silence is betrayal.”

And one section could be construed as that most unforgivable of sins, questioning another’s patriotism:

“Patriotism is about refusing to support something you know is wrong and having the courage to speak out with strength and passion and backbone for something you know is right.”

But Monday, Rep. Anthony Weiner, a Hillary defender, went after Edwards with a bit more “oomph.”

“To do what John Edwards did, which is to take a shot a Hillary Clinton, when he himself was in the U.S. Senate, he himself voted for the war, and Hillary is at least trying to solve this mess, is really not a great way to start a presidential campaign… You know John Edwards set a tone in the last campaign that impressed everyone… Now here he is starting out on a negative foot. I’m a little disappointed.”

I suspect we’ll see a lot of this as the campaign wears on, the challengers whacking away at the frontrunner Clinton in increasingly strident terms, and her trying to stay above the fray (or out of the country in a completely different fray, in Iraq) while her surrogates return fire. One could easily see Rep. Charlie Rangel being deployed as the near-untouchable hatchet man of the Democratic primary.

Tags: Barack Obama , Bill Richardson , Chris Dodd , Fred Thompson , Hillary Clinton , Horserace , Joe Biden , John Edwards , John McCain , Mike Huckabee , Mitt Romney , Newt Gingrich , Rudy Giuliani , Sarah Palin , Something Lighter , Tommy Thompson

Gore’s Not Running, According to Reuters


In left-of-center (or furtherblogland, there is some controversy over this Reuters story which indicates Al Gore has decided to not run for the presidency in 2008.

Whether Reuters is misinterpreting a Gore statement or not, we can look at the larger picture: Gore hasn’t hired staff, he hasn’t formed an exploratory committee, there hasn’t been the usual whispering in Democratic circles. Right now, there’s no indication that Gore is running for elected office.

An Oscar, however, might be a different story.

Tags: Barack Obama , Bill Richardson , Chris Dodd , Fred Thompson , Hillary Clinton , Horserace , Joe Biden , John Edwards , John McCain , Mike Huckabee , Mitt Romney , Newt Gingrich , Rudy Giuliani , Sarah Palin , Something Lighter , Tommy Thompson

Democratic Candidate Shows Guts, Daring by Criticizing Confederate Flag on Martin Luther King Day


Joe Biden takes a whack at the easiest punching bag in the South Carolina Democratic primary, the display of the Confederate flag on state grounds.

The AP recalls Biden’s “we were a slave state” comments from last year, and his comment that Delaware was “a slave state that fought beside the North. That’s only because we couldn’t figure out how to get to the South — there were a couple of other states in the way.”

Then again, maybe I’m being unfair when I call the Confederate flag the easiest punching bag in that state’s primary; there was, not long ago, one Democratic candidate who seemed okay with it:

“I still want to be the candidate for guys with Confederate flags in their pickup trucks,” the former Vermont governor [Howard Dean] said in an interview published Saturday in the Des Moines Register. “We can’t beat George Bush unless we appeal to a broad cross-section of Democrats.”

It was at least the second time Dean publicly used the Confederate flag to describe Southern voters who often vote for Republicans.

Dean previously used the flag reference during a February meeting of the Democratic National Committee.

At that event, Dean received a rousing ovation from the crowd when he said, “White folks in the South who drive pickup trucks with Confederate flag decals on the back ought to be voting with us, and not [Republicans], because their kids don’t have health insurance either, and their kids need better schools too.”

Actually, Biden’s comments seemed to indicate he didn’t just want the flag off state grounds; he wanted it banned:

“If I were a state legislator, I’d vote for it to move off the grounds — out of the state,” the Delaware senator said before the civil rights group held a march and rally at the Statehouse here to support its boycott of the state.

So what’s the next step in shooting fish in the barrel of the Democratic primary in this state – burning the Confederate flag as part of a rally?

Tags: Barack Obama , Bill Richardson , Chris Dodd , Fred Thompson , Hillary Clinton , Horserace , Joe Biden , John Edwards , John McCain , Mike Huckabee , Mitt Romney , Newt Gingrich , Rudy Giuliani , Sarah Palin , Something Lighter , Tommy Thompson

A Few Questions, and Answers, About the Changes Around Here


In honor of the new look, new site title, etc. a Dean Barnett-style FAQ:


The Hillary Spot? Doesn’t that presume that she will win the Democratic nomination?


If, come spring 2008, the Democrats nominate Barack Obama or John Edwards as their nominee, then you will see this site become The Obama Spot or The Edwards Spot, or, God willing, The Kucinich Spot.


If Hillary does fall short of her presidential aspirations, then I think I will deserve some credit (or blame) for jinxing her, by a) praising her in my book and b) naming the site after her.


Why the change?


In a few short weeks, my time abroad will come to an end, I will return to Washington, and this portion of NRO will return to its roots – in-depth, all-hours, obsessive-compulsive coverage of the Democratic presidential contenders.


It also means I will no longer have to explain what “TKS” stands for, which I have done roughly 23,456 times since early 2005.


Yeah, what did TKS stand for, anyway?


Technically nothing, although it evoked this site’s origin as The Kerry Spot.


Wasn’t that kind of like Kentucky Fried Chicken changing to KFC?


Are there any other questions?


So you won’t cover Republicans?


When I hear news, you’ll hear it, no matter which candidate is involved, although my “beat” will be the Democrats.


I’m a Democratic strategist, campaign worker, or reader. Why should I return your phone calls, talk to you or even bother to read you, you right-wing Re-thug-lican?


I aim for my coverage to be tough but fair, I hate getting things wrong, and I try to correct my mistakes quickly. I also aspire to give credit where it is due, and I attempt, but do not always succeed, to approach the arguments of the Democrats with an open mind. The Kerry folks thought I was actually pretty fair to their man.


But you’re still a Republican, right?


Actually, I’m registered independent. I’m generally a right-of-center guy, as regular readers can tell.


So who are you rooting for?


At this point, no one. I can find something positive to say about just about all of the Republican contenders, and it is conceivable that I could vote for the Democratic nominee in 2008.




I said ‘conceivable,’ not likely. I’ll cross that bridge when I get there, in November 2008.

Tags: Barack Obama , Bill Richardson , Chris Dodd , Fred Thompson , Hillary Clinton , Horserace , Joe Biden , John Edwards , John McCain , Mike Huckabee , Mitt Romney , Newt Gingrich , Rudy Giuliani , Sarah Palin , Something Lighter , Tommy Thompson


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