Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Analysis: Outsiders Obama, Giuliani surging in 2008 races

By Bill Schneider for CNN:

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Who's got the heat for 2008? One Democrat and one Republican. And in one case, it's coming from a surprising place.

The 2008 races on the Republican and the Democratic side are taking on a familiar shape -- an establishment candidate and an outsider in each party. And right now, the outsiders have the heat.

New York Sen. Hillary Clinton's the establishment Democrat.

In last month's Washington Post-ABC News poll, Clinton had a big lead over outsider Illinois Sen. Barack Obama -- 40 percent to 17 percent.

In the Washington Post-ABC News poll published Wednesday, Clinton is still ahead, but Obama's gaining ground. Clinton's lead is down to 12 points -- 36 percent to 24 percent.

The poll's margin of error in regard to questions about Democrats was plus-or-minus 4 percentage points.

The most dramatic pickup for Obama has been among blacks. Last month, Clinton led Obama among black Democrats by three to one -- 60 percent to 20 percent. Now, Obama leads Clinton among black Democrats 44 percent to 33 percent.

The poll's margin of error for questions about black Americans was plus-or-minus 8 percentage points.

It's not that black Democrats are souring on Clinton. Her popularity with blacks remains undiminished. But Obama's creating excitement.

"It's the fact that you have an African-American candidate who has a serious chance of becoming the nominee of the Democratic Party and that inevitably is going to excite African-Americans around the country." said Dan Balz, a political reporter for the Washington Post.

Giuliani opening lead over McCain

In the 2000 Republican race, Sen. John McCain was the outsider. Now the Arizona Republican is the establishment candidate.

"McCain obviously spent a good part of the last year trying to establish himself as the heir apparent in the Republican Party, and he had some success with that." Balz said.

Last month, McCain and outsider Rudy Giuliani were pretty close in the Washington Post-ABC News poll. Giuliani enjoyed a 34 percent to 27 percent lead over McCain.

Now, Giuliani's way ahead of McCain -- 44 percent to 21 percent.

The poll's margin of error on questions about Republicans was plus-or-minus 5 percentage points.

Why is Giuliani sprinting ahead? Here's a surprise -- evangelicals.

Last month, Giuliani and McCain were tied among evangelical Republicans -- 28 percent for Giuliani, 31 percent for McCain. This month, Giuliani has surged into the lead -- 44 percent to 19 percent.

Doesn't Giuliani favor abortion rights and same-sex unions and gun control? Yes -- and no.

"I am pro-choice," Giuliani told CNN's Larry King, "but I am also, as you know, always have been, against abortion."

Giuliani makes a distinction between his personal views and what he would do as president.

"I would select judges who try to interpret the Constitution rather than invent it." Giuliani told King -- language abortion rights opponents interpret as support for judges who would overturn the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision that established a woman's right to an abortion.

Giuliani has something else going for him -- 9/11.

Republicans say Giuliani's the most inspiring candidate. Democrats say the same thing about Obama. They're the outsiders.

Republicans give McCain the edge on experience. Just as Democrats do with Clinton. They're the establishment candidates.

Which is it better to be? Establishment candidates usually win the nomination. But only after a tough fight.

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Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Barack Obama and The Experience Factor

By Martin Schram for Scripps News Service:

"The Experience Factor." The words resonate wherever pols and pundits congregate, sipping and opining at watering holes along the campaign trail.

"The Experience Factor." It comes up right after someone mentions "The Obama Phenomenon" _ and it sets the wise heads to nodding, figuring that concerns about his lack of experience will doom what many think is a premature run for the presidency by this talented man who has only been a U.S. senator for two years.

But before joining the Wise Nodding Bobble-Heads, we need to take a hard look at The Experience Factor. After all, searching for presidential experience ought to be a bit like candling an egg, because before passing judgment and then discarding it, it is good to figure out what is really inside.

We begin in October 2002. Congress was deliberating what to do about Saddam Hussein, who was refusing to cooperate with U.N. inspectors of weapons of mass destruction. In the club that is the Senate, smart liberals _ including Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., now the Armed Services Committee chairman _ were fashioning alternative resolutions that would authorize President Bush to invade Iraq, but with important caveats, and so on.

Of all the words legislators spoke in that crucial month, none proved more prescient than these, uttered on Oct. 26, 2002:

"I know that even a successful war against Iraq will require a U.S. occupation of undetermined length, at undetermined cost, with undetermined consequences. I know that an invasion of Iraq without a clear rationale and without strong international support will only fan the flames of the Middle East, and encourage the worst, rather than best, impulses of the Arab world, and strengthen the recruitment arm of al Qaeda. ...

"So for those of us who seek a more just and secure world for our children, let us send a clear message to the president today. ... Let's finish the fight with bin Laden and al Qaeda, through effective, coordinated intelligence, and a shutting down of the financial networks that support terrorism, and a homeland security program that involves more than color-coded warnings."

Those words were spoken not in the U.S. Senate, but at an anti-war rally in Chicago. The speaker was not a U.S. senator, but Illinois state Sen. Obama. He began by boldly attacking the notion of being anti-war.

"Let me begin by saying that although this has been billed as an anti-war rally, I stand before you as someone who is not opposed to war in all circumstances," Obama said.

He spoke eloquently of the importance of the Civil War, World War II ("My grandfather signed up for a war the day after Pearl Harbor was bombed, fought in Patton's army.") and the War on Terror.

"After September 11th, after witnessing the carnage and destruction, the dust and the tears, I supported this administration's pledge to hunt down and root out those who would slaughter innocents in the name of intolerance, and I would willingly take up arms myself to prevent such tragedy from happening again," Obama said.

"I don't oppose all wars. What I am opposed to is a dumb war. What I am opposed to is a rash war."

What made Obama's speech rather remarkable wasn't just that his warnings proved true. It was that this was a state legislator who had developed a conceptual framework of how world issues are intrinsically linked _ that actions in one place can have far-reaching consequences.

So Obama urged Bush to fight terror by vigorously fighting for nonproliferation and the safeguarding of poorly secured weapons in the former Soviet Union (the Nunn-Lugar program, named for former Sen. Sam Nunn, D-Ga., and Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., who would become Obama's mentor and partner in policy initiatives). He warned about nuclear war between India and Pakistan, and urged us to press Middle East allies such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia to ease repressive practices that turn citizens into "ready recruits of terrorist cells."

On that day, Obama ended his uncommon anti-war-rally speech not with a fist-shaking warning but with a heart-tugging reminder about who would pay the ultimate price for a federal folly. After warning us not to "travel down that hellish path blindly" by invading Iraq without global consensus, he added: "Nor should we allow those who would march off and pay the ultimate sacrifice, who would prove the full measure of devotion with their blood, to make such an awful sacrifice in vain."

Those who were in Chicago's Federal Plaza on that 2002 day heard a voice of experience that was neither heard nor heeded in a nation's capital hell-bent on fighting the wrong war.
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Only Obama could beat all Republican contenders according to latest Zogby Poll

From Zogby International:

New York Sen. Hillary Clinton clings to a shrinking lead over Illinois Senator Barack Obama in a national test of Democratic primary voter preference, while Republican Rudy Giuliani is expanding his edge over John McCain, the maverick senator from Arizona, a new Zogby International telephone poll shows.

The survey was the first since last week’s very public spat between the Clinton and Obama campaigns over Hollywood fund–raising and the conduct of the first Clinton administration.

The telephone survey, which asked Democrats, Republicans, and non–aligned voters in which primary or caucus they planned to vote next year, was conducted Feb. 22–24, 2007, and included 1,078 likely voters (397 Republicans - MOE: +/- 5.0 percentage points, 439 Democrats - MOE: +/- 4.8 percentage points). The survey's overall margin of error was +/- 3.0 percentage points.

Among those who said they would vote in the Democratic primary or caucus for President, Clinton leads with 33% support, up 4% from our last telephone survey in early January. However, Obama has made dramatic gains in the last six weeks, moving from 14% support to 25% backing. Former North Carolina Sen. John Edward is a distant third, winning 12% support. One in five said they were undecided about which Democratic candidate to support.



Clinton 33%

Giuliani 29%

Obama 25%

McCain 20%

Edwards 12%

Romney 9%

Richardson 5%

Rice 7%

Biden 2%

Gingrich 7%

Clark 1%

Brownback 4%

Someone else 3%

Tancredo 1%

Not sure 20%

Hunter 1%

Someone else 4%

Not sure 19%

On the Republican side, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani has extended his lead over McCain, leading 29% to 20% in our latest polling. Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor who had a successful career in business before entering politics, placed a distant third on the GOP side of the fence. Nearly one in five Republican primary or caucus participants (19%) said they were unsure about whom to support.

Giuliani led McCain in our early January survey, 21% to 17%.

In the Democratic race, Clinton wins solid support among older voters, while Obama has the edge among younger counterparts. Clinton holds a 31% to 24% edge among white Democratic voters, while Obama leads among African–Americans, 36% to 27%. Progressives gave the nod to Obama, while moderates favored Clinton. The two were deadlocked at 30% support among male Democratic voters, but Clinton led among women, 34% to 22%.

In a measurement of how firm the support is for the candidates overall, Clinton’s support is just a bit weaker than that of Obama. A slight majority of Clinton supporters – 54% – said they are likely to change their minds before they actually cast a primary or caucus vote, while 48% of Obama supporters agreed. While his overall support lags, Edwards appears to have strong–minded backers: just 28% said they are likely to jump from the Edwards ship over the course of the next year.

Republican Giuliani is favored in nearly every age bracket, the Zogby telephone survey shows. He leads in all groups. McCain comes close only among those age 50–64, where the former New York mayor’s lead narrows to a 24% to 21% edge. More than one in four in that specific age group said they were yet undecided whom to support.

Among those Republican voters who consider themselves “very conservative,” Romney wins 23%, compared to 22% for former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich. The much–ballyhooed very conservative vote is split even more among second–tier candidates, with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice winning 13% support and Sen. Sam Brownback winning 9%. Giuliani (4%) and McCain (3%) failed to win more than token support among this demographic.

General Election Match–Ups Show Obama Strength

The Zogby International survey also tested several combinations of possible 2008 presidential general election match–ups, pairing the top three candidates from each party:

Giuliani 47%,

Clinton 40%

Giuliani 40%,

Obama 46%

Giuliani 46%,

Edwards 40%

McCain 47%,

Clinton 39%

McCain 40%,

Obama 44%

McCain 47%,

Edwards 38%

Romney 35%,

Clinton 45%

Romney 29%,

Obama 51%

Romney 32%,

Edwards 47%

While 32% gave Bush positive marks for his overall job performance, 68% gave him negative ratings. Older Americans were more likely to give him slightly better ratings than younger counterparts, the survey shows. While 61% of Republicans gave him positive marks, just 9% of Democrats and 26% of self–described independents awarded the President a positive job approval rating.

Overall, just 23% support the President’s handling of the war in Iraq, while 35% said the Iraq war has been worth the loss of American lives.

For a detailed methodological statement on this survey, please visit:

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Early US presidential election polls unpredictable now, but provide clues

From the Associated Press:

WASHINGTON: Hillary Rodham Clinton is the clear favorite in early polls for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination. So, what does that mean? Not a lot, if history is any guide.

Republican hopeful Rudy Giuliani, however, is sitting pretty.

For at least three decades, Republicans have been far better than Democrats in early polls at getting behind the candidates who end up winning the party's presidential nomination.

Note that Edmund Muskie in 1972, George Wallace in 1976, Ted Kennedy in 1980, Gary Hart in 1988, Mario Cuomo in 1992 and Joe Lieberman in 2004 were early front-runners among Democrats. None won the nomination.

Republicans have picked the early front-runner in seven of the past 10 elections, according to Gallup polling. In the other three elections, Republican incumbents cruised to re-election.

Democrats nominated a former vice president, Walter Mondale, in 1984, and a sitting vice president, Al Gore, in 2000. For those elections, the early polls were more predictable at picking the front-runner.

Why has the Republican Party been better at predicting winners?

"There is this sense among Republicans — a belief that it's a certain person's time to run for president," said Thomas Mann, a political analyst at the Brookings Institution. But the Republican track record is probably due more to chance and the Republicans' success at winning the White House since 1968, he said.

In 2008, neither party has a former vice president or president competing for the nomination for the first time in almost 80 years.

Giuliani, a former New York City mayor, is a favorite in early polls. But many people feel his personal history and moderate positions on social issues may cost him support among some conservatives.

Arizona Sen. John McCain is running even or second to Giuliani, with former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is running a distant third.

Among Democrats, New York Sen. Clinton looks strong at this point, with Illinois Sen. Barack Obama and former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards giving her the stiffest competition.

Despite their occasional difficulties in picking eventual winners, early polls can provide important clues about the campaign.

Among the more interesting findings from recent national polls:

_Democrats are more likely than Republicans to be paying close attention to the presidential race, by 31 percent to 20 percent, according to a poll taken in February by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press.

_Romney may find his Mormon faith an obstacle with many voters. One-quarter of people questioned say they would not vote for a Mormon candidate, compared with 8 percent who say they would not vote for a woman and 3 percent for a black candidate, according to a Newsweek poll in December.

_Clinton is viewed unfavorably by at least 40 percent of people, many of them Republicans who will be difficult for her to win over, various polls have found.

_Four in 10 Democratic voters say they have not heard enough about Obama to have an opinion yet. Only 3 percent say that about Clinton, according to a CBS News poll in mid-January.

_Most Republicans and those who lean Republican are unaware of Giuliani's support for civil unions for same-sex couples and abortion rights, according to a Gallup poll in mid-January.

Public support for Clinton and McCain is probably based on a fairly firm base of knowledge about them, said public opinion analyst Charles Franklin. Knowledge of Giuliani is probably based mostly on his response as New York's mayor to the Sept. 11 attacks.

The old complaint about early polls as measures of name recognition is probably less true today because of the intensity of coverage by 24-hour cable news, Republican pollster David Winston said.

But most poll analysts agree that the polls six months from now will be far more meaningful.

"For the most part, the political polls don't mean much now," said Scott Keeter, of the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press. "But political junkies have an endless appetite for them. People are looking for some kind of evidence of how things are going to turn out."

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Obama marshals Ohio supporters

By Lisa Abraham for the Akron Beacon Journal:

Sen. Barack Obama brought his presidential campaign to Ohio for the first time on Monday to shouts of "Cleveland BA-RACKS.''

Obama, D-Ill., came to downtown Cleveland for a big-ticket fundraiser at Key Tower before heading to a packed gymnasium at the Cuyahoga Community College Eastern Campus on Richmond Road. Signs of "Obama Rocks'' and "NASCAR fans for Obama'' greeted him.

The audience of about 2,000 was dominated by students -- like the early days of former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean's 2004 presidential campaign, which drew significant youth support. But the crowd was more racially diverse for this African-American candidate.

"I'm so grateful to all of you for coming out tonight. This is the end of the first leg of a long journey. And it's a good place to end, right here in Cleveland, Ohio, because in November 2008, we expect to win Ohio,'' Obama said. "So we want to make sure we spend some time in Ohio right now.''

"This country is ready for a change,'' he told the crowd. "We are here because this country is at a crossroads. We are here because, for too many years, we have known the challenges and problems we face, but we haven't faced them squarely and we haven't faced them honestly.''

He said it doesn't make sense when a country spends $1.9 trillion a year on health care, but 46 million are not insured. Obama pledged to create a health-care system for the country's uninsured by the end of his first term in office.

He said too many young people were being left behind, unprepared to compete in a world economy, and that Congress' response was to raise interest rates on student loans.

The nation's prosperity is not being shared, he said.

"Some at the top are doing better than ever before,'' Obama said.

He called for an end to tax breaks for companies that export jobs overseas and for an energy policy that would use solar and wind power not only to lessen our dependence on foreign oil, but to create jobs as well.

Current energy policies, he said, were being written by big oil companies.

But none of his initiatives brought the kind of applause that came when he called for an end to the war in Iraq. The $3 trillion spent on the war could have rebuilt the city of Cleveland and other American cities, he said.

He proposed to phase out troops from Iraq beginning May 1 so that by March 31, 2008, all U.S. troops would be out of Iraq.

Obama asked the crowd for its support with votes and money.

"I don't care how poor you are, you've got $5,'' he said, adding, "I'd rather have $5 from 100,000 people than $100,000 from five people.''

He said the country is not absent solutions, but absent the leadership to pull the country together to work toward those solutions.

"We can do what previous generations have done and create a more unified, more prosperous, more equal and more just America,'' Obama said.

Campaign officials said another 5,000 to 6,000 were watching the rally on large televisions at overflow sites throughout the campus.

After his 30-minute speech, Obama slowly worked his way out of the gym, shaking hands and signing autographs.

Obama was introduced by LaDonna Norris, who runs the Barbara Byrd-Bennett Scholars Program through Baldwin Wallace College, which aims to keep African-American male youths in high school through graduation.

She appeared on stage with more than a dozen male students -- all high school seniors who participate in the program.

Madeleine Fierstein, a 19-year-old college freshman, attended with a group of 50 Oberlin College students.

Fierstein said she was still making up her mind about presidential candidates for 2008.

"I want to be better informed about him,'' she said. "He's not necessarily my candidate.''

Dodi Fulajatar, 47, of Mentor, said with four children to put through college, she is looking for a candidate who can offer some hope to young people, and Obama's message resonates for her.

"I think he has some fresh ideas that are going to help the whole country,'' she said.

Cleveland resident Dorothy Chapman, 49, an African-American, said she believes the country is ready for a black president.

"Absolutely, with a capital AB,'' she said, and continued, "I think we need a change and he's the one to do it.''

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Sunday, February 25, 2007

Hollywood recognizes the star in Obama

By Andrew Sullivan for The London Times:

Hollywood is a very bitchy place, but usually the barbs are aimed privately and mainly at others’ backs. Tonight, however, as the Oscar public relations circus unfolds, the backstage buzz will likely be as much about politics as about movies. And the barbs that are being buzzed about are very, very public ones, and aimed directly at the front of one Hillary Rod-ham Clinton.

Last Wednesday the movie mogul David Geffen decided to unload to The New York Times’ Maureen Dowd on the prospect of another Clinton presidency. Here’s what he said of the Democratic field: “Whoever is the nominee is going to win, so the stakes are very high. Not since the Vietnam war has there been this level of disappointment in the behavior of America throughout the world, and I don’t think that another incredibly polarizing figure, no matter how smart she is and no matter how ambitious she is — and God knows, is there anybody more ambitious than Hillary Clinton? — can bring the country together. “[Barack] Obama is inspirational, and he’s not from the Bush royal family or the Clinton royal family. Americans are dying every day in Iraq. And I’m tired of hearing James Carville on television.”

Ouch. But why should anyone pay attention to the openly gay multi-billionaire who bankrolled the Oscar hopeful Dreamgirls? Because he has money and connections and just threw a huge Hollywood fundraiser for Obama, the Democratic presidential hopeful. In the past the Clintons could take the Hollywood primary for granted. No longer. And this year it may matter more than ever. Most of the candidates have decided to forgo public financing for their campaigns, and so the ability to raise vast amounts of private money is vital to their prospects.

The primary season, moreover, has become even more front-loaded than usual, with California probably moving its own primary up to early February 2008. Illinois and New Jersey are also trying to get a head start. To be viable in those three massive media markets less than a year from now you need gobs of money soon. And for Democrats, Hollywood’s moguls are where they get a large proportion of the loot. The fact that Geffen, together with his DreamWorks partners, raised a cool $1.3m (£663,000) for Obama last Tuesday night must have sent shivers up what’s left of the Clintonistas’ spines.

Worse, Geffen said publicly what so many in Washington are saying privately. Hillary is a terrible public speaker: liberals loathe her centrist, Blairite position on the Iraq war; conservatives hate her viscerally; moderates don’t actually like her even when they agree with her; and Bill still has a woman problem. Do we really want to go through all that again?

“I don’t think anybody believes that in the last six years, all of a sudden Bill Clinton has become a different person,” Geffen blurted out. Dowd, a liberal Clinton-hater, lapped it up. So did the blogosphere.

And if Hollywood has turned on Hillary, another powerful force in Democratic politics, the online net-roots, is even more hostile. Liberal antiwar blogs are apoplectic about her sensible decision not to grovel and apologize for her good-faith vote for the Iraq war. When you read their rhetoric, it is almost as shrill about Clinton as it is about Bush.

When Clinton recently invoked the trauma of 9/11 as one reason she gave the president the benefit of the doubt four years ago, Arianna Huffington huffed: “The Clinton camp is now reading out of the Bush administration’s wing-and-a-prayer book.” She quoted another liberal blogger: “Invoking September 11 when asked about Iraq is unconscionable. It is pure Dick Cheney, and an outright lie. It is not what a Democrat says.”

Things have changed when pip-squeak bloggers are declaring what Democrats can and cannot say. And last week the Clinton camp seemed taken aback by the hostility. Chief Clinton spokesman Howard Wolfson fired back the following volley against Geffen: “While Senator Obama was denouncing slash and burn politics yesterday, his campaign’s finance chair was viciously and personally attacking Senator Clinton and her husband.”

The only problem with this line of argument is that Geffen is not Obama’s finance chair and has no formal position in the campaign. That gave Obama a chance for a cool comment: “It’s not clear to me why I would be apologizing for someone else’s remarks.” In this early stage of the game the Obama camp scored a big hit and the Clinton operation looked like amateur hour.

There are other reasons for Hollywood’s souring on Clinton. The Democratic donor base has been tapped and tapped again by the Clintons. For the better part of a decade they have shoveled money into either his or her pockets. Some are simply exhausted. Others feel they got the worst of the deal. Geffen finally lost it with the Clintons after the Marc Rich pardon. But some also feel in their bones that Clinton is the last, best chance for the Republicans to unite and save what appears to be a crumbling coalition.

They are also in the entertainment business. And they know a star when they see one. Obama is a star. Hillary is beginning to come across as Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard. His book is still — still — the top-selling one in America. When she starts speaking on a stage, the energy drains out of the room.

It’s ridiculously early for such measurements, but a tracking poll showed Clinton with a 14-point lead over Obama among Democrats at the end of January. Her lead last week was down to four points. And what does she have to get back on track? A ruthless political machine that only emphasizes the freshness of her opponent. Even her “first woman president” schtick has been neutralized. Why not the first black president instead? If you’re a Hollywood liberal, it’s a wash.

She wants the best director Oscar. But the way things are going she’ll be lucky to get a nomination for supporting actress.

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Saturday, February 24, 2007

Meet Michelle Obama

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Meet Barack Obama

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Barack Obama in Austin, TX

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Fox Attacks Obama

FOX attacks Obama

Fox is not a credible news outlet and needs to be stopped. will give you the information and tools you need to hit fox where it hurts. The current video presents the erroneous and slanted stories Fox recently ran about Barack Obama. In response, Obama refused to appear on Fox. Watch the video, then follow Obama's lead and... Do Something.

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Obama Ridicules Cheney's Iraq Comments

By Kelley Shannon for the Associated Press:

AUSTIN, Texas - Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama ridiculed Vice President Dick Cheney on Friday for saying Britain's decision to pull troops from Iraq is a good sign that fits with the strategy for stabilizing the country.

Obama, speaking at a massive outdoor rally in Austin, Texas, said British Prime Minister Tony Blair's decision this week to withdraw 1,600 troops is a recognition that Iraq's problems can't be solved militarily.

"Now if Tony Blair can understand that, then why can't George Bush and Dick Cheney understand that?" Obama asked thousands of supporters who gathered in the rain to hear him. "In fact, Dick Cheney said this is all part of the plan (and) it was a good thing that Tony Blair was withdrawing, even as the administration is preparing to put 20,000 more of our young men and women in.

"Now, keep in mind, this is the same guy that said we'd be greeted as liberators, the same guy that said that we're in the last throes. I'm sure he forecast sun today," Obama said to laughter from supporters holding campaign signs over their heads to keep dry. "When Dick Cheney says it's a good thing, you know that you've probably got some big problems."

A spokeswoman for Cheney, traveling with him in Australia, said they had no comment on Obama's remarks.

Cheney told ABC News earlier this week that Blair's announcement was good news, calling it an affirmation that parts of Iraq have been stabilized.

Obama's Austin appearance was part of a campaign swing across the country to raise money for his two-week old candidacy and build his reputation nationally.

While in Texas, Obama raised money in Houston Thursday night, where he said he'd like to see an end to the "tit-for-tat" that dominates politics.

The Obama and Clinton campaigns fired off dueling press releases this week over a top Hollywood donor who was a supporter of Bill Clinton but is backing Obama in this race.

Obama told the Austin crowd that they should try to recruit their friends to support his campaign. "I want you to tell them, 'It's time for you to turn off the TV and stop playing GameBoy,'" Obama said. "We've got work to do."

Tickets to the rally were free, but Obama asked the attendees to give even $5 or $10. "I don't want to have to raise money in Hollywood all the time," he said.
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Friday, February 23, 2007

Obama Wants To End "Tit-For-Tat" Politics

From the Associate Press:

Fresh off a spat with rival Hillary Clinton, Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama says he'd like to see an end to the "tit-for-tat" that dominates politics.

The Obama and Clinton campaigns fired off dueling press releases this week over a top Hollywood donor who was a supporter of Bill Clinton but is backing Obama in this race.

The Clinton campaign demanded that Obama return DreamWorks studio co-founder David Geffen's money after Geffen criticized the Clintons as dishonest, among other things. Obama declined, and his spokesman criticized Clinton in return for accepting the support of a South Carolina lawmaker who said Obama can't win because he's black.

Obama told donors at a Houston fundraiser Thursday night that the nation will remain at a standstill "if we continue to engage in small and divisive politics and tit-for-tat."

"Our country is at a crossroads right now," he said, citing problems in Iraq and domestically with education, energy and health care. "It's not as if we don't know what the solutions are. What's missing is the inability of our leadership to develop consensus."

Meanwhile, Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney said Friday that he relishes the infighting that has consumed two of his potential Democratic opponents, Sens. Clinton and Obama.

"It's great, isn't it?" Romney said to peals of laughter from crowd of employees at a solar-related equipment plant on the newly declared candidate's first visit to the leadoff presidential primary state. "I love to see it when it happens on the other side."

The former Massachusetts governor described his leading Republican rivals, Sen. John McCain of Arizona and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, as "friends" and "national heroes," before adding, "I respect them. I'm sure we'll disagree on issues from time to time, but I doubt you'll see the rancor that apparently may exist elsewhere."

Obama was speaking to about 300 people gathered at the Communication Workers of America union hall. Although the event was advertised as requiring a minimum $100 contribution, lower amounts were accepted at the door.

The campaign would not say how much Obama raised at the event. He also visited St. Louis earlier in the day to raise money.

Obama was scheduled to speak Friday at a massive outdoor rally in Austin, Texas. More than 10,000 people have signed up for free tickets on Obama's Web site, the campaign said.
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Obama witnesses the wrath of Hillary

Here's the lowdown.

David Geffen, one of the powerhouses behind Dreamworks - he's the G in SKG - had ths to say about Bill Clinton and his wife, "I don't think anybody believes that in the last six years, all of a sudden Bill Clinton has become a different person . . . Everybody in politics lies, but they do it with such ease, it's troubling."


Geffen was one of the Clinton's largest supporters, but he has now thrown his support behind Barack Obama, whom he called, "inspirational".

This led the Clinton camp to attack Obama.


Wouldn't that be a little like Donald Trump going after Madonna because of things her friend Rosie O'Donnell said?

A member of Obama's camp, shot back that it was, "ironic that the Clintons had no problem with David Geffen when he was raising them $18 million and sleeping at their invitation in the Lincoln Bedroom."

Once Obama got word of the mudslinging that was going back and forth, he ordered his camp to stop.

Clinton's campaign handlers should be ashamed of themselves. They're acting like spoiled brats because Hollyweird is paying attention to someone else. Sounds like a high school clique spat.

Cut it out and get back to the issues.
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Monday, February 19, 2007

Obama going to Beverly Hills for fund-raiser

As reported on KNBC-TV, Los Angeles:

Sen. Barack Obama is scheduled to visit the Los Angeles area Tuesday for the first time since announcing his presidential candidacy, holding a rally in the West Adams district and a fund-raiser in Beverly Hills hosted by DreamWorks SKG partners Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg and David Geffen.

In the afternoon rally at the Rancho Cienega Sports Complex, Obama, D- Ill., is expected to explain that he is running for president because "he believes that to change our country, we need to change our politics," an aide said.

Obama is also expected to discuss his bill that would remove all combat brigades from Iraq by March 31, 2008, and energy independence.

Admission is free. Tickets are not required but recommended for faster entry. They can be obtained on the campaign's Web site, by sending an e-mail to Gates are set to open at 2 p.m.

In his Feb. 10 speech announcing his candidacy, Obama said, "Letting the Iraqis know that we will not be there forever is our last, best hope to pressure the Sunni and Shia to come to the table and find peace."

President Bush has said setting a withdrawal deadline "would send a message across the world that America is a weak and an unreliable ally" and "send a signal to our enemies that if they wait long enough, America will cut and run and abandon its friends. And setting an artificial deadline to withdraw would vindicate the terrorists' tactics of beheadings and suicide bombings and mass murder -- and invite new attacks on America."

The campaign aide said she did not have figures about how many people were expected to attend the evening reception at the Beverly Hilton or how much money would be raised, but said, "we have had a high level of interest in the event."

Tickets are $2,300 each, the Los Angeles Times reported, the maximum contribution possible under federal law.

Obama's visit comes in the midst of Southern California visits by several presidential contenders seeking to maximize their fund-raising in advance of the March 31 quarterly report deadline, a first test of the viability of their candidacies.

Democratic frontrunner Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., is scheduled to meet with Los Angeles-area supporters Thursday, a day after a scheduled visit by Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del. Democratic contenders former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards and former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack, and Republican former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani were in the region last week.

The 2008 presidential campaign will be "the longest and most expensive election in American history," Federal Election Commissioner Michael Toner told the New York Daily News.

"We're heading into the first $1 billion election," Toner said.

To be competitive, a candidate will need to raise $100 million by the end of the year, Toner said.

The 2008 campaign is the first since 1928 in which neither a sitting president nor vice president is seeking the presidency.

In a USA Today/Gallup Poll on the Democratic presidential field conducted Feb. 9-11 of 495 Democrats and those leaning to the Democratic Party, Obama was second with 21 percent, trailing Clinton, who had 40 percent. The margin of error was 5 percentage points.

The poll also asked 936 registered voters who they would support in a general election. Giuliani finished ahead of Obama by a margin of 52 percent to 43 percent, while Obama and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., each received 48 percent. The margin of error was 4 percentage points.
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Obama denounces 'slash and burn' politics

From the Associated Press:

LAS VEGAS — Sen. Barack Obama yesterday railed against "slash and burn" politics in Washington in a brief stop in Nevada, his first since declaring his presidential ambitions.

"We've got to get beyond the small politics ... the slash and burn politics that have become the custom in Washington," the Illinois senator told a crowd of about 3,500 gathered at an outdoor amphitheater in Las Vegas.

Obama, who was born in Hawai'i and is a Punahou School graduate, promised to restore a sense of hope and community to the country.

"We all have a stake in each other. We are bound together; we are mutually responsible to make sure that every child has an opportunity, to make sure that every family has the capacity to support their children and look for a better future," he said.

He repeated his calls for more education funding and for the return of significant numbers of U.S. troops from Iraq by March 31. He also promised to reform the healthcare system in his first term in the White House.

Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has not endorsed a Democratic presidential candidate, but his son has.

Rory Reid is signing on as Nevada chairman for Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's presidential bid. Reid, 44, is chairman of Nevada's Clark County Commission and a former chairman of the Nevada State Democratic Party
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Sunday, February 18, 2007

And now for something completely different. . .

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Obama's South Carolina Debut

By John Dickerson for

Feeling the love in Columbia

Columbia, S.C.—"Are you here for the wedding or Obama?" the security guard asked me Friday night at the Metropolitan Convention Center in Columbia, S.C. A traditional Indian wedding was being performed down the hall from the Obama rally. It was hard to tell which event had more love. Nearly 3,000 people showed up to see and gawk at the Illinois senator. "I am amazed," said interior designer Laura Fulton as she looked over the crowd. "I am proud of South Carolina. There are African-Americans, Caucasians, Hispanics, and Indians. It looks like the world. It seems like that is the kind of guy he is—of the world." At the back of the room stood a clutch of Indian women who had come over from the wedding dressed in blazing orange and red saris.

Obama arrived beneath an enormous American flag and swam about 30 yards through the pawing crowd to the stage in the middle of the hall. A medley of Bruce Springsteen songs had been playing, but upon the candidate's arrival the music quickly switched to Aretha Franklin's Think. The crowd surged toward the stage. The young couples stopped the cuddling that had been getting them through the wait. "I am overwhelmed," he said taking the stage, "and overjoyed."

Wearing a dark suit and striped tie, Obama spoke in the round, roaming the sage so that he could face all corners of the audience. He reprised much of his young stump speech, talking about the Iraq war, health care, and education, but the bulk of his pitch was thematic. He called the audience to rally around a new kind of hopeful, less-divisive politics. "There has always been another tradition in politics," he said. "This idea that says we are connected as a people. Just because the world as it is is unjust and just because the world as it is is full of strife and violence and poverty ... just because that's the world we see in front of us now, doesn't mean it is the world as it has to be, and politics can close that gap." Obama was regularly interrupted by cheers and applause, but he delivered the evening's rhetorical high point when he responded to a local politician. Earlier in the week, African-American state Sen. Robert Ford announced he was backing Hillary Clinton. "Everybody else on the ballot is doomed," Ford said, explaining what would happen if Obama were nominated. "Every Democratic candidate running on that ticket would lose because he's black and he's at the top of the ticket—we'd lose the House, the Senate, and the governors and everything."

Ford's endorsement, along with that of another prominent African-American official, was timed to steal a little of Obama's thunder and presumably contribute to another round of stories about whether he could appeal to black voters. Instead, it was a gift. "I've been reading the papers in South Carolina," Obama said before using a preacher's cadence to paraphrase Ford's remarks. "Can't have a black man at the top of the ticket." The crowd booed. "But I know this: that when folks were saying, We're going to march for our freedom, they said, You can't do that." The audience roared. "When somebody said, You can't sit at the lunch counter. … You can't do that. We did. And when somebody said, Women belong in the kitchen not in the board room. You can't do that. Yes we can." (At this point I can't reconstruct the remarks from my tape recorder because the screaming was too loud.) The crowd responded by chanting: "Yes, we can."

Obama is going to gain more from Ford's endorsement than Hillary Clinton is. It would have been too audacious, even for Obama, to so overtly link himself to America's civil rights struggles, but Ford's remarks invited him to. Obama will no doubt use that new portion of his stump speech again, and outside of South Carolina. The audience, well represented with African-Americans, loved it. "I got chills," said Constance Eikins, an African-American stay-at-home mom. "It's very overwhelming. I am happy at the thought of it. We have come a long way."

CLICK HERE to read Slate's coverage of Day Two in South Carolina.

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Saturday, February 17, 2007

Obama responds to criticism he cannot be U.S. president

From the Associated Press:

ORANGEBURG, South Carolina: White House hopeful Barack Obama, taking a fellow black lawmaker to task, said voters are ready to elect a black U.S. president.

"At every turn in our history, there's been somebody who said we can't," the Democratic senator from Illinois told a nearly all-black audience of about 2,000 at Claflin University on Saturday.

"Some people said we can't do this, we can't do that, so we shouldn't even try. If I have your support, if I have your energy and involvement and commitment and ideas, then I'm here to tell you, 'Yes we can.'"

The comments drew the loudest ovation during a question-and-answer session in his first campaign swing through South Carolina, an early voting state in the Democratic primaries.

The first-in-the-South contest here is seen as a test of candidates' abilities to reach black voters. Half of the state's Democratic primary voters are black.

Obama responded to comments this past week by Democratic state Sen. Robert Ford of Charleston, South Carolina, who helped mobilize black voters for former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards in 2004, but has switched to Hillary Rodham Clinton in the 2008 presidential race.

Ford said Tuesday that Obama, a first-term senator, has much to prove. "The media made this guy bigger than life," Ford said. "This guy isn't tested and they made him a rock star."

Ford said one reason he was supporting Clinton, the New York senator, is that he is skeptical Obama can win the presidency and worries his nomination could hurt other Democratic candidates.

"Every Democrat running on that ticket next year would lose — because he's black and he's top of the ticket. We'd lose the House and the Senate and the governors and everything," Ford said.

Ford drew widespread criticism for his comment and later apologized.

U.S. House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, a South Carolina Democrat, introduced Obama, saying "Run, Barack, run."

"Obama is able to run today because Rosa Parks sat down," Clyburn said. "He is able to run today because Septima Clark stood up."

Parks, in 1955, refused to give up her bus seat to a white man in Montgomery, Alabama, sparking a mass boycott by thousands, mainly black women domestic workers who had long filled the buses' back seats.

Clark was an educator and activist for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People decades before the nation's attention turned to racial equality.

Clyburn says he is not endorsing a primary candidate.

U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd of Connecticut spoke earlier Saturday at a Richland County Democratic Party breakfast to a crowd of less than 100.

Both Dodd and Obama had to shorten their South Carolina visits to get back to Washington where they voted for a Senate resolution opposing sending more U.S. troops to Iraq. The nonbinding measure fell four votes short.

Later Saturday, Gov. Timothy M. Kaine of Virginia endorsed Obama's candidacy.

"Just the opportunities we have had to work together, my sense of where the nation is and what the nation needs makes me believe that the senator is the right candidate," Kaine said at a news conference with Obama outside Virginia's Executive Mansion in Richmond.

Meanwhile, Edwards made a stop in Las Vegas on Saturday, taking his plan for universal health care to the local branch of the electrical workers labor group to which his brother belongs. He spoke to about 300 people at the local office of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.

The Edwards campaign is hoping his ties to the labor movement will help him gain support in Nevada, which has taken on new importance in the Democratic nomination calendar since winning the No. 2 spot between Iowa and New Hampshire.

Edwards' health care plan, which he unveiled two weeks ago, requires employers to cover their workers or pay into a fund to help them. It also mandates that health care providers decrease administrative costs and switch to electronic records, and would create a market for individuals and small businesses to shop for coverage providers.

"It creates market power for people who don't have it, competition that doesn't presently exist," Edwards said.

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Denver radio host calls Obama "Osama" THREE times!

Denver, CO talk show radio host, Mike Rosen - 850 KOA - referred to Illinois Senator Barack Obama as Barack Osama three times during his show yesterday. As you can here from this audio clip Rosen corrected himself the first time, but continued the "mistakes" at least two more times without correction. Rosen later said it was an "honest mistake", but we know better, don't we?

To hear the clip, CLICK HERE.
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Friday, February 16, 2007

Excitement abounds as Obama brings campaign to South Carolina

By Jim Davenport for the Associated Press:

Sen. Barack Obama's first presidential campaign visit to South Carolina on Friday is generating excitement, and officials predict a crowd of several thousand people in this early voting state where half the Democratic primary voters are black.

Several outlets giving away the 4,000 tickets had exhausted their allotment for the Columbia event. Lachlan McIntosh, executive director of the state Democratic Party, said blacks picked up more than half of the 1,000 tickets the party distributed.

White voters have been anticipating Obama's visit, too, notes Francis Marion University political scientist Neal Thigpen, who closely follows South Carolina presidential politics.

Since 1980, he said, he can't recall any primary candidate drawing such a crowd, which will likely be filled with curious and undecided voters.

White Democrats have found something in Obama that they've been looking for since President John F. Kennedy, Thigpen said.

"I don't think they thought the Kennedy they were looking for would be a black man," Thigpen said.

Obama's South Carolina campaign is just getting off the ground. His two staffers have no statewide campaign experience and he is far behind Sen. Hillary Clinton in fundraising, Thigpen said.

"I don't see him beating Mrs. Clinton among blacks here," Thigpen said.

Clinton received endorsements this week from two key black leaders who backed former Sen. John Edwards in 2004.

Obama also was set to visit Claflin University, a historically black college, on Saturday. His trip comes during a busy week for presidential politics in South Carolina, which holds the first Southern primary for both parties in 2008.

Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., visits over the weekend. Clinton opens her bid Monday at Allen University, a historically black college and Sen. John McCain of Arizona also has a visit scheduled this weekend.

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Will Obama positively not go negative?

By Tom Bevan for the Chicago Sun-Times:

Political campaigns can be rough business -- especially presidential ones. Hard-hitting attack ads are coin of the realm in politics these days for one very simple reason: They work. So even though it's ridiculously early in the race for the Democratic nomination, Barack Obama finds himself facing an interesting dilemma.

As anyone not living in a cave surely knows, Obama launched his campaign for president last weekend by deriding the "smallness of our politics" and promising to change the tone of political discourse in America. But with Hillary Clinton leading Obama by an average of nearly 20 points in the six major polls taken so far this year, will Obama be able to close the gap over the coming year without playing hardball? And how can he attack Clinton without looking small himself and undermining the core rationale for his candidacy?

I put that question to Obama's senior strategist, David Axelrod, before Obama's presidential announcement last Saturday in Springfield.

"If you have a difference over an issue that's something different than a gratuitous personal attack," Axelrod said. "But the real point is the premise that if you can inspire people and if you can give them something real to believe in, you can advance your campaign without tearing everybody else down. And that is our premise and we're going to try and see if it works. If it does work, then we truly have changed our politics for the better. If it doesn't, then it doesn't. But that's the only kind of campaign that he [Obama] really can run."

So, I quickly followed up, Obama won't go negative?

"I . . . I . . . I don't . . . I would not say that he won't draw contrasts where contrasts should be drawn," Axelrod hedged. "But if you're asking me, do we have a strategy to tear people down? We don't. And maybe that's incredibly naive, and maybe that is not feasible in modern politics. But we believe it is, and we believe it's important to run a campaign like that."

There's a great deal of nuance here, of course: One person's idea of an ad "drawing a contrast" on an issue could easily be characterized by another as an "attack." My interpretation of Axelrod's remarks is that Obama will play as rough as he needs to on the issues while recognizing the inherent risks and contradictions posed to his candidacy by getting too aggressive. In other words, he'll change the tone as much as he can without giving away the race.

The good news for Obama is that Hillary Clinton potentially faces the same dilemma, only in the reverse: If Obama does start to rise in the polls and seriously threaten her, how does Hillary attack such a likeable candidate without inciting a backlash and playing right into Obama's message about needing to change "the smallness of our politics''?

Strangely enough, then, we have the theoretical prospect of a mild Democratic presidential primary with the front-runners holding back on negative attacks -- the political equivalent of a Cold War between two superpowers bound by a doctrine of mutually assured destruction. For some reason I don't think it will work out that way.

John Edwards ran a fairly benign primary campaign in 2004. And while he proved that nice guys don't always finish last, he didn't win either. Interestingly, Edwards finds himself in a somewhat similar and potentially advantageous position this time around. The spark for Edwards (and Kerry) in 2004 came in Iowa when Howard Dean and Dick Gephardt turned caucus goers off by bludgeoning each other to death with negative television ads in the final days of the race. If Clinton and Obama do get into a heavyweight slugfest, Edwards might once again benefit from looking like a solid alternative.

With the primary process starting earlier than ever and the staggering amount of money that will propel the communication efforts of the top-tier candidates, "going negative" or even "drawing contrasts" on issues is going to be a tricky tightrope for each candidate to walk with voters. That's especially true for Obama, who has made changing the "smallness of our politics" the clarion call of his candidacy.

Tom Bevan is the co-founder and executive editor of

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Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Editorial cartoons featuring Obama

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Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Obama on 60 Minutes

Text of the Obama interview on CBS' "60 Minutes"

(CBS) One thing you can say with certainty about Illinois Sen. Barack Obama is that there has never been another presidential candidate like him.

He has a foreign sounding name that rhymes with "Osama," his middle name is Hussein, and he has admitted to using marijuana and cocaine as a teenager. Racially he is half black, half white, and in terms of political experience, green.

With just seven years in the state legislature, and two in the United States Senate, it would be easy to dismiss him, were it not for the fact that he is running second in the polls behind Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination. On Saturday, 17,000 people braved frigid weather to watch him declare his candidacy in Springfield Ill., where correspondent Steve Kroft joined him on the eve of his speech.

"Three years ago, you were a state legislator here in Springfield. What makes you think that you're qualified to be president of the United States?" Kroft asks.

"You know, I think we're in a moment of history where probably the most important thing we need to do is to bring the country together and one of the skills that I bring to bear is being able to pull together the different strands of American life and focus on what we have in common," Obama replies

Obama says he has no doubts that he's ready to run. Asked where he gets all this confidence, the senator jokes, "My wife asks me that all the time.

As he gave 60 Minutes a tour of the old Illinois capitol where Abraham Lincoln served in the legislature and delivered the House Divided speech, there was much for Obama to be confident about. At age 45, he is one of only three black senators since Reconstruction, the first African-American President of the Harvard Law Review, a professor of constitutional law at the University of Chicago, and the author of two best selling books.

He is ambitious and just daring enough to invite comparisons to one of the few American presidents, who was elected with even less political experience than he has: Abraham Lincoln.

"He grew into the presidency in ways that I think no body would have anticipated," Obama tells Kroft.

"I know I haven't spent a lot of time learning the ways of Washington. But I've been there long enough to know that the ways of Washington must change," the senator told the crowd during his announcement speech.

On Saturday in Springfield he began a campaign that seems to have morphed out of his latest book tour.

Propelled by the media hungry for a fresh face and a good story, he has graced the covers of Time and Newsweek, the pages of Men’s Vogue, and has been endorsed by Oprah.

But it has also been driven by his personal charisma and an ability to connect with people, especially young people, that is rarely seen in American politics.

He has challenged the post baby boom generation to cast aside its cynicism of politics and engage the system. In a speech at George Mason University earlier this month, he evoked Martin Luther King.

"The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice. It bends towards justice," he told the students. "But here’s the thing, young people, it doesn't bend on its own. It bends in that direction because you decide you're gonna stand up to a war that should have never been waged. It bends because you decide that we need a healthcare system for all Americans."

On the campaign trail he is routinely received like a rock star, a far cry from the way he is treated in the corridors of power in Washington, where he is 88th on the Senate’s list of seniority.

"I wanna read you a quote from The St. Petersburg Times. 'The world is too complex and dangerous for this likeable, charismatic, African American neophyte to practice on-the-job training,'" Kroft reads.

Asked why he is in such a hurry to run, Obama tells Kroft, "You know the truth is I'm not. We have a narrow window to solve some of the problems that we face. Ten years from now, we may not be in a position to recover the sense of respect around the world that we've lost over the last six years. Certainly, when you look at our energy policy and environment and the prospects of climate change, we’ve gotta make some decisions right now. And so I feel a sense of urgency for the country."

He is a left-of-center Democrat who favors abortion rights, universal healthcare and wants to roll back tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. He is the only major presidential candidate who opposed the Iraq war before it began and wants to withdraw most U.S. troops by March 2008. He would redeploy some of them to Afghanistan, keep others in the region to protect strategic U.S. interests.

Asked if he would talk to Iran and Syria, Obama says, "Yes. The notion that this administration has that not talking to our enemies is effective punishment is wrong. It flies in the face of our experience during the Cold War. And Ronald Reagan understood that it may be an evil empire, but it’s worthwhile for us to periodically meet to see are there areas of common interest."

In the Senate he has shown a talent and a willingness to reach across party lines and work with Republicans and conservatives to build consensus. He says it is an essential trait for a president and considers it one of his strengths, the product of an unconventional childhood.

He was born in 1961 to a father from Kenya and a mother from Kansas, who were both students in Hawaii at a time when black/white marriages were illegal in half the states. His father left when he was two, and eventually returned to Africa.

And as a young boy, Obama spent four years living with his mother and her second husband in Indonesia before returning home to live with his maternal grandparents in Honolulu. As a black child in a white family, he struggled with his racial identity.

"How important is race in defining yourself?" Kroft asks.

"I am rooted in the African-American community. But I'm not defined by it. I am comfortable in my racial identity. But that's not all I am," he says.

"You were raised in a white household…. Yet at some point, you decided that you were black?" Kroft asks.

"Well, I'm not sure I decided it. I think, you know, if you look African-American in this society, you're treated as an African-American. And when you’re a child in particular, that is how you begin to identify yourself," Obama explains.

While he graduated with honors from Columbia and Harvard Law, he says the most valuable part of his education was the three years he spent on the south side of Chicago, earning $13,000 a year as a community organizer for a group of churches.

It was Obama's first real experience with urban politics and the problems of the inner city. Yet for some African-Americans, he remains an outsider, an immigrant’s son not the descendant of slaves.

"There are African-Americans who don't think that you're black enough, who don't think that you have had the required experience," Kroft remarks.

"The truth of the matter is, you know, when I'm walking down the south side of Chicago and, visiting my barbershop, and playing basketball in some of these neighborhoods, those aren't those aren't questions I get asked," Obama says.

"They think you're black," Kroft asks.

"As far as they can tell, yeah. I also notice when I'm catching a cab, nobody's confused about that either," he says.

He doesn’t like it, but it’s something he had to come to terms with a long time ago.

Obama does think the U.S. is ready for a black president and he doesn't think his race is going to hold him back.

"I think if I don't win this race it will be because of other factors. It's gonna be because I have not shown to the American people a vision for where the country needs to go that they can embrace," he tells Kroft.

"There's one poll that shows Hillary Clinton is leading 53 to 27 among African-Americans," Kroft says. "Are you surprised by that? Are you disappointed by that?"

"Not at all," Obama says. "I think that there is a assumption on the part of some commentators that somehow, the black community is so unsophisticated that the minute you put an African-American face up on the screen, that they automatically say, 'That's our guy.' A black candidate has to earn black votes the same way that he's gotta earn white votes. And that's exactly how it should be."

And he has done it in Chicago, where he began his political career after meeting and marrying Michelle Robinson, another Harvard Law School graduate, 14 years ago. She is an executive with the University of Chicago Hospitals, and they have two children Malia, who’s eight and Sasha, five.

His daughters are interested in their father’s campaign only to the extent that it influences their campaign to get a dog.

Their only memory of the White House when they made the tour was President Bush's dog, so that was their main focus—the possibility," Obama tells Kroft.

"This is our in—to get a dog," his wife Michelle adds. "Good. Really. You run for president. But, if we get a dog, we don't care what you do."

Michelle, on the other hand, did care and Obama had to persuade his wife to let him run. Political campaigns make her feel like a single mother.

Asked if it has put strains on the marriage from time to time, Michelle Obama says, sarcastically, "Oh-nooooo."

"Absolutely it has," he husband adds.

"But, you'd let him go ahead and do this?" Kroft asks Michelle Obama.

"I think if I weren't married to him, I'd want him to be in there," she says. "So, I don't wanna stand in the way of that, because we have to work out a few things. So, we've kind of, you know, we figured out those, we've had those arguments, and…" she says.

"And, I've lost them all," the senator throws in.

"This is a tough question to ask, but a number of years ago Colin Powell was thinking about running for president, and his wife Alma, really did not want him to run. She was worried about some crazy person, with a gun…. Is that something that you think about?" Kroft asks.

"I don't lose sleep over it because the realities are that, you know, as a black man, you know, Barack can get shot going to the gas station, you know. So, you know, you can't make decisions based on fear and the possibility of what might happen. We just weren't raised that way," she says.

And there are other concerns: the loss of privacy and people poking around in their closets looking for skeletons. Obama has already opened the door on a few.

"I want to ask you a question about your past. I mean, you've been very frank in your books, with particularly the first book, with your language," Kroft remarks, laughing.

"Yeah. Don't quote those on-air, or you'll get fined," Obama replies.

In his book, he wrote that when he was in high school and in college he smoked marijuana and inhaled. He also wrote that he did a little "blow"—as he put it—when he could afford it.

Asked to explain why he did that, Obama says, "Well, you know, I think it was typical of a teenager who was confused about who he was and what his place in the world was, and thought that experimenting with drugs was a way to rebel. It's not something that I'm proud of."

But the senator says he does not regret being so candid. "You know, I don't. I mean, I think one of the things about national politics is this attempt to airbrush your life. And it's exhausting, right, you know. 'This is who I am. This is where I've come from.' And you know, if we have problems in this campaign, I suspect it's not gonna be because of mistakes I've made in the past. I think it's gonna be mistakes that I make in the future," he tells Kroft.

Until recently, he did admit to still having one vice, but he was forced to give it up as the quid pro quo for running: smoking.

His wife Michelle says she "hates" smoking. "That's why he doesn't do it anymore. I'm proud to say. I outed him on—I'm the one to out him on the smoking. That was one of my prerequisites for, you know, entering into this race. Is that, you know, he couldn't be a smoking president," she explains.

Of his smoking habit and the effort to quit, the senator says, "It's like a recovering, it’s like an alcoholic."

"He's gonna have a lot of people watching," Kroft says.

"Absolutely. Please, America, watch," Michelle Obama says, laughing. "Keep an eye on him, and call me if you see him smoking."

It’s not the only thing people will be watching for over the next two years. It’s the beginning of a long examination in which every utterance will be scrutinized, every speech dissected, every gaffe and foible magnified for close inspection to determine whether he is up to the task.

It's possible that, you know, after we go through this whole process that the voters conclude: 'You know what. He's not ready.' And I respect that," Obama says. "I don't expect that simply because I can move people in speeches that that automatically qualifies me for this job. I think that I have to be tested and run through the paces, and I have to earn this job."

Produced By Tom Anderson and L. Franklin Devine
© MMVII, CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.
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Obama gadget

On the right directly beneath the code for my link button, you'll find the Obama '08 gadget. The gadget comes courtesy Donavon West of Live

To get your own Obama Gadget for your web site or blog, either use the gadget, or follow a link to Obama '08 Gadget.

Thanks, Donavon.
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Monday, February 12, 2007

Candidate Obama Packs ISU's Hilton Coliseum

By Abby Simons for the Des Moines Register:

Illinois Sen. Barack Obama painted a new picture of himself to a packed Hilton Coliseum crowd Sunday—as that of a non-political politician, a diplomat who claims he could salvage the country’s broken foreign relations.

But it would take more than just a new breed of presidential candidate to revive voters, he said. It would take a change in American attitudes to make a difference in politics .

“Most of us are cynical about the political process, even those of us who are involved in it,” he said.

“It seems as if politics has become a business instead of a mission, that power in Washington is always trumping principle, we’ve got a lot of so-called leaders who don’t do much leading.

“Yes, there is that brand of politics, but there has always been another tradition of politics that says ‘I am connected to you.’ That we are acceptable to each other, that we have a stake in each other.”

Wearing a sport jacket with an open shirt collar, Obama was greeted with intermittent whoops and constant applause from the crowd of about 5,000 inside the coliseum.

Supporters waved hundreds of campaign signs, while others held up cardboard placards that read “We Need a Hero--Thank you.” and “Obama-Rama.”

He touched on a range of issues but was scathingly critical of the Iraq war, one he continued to emphasize that he was against from the beginning of his political career as an Illinois state senator.

“We ended up launching a war that should have never been authorized, and should have never been waged, and to which we’ve now spent $400 billion, and have seen over 3,000 lives of the bravest young Americans wasted; 25,000 amputees.”

In an interview following the rally, Obama, who said he has visited with the families of military personnel who have been killed in the war, regretted saying the lives were “wasted”.

“I was actually upset with myself when I said that because I never use that term,” he said. “Their sacrifices are never wasted, that was sort of a slip of the tongue as I was speaking.

"The sacrifices they have made are unbelievable. What I meant to say was those sacrifices have not been honored by the same attention to strategy, diplomacy and honesty on the part of civilian leadership that would give them a clear mission.”

During the rally, Obama was flanked by two prominent Iowa Democrats — Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller and State Treasurer Michael Fitzgerald —who endorsed him over the weekend.

Obama took the stage with his wife Michelle. Both Miller and Fitzgerald focused on Obama’s potential for global diplomacy. Miller, who like Obama attended Harvard Law School, called Obama the smartest person to attend the institution in the past 25 years.

“Imagine president Barack Obama in the world, as a world leader,” Miller said. “One of the great tragedies of this administration is how George Bush relates to the world. This man would be 180 degrees. Diplomacy would work, the world would be more peaceful, and more safe, and a better place to live.”

Obama appeared relaxed during the post-rally interview, leaning back in a folding chair while propping his feet on another.

He smiled and shook his head when reminded again of the infamous photo of him in a bathing suit that emerged last month while he was vacationing in Hawaii. The microscope on his life—and his popularity—should take a backseat to his message, he said.

“The way I keep the momentum is reminding people that this isn’t about me, it’s about them,” he said. “I think I am a vehicle, or this campaign is a vehicle to talk about how we want to reduce the influence of money in politics, how we want to put an end to the nasty slash-and-burn trivialized politics of the last couple of decades, that we want to come up with common sense and practical solutions instead of being driven by ideology.

"People may get tired of me, but they’ll still be driven by their own interest in leading the county forward,'' he said.

Obama’s emphasis on foreign relations was particularly impressive to Etse Sikanku, 25, a graduate student at Iowa State who arrived to the United States from Ghana last fall.

“The speech was very broad-based, broad to the point where he didn’t say exactly what he would do if he were in office, but it was broad enough that he could introduce himself,” Sikanku said.

“I think it was helpful to know a presidential candidate is willing to work with the international community, or at least willing to reach out. Many Africans already think America stands on its own and will not do that.”

The Sunday stop in Ames marked a flurry of weekend campaign stops, that included Saturday’s announcement in Chicago, followed by visits to Cedar Rapids, Waterloo and breakfast at the Iowa Falls home of Tom and Patty Friend.

A flight was headed for Chicago for another rally Sunday evening. In the meantime, Obama may or may not try to relax by listening to anything from rappers Outkast to crooner Frank Sinatra or Bach’s cello suites on his iPod. That, or relaxing with his children, who with wife Michelle are also along for the ride.

“They’re better than TV,” he said. “They’ve always got something to say.”
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Sunday, February 11, 2007

Australian Prime Minister John Howard balsts Obama, but . . .

You would think the prime minister of a country would at least have some inkling of what he was talking about before making a public statement, but Australian PM John Howard just blasted Sen. Barack Obama for vowing to pull out the troops. In fact, the Prime Minister said if he was in charge of al Qaeda that he would put a circle around March '08 and pray every day that Obama or the Democratic party would win the elections so they would pull out of Iraq in '08.

Mr. Howard, who is a huge fan and supporter of President Bush, has obviously been studying Bush too closely. The elections are not even going to happen until NOVEMBER '08. Not only that, but the winner ill not even be in office until January 2009.

Stick to business in Australia Mr. Howard.
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Saturday, February 10, 2007

Video of Obama's announcement

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Full Text of Senator Barack Obama's Announcement for President

Let me begin by saying thanks to all you who've traveled, from far and wide, to brave the cold today.

We all made this journey for a reason. It's humbling, but in my heart I know you didn't come here just for me, you came here because you believe in what this country can be. In the face of war, you believe there can be peace. In the face of despair, you believe there can be hope. In the face of a politics that's shut you out, that's told you to settle, that's divided us for too long, you believe we can be one people, reaching for what's possible, building that more perfect union.

That's the journey we're on today. But let me tell you how I came to be here. As most of you know, I am not a native of this great state. I moved to Illinois over two decades ago. I was a young man then, just a year out of college; I knew no one in Chicago, was without money or family connections. But a group of churches had offered me a job as a community organizer for $13,000 a year. And I accepted the job, sight unseen, motivated then by a single, simple, powerful idea - that I might play a small part in building a better America.

My work took me to some of Chicago's poorest neighborhoods. I joined with pastors and lay-people to deal with communities that had been ravaged by plant closings. I saw that the problems people faced weren't simply local in nature - that the decision to close a steel mill was made by distant executives; that the lack of textbooks and computers in schools could be traced to the skewed priorities of politicians a thousand miles away; and that when a child turns to violence, there's a hole in his heart no government could ever fill.

It was in these neighborhoods that I received the best education I ever had, and where I learned the true meaning of my Christian faith.

After three years of this work, I went to law school, because I wanted to understand how the law should work for those in need. I became a civil rights lawyer, and taught constitutional law, and after a time, I came to understand that our cherished rights of liberty and equality depend on the active participation of an awakened electorate. It was with these ideas in mind that I arrived in this capital city as a state Senator.

It was here, in Springfield, where I saw all that is America converge - farmers and teachers, businessmen and laborers, all of them with a story to tell, all of them seeking a seat at the table, all of them clamoring to be heard. I made lasting friendships here - friends that I see in the audience today.

It was here we learned to disagree without being disagreeable - that it's possible to compromise so long as you know those principles that can never be compromised; and that so long as we're willing to listen to each other, we can assume the best in people instead of the worst.

That's why we were able to reform a death penalty system that was broken. That's why we were able to give health insurance to children in need. That's why we made the tax system more fair and just for working families, and that's why we passed ethics reforms that the cynics said could never, ever be passed.

It was here, in Springfield, where North, South, East and West come together that I was reminded of the essential decency of the American people - where I came to believe that through this decency, we can build a more hopeful America.

And that is why, in the shadow of the Old State Capitol, where Lincoln once called on a divided house to stand together, where common hopes and common dreams still, I stand before you today to announce my candidacy for President of the United States.

I recognize there is a certain presumptuousness - a certain audacity - to this announcement. I know I haven't spent a lot of time learning the ways of Washington. But I've been there long enough to know that the ways of Washington must change.

The genius of our founders is that they designed a system of government that can be changed. And we should take heart, because we've changed this country before. In the face of tyranny, a band of patriots brought an Empire to its knees. In the face of secession, we unified a nation and set the captives free. In the face of Depression, we put people back to work and lifted millions out of poverty. We welcomed immigrants to our shores, we opened railroads to the west, we landed a man on the moon, and we heard a King's call to let justice roll down like water, and righteousness like a mighty stream.

Each and every time, a new generation has risen up and done what's needed to be done. Today we are called once more - and it is time for our generation to answer that call.

For that is our unyielding faith - that in the face of impossible odds, people who love their country can change it.

That's what Abraham Lincoln understood. He had his doubts. He had his defeats. He had his setbacks. But through his will and his words, he moved a nation and helped free a people. It is because of the millions who rallied to his cause that we are no longer divided, North and South, slave and free. It is because men and women of every race, from every walk of life, continued to march for freedom long after Lincoln was laid to rest, that today we have the chance to face the challenges of this millennium together, as one people - as Americans.

All of us know what those challenges are today - a war with no end, a dependence on oil that threatens our future, schools where too many children aren't learning, and families struggling paycheck to paycheck despite working as hard as they can. We know the challenges. We've heard them. We've talked about them for years.

What's stopped us from meeting these challenges is not the absence of sound policies and sensible plans. What's stopped us is the failure of leadership, the smallness of our politics - the ease with which we're distracted by the petty and trivial, our chronic avoidance of tough decisions, our preference for scoring cheap political points instead of rolling up our sleeves and building a working consensus to tackle big problems.

For the last six years we've been told that our mounting debts don't matter, we've been told that the anxiety Americans feel about rising health care costs and stagnant wages are an illusion, we've been told that climate change is a hoax, and that tough talk and an ill-conceived war can replace diplomacy, and strategy, and foresight. And when all else fails, when Katrina happens, or the death toll in Iraq mounts, we've been told that our crises are somebody else's fault. We're distracted from our real failures, and told to blame the other party, or gay people, or immigrants.

And as people have looked away in disillusionment and frustration, we know what's filled the void. The cynics, and the lobbyists, and the special interests who've turned our government into a game only they can afford to play. They write the checks and you get stuck with the bills, they get the access while you get to write a letter, they think they own this government, but we're here today to take it back. The time for that politics is over. It's time to turn the page.

We've made some progress already. I was proud to help lead the fight in Congress that led to the most sweeping ethics reform since Watergate.

But Washington has a long way to go. And it won't be easy. That's why we'll have to set priorities. We'll have to make hard choices. And although government will play a crucial role in bringing about the changes we need, more money and programs alone will not get us where we need to go. Each of us, in our own lives, will have to accept responsibility - for instilling an ethic of achievement in our children, for adapting to a more competitive economy, for strengthening our communities, and sharing some measure of sacrifice. So let us begin. Let us begin this hard work together. Let us transform this nation.

Let us be the generation that reshapes our economy to compete in the digital age. Let's set high standards for our schools and give them the resources they need to succeed. Let's recruit a new army of teachers, and give them better pay and more support in exchange for more accountability. Let's make college more affordable, and let's invest in scientific research, and let's lay down broadband lines through the heart of inner cities and rural towns all across America.

And as our economy changes, let's be the generation that ensures our nation's workers are sharing in our prosperity. Let's protect the hard-earned benefits their companies have promised. Let's make it possible for hardworking Americans to save for retirement. And let's allow our unions and their organizers to lift up this country's middle-class again.

Let's be the generation that ends poverty in America. Every single person willing to work should be able to get job training that leads to a job, and earn a living wage that can pay the bills, and afford child care so their kids have a safe place to go when they work. Let's do this.

Let's be the generation that finally tackles our health care crisis. We can control costs by focusing on prevention, by providing better treatment to the chronically ill, and using technology to cut the bureaucracy. Let's be the generation that says right here, right now, that we will have universal health care in America by the end of the next president's first term.

Let's be the generation that finally frees America from the tyranny of oil. We can harness homegrown, alternative fuels like ethanol and spur the production of more fuel-efficient cars. We can set up a system for capping greenhouse gases. We can turn this crisis of global warming into a moment of opportunity for innovation, and job creation, and an incentive for businesses that will serve as a model for the world. Let's be the generation that makes future generations proud of what we did here.

Most of all, let's be the generation that never forgets what happened on that September day and confront the terrorists with everything we've got. Politics doesn't have to divide us on this anymore - we can work together to keep our country safe. I've worked with Republican Senator Dick Lugar to pass a law that will secure and destroy some of the world's deadliest, unguarded weapons. We can work together to track terrorists down with a stronger military, we can tighten the net around their finances, and we can improve our intelligence capabilities. But let us also understand that ultimate victory against our enemies will come only by rebuilding our alliances and exporting those ideals that bring hope and opportunity to millions around the globe.

But all of this cannot come to pass until we bring an end to this war in Iraq. Most of you know I opposed this war from the start. I thought it was a tragic mistake. Today we grieve for the families who have lost loved ones, the hearts that have been broken, and the young lives that could have been. America, it's time to start bringing our troops home. It's time to admit that no amount of American lives can resolve the political disagreement that lies at the heart of someone else's civil war. That's why I have a plan that will bring our combat troops home by March of 2008. Letting the Iraqis know that we will not be there forever is our last, best hope to pressure the Sunni and Shia to come to the table and find peace.

Finally, there is one other thing that is not too late to get right about this war - and that is the homecoming of the men and women - our veterans - who have sacrificed the most. Let us honor their valor by providing the care they need and rebuilding the military they love. Let us be the generation that begins this work.

I know there are those who don't believe we can do all these things. I understand the skepticism. After all, every four years, candidates from both parties make similar promises, and I expect this year will be no different. All of us running for president will travel around the country offering ten-point plans and making grand speeches; all of us will trumpet those qualities we believe make us uniquely qualified to lead the country. But too many times, after the election is over, and the confetti is swept away, all those promises fade from memory, and the lobbyists and the special interests move in, and people turn away, disappointed as before, left to struggle on their own.

That is why this campaign can't only be about me. It must be about us - it must be about what we can do together. This campaign must be the occasion, the vehicle, of your hopes, and your dreams. It will take your time, your energy, and your advice - to push us forward when we're doing right, and to let us know when we're not. This campaign has to be about reclaiming the meaning of citizenship, restoring our sense of common purpose, and realizing that few obstacles can withstand the power of millions of voices calling for change.

By ourselves, this change will not happen. Divided, we are bound to fail.

But the life of a tall, gangly, self-made Springfield lawyer tells us that a different future is possible.

He tells us that there is power in words.

He tells us that there is power in conviction.

That beneath all the differences of race and region, faith and station, we are one people.

He tells us that there is power in hope.

As Lincoln organized the forces arrayed against slavery, he was heard to say: "Of strange, discordant, and even hostile elements, we gathered from the four winds, and formed and fought to battle through."

That is our purpose here today.

That's why I'm in this race.

Not just to hold an office, but to gather with you to transform a nation.

I want to win that next battle - for justice and opportunity.

I want to win that next battle - for better schools, and better jobs, and health care for all.

I want us to take up the unfinished business of perfecting our union, and building a better America.

And if you will join me in this improbable quest, if you feel destiny calling, and see as I see, a future of endless possibility stretching before us; if you sense, as I sense, that the time is now to shake off our slumber, and slough off our fear, and make good on the debt we owe past and future generations, then I'm ready to take up the cause, and march with you, and work with you. Together, starting today, let us finish the work that needs to be done, and usher in a new birth of freedom on this Earth.

[editor's note: I'll try to have video of the speech posted by tomorrow]

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