Les anglonautes

About | Search | Vocapedia | Learning | Podcasts | Videos | History | Arts | Science | Translate

 Previous Home Up Next


History > 2008 > USA > Politics (III)





The Frenzy for Campaign Money


May 27, 2008
The New York Times


The power of money in politics has never been more pronounced or problematical as it is in this year’s presidential campaign — the costliest in the nation’s history.

Painful contradictions abound. Senator John McCain, who made a career of attacking big-money abuses in politics, has had to send five top campaign aides packing after their lucrative professions as special-interest lobbyists, capital insiders and money bundlers became too embarrassing to ignore. He is keeping on his main strategist, Charles Black, who says he has retired from his lucrative profession as an über-lobbyist for a string of dictators and other unsavory foreign leaders.

Senator Barack Obama, after presenting himself as a fighter for the publicly subsidized campaign reforms of the Watergate era, is raising such prodigious donations on the Internet that he seems likely not to honor his offer to accept spending limits in the general election. And the campaign of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, champion of the fabled money-raising machine of the 1990s, has slipped $19 million into debt — half of it her money.

And still, all three candidates are promising to rein in the role of money in politics by updating the Watergate public subsidies — right after this campaign is over. That’s not good enough.

Yes, the public subsidy for presidential elections has been badly eroded by inflation after three decades. But unless those who lay claim to the presidency set an example by taking the public money, reform seems unlikely. Begging, borrowing and spending as much lucre as they can lay their hands on and disdaining public financing is a recipe for certain failure.

Mr. Obama has the biggest bag of loot so far, boosted by more than 1.5 million Web supporters extending largely small-caliber donations. The senator is justifiably proud of this outlet for grass-roots democracy, but his description of it as an alternative public-financing system is absurd. Nothing is more grass-roots than the $3 checkoff available to every taxpayer.

Earlier in the campaign, Mr. Obama vowed to accept the tighter alternative of public subsidy and its spending limitations — a not-so-shabby $85 million for the general election — providing the Republican nominee does the same. Mr. McCain seems ready to do that, and we hope he does. Should Mr. Obama renege, he would become the first presidential candidate to reject the general-election limits.

Should he honor the pledge, Obama campaigners fear being overpowered in a parallel money assault waged by way of the Republican Party’s deep coffers in battleground states and well-financed shadow-party attack groups.

Facing such a dilemma is the stuff of political leadership. As a candidate running against money-driven Washington, Mr. Obama should follow his initial instinct to defend the public alternative. Otherwise, the 2012 campaign will become an even less inhibited chase after special-interest donors. Even with the Obama Web boom, a good half of all primary money — some $366 million — still comes from individuals giving $1,000 or more.

The candidates scrambling for ever more money must commit before the voters to saving public financing, and then make its updating a top priority upon election to the White House — or return to the Senate.

All three have at hand a fine model for this task — Senator Edward Kennedy, who was a principal force in marshaling the bipartisan Congressional majority that first enacted public financing into law. It’s time to update and strengthen this historic measure.

The Frenzy for Campaign Money, NYT, 27.5.2008,






Obama’s April Fund-Raising

Passes $31 Million


May 21, 2008
The New York Times


Aided by his army of small donors, Senator Barack Obama bested Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton and John McCain in April fund-raising, taking in $31.3 million and ending the month with more cash on hand than either rival.

While fund-raising for Mr. Obama dipped slightly from the previous month, when he raised $40 million, he still outraised — and outspent — his Democratic opponent, Mrs. Clinton.

But Mrs. Clinton’s tally for April, $22 million, was an improvement over March, when she took in $20 million. And nearly half the April money, $10 million, came in online on the day after she won the Pennsylvania primary. Mrs. Clinton also had several days during the month in which she raised $1 million through online donations.

On the Republican side, Mr. McCain, who was once spending more money on his campaign than he took in, raised $18.5 million in April, his best month ever.

The totals were disclosed in campaign finance reports filed on Tuesday with the Federal Election Commission.

Mr. Obama ended April with $37.3 million, his campaign said — slightly less than the $43 million in cash than it had at the beginning of the month, indicating that he stepped up his spending in April, when he battled Mrs. Clinton in Pennsylvania.

Mrs. Clinton began April with $9 million in cash, but her campaign did not indicate her cash position at the end of the month. She remains in a financial squeeze, beginning April with $10 million in debt after having lent her campaign $11 million of her own money.

Mrs. Clinton also spent heavily in April, $5 million on television advertisements in Pennsylvania alone, to compete with the $10 million spent by Mr. Obama, who lost to her there.

Mr. McCain, now the presumed Republican nominee, appears to have helped both his campaign and his party by gearing up his fund-raising machine in April and focusing on bringing in money. The Republican National Committee, which will be mobilizing on Mr. McCain’s behalf this fall, raised $15.7 million in April, compared with $4.7 million by the Democratic National Committee, according to federal filings. The R.N.C. reported that it had $40 million in cash on hand compared with the D.N.C.’s $4 million.

By the end of April, Mr. McCain reported having nearly $22 million in cash on hand, with slightly less than $1 million in debts. Earlier in his primary race, he was forced to borrow $5 million from his local bank to keep his campaign afloat. That loan has been paid off.

Over all, Mr. Obama has raised $268 million, and he has spent it liberally in the battle for the Democratic nomination. Much of the money he takes in continues to come from small donors, with the average donation $91 in April. That month, the campaign also attracted 200,000 new donors, 94 percent of whom gave less than $200. Nearly 1.5 million people have donated to Mr. Obama, the campaign said.

Mrs. Clinton has raised $215 million since the primary race began. But a larger part of Mrs. Clinton’s money was earmarked for her general election campaign and could not be used in her primary effort. As a result, she has been forced to lend her own campaign money and delay paying her creditors.

Mrs. Clinton, who came into the race with a legendary and formidable fund-raising machine, at first relied almost exclusively on wealthy donors, who filled her campaign’s coffers with contributions of the maximum $2,300 allowable for her primary bid. But the group was largely tapped out, and only recently has Mrs. Clinton begun to follow the fund-raising strategy of Mr. Obama and appeal to small donors who gave over the Internet — a strategy that has helped her greatly in recent weeks.

    Obama’s April Fund-Raising Passes $31 Million, NYT, 21.5.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/05/21/us/politics/21donate.html






Obama Declares Nomination

Is ‘Within Reach’


May 22, 2008
The New York Times


Senator Barack Obama took a big step toward becoming the Democratic presidential nominee on Tuesday, amassing enough additional delegates to claim an all but insurmountable advantage in his race against Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton.

With 88 percent of the vote counted in the Democratic primary in Oregon on Tuesday, Mr. Obama had 58 percent of the vote to Mrs. Clinton’s 42 percent. In Kentucky, with all votes counted, Mrs. Clinton had 72 percent to Mr. Obama’s 27 percent.

Both candidates moved on to Florida on Wednesday for more campaigning.

While Mrs. Clinton’s campaign continued to make a case that she could prevail, Mr. Obama seized on the results in Kentucky and Oregon to move into a new phase of the campaign in which he will face different challenges. Those include bringing disaffected Clinton supporters into his camp; winning over elements of the Democratic coalition like working-class whites, Hispanics and Jews; and fending off attacks from Senator John McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee, especially on national security.

While Mr. Obama won easily in Oregon, his obstacles were underlined by the lopsided defeat in Kentucky, where just half of the Democratic voters said in exit polls that they would back him in the general election this fall.

Under the rules used by Democrats, the split decision was enough for Mr. Obama to secure a majority of the delegates up for grabs in primaries and caucuses. His campaign has portrayed success in winning those pledged delegates as the most important yardstick for judging the will of Democratic voters, and has encouraged superdelegates — elected officials and party leaders who have an automatic vote at the convention — to fall in line accordingly.

“We have returned to Iowa with a majority of delegates elected by the American people, and you have put us within reach of the Democratic nomination for president of the United States of America,” Mr. Obama said in an address on Tuesday night, standing in front of a moonlit Capitol in Des Moines.

Even as Mr. Obama moved closer to making history as the first black presidential nominee, he stopped short of declaring victory in the Democratic race, part of a carefully calibrated effort in the remaining weeks of the contest to avoid appearing disrespectful to Mrs. Clinton and alienating her supporters. Instead, he offered lavish praise for his rival over 16 months.

“Senator Clinton has shattered myths and broken barriers and changed the America in which my daughters and your daughters will come of age, and for that we are grateful to her,” Mr. Obama said.

Mrs. Clinton, declaring victory in Kentucky, made clear that she had no intention of stepping aside before the Democratic voting ends on June 3. “This is one of the closest races for a party’s nomination in modern history,” she said. “We are winning the popular vote, and I am more determined than ever to see that every vote is cast and every ballot is counted.”

A Clinton supporter, Representative Jane Harman, Democrat of California, appearing on CNN on Wednesday morning, urged Mr. Obama to choose Mrs. Clinton as his vice presidential candidate. She said “the enthusiastic support of each base” would be needed by the Democrats in November.After Tuesday night’s nominating contests, The Associated Press projected that Mr. Obama had 1,956 of the 2,026 pledged delegates and superdelegates needed to claim the nomination, compared to Mrs. Clinton’s 1,776 total delegates. Mr. Obama’s campaign estimated that if he simply held his own in the three remaining contests — in Montana, South Dakota and Puerto Rico — he would then need only 25 more votes from superdelegates to secure the nomination. There are 221 undeclared superdelegates left; Mr. Obama has been rolling out new endorsements from superdelegates almost daily.

But even as he moved closer to winning the intensely fought nominating contest with Mrs. Clinton — a battle suffused with history and the tension inherent in a campaign defined in part by race and gender — Mr. Obama was preparing to deal with a series of challenges in the weeks ahead.

He was planning a vigorous schedule of travel to general election states and a voter registration drive focusing on black voters to offset any losses among whites. Aides said he was considering delivering another speech to deal with damage in the primary because of attacks on his relationship with his former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., as well as on his patriotism.

“We know we have our work cut out for us,” said Steve Hildebrand, a deputy campaign manager for Mr. Obama. “But we are up to the task.”

At the same time, Mr. Obama’s aides said they were not concerned with exit polls showing that he had hemorrhaged white working-class voters to Mrs. Clinton in Kentucky, mirroring similar findings in Indiana, Pennsylvania and Ohio. Many Clinton voters in Kentucky said they would stay home or vote for Mr. McCain in the fall. Two in 10 Democratic voters in Kentucky said race was a factor in their choice, and they overwhelmingly voted for Mrs. Clinton.

“You can’t look at it that way,” said David Plouffe, Mr. Obama’s campaign manager. “There’s enough evidence now in public polls that in a general election against McCain, in the states that will determine the presidency, her supporters are coming our way. I think this is an issue that in 30 or 60 days we will not be talking about.”

Mr. Obama marked this moment with a return to Iowa, the state that kicked off his campaign with a big win on Jan. 3, He used his stage to portray Mr. McCain as running for a third term for President Bush, an argument that Mr. Obama’s aides said would be a central point of attack as he sought to move from the primary into the general election.

The Republican primary campaign, Mr. Obama said, “was a contest to see which candidate could out-Bush the other, and that is the contest John McCain won.”

Mr. Obama’s aides said they were increasingly concerned that the long fight with Mrs. Clinton had given Mr. McCain a free ride in critical general election states like Iowa.

Mr. Obama is scheduled to spend Wednesday through Friday in Florida, focusing on the corridor between Tampa and Orlando, a region bustling with swing voters. The trip starts an effort to repair wounds caused by the deadlock over recognizing the Florida primary and seating the state’s delegates.

Next week, Mr. Obama heads to Colorado, a state he believes Democrats can win, and other Western states.

Over the next month, he plans trips to the traditional general election battlegrounds of Michigan, Missouri, Pennsylvania and Ohio, even as he continues to compete in the three remaining Democratic contests.

The rally in downtown Des Moines offered evidence of steps Mr. Obama was taking to try to unite the party. Thousands of telephone and e-mail invitations went out across Iowa — where Mr. McCain is already running television commercials — to party activists and independent voters, including many who backed other candidates this year.

David Axelrod, the chief strategist for Mr. Obama, said he was not worried about the significant share of Clinton supporters who said they would be disappointed if Mr. Obama became the nominee. He predicted a “natural coalescence” among Democrats after the nominating battle concluded because of a concern over the war, the economy and the direction of the country.

“We’re going to reach out and try to unify this party,” Mr. Axelrod said in an interview on Tuesday. “It will happen naturally based on a commonality of interests.”

Since 1972, when modern exit polls first began, no Democratic presidential candidate has won a majority of white voters. The closest division was in 1992, a three-way contest when 39 percent of whites voted for Bill Clinton and 40 percent voted for the first President Bush, with nearly all the rest backing H. Ross Perot. In 2004, President Bush defeated John Kerry among whites by 58 percent to 41 percent.

While Mr. Obama has struggled with Mrs. Clinton to win the support of Hispanic voters — something Mr. McCain’s campaign has taken note of in focusing on states like Colorado and New Mexico — a Gallup tracking poll released on Tuesday, taken Friday to Sunday, showed Mr. Obama leading Mrs. Clinton 55 percent to 39 percent among all Democratic voters. Among Hispanic voters, the race is tighter, with Mr. Obama receiving 51 percent to Mrs. Clinton’s 44 percent.

Even as Mr. Obama’s aides disputed the notion that the exit polls raised red flags about his merits as a general election candidate, they acknowledged they would have to deal with that perception among critical party leaders who might be worried about the fall — in particular, contributors and supporters of Mrs. Clinton. To offset the voters who may rule out supporting Mr. Obama, because of his race or other reasons, the campaign is working to register new voters. In Georgia, for example, 600,000 black residents are eligible to vote but are not registered. In Virginia, there are 200,000 black residents not registered to vote.

But most immediately, Mr. Obama faces the task of bringing the party back together, and finding the right tone to strike in being deferential to Mrs. Clinton — making concessions that might make his opponent and her supporters happy in the end — without appearing to be ceding authority to his rival.

Several Democrats said the model he needed to avoid was the 1980 primary fight between President Jimmy Carter and Senator Edward M. Kennedy, with its awkward spectacle at the nominating convention that made the party look divided and Mr. Carter seem suppliant.

Adam Nagourney reported from New York, and Jeff Zeleny from Des Moines. Megan Thee and Dalia Sussman contributed reporting.

    Obama Declares Nomination Is ‘Within Reach’, NYT, 22.5.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/05/22/us/politics/21cnd-campaign.html






Clinton to Obama: Not so fast


Mon May 19, 2008
1:48pm EDT
By Ellen Wulfhorst


MAYSVILLE, Kentucky (Reuters) - Hillary Clinton had a warning on Monday for rival Barack Obama, who is on the verge of claiming the U.S. Democratic presidential nomination: Not so fast.

"This is nowhere near over," Clinton said at a rally in Maysville, Kentucky, pressing ahead with her long shot bid for the White House even as Obama focuses on November's general election match-up with Republican John McCain.

Despite Obama's almost unassailable lead in delegates who will select the nominee at the August Democratic convention, Clinton repeatedly has shrugged off calls to quit the race before the last of the voting concludes on June 3.

She warned the Illinois senator against premature victory celebrations one day before Kentucky and Oregon cast ballots in the lengthy Democratic White House fight.

"None of us is going to have the number of delegates we're going to need to get to the nomination, although I understand my opponent and his supporters are going to claim that," Clinton, a New York senator, said in Maysville.

Obama expects to claim a majority of pledged delegates won in the state-by-state races after Tuesday's returns, but he will still be about 75 short of the 2,026 needed to clinch the nomination without further help from superdelegates -- party officials who are free to back any candidate.

Obama contends the remaining undecided superdelegates, who have been trending his way heavily in recent weeks, should back the candidate who won the most delegates in state voting.

But Clinton says superdelegates should consider her argument that she will make a stronger general election foe for McCain, and her victories in big states like Pennsylvania and Ohio give her a better base than Obama has managed.

Obama will mark Tuesday's voting with a rally in Iowa, a general election battleground where he made his breakthrough with a big win in the first Democratic contest on January 3. He told reporters in Oregon on Sunday, however, that he did not plan to declare victory on Tuesday.


"It doesn't mean we declare victory because I won't be the nominee until we have enough -- combination of pledged delegates and super delegates to hit the mark," Obama said.

Clinton said she has no intention of giving up the fight before the last two states, South Dakota and Montana, cast their votes.

"I'm going to make my case and I'm going to make it until we have a nominee, but we're not going to have one today and we're not going to have one tomorrow and we're not going to have one the next day," said Clinton, a former first lady.

"If Kentucky turns out tomorrow I will be closer to that nomination because of you," she said.

Obama is favored to win in Oregon and Clinton is a big favorite in Kentucky. The two states have a combined 103 delegates at stake on Tuesday.

All polls will close in Kentucky at 7 p.m. EDT (2300 GMT) and Oregon at 8 p.m. PDT/11 p.m. EDT (0300 GMT). Results are expected shortly after.

A delegate count by MSNBC gave Obama 1,901 delegates to Clinton's 1,724. He picked up three more superdelegates on Monday, including Sen. Robert Byrd of West Virginia.

Obama has been cautious about pushing Clinton too hard to leave the race. Both candidates have avoided criticizing each other since Obama's win in North Carolina last week moved him closer to claiming the nomination.

The Clinton campaign sent a memo to reporters saying any Obama effort to declare himself the nominee on Tuesday would be "a slap in the face" to Clinton supporters.

"Premature victory laps and false declarations of victory are unwarranted. Declaring mission accomplished does not make it so," Clinton spokesman Howard Wolfson said.

(Writing by John Whitesides; additional reporting by Jeff Mason; Editing by David Wiessler)

    Clinton to Obama: Not so fast, R, 19.5.2008, http://www.reuters.com/article/politicsNews/idUSN0839956720080519






Obama says Bush policies strengthened Iran, Hamas


Fri May 16, 2008
1:30pm EDT


WATERTOWN, South Dakota (Reuters) - Democratic presidential front-runner Barack Obama said on Friday President George W. Bush's "failed policies" had strengthened U.S. enemies like Iran and Hamas.

Responding to Bush's comment on Thursday that those who want to talk to Iran were like Nazi appeasers before the Second World War, Obama accused Bush of "exactly the kind of appalling attack that's divided the country and that alienates us from the world."

Obama also challenged Bush and Republican presidential rival John McCain to a debate on foreign policy issues, a day after Bush caused outrage among Democrats with his remarks on appeasement before the Israeli parliament.

McCain, who has clinched his party's presidential nomination, did not repeat the word "appeasement" on Thursday. But he did criticize Obama's pledge to speak directly to U.S. foes, particularly Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. He said Obama needs to explain why he would talk to him.

"If George Bush and John McCain want to have a debate about protecting the United States of America, that is a debate that I'm happy to have any time, any place, and that is a debate that I will win because George Bush and John McCain have a lot to answer for," Obama said in a campaign speech in South Dakota.

"They've got to answer for the fact that Iran is the greatest strategic beneficiary of our invasion of Iraq. It made Iran stronger, George Bush's policies," he said.

"They're going to have to explain why Hamas now controls Gaza, Hamas that was strengthened because the United States insisted that we should have democratic elections in the Palestinian Authority."

"That's the Bush-McCain record on protecting this country," he added. "Those are the failed policies that John McCain wants to double down on."

(Reporting by David Morgan, editing by David Alexander)

    Obama says Bush policies strengthened Iran, Hamas, R, 16.5.2008, http://www.reuters.com/article/newsOne/idUSN1648989520080516






In the South, a Force to Challenge the G.O.P.


May 16, 2008
The New York Times


NEW ORLEANS — The sharp surge in black turnout that Senator Barack Obama has helped to generate in recent primaries and Congressional races could signal a threat this fall to the longtime Republican dominance of the South, according to politicians and voting experts.

Should Mr. Obama become the Democratic nominee, he would still have to struggle for white swing voters in the South and in border states like West Virginia, where he lost decisively to Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton in Tuesday’s presidential primary. In West Virginia, where more than three-fourths of white voters chose Mrs. Clinton, 20 percent of the white voters said the race of the candidate mattered in their choice.

But in Southern states with large black populations, like Alabama, Mississippi and Virginia, an energized black electorate could create a countervailing force, particularly if conservative white voters choose not to flock to Senator John McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee. Merle Black, a political scientist at Emory University in Atlanta, predicts “the largest black turnout in the history of the United States” this fall if Mr. Obama is the nominee.

To hold these states, Republicans may have to work harder than ever. Already, turnout in Democratic primaries this year has substantially exceeded Republican turnout in states like Arkansas, Louisiana, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia.

Some analysts suggest that North Carolina and Virginia may even be within reach for the Democratic nominee, and they point to the surprising result in a Congressional special election in Mississippi this week as an indicator of things to come.

With the strong support of black voters, a conservative white Democrat, Travis W. Childers, scored an upset victory in that race, in a district held by Republicans since 1995. Kelvin Buck, a black state representative who helped the Childers campaign, said he saw a “level of enthusiasm and energy” that he had not seen before from black voters — significantly motivated, he said, by a recent Republican anti-Obama campaign.

The numbers appear to bear that out. In one black precinct in the town of Amory, Miss., the number of voters nearly doubled, to 413, from the Congressional election in 2006, and this for a special election with nothing else on the ballot. Meanwhile, in a nearby white precinct, the number of voters dropped by nearly half.

A similar increase has been evident in Southern states with presidential primaries this year. In South Carolina, the black vote in the primary more than doubled from 2004, to 295,000, according to exit poll estimates. In Georgia, it rose to 536,000 from 289,000.

One expert on African-American politics, David A. Bositis of the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, called those numbers “almost astounding.” Black turnout also shot up in states like Maryland, Virginia and Louisiana, even after Hurricane Katrina had driven many Louisianians out of state.

Larry J. Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia, said: “This is going to encourage the purplization of red states. It’s going to make red states purplish over time.”

Black voters made up a larger percentage of Democratic primary voters this year in several states than in the last two presidential election years, according to exit polls conducted by Edison/Mitofsky for the National Election Pool of television networks and The Associated Press this year and in 2004, and by the Voter News Service in 2000. In Maryland, for example, black voters rose to 47 percent of the total, up from 35 percent in 2004 and 28 percent in 2000.

Ronald W. Walters, a professor of government and politics at the University of Maryland, who worked for the 1984 presidential campaign of the Rev. Jesse Jackson, said of Mr. Obama, “He’s generated a tremendous force in American political culture outside the electoral system.”

Still, it would take a shift in the electoral dynamic — a substantial stumble by John McCain, for instance — for Mr. Obama to put in play a state like Mississippi, where whites gave John Kerry only about 15 percent of their vote in 2004 and where voting in presidential elections is perhaps more racially polarized than anywhere else in the nation. Even with a heavy black turnout, Mr. Bositis estimated, Mr. Obama would have to increase his white percentage by at least a third, to about 20 percent, to win the state.

“I don’t anticipate him winning Mississippi,” Mr. Bositis said, even though it has a higher percentage of blacks than any other state, 36 percent.

Many of the votes on Tuesday for Mr. Childers — an anti-abortion, pro-gun-rights Democrat — were from whites who will in all likelihood pull the lever for Mr. McCain in November, analysts and voters themselves say.

“Obama, he’s too off-the-wall,” said Chappell Sides, a white Republican-leaning voter in Yalobusha County who said he was preparing to punch the button for Mr. Childers on Tuesday. “Hillary — I thought I hated her, till Obama came along.”

Bruce Oppenheimer, a political scientist at Vanderbilt University, said the question was not so much whether Mr. Obama would carry Mississippi as whether he would force Republicans to spend time and money in the state.

Yet one sure lesson of the surprising Congressional result from northern Mississippi is that the use of Mr. Obama as an electoral tactic — Republicans resorted to it heavily in the contest — is at best a double-edged sword. At worst it is a guillotine for Republican candidates in areas with substantial black populations, like the Mississippi district won by Mr. Childers, where 26 percent are African-American. Indeed, Tuesday’s Mississippi vote emerged as a case study in the effects and consequences of focusing on Mr. Obama.

“We realized the Republican machine was on the attack,” said Mr. Buck, the state representative who helped Mr. Childers. “They wanted to say he was tied to Barack Obama. The question we asked was, What’s wrong with that? We wanted to prove to them that there’s nothing wrong in Mississippi with a person being tied to Barack Obama.”

Between an initial vote on April 22, when Mr. Childers fell just shy of getting the 50 percent he needed to win, and Tuesday’s runoff election, when he won with a decisive 54 percent, the Republican campaign to link Mr. Childers with Mr. Obama intensified, with a barrage of advertisements specifically on that theme. Perhaps not coincidentally, vote totals in counties with large black populations went up sharply between those two dates. In Marshall County, which is 48.8 percent black, the votes nearly doubled, to 5,083. In Clay County, 56.8 black, nearly 1,500 more people voted, pushing the total to 3,898.

The attacks on Mr. Obama clearly had a galvanizing effect, local officials said. “The people I talked to said, ‘Man, I don’t like that they’re trying to use Obama against him,’ ” said Eric Powell, a black state senator who helped in voter turnout efforts. “It actually helped Travis.”

Adam Nossiter reported from New Orleans, and Janny Scott from New York.

    In the South, a Force to Challenge the G.O.P., NYT, 16.5.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/05/16/us/politics/16south.html






Clinton Beats Obama Handily in West Virginia


May 14, 2008
The New York Times


Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton arranged to meet with uncommitted superdelegates on Wednesday following her lopsided win in the West Virginia primary, as her supporters argued that her appeal to some traditional Democratic voting blocks may change some opinions despite the continued long odds that she can secure her party’s nomination.

Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, a supporter of Mrs. Clinton, said “superdelegates have to have second thoughts” after West Virginia, speaking in an interview Wednesday morning on CNN.

But Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico minimized the impact of the West Virginia, saying the state was “tailor made” for Mrs. Clinton. Mr. Richardson a supporter of Senator Barack Obama, said the continuing contest between the Democratic candidates was becoming harmful to the party. Also speaking on CNN, he said “We have to unite behind the nominee.”

Mrs. Clinton defeated Senator Obama Tuesday in a primary where racial considerations emerged as an unusually salient factor. She drew strong support from white, working-class voters who have spurned Mr. Obama in recent contests.

The number of white Democratic voters who said that race influenced their choice on Tuesday was among the highest recorded in voter surveys in the Clinton-Obama nomination fight. Two in 10 white West Virginia voters said that race was an important factor in their vote, and more than 8 in 10 of them backed Mrs. Clinton, according to surveys of voters leaving the polls.

With Mr. Obama still solidly ahead of Mrs. Clinton in the delegate fight, the West Virginia results are unlikely to adversely affect Mr. Obama’s chances of winning the nomination. Yet a strong Clinton victory in another general election battleground state — like her wins in Ohio and Pennsylvania this spring — could raise fresh questions about Mr. Obama’s ability to carry swing states in a contest against Senator John McCain in the fall.

The voter surveys showing a strong racial component to the West Virginia voting suggest that Mr. Obama would still face pockets of significant Democratic resistance if he does become the party’s first black nominee. While he has argued that he could broaden the Democratic base in the fall, given his popularity with independents and his strong showing in traditionally Republican states like Colorado and Virginia, the Clinton camp has pointed to his modest support from white voters and blue-collar workers as weak links in his coalition.

Obama supporters accused Mrs. Clinton of playing the race card last week when she explicitly said that she had more support among “white Americans” than he did. Yet however blunt she may have been, white and financially struggling voters in West Virginia — and in Kentucky, which votes next week and which Mr. Obama has all but conceded to Mrs. Clinton — have become a major force keeping her in the presidential race at this late stage.

Mrs. Clinton declared victory less than two hours after the West Virginia polls closed, speaking to supporters in Charleston and telling them: “This race isn’t over yet. Neither of us has the total delegates it takes to win.” She also said, “I am more determined than ever to carry on this campaign until everyone has had their chance to make their voices heard.”

Mrs. Clinton seized on the West Virginia results Tuesday night in an area where she needs particular help: fund-raising. Roughly $20 million in debt despite $11 million in personal loans from Mrs. Clinton, her campaign sent a text message to supporters’ cell phones less than an hour after the polls closed, hailing the victory and urging them to donate money at her Web site. A similar pitch arrived by e-mail two minutes later.

“With your help, I’m going to carry the energy of tonight’s victory into the next contests in Kentucky and Oregon,” Mrs. Clinton wrote in the e-mail, referring to the primaries on May 20. “And just as always, I’ll be depending on you to share every step of this journey with me. You have worked your heart out, put yourself on the line for what you believe in, and given generously. And I’m not about to turn my back on you.”

The West Virginia results offered some troubling signs for Mr. Obama. While exit polls in other states have indicated that many Clinton supporters, including many whites, would back Mr. Obama in the fall, more than half of West Virginia voters said they would be dissatisfied if Mr. Obama won the nomination, according to the voter surveys conducted by Edison/Mitofsky.

As the Clinton campaign noted in a strategy memo on Tuesday, no Democrat has won the White House without winning West Virginia since 1916. Bill Clinton carried the state in 1992 and 1996, but Al Gore and John Kerry lost the state in 2000 and 2004, respectively.

Mr. Obama, who largely skipped campaigning in West Virginia and spent Tuesday in another battleground, Missouri, said at a campaign event there that he was confident he could unify the party as the nominee.

“There is a lot of talk these days about how the Democratic Party is divided, but I’m not worried because I know that we’ll be able to come together quickly behind a common purpose,” Mr. Obama said. “There’s too much that unites us as Democrats. There’s too much at stake for our country.”

Mrs. Clinton’s campaign chairman, Terry McAuliffe, said in an interview Tuesday night that despite the Clinton campaign’s heavy debt, "we will have the money to play in the next three weeks" until the June 3 end of the nominating contests. He said that Mrs. Clinton has expressed a willingness to lend the campaign more money if she believes it will help but that she has not reached that conclusion yet. "We haven’t had that discussion," Mr. McAuliffe said.

For all of Mrs. Clinton’s efforts, Mr. Obama continued to far outpace her on Tuesday in the battle for superdelegates — the party leaders who have a vote on the nomination — picking up four endorsements by midday. And in a sign of the diminished optimism in the Clinton camp, one of her staunchest loyalists, James Carville, said that Mr. Obama would probably be the Democratic nominee.

“I think it’s likely Obama is the nominee, but not certain,” said Mr. Carville, the Democratic strategist who worked for Mr. Clinton in the 1992 campaign and is close to the couple. “I would have preferred another result but I’m going to be for him.”

“Everybody is going to be with Obama,” he added, referring to Clinton staff and supporters. “I have an undated check written out for Obama. I’ll send it when this is over.”

According to the surveys of West Virginia voters, about 95 percent of Democratic primary voters were white, about 70 percent did not graduate college, and about 55 percent had household incomes under $50,000.

Nearly two-thirds of West Virginia voters said that the economy was the most important issue facing the country, and they backed Mrs. Clinton by a margin of 2 to 1. About 9 in 10 voters say they were affected by the current economic slowdown, including nearly half who said they were affected a great deal. Mrs. Clinton was supported by about three-quarters of those most affected.

She also won the support of most voters under age 30, a group that has typically voted heavily for Mr. Obama throughout this election. She also edged out Mr. Obama among college graduates and higher-income voters, also groups Mr. Obama has relied on.

Some of the exit poll results showed deep mistrust about Mr. Obama, a relatively rare finding in Democratic primary contests. Half of voters, for instance, said they believed that Mr. Obama shared the controversial views of his former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr. Half said Mr. Obama was not honest and trustworthy and half said he did not share their values.

When asked to select from a list of four candidate qualities that mattered most to the voters in deciding how they would vote, nearly half of the voters said the candidate’s ability to bring about change was paramount, while about a quarter said having the right experience was most important. About 1 in 5 chose the fact that the candidate cared about people like them and 1 in 10 decided based on the candidate’s ability to win in November.

Voters were most apt to say they were looking for a candidate who can bring about change, and as in previous contests, Mr. Obama won most of them. But Mrs. Clinton won more of them than she typically does, and she overwhelmingly won voters looking for someone with experience, someone who cares about them or someone who can win in November.

Bill Clinton’s campaigning in the state on behalf of his wife was a boost. About 6 in 10 voters said his campaigning was important in their vote, and they overwhelmingly backed Mrs. Clinton.

John Holusha and Dalia Sussman contributed reporting for this article.

    Clinton Beats Obama Handily in West Virginia, NYT, 14.5.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/05/14/us/politics/14dems.html?hp






Obama Wins North Carolina Decisively; Clinton Takes Indiana by Slim Margin


May 7, 2008
The New York Times


Senator Barack Obama won a commanding victory in the North Carolina primary on Tuesday and lost narrowly to Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton in Indiana, an outcome that injected a boost of momentum to Mr. Obama’s candidacy as the Democratic nominating contest entered its final month.

The results from the two primaries, the largest remaining Democratic ones, assured that Mr. Obama would widen his lead in pledged delegates over Mrs. Clinton, providing him with new ammunition as he seeks to persuade Democratic leaders to coalesce around his campaign. He also increased his lead in the popular vote in winning North Carolina by more than 200,000 votes.

“Don’t ever forget that we have a choice in this country,” Mr. Obama said in an address in Raleigh, N.C., that carried the unity themes of a convention speech. “We can choose not to be divided; that we can choose not to be afraid; that we can still choose this moment to finally come together and solve the problems we’ve talked about all those other years in all those other elections.”

In winning North Carolina by 14 percentage points, Mr. Obama — whose campaign had been embattled by controversy over the incendiary remarks of his former pastor — recorded his first primary victory in nearly two months. His campaign was preparing to open a new front in his battle with Mrs. Clinton, intensifying the argument to uncommitted Democratic superdelegates that he weathered a storm and that the time was dawning for the party to concentrate on the general election.

But as Mrs. Clinton addressed her supporters at a rally in Indianapolis on Tuesday evening, it was clear the fight was not over. In the first three minutes of her address, she asked supporters to contribute money, saying, “Tonight, I need your help to continue this journey.”

Clinton advisers acknowledged that the results of the primaries were far less than they had hoped, and said they were likely to face new pleas even from some of their own supporters for her to quit the race. They said they expected fund-raising to become even harder; one adviser said the campaign was essentially broke, and several others refused to say whether Mrs. Clinton had lent the campaign money from her personal account to keep it afloat.

The advisers said they were dispirited over the loss in North Carolina, after her campaign — now working off a shoestring budget as spending outpaces fund-raising — decided to allocate millions of dollars and full days of the candidate and her husband in the state. Even with her investment, Mr. Obama outspent Mrs. Clinton in both states.

For several hours, incomplete results from Lake County in Indiana — home to the city of Gary, just across the state line from Chicago — left the statewide tally in doubt. The delay meant that Mrs. Clinton did not appear on television until well after Mr. Obama, allowing him to put his stamp of victory on the evening.

With six primaries remaining on the Democratic calendar, the fight between Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton now turns to Washington. The Obama campaign was poised to present a new cache of superdelegates — the party officials who may have to settle the nominating fight — as early as Wednesday to press its case that the results from Tuesday are reason enough to back his candidacy and end the torturous nominating fight.

In his speech earlier in the evening, Mr. Obama, of Illinois, congratulated Mrs. Clinton “for what appears to be her victory in the great state of Indiana.” Then, he used his televised forum to deliver a speech highlighting how he was likely to come under attack. In doing so, he made an argument for his viability in a general election, which his rivals believe has been damaged because of his association with his former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr..

“Yes, we know what’s coming; I’m not naïve,” Mr. Obama said, adding, “The attempts to play on our fears and exploit our differences, to turn us against each other for political gain, to slice and dice this country into red states and blue states; blue-collar and white-collar; white, black, brown; young, old; rich, poor.”

“This is the race we expect” regardless of who is the Democratic nominee, he went on. “The question, then, is not what kind of campaign they will run; it’s what kind of campaign we will run.”

Democrats said they expect to see more superdelegates flow to Mr. Obama in the next few days, including perhaps some now aligned with Mrs. Clinton.

Senator Claire McCaskill, an Obama supporter from Missouri, called the results “a big, big night” for Mr. Obama given the Wright episode. “This shows he can take major blows and kind of rise above it,” Ms. McCaskill said. “I think there was a sense that she has some momentum, and I think it has just ground to a screeching halt tonight.”

Despite Mrs. Clinton’s performance, she pledged to take her campaign to West Virginia, Kentucky and the other states remaining on the primary calendar. And the campaign has been pushing the cause of seating disputed delegates from Florida and Michigan, states that were penalized for holding primaries before party rules allowed.

“You know it seems, it would be a little strange to have a nominee chosen by 48 states,” she told her supporters in Indianapolis. “We’ve got a long road ahead, but were going to keep fighting on that path because America is worth fighting for.”

The Rules and Bylaws Committee of the Democratic National Committee will convene on May 31 to settle the issue of whether to seat the delegates from those two states.

Going forward, both candidates intend to spend time in Washington, courting superdelegates and party officials.

Senator Ben Nelson of Nebraska, an Obama supporter, said the candidate accomplished what he needed to by outperforming expectations in both states and showing that Mr. Wright was not driving off voters en masse. “The next question will be what happens with the undecided superdelegates,” Mr. Nelson said. “Will they begin to come his way? I don’t see anything to suggest they should start going her way.”

In North Carolina, Mr. Obama’s performance was bolstered by a strong black vote. He captured more than 90 percent of those voters in that state, where blacks accounted for one in three voters. But over all, Mrs. Clinton continued to draw strong support among whites, particularly older women.

The voting in Indiana and North Carolina came at the conclusion of an acrimonious two-week campaign that found Mr. Obama on the defensive over incendiary remarks by Mr. Wright. Yet there was little evidence either argument caused significant shifts in electoral patterns of previous states, with most Clinton voters saying the Wright episode affected their vote and Obama backers saying it had not.

Once again, Mrs. Clinton drew most of her support from women and older voters. Mr. Obama held onto his mainstays of support — blacks, young voters and liberals — and made small gains in Indiana with lower-income white voters who have eluded him in the past.

In both states, the candidates’ final arguments centered on a summertime suspension of the federal gasoline tax, which Mrs. Clinton proposed as an economic lift for voters and Mr. Obama derided as a political gimmick.

At this stage in the nominating fight, most voters seemed to have settled on their preferences before the battle intensified. Only a quarter of voters in Indiana decided whom to support in the last week, and a majority backed Mrs. Clinton, while one in five voters in North Carolina also decided late, and most of them backed Mr. Obama.

The country’s economic condition was listed as the chief concern of the Democratic primary voters. About 9 in 10 voters in Indiana and 8 in 10 voters in North Carolina said the economic slowdown had affected their family at least somewhat.

At least three in five voters in both states said the economy was the most important problem facing the country, according to surveys of voters leaving polling places that were conducted in both states by Edison/Mitofsky for the television networks and The Associated Press.

In Indiana, about 8 in 10 voters were white and about 15 percent were black. Six in 10 of the whites voted for Mrs. Clinton; about 9 in 10 blacks favored Mr. Obama.

Reporting was contributed by Patrick Healy, Carl Hulse, Dalia Sussman and Megan Thee.

    Obama Wins North Carolina Decisively; Clinton Takes Indiana by Slim Margin, NYT, 7.5.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/05/07/us/politics/07elect.html?hp






Obama’s Break With Ex-Pastor Sets Sharp Shift in Tone


April 30, 2008
The New York Times


WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — Senator Barack Obama broke forcefully on Tuesday with his former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., in an effort to curtail a drama of race, values, patriotism and betrayal that has enveloped his presidential candidacy at a critical juncture.

At a news conference here, Mr. Obama denounced remarks Mr. Wright made in a series of televised appearances over the last several days. In the appearances, Mr. Wright has suggested that the United States was attacked because it engaged in terrorism on other people and that the government was capable of having used the AIDS virus to commit genocide against minorities. His remarks also cast Louis Farrakhan, the leader of the Nation of Islam, in a positive light.

In tones sharply different from those Mr. Obama used on Monday, when he blamed the news media and his rivals for focusing on Mr. Wright, and far harsher than those he used in his speech on race in Philadelphia last month, Mr. Obama tried to cut all his ties to — and to discredit — Mr. Wright, the man who presided at Mr. Obama’s wedding and baptized his two daughters.

“His comments were not only divisive and destructive, but I believe that they end up giving comfort to those who prey on hate, and I believe that they do not portray accurately the perspective of the black church,” Mr. Obama said, his voice welling with anger. “They certainly don’t portray accurately my values and beliefs.”

One week before Democratic primaries in Indiana and North Carolina, contests that party officials are watching as they try to gauge whether Mr. Obama or Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton would be the stronger nominee, the controversy surrounding Mr. Wright again erupted into a threat to Mr. Obama’s ability to show that he could unify the Democratic Party and bring the nominating contest to a quick and clean end. With Mrs. Clinton having shown particular strength among working-class white voters in recent big-state primaries, the racial overtones of Mr. Obama’s links with Mr. Wright have been especially troublesome for the Obama campaign.

Asked how the controversy would affect voters, Mr. Obama said: “We’ll find out.”

At a minimum, the spectacle of Mr. Wright’s multiday media tour and Mr. Obama’s rolling response grabbed the attention of the most important constituency in politics now: the uncommitted superdelegates — party officials and elected Democrats — who hold the balance of power in the nominating battle.

Eileen Macoll, a Democratic county chairman from Washington State who has not chosen a candidate, said she was stunned at the extent of national attention the episode has drawn, and she said she believed it would give superdelegates pause.

“I’m a little surprised at how much traction it is getting, and I do believe it is beginning to reflect negatively on Senator Obama’s campaign,” Ms. Macoll said. “I think he’s handling it very well, but I think it’s almost impossible to make people feel comfortable about this.”

It was the second straight day that Mr. Obama had responded to Mr. Wright, a former pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago whose derisive comments about the United States government have become a fixture of cable television. Saying that he had not seen or read Mr. Wright’s remarks when he responded to them on Monday, Mr. Obama said he was “shocked and surprised” when he later read the transcripts and watched the broadcasts, and he felt compelled to respond more forcefully.

“I’m outraged by the comments that were made and saddened over the spectacle that we saw yesterday,” Mr. Obama said. He added: “I find these comments appalling. It contradicts everything that I’m about and who I am.”

The press conference came in what may well be the toughest stretch of Mr. Obama’s campaign as he grapples with questions about Mr. Wright as well as the fallout from his defeat last week in Pennsylvania. He set out this week to reintroduce himself but instead found himself competing for airtime with Mr. Wright and trying to bat away suggestions that he shared or tolerated Mr. Wright’s views.

As he answered question after question here, Mr. Obama appeared downcast and subdued as he tried to explain why he had decided to categorically denounce his minister of 20 years. His decision to address reporters not only stretched the Wright story into another day but also marked at least the third time he has sought to deal with the issue, including his well-received speech on race last month in Philadelphia.

“The fact that Reverend Wright would think that somehow it was appropriate to command the stage for three or four consecutive days in the midst of this major debate is something that not only makes me angry, but also saddens me,” Mr. Obama said.

Even amid the wall-to-wall news coverage about Mr. Wright, Mr. Obama won the support of two more superdelegates, including Representative Ben Chandler of Kentucky. Meanwhile, Representative Ike Skelton of Missouri and Gov. Michael F. Easley of North Carolina announced their support for Mrs. Clinton.

The first real evidence of whether the controversy has extracted a political price could come on Tuesday. Superdelegates suggested that they would watch closely to see how voters respond in the Indiana and North Carolina primaries and beyond.

Bob Mulholland, a superdelegate from California, said the difficulties Mr. Obama had experienced put a premium on results in the remaining contests.

“We’ve got nine elections to go through June 9,” Mr. Mulholland said in an interview. “I’ve never been involved in a successful presidential race where the candidate had no trouble in the primary. It’s challenging to him. He is a young man, and this is the first time he’s run for president. I see this as a learning experience.”

Asked how he thought Mr. Obama was doing, Mr. Mulholland paused before responding. “Getting better,” he finally said.

The appearances by Mr. Wright, which began Friday and concluded Monday, were anticipated by the Obama campaign, but aides said they were taken aback by the tenor of the remarks. His first interview, with Bill Moyers on PBS, offered few hints of what he intended when he arrived at the National Press Club on Monday.

“At a certain point, if what somebody says contradicts what you believe so fundamentally, and then he questions whether or not you believe it in front of the National Press Club, then that’s enough,” Mr. Obama said. “That’s a show of disrespect to me. It’s also, I think, an insult to what we’ve been trying to do in this campaign.”

Mr. Obama became a Christian after hearing a 1988 sermon of Mr. Wright’s called “The Audacity to Hope.” Joining Mr. Wright’s church helped Mr. Obama, with his disparate racial and geographic background, embrace not only the African-American community but also Africa, his friends and family say.

Mr. Obama had barely known his Kenyan father; Mr. Wright made pilgrimages to Africa and incorporated its rituals into worship. Mr. Obama toted recordings of Mr. Wright’s sermons to law school. Mr. Obama titled his speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention “The Audacity of Hope,” and gave his next book the same name.

As Mr. Wright’s more incendiary statements began circulating widely, Mr. Obama routinely condemned them but did not disassociate himself from Mr. Wright. In his speech in Philadelphia, Mr. Obama tried to explain his pastor through the bitter history of American race relations.

Five weeks later, the men seem finished with each other.

“Whatever relationship I had with Reverend Wright has changed as a consequence of this,” Mr. Obama said Tuesday. “I don’t think that he showed much concern for me. More importantly, I don’t think he showed much concern for what we’re trying to do in this campaign and what we’re trying to do for the American people.”

Jeff Zeleny reported from Winston-Salem, and Adam Nagourney from Indianapolis. Jodi Kantor contributed reporting from New York.

    Obama’s Break With Ex-Pastor Sets Sharp Shift in Tone, NYT, 30.4.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/30/us/politics/30obama.html?hp






Eyes on Blue-Collar Voters, Obama Shifts Style


April 28, 2008
The New York Times


ANDERSON, Ind. — Senator Barack Obama is making subtle changes to his campaign style and message in an effort to strengthen his appeal to blue-collar voters and to avoid a defeat in Indiana that aides fear could give Democratic Party leaders further pause about his viability in a general election.

On Sunday, Mr. Obama went to a Methodist church in Indianapolis, the kind of event rarely on his public schedule. He suited up for a game of basketball on Friday night before television cameras. And the big, energy-filled stadium rallies that were the bread and butter for most of his campaign have once again given way to smaller town-hall-style meetings, where he is seen talking with people and not at them.

Mr. Obama is seeking to absorb the lessons of his defeat in Pennsylvania. The changes reflect concern that he is being portrayed by Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton as distant and culturally out of touch with many working-class Democrats, a worry underlined by her lopsided victory among many of those voters in that state on Tuesday and last month in Ohio.

Mr. Obama, in an appearance with Chris Wallace broadcast over the weekend on “Fox News Sunday,” played down his problems among blue-collar voters, saying that Mrs. Clinton had done better in part because “they are less familiar with me than they are with her, and so we probably have to work harder.”

“I’ve got to be more present,” he said. “I’ve got to be knocking on more doors. I’ve got to be hitting more events. We’ve got to work harder because although it’s flipped a little bit, we’ve always been the underdog in this race.”

In interviews with several associates and aides, Mr. Obama was described as bored with the campaign against Mrs. Clinton and eager to move into the general election against Senator John McCain of Arizona, the presumptive Republican nominee.

So the Obama campaign is undertaking modifications in his approach intended to inject an air of freshness into his style.

In strategy sessions last week, advisers concluded that Mr. Obama, of Illinois, needed to do a better job reminding voters of his biography, including his modest upbringing by a single mother and one of his first jobs as a community organizer helping displaced steel mill workers. He also has to sharpen his economic message, they said, to improve his appeal and connection with voters in hope of capitalizing on the sensibilities that served him well in Midwestern states.

Mr. Obama’s advisers are also debating whether he should give another major speech intended to lay out themes of his candidacy — particularly the change he would bring to Washington — that they fear have been muddled in one of the toughest months of his campaign.

But Mr. Obama swatted aside a call by Mrs. Clinton, of New York, for a debate before the primaries on May 6 in Indiana and North Carolina. His performance in the last debate, before the Pennsylvania primary, was widely viewed as flat and uninspired, and his decision not to risk a rematch suggested a desire to try to keep his message more fully under his control.

Mr. Obama closed his Pennsylvania primary campaign by delivering a sharp scolding of Mrs. Clinton’s record. His tone has since taken a noticeable shift toward the positive, reflecting the view of some of his supporters that the attacks on Mrs. Clinton may have been a mistake.

As a result, they said, he had decided — at least for now — not to take on Mrs. Clinton directly. In one sign of that, he has spent more time trying to shore up his own shortcomings and challenges, often to the point of nearly ignoring her, as he intensified his attacks on Mr. McCain.

But questions face his campaign that were barely discussed among his advisers only a few months ago, when he seemed on the cusp of quickly winning the Democratic nomination. Is his candidacy now off the table for some white voters? Was it bound to happen anyway? Have voters’ concerns about his patriotism and religion become a permanent weight on his biography?

Mr. Obama’s aides said that they remained confident he would win the nomination. “We feel very good about the position that we are in,” said David Axelrod, his chief strategist. “But we have gotten to the position we are in by taking every week and every contest seriously.”

Still, they said they were no longer as hopeful as they once were that the contest could be resolved before June 3, the day of the last primaries. As a result, they were girding for six weeks of attacks by Mrs. Clinton and potential election defeats that could raise further questions among superdelegates — the elected Democrats and party leaders who will ultimately determine the nominee — about Mr. Obama’s strength as a general election candidate.

Mr. Obama’s best hope for avoiding a prolonged contest, associates said, is to defeat Mrs. Clinton here, as well as in North Carolina, next month. Accordingly, Mr. Obama is making a particularly intense effort in this state, which appears highly competitive. Radio and television commercials are blanketing the airwaves. An army of volunteers is being organized to drive into Indiana. The campaign has opened 22 offices in an effort to mimic its success in the Iowa caucuses.

While Mrs. Clinton has raised enough money to compete aggressively in Indiana, Mr. Obama’s overall advantage in fund-raising is allowing him to build a heavier presence in the other states still on the calendar.

A victory in Indiana, some Obama associates said, might make it more difficult for Mrs. Clinton to go on and send even more superdelegates toward his camp. Which was why Mr. Obama, on a trip through central Indiana this weekend, spent his spare minutes dialing uncommitted superdelegates. Back in Chicago, a more sophisticated operation was methodically checking in with superdelegates who had already pledged to Mr. Obama — just to make certain there had not been any slippage.

That said, a loss in Indiana could be problematic for Mr. Obama in no small part because it adjoins his home state. And even before the presidential race, he was a familiar face to voters in northwest Indiana who watch Chicago television stations.

When Mr. Obama walked into his campaign events this weekend, no music played from the loudspeakers. At a stop on Saturday in Marion, Ind., the applause quickly subsided as he took his seat on a stool and listened as a local resident, Bernard Smith, 55, told of how he was laid off from his job at a plant in town after 31 years. His income reduced by half, he now works at the Dollar General store.

Mr. Obama’s sleeves were rolled up, his suit jacket left behind stage. He took questions for nearly an hour, often weaving in the fact that he was raised by a single mother and his grandparents. “Nobody is looking for a handout,” the senator said. “Nobody is looking for easy street.”

In discussions with donors and supporters last week, Mr. Obama’s advisers played down the loss in Pennsylvania, noting that both sides had expected Mrs. Clinton to win there.

Still, the message belied private frustration and disappointment that Mr. Obama shared with a few associates and advisers, particularly over the hardening narrative that he could not appeal to working-class voters, and a personal frustration for comments he made about some small-town voters being “bitter” at their economic conditions. (Mrs. Clinton seized on those remarks, which have shadowed his campaign.)

“Everyone’s got a real calmness about where we are,” said David Plouffe, who is Mr. Obama’s campaign manager, “but a real sense of urgency that we have eight contests coming up in pretty rapid succession.”

Mr. Obama, who often complains aloud about the rigors of the campaign, had been scheduled to spend Sunday with his family in Chicago. But fearful of losing Indiana, he told his advisers that he wanted to campaign, so two events were hastily added.

The senator attended services at St. Luke’s United Methodist Church, a visit intended to help contradict the fictitious rumor that he was not Christian. And in addition to a game of 3-on-3 basketball in Kokomo, he also dropped by the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame.

For the last year, advisers had been reluctant to highlight him playing basketball, thinking it could raise racial stereotypes or make him look less serious. But in Indiana, where basketball is sacrosanct, Mr. Obama scored four baskets and his team won the 20-minute game, a far better showing than his much-derided bowling outing in Pennsylvania.

Jeff Zeleny reported from Anderson, Ind., and Adam Nagourney from Washington.

    Eyes on Blue-Collar Voters, Obama Shifts Style, NYT, 28.4.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/28/us/politics/28obama.html?hp






Clinton Outduels Obama in Primary


April 23, 2008
The New York Times


Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton scored a decisive victory over Senator Barack Obama on Tuesday in the Pennsylvania primary, giving her candidacy a critical boost as she struggles to raise money and persuade party leaders to let the Democratic nominating fight go on.

If Mrs. Clinton did not emerge from the bruising six-week campaign with a race-turning landslide — she still trails Mr. Obama in the popular vote and the delegate count — her victory nonetheless gives her a strong rationale for continuing her candidacy in spite of those Democrats who would prefer to coalesce around Mr. Obama.

Indeed, in her victory speech in Philadelphia on Tuesday night, Mrs. Clinton used the words “fight,” “fighter” and “fighting” repeatedly — not only to promise financially struggling Americans that she would protect them, but also to convey that she had the resolve and confidence to stay in the race.

As for Mr. Obama, the loss only hardened the determination of his advisers to overwhelm Mrs. Clinton’s campaign with his substantial financial advantage — he took in $42 million in March to her $21 million — and with the cold calculus that he is still solidly ahead in their pursuit of the 2,025 delegates needed to win the Democratic nomination. In his concession speech, he kept the focus on the presumptive Republican nominee, Senator John McCain, a subject Mrs. Clinton avoided in her address.

Incomplete returns from Pennsylvania showed Mrs. Clinton leading 55 percent to 45 percent, with her victory propelled by her strong performance among women, older voters and less affluent and less educated voters; among white union members with no college education, she won almost three-quarters of the vote, polling showed.

Even as she celebrated, Mrs. Clinton nodded to the stiff challenges ahead for her campaign, not the least of them Mr. Obama’s financial advantage. In her speech, she implored her supporters to log onto her fund-raising Web site and “and show your support tonight because the future of this campaign is in your hands.” (Campaign officials said late Tuesday that they were having their best night ever in fund-raising online, bringing in $2.5 million in less than four hours.)

And she also defiantly acknowledged the Democrats and the pundits who have called on her to end her candidacy.

“Some people counted me out and said to drop out, but the American people don’t quit, and they deserve a president who doesn’t quit either,” Mrs. Clinton said to fervent cheers and applause at her victory party, where she was joined by former President Bill Clinton and their daughter, Chelsea, as well as two key supporters in the state, Gov. Edward G. Rendell and Mayor Michael Nutter of Philadelphia.

While Mrs. Clinton repeatedly sounded economically populist notes in her speech, Mr. Obama touched on those themes but was also more expansive in his remarks on Tuesday night, sharply criticizing Mr. McCain, as offering “more of the same” of President Bush’s policies. Mr. Obama left Pennsylvania late Tuesday to make his remarks in Indiana, which holds its primary on May 6, along with North Carolina.

Returning to his long-standing themes of unity and hope, Mr. Obama said: “We can continue to slice and dice this country into red states and blue states. We can exploit the divisions that exist in our country for pure political gain. Or this time, we can build on the movement we’ve started in this campaign.”

Yet Mr. Obama also faces challenges ahead: According to Republican Party officials, party members in North Carolina — which holds its primary on May 6 — are considering running an advertisement against Mr. Obama that highlights his ties to controversial figures like his former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr. That ad could have the effect of adding a racially divisive element to that Southern state’s primary.

The Indiana primary, on the same day, poses another make-or-break moment for Mrs. Clinton, according to several of her advisers, who said they would urge her to quit the race if she lost that state. Mrs. Clinton, Mr. Clinton and their allies have campaigned frequently in Indiana in recent weeks, and she has some important endorsements, including support from Senator Evan Bayh, the state’s former governor.

“She has to win Pennsylvania and Indiana — pretty much everyone in the campaign agrees on that,” said one senior Clinton adviser, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the campaign’s electoral expectations.

The Pennsylvania race turned into a mammoth political battle in recent days, with both candidates pouring millions of dollars into television advertising — much of it negative — and criticizing each other relentlessly on the campaign trail. Mrs. Clinton questioned Mr. Obama’s electability and attacked him for saying that struggling Americans were “bitter,” while Mr. Obama tried to shave her lead in opinion polls.

Mrs. Clinton faces major challenges: her campaign is essentially out of money, with unpaid bills piling up, and she faces growing frustration among some Democratic officials who would prefer her to end her campaign in recognition of Mr. Obama’s lead in the overall popular vote of the primaries and caucuses so far, as well as his continuing edge toward amassing the 2,025 delegates needed to secure the nomination. And Tuesday’s night’s results likely did little to cut into his edge on that front.

Mrs. Clinton’s campaign spent Tuesday planning a fresh fundraising drive to trying to capitalize on her performance in Pennsylvania, while other aides mapped out political strategy and staff movement to Indiana and North Carolina.

Clinton advisers said they realized they had tough challenges ahead. Chief among them, besides paying bills and financing new advertising, was persuading impatient Democratic superdelegates — party leaders and elected officials — to remain neutral in the contest and let the remaining primaries play out through early June.

The Pennsylvania Democrats who cast their ballots in Tuesday’s primary did so with the economy weighing heavily on their minds, according to surveys of voters leaving polling places. Those surveys showed that more than half the voters questioned believe that the worsening state of the American economy is the most important issue confronting the country, with about 90 percent saying the United States has already slipped into a recession.

Half of those polled also said that they were looking for a candidate who could bring about change, which has been the main theme of Mr. Obama’s campaign. Mr. Obama leads in delegates, but has consistently trailed Mrs. Clinton in polls taken in Pennsylvania, though the gap had been closing in recent days.

About one-quarter of those who participated in the exit polling, conducted by Edison/Mitofsky for five television networks and The Associated Press, endorsed the idea that experience, which Mrs. Clinton has emphasized in her campaign, is the most important quality to be sought in a candidate. For the polling, the margin of sampling error in the sample of 40 precincts across the state was plus or minus four percentage points.

Both candidates performed strongly among the same constituencies that have supported them in other primary states. Mr. Obama was backed overwhelmingly by black voters and also scored well among voters younger than 45 and college graduates, the results show. Trailing Mr. Obama over all in both the national popular vote and in the competition for delegates, Mrs. Clinton’s advisers said Tuesday that they were girding for a tough spring.

Most difficult would be amassing enough delegates to overcome Mr. Obama’s lead on that front — he now has about 150 more delegates over all. His advisers say that in the coming days, they also plan to roll out additional Obama endorsements from superdelegates, the party leaders and elected officials who have an automatic vote in deciding the nomination and the discretion to choose a candidate.

Clinton advisers said they were already picking states, cities and towns to dispatch staff members and volunteers from Pennsylvania, and budgeting for television advertising. They are also planning a busy travel schedule for the Clintons, their daughter and an army of surrogates; they are expected to focus heavily on Indiana, and to a lesser extent in North Carolina, where Mr. Obama is widely seen as strongly positioned.

A greater concern in the shorter term for Mrs. Clinton is fundraising: Her campaign faces a cash squeeze as unpaid bills mount and she spends more money than she is taking in, according to new campaign finance filings.

The Pennsylvania race was volatile into its final hours. Mrs. Clinton, for instance, surprised some Democrats with a remark about Iran on ABC on Tuesday, when she broke with her practice of avoiding hypothetical questions and commented on a situation in which Iran attacked Israel with nuclear weapons.

“I want the Iranians to know that if I’m the president, we will attack Iran,” she said. “In the next 10 years, during which they might foolishly consider launching an attack on Israel, we would be able to totally obliterate them.”

    Clinton Outduels Obama in Primary, NYT, 23.4.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/23/us/politics/23penn.html






Trailing in Pennsylvania,

Obama’s Tone Is Sharper


April 21, 2008
The New York Times


READING, Pa. — Senator Barack Obama sharpened his tone against Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton on Sunday as the six-week Pennsylvania primary contest raced to a close, with the rivals marshaling extensive resources in a battle for undecided voters and delegates that could determine whether the Democratic nominating fight carries on.

In television commercials and in appearances before crowded rallies, Mr. Obama, of Illinois, cast his opponent in one of the most negative lights of the entire 16-month campaign, calling her a compromised Washington insider. Mrs. Clinton, of New York, responded by suggesting that Mr. Obama’s message of hope had given way to old-style politics and asked Democrats to take a harder look at him.

The fresh skirmishing unfolded across one of the most complicated battlegrounds in the race for the Democratic nomination. Both campaigns deployed thousands of paid workers, volunteers and surrogates to strategic points across the state.

Mr. Obama, seeking to lock up the nomination, was outspending Mrs. Clinton two-to-one on television advertising in the state, with a barrage of commercials assailing her health care plan and suggesting that she was captive to special interests. Mrs. Clinton fired back on Sunday, criticizing his health care plan and saying he was going negative to mask his poor performance in last week’s debate.

Voters in Pennsylvania go to the polls Tuesday, the first to cast ballots since Mr. Obama won the Mississippi primary on March 11. The gap made for the longest campaign in a single state since the opening bell of the presidential contest, in Iowa on Jan. 3, and left time for the candidates to bruise each other, and themselves.

“There’s been a lot of discussion over the last several days about how this campaign gets so negative, how we get distracted, how we exploit divisions,” Mr. Obama told voters in Reading on Sunday afternoon. “Look, our campaign’s not perfect. There’ve been times where, you know, if you get elbowed enough, eventually you start elbowing back.”

A variety of polls show Mrs. Clinton with a lead over Mr. Obama of five or six percentage points, but that is down from about 16 points only weeks ago. Strategists on both sides agreed the race seemed to be narrowing. The chief questions were whether the increasingly pitched campaign would help Mrs. Clinton stop her slide or whether Mr. Obama had regained his momentum.

At a campaign stop in Bethlehem on Sunday, Mrs. Clinton reminded voters about last week’s Democratic debate, in which Mr. Obama was repeatedly on the defensive about recent gaffes and incendiary remarks made by his former pastor. “It’s no wonder my opponent has been so negative these last few days of this campaign,” she said, “because I think you saw the difference between us.”

Mr. Obama was using his fund-raising advantage to pay for a multimillion-dollar campaign that included sophisticated demographic targeting to find supporters in smaller cities across the state, particularly ones with pockets of black voters.

Yet his team was also relying on old-fashioned tools, including sending supporters door-to-door, renting sound trucks to drive through urban neighborhoods and having volunteers serve as “town criers” to pass out literature on city buses.

In their final drives, both candidates barnstormed Pennsylvania with their eye on two different maps: one for the popular vote, the other for delegates. Mrs. Clinton desperately needs to win both to narrow the Obama campaign’s edge on both fronts.

Mr. Obama is also focused on winning delegates to maintain his lead, but he also wants to show he can draw support among the white, working-class voters who have gravitated to Mrs. Clinton.

In an atmosphere where both sides are hedging their expectations, Clinton aides have refused to say what margin of the popular vote she needs to win to stay in the race. The contest for delegates, who are awarded proportionally based on how well the candidates perform in each Congressional district, is likely to be close, but the pressure is on Mrs. Clinton to get at least 50 percent of the delegates.

“The fact that Hillary is crisscrossing a lot of Congressional districts, and Bill is, too, is proof that while everyone is focused on the vote percentages statewide, there is a war for delegates,” said Tony Podesta, who has run several statewide races in Pennsylvania and supports Mrs. Clinton, referring to former President Bill Clinton. “She needs to find ways of closing the delegate gap; she can’t go through all these contests and split the delegates 50-50.”

The intensity of Mr. Obama’s campaign and his willingness to air negative attacks in recent days suggest he harbored hope of ending the Clinton campaign here or avoiding a major loss that would keep the race alive.

Representative Chaka Fattah of Philadelphia, who represents the most delegate-rich district in the state, in Philadelphia, and who supports Mr. Obama, said, “At the end of day, if we can carry more delegates and not have her win in the double digits, that would be great.”

In a new advertisement Sunday, Mr. Obama accused the Clinton campaign of employing “11th hour smears” by suggesting that he takes money from federal lobbyists. He said he had never accepted such money, “not one dime.” After ticking through a list of criticisms against Mrs. Clinton, Mr. Obama asked the crowd at an evening rally, “What kind of inspirational message is that?”

In the final days of the campaign, Mrs. Clinton concentrated on the state’s working-class industrial regions, where she hoped to drive up her support among older, blue-collar voters who are concerned broadly about their economic condition and national security. These voters have proved the most elusive for Mr. Obama, which has led some to question whether he can win their support against Senator John McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee.

Her chief message — captured by an appearance in front of a fire house in suburban West Chester, where she gave a grim assessment of the dangers facing the country — was that she is tough enough to be commander in chief and to take on Mr. McCain, and that Mr. Obama is not.

She has also spent considerable time in the populous Philadelphia suburbs, trying to break through to upscale women, whose gender might lead them to support her but whose class, as measured by income and education, might tilt them toward Mr. Obama. About 40 percent of the state’s Democratic voters live within the Philadelphia media market.

Polls suggest that in the suburbs, Mrs. Clinton is still battling low favorability ratings. It was telling the other day at a forum at Haverford College when she was asked what canvassers should tell voters on her behalf. “Oh, just knock on the door and say, ‘She is really nice,’ ” Mrs. Clinton said. “Or you could say, ‘She is not as bad as you think.’ ”

For his part, Mr. Obama has devoted his time to those same suburbs and reached beyond them to the exurbs, trying to appeal to well-educated, liberal, affluent voters for whom the war in Iraq is a central issue. While his most reliable base is made up of black voters, he has steered clear of Mr. Fattah’s district, the heavily black area of Philadelphia in which Mr. Obama expects to win the most votes and the most delegates. Instead, he has campaigned in each corner of the state, making forays into Mrs. Clinton’s base and trying to capture some of those delegates.

On Sunday evening, he staged a rally in Scranton, where Mrs. Clinton has deep family roots, accompanied by a native son of the city, Senator Bob Casey, who may help with the state’s Catholic, blue-collar voters.

“He’s made progress,” Mr. Casey said. “That doesn’t mean that progress is enough to win the primary here.”

The field operations of both campaigns have added 327,000 Democrats to the voter rolls, many of them 18 to 34 years old. A subsequent poll found 62 percent of the new voters said they planned to vote for Mr. Obama.

Analysts said that the voter-registration drive was an important dry run for Mr. Obama’s field operation in Pennsylvania and that the Obama team may now have the edge in the intense ground game leading up to Tuesday’s vote.

The Obama forces are bolstered by the Service Employees International Union, which is spending nearly $1 million for a door-to-door canvassing operation.

“From what I’ve seen in terms of organization and coordination, the Obama people have run a better campaign,” said Larry Ceisler, a Democratic strategist not affiliated with either campaign (though he has given the maximum amount of money to both).

Mrs. Clinton has employed more of an endorsement strategy and boasts the backing of 100 mayors in the state, including those in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. Bill Clinton and their daughter, Chelsea, are each holding four or five events a day. And a “Women for Hillary” operation is rotating around the suburbs.

Neil Oxman, a media consultant here, estimated that by the end of the six-week campaign, Mr. Obama will have spent more than $9 million on television and Mrs. Clinton will have spent almost $4 million.

Counting what they are spending on direct mail and other get-out-the-vote efforts, he estimates they will have spent $20 million by Tuesday, making this by far the most expensive presidential primary in state history.

Jeff Zeleny reported from Reading, Pa., and Katharine Q. Seelye from Philadelphia.

    Trailing in Pennsylvania, Obama’s Tone Is Sharper, NYT, 21.4.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/21/us/politics/21dems.html?hp






Facing Obama Fund-Raising Juggernaut, Clinton Seeks New Sources of Cash


April 20, 2008
The New York Times


Senator Barack Obama is swamping Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton with television advertising in their prolonged battle for the Democratic nomination, putting fresh pressure on Mrs. Clinton’s fund-raising machine to find new sources of money to help her keep pace.

But her big-dollar fund-raising apparatus that was once the envy of the political world is encountering obstacles as many of those in its regular networks of donors have reached the maximum on their personal contributions or grown tired of the relentless press for donations.

The campaign is actively hunting for new wellsprings of cash, while tapped-out donors who want to give more are contemplating financing independent efforts on her behalf that are not bound by contribution limits. So far, however, the independent efforts have been halting at best.

The scramble for fresh resources comes as the money gap between the two candidates is growing. In March, largely because of a continued advantage in small donations given over the Internet, Mr. Obama was able to raise twice what Mrs. Clinton brought in, collecting $40 million compared with her $20 million. He has been spending it freely in Pennsylvania, hoping to stymie Mrs. Clinton in a contest that could determine whether she stays in the race.

In the weeks leading up to Tuesday’s primary, Mr. Obama has spent more than double Mrs. Clinton’s budget on television advertising — $8.1 million to her $3.2 million, according to the most recent figures available from the Campaign Media Analysis Group, which tracks advertising spending. And with two weeks before more primaries on May 6, Mr. Obama is spending four times Mrs. Clinton’s television budget in Indiana and double her North Carolina total.

The Obama fund-raising juggernaut has some of Mrs. Clinton’s most devoted supporters worried and searching for a new way to support her candidacy. Alan Patricof, a national finance chairman for Mrs. Clinton, said four people had called him in the past month to discuss starting a so-called 527 group — named for the section of the tax code the groups are organized under — on her behalf.

“These are people who have maxed out to Hillary and would like to do a lot more but know they cannot do it through the campaign and thus are looking for other legal ways to give and raise more money under a different status,” Mr. Patricof said. “As I have pointed out, once they do that, they can no longer participate in the finance committee calls and they have to do it outside and away from the campaign itself.”

Such groups are potentially attractive for affluent donors because contributions are not capped as they are for candidates. But campaign finance experts say 527s can be legally treacherous; hefty fines were levied against many of the groups after the 2004 election, and the rules that govern them remain hazy.

The groups are barred from coordinating with campaigns and explicitly calling for the election or defeat of a candidate; instead they are limited to advocating on issues. But exactly what they can say about candidates when they solicit contributions or spend them is sometimes unclear.

One such group, American Leadership Project, which on Wednesday began broadcasting commercials in Pennsylvania praising Mrs. Clinton on health care, offers an indication of how challenging it could be to raise money for an independent effort.

The group has raised only about $1.5 million so far. As a result, it spent only about $425,000 in Pennsylvania, after doling out about $750,000 for commercials in Texas and Ohio earlier this year. It intends to play a more substantial role in Indiana, its leaders said.

Some potential donors have been reluctant to support an effort that they feared could get them into legal trouble. Others wanted the group to attack Mr. Obama, a tactic the group’s leaders have resisted.

Almost all of the group’s money has come from two unions that have endorsed Mrs. Clinton, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which has contributed $1.2 million, and the Machinists Union.

But the list of individual donors is telling in that eight of the nine people who gave $5,000 or more to the group had already given the maximum $2,300 donation for the primary to Mrs. Clinton’s presidential campaign.

Mrs. Clinton’s campaign is particularly affected by the limits on giving because high-dollar contributions remain a staple of her fund-raising. Although her campaign has done a much better job lately of raising money over the Internet, donations of $1,000 or more accounted for about a quarter of the money she raised in February. Nearly 8,000 of her donors appear to have given the maximum of $4,600 for both the primary and the general election, compared with about 2,400 for Mr. Obama.

Over all, contributions of $2,300 account for roughly 37 percent of Mrs. Clinton’s primary receipts, compared with about 24 percent for Mr. Obama.

Even so, Clinton fund-raisers said the amount they had been able to bring in from major donors had held fairly steady this year. Donations of $1,000 or more for the primary totaled about $6 million in January and $8 million in February.

It has become a daily challenge, however, for Clinton fund-raisers to scrounge up new names of people to ask for money or bundle campaign contributions.

Hassan Nemazee, a national finance chairman for Mrs. Clinton’s campaign, said he had been exhorting fund-raisers to “think outside the box.”

“The question we, as fund-raisers, are having to address is, ‘How do you continue the self-renewal when you are 14 or 15 months into a process and you have in many respects tapped your network dry?’ ” Mr. Nemazee said.

He recommends branching out to new geographic areas. “If you stay just focused on your geographic area, it’s very, very difficult to continuously find new people to expand your network,” he said.

The campaign has also been trying to be creative with its events. A recent concert in New York City with Elton John, for example, netted $2.5 million, with tickets from $250 to $2,300.

Beth Dozoretz, another top Clinton fund-raiser, said she initially fretted about finding still another pool of givers when she was asked by the campaign recently to pull together an event at her home in Washington.

But this time, she said, she did not ask for people to bundle contributions of $10,000, $25,000 or $50,000 at a time, as she had done in the past. Instead, she invited a broader circle of people who were asked to cobble together amounts like $3,000 or $5,000. She also opened the event to children, which resulted in mothers bringing their daughters. The event grossed $250,000, she said.

Discussions about independent efforts cropped up this year among Clinton backers, when the campaign found itself essentially in the red leading up to the crush of states that voted on Feb. 5, forcing Mrs. Clinton to lend her campaign $5 million.

Mrs. Clinton has not denounced the groups, though this year her campaign accused Mr. Obama of hypocrisy for what they said was his muted response to a 527 group advertising on his behalf after he had decried the influence of such groups.

The campaign’s fund-raising has since improved, driven by its own surge in online donations. But with Mr. Obama raising and spending so much, the conversations have surfaced anew.

“These are very smart people who are being very thoughtful about it,” said Ms. Dozoretz, a former finance chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee.

One idea considered by some Clinton supporters has been a 527 effort to press for the delegates to be seated in Florida and Michigan, but it has yet to get off the ground.

Despite a pre-emptive warning from Robert Bauer, a campaign finance expert and lawyer for Mr. Obama’s campaign, the organizers of the American Leadership Project have plunged ahead.

The group is filled with people who have ties to the Clintons: Roger Salazar, who worked in the press operation of the Clinton White House and is a political consultant in California, and Paul Rivera, another former Clinton White House staff member and senior political adviser for Senator John Kerry’s presidential campaign in 2004 who worked on Mrs. Clinton’s Senate campaign in 2000.

Jay Eisenhofer, a lawyer in New York who raised at least $100,000 for Mrs. Clinton, making him a “Hillraiser,” gave $50,000 to the group. Richard Ziman, another Hillraiser and Los Angeles real estate magnate, contributed $15,000, and William Titelman, a former Pennsylvania lobbyist and longtime Clinton fund-raiser who gave enough to spend a night in the Lincoln Bedroom, contributed $10,000 and has helped the group raise money.

Griff Palmer contributed reporting.

    Facing Obama Fund-Raising Juggernaut, Clinton Seeks New Sources of Cash, NYT, 20.4.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/20/us/politics/20donor.html






Superdelegates Unswayed by Clinton’s Attacks


April 18, 2008
The New York Times


Throughout their contentious debate on Wednesday, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton tried again and again to put Senator Barack Obama on the defensive in a pointed attempt, her advisers say, to raise doubts about his electability among a small but powerful audience: the uncommitted superdelegates who will most likely determine the nomination.

Yet despite giving it her best shot in what might have been their final debate, interviews on Thursday with a cross-section of these superdelegates — members of Congress, elected officials and party leaders — showed that none had been persuaded much by her attacks on Mr. Obama’s strength as a potential Democratic nominee, his recent gaffes and his relationships with his former pastor and with a onetime member of the Weather Underground.

In fact, the Obama campaign announced endorsements from two more superdelegates on Thursday, after rolling out three on Wednesday and two others since late last week in what appeared to be a carefully orchestrated show of strength before Tuesday’s Pennsylvania primary. Obama advisers said that one of the pickups on Thursday, Councilman Harry Thomas Jr. of the District of Columbia, had initially favored Mrs. Clinton, but Clinton advisers denied that, and a Thomas aide said he had been neutral before Thursday.

In interviews, 15 uncommitted superdelegates said they did not believe that recent gaffes by both candidates would carry any particular influence over their final decision. They said they had particularly tired of all the attention, by the Clinton campaign and the news media, on Mr. Obama’s recent comment that some Americans were “bitter” over the economy and chose to “cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them” as a result.

And if there were some moments of concern reflected in the debate — the talk of Mrs. Clinton’s high unfavorability ratings, Mr. Obama’s flashes of annoyance — they all doubted that those moments would be deal-breakers, either. Instead, most of the superdelegates said they wanted to wait for the results of at least the next major primaries — in Pennsylvania on Tuesday and Indiana and North Carolina two weeks later — before choosing a candidate.

“I feel like we’ve heard a lot about gaffes as they relate to electability, but what really matters to people is how to deal with the economy and create jobs,” said John W. Olsen, an uncommitted superdelegate from Connecticut and president of the A.F.L.-C.I.O. there. “I also want to wait and hear from all of the Democrats in the primaries and caucuses who haven’t had a chance to choose and vote yet.”

Clinton advisers acknowledged that they had not seen short-term evidence that their attacks on Mr. Obama were winning over many superdelegates, and they acknowledged that he had picked up more in recent weeks — though she maintained a narrowing overall lead in them. They predicted, however, that the mounting scrutiny of Mr. Obama would lead superdelegates to cool to his candidacy and come to see her as more of a known quantity, battle tested, and shrewd about the best ways to beat the presumptive Republican nominee, Senator John McCain, in the fall.

“When it comes to picking a candidate, automatic delegates don’t want to guess about what lies behind Door No. 2, they want to know,” said Phil Singer, a Clinton spokesman. “The debate raised more questions about Senator Obama than have been answered, and that means that automatic delegates are likely to keep their powder dry as the process moves forward.”

In response, an Obama spokesman, Hari Sevugan, said Thursday: “Since Feb. 5, Senator Obama has garnered the support of 80 superdelegates to Senator Clinton’s 5. We’ll let the results of Senator Clinton’s ‘kitchen sink’ strategy speak for themselves.”

Some Clinton advisers also said that the focus on Mr. Obama’s “guns or religion” comment was a way to put him on the spot with so-called values voters — in part to offset Mrs. Clinton’s baggage in this area. According to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll, conducted March 28-April 2 with 1,196 registered voters nationwide, 60 percent of them believe Mrs. Clinton shared the values that most Americans tried to live by, and 34 percent did not. Both Mr. Obama and Mr. McCain fared better, with Mr. Obama performing best — 70 percent said he shared those values, and 21 percent said he did not.

Some of the uncommitted superdelegates interviewed said they were concerned about whether Mr. Obama reflected the values and interests of voters in states that Democrats aim to carry in November or hope to steal from Republicans, like some Southern states that they typically do not win in a general election. Yet they said they had had these concerns for some time — and Wednesday night’s debate had not intensified them.

“Obama argues that he will put more states in play, but I haven’t seen him put the coalitions together as strongly as we need to,” said Joe Turnham, an uncommitted superdelegate who is chairman of the Alabama Democratic Party. (Mr. Obama won the Alabama primary in February; Mr. Turnham has known the Clintons for many years.)

“You have to put together blue-collar workers, veterans, seniors and swing evangelical voters and compete in states like West Virginia, Kentucky, Arkansas, Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania,” he added. “I feel like Hillary has shown more strength there.”

Mr. Obama sought to allay concerns about questions of his electability on Thursday. At a campaign stop in Raleigh, N.C., a woman told Mr. Obama that he was “really pummeled during the debate.” She continued, “What is your strategy to beat the Republicans in November?”

“That was the rollout of the Republican campaign against me in November. It happened just a little bit early, but that is what they will do,” Mr. Obama said. “They will try to focus on all these issues that don’t have anything to do with how you are paying your bills at the end of the month. There’s no doubt that I will have to respond sharply and crisply, then pivot to talk about what exactly are we going to do for the economy and what are we going to do about the war in Iraq.”

Until the nominating fight ends, Mr. Obama said, he is “trying to show some restraint.” He added, “I won’t have as much restraint with the Republicans."

Supporters of Mr. Obama have expressed concern about the bitter ferocity of the Democratic race, particularly with Mrs. Clinton and Mr. McCain sounding similar themes of criticism against Mr. Obama. They used Wednesday’s debate as the latest example to superdelegates that the prolonged nominating fight could be damaging to the party.

“And I have to say Senator Clinton looked in her element,” Mr. Obama said, speaking to an audience of North Carolina voters. “She was taking every opportunity to get a dig in there. You know, that’s all right. That’s her right. That’s her right to kind of twist the knife a little bit.”

Indeed, several superdelegates said they had been put off by negative moments in the debate.

“What I’m hearing from voters in this state who have been uncommitted or not solidly behind any candidate is that they are increasingly frustrated with the negativism going on, mostly on her side,” said Patricia Waak, the Colorado state party chairwoman. (Mr. Obama won the Colorado primary in a landslide.)

“In general what I heard this morning was just negative, negative, negative,” Ms. Waak said. “As far as Obama’s comment on guns and religion, mostly what I’ve heard from people in general is, ‘it’s true.’ ”

One superdelegate, Reggie Whitten of Oklahoma, endorsed Mr. Obama on Tuesday because, he said, he believed the candidate needed a new public vote as the Clinton camp was battering him daily over the bitter remark.

“I don’t think all of this divisiveness is helping him, so it was a good time to send a signal of support from a conservative state like Oklahoma that we believe in him,” said Mr. Whitten, a lawyer from a suburb of Oklahoma City.

Jeff Zeleny, George A. Sargia and Marina Stefan contributed reporting.

    Superdelegates Unswayed by Clinton’s Attacks, NYT, 18.4.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/18/us/politics/18dems.html?hp






Clinton, Obama target faith voters at forum


Mon Apr 14, 2008
12:01am EDT
By Ed Stoddard


GRANTHAM, Pennsylvania (Reuters) - Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton defended her support for abortion rights at a faith forum on Sunday, saying the decision to have an abortion was not just about the "potential life" of a child, but the lives of others involved, including the parents.

Clinton and her rival for the Democratic presidential nomination, Barack Obama, attended the event sponsored by Faith in Public Life, a nonpartisan resource center. The Democratic candidates were courting religious activists from across the political spectrum -- a group with clout in U.S. politics.

Abortion is one of the most divisive issues in American politics and many of the evangelical Christian leaders and others in the audience were opposed to abortion rights for religious reasons.

Clinton was pointedly asked during the nationally broadcast forum if she believed life "begins at conception."

"I believe that the potential for life begins at conception ... but for me, it is not only about the potential life, but the other lives involved," Clinton said, noting her Methodist faith and the denomination's own struggle with the issue.

She also reiterated her belief that while abortion should remain legal, it should also be safe and rare.

"Individuals must be entrusted to make this profound decision because the alternative would be such an intrusion of government authority that it would be very difficult to sustain in our open society," she said at the forum held on the campus of Messiah College near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

Obama, whose time on the show followed Clinton's, said "adoption is an option," but stressed that he remained committed to the support of abortion rights.

Also asked if he thought life began at conception, Obama said: "This is something that I have not, I think, come to a firm resolution on. ... I don't presume to know the answer to that question."

The candidates were also asked questions about issues including poverty, human rights and climate change -- issues which have been embraced by the powerful U.S. evangelical movement as it broadens its agenda beyond hot button social issues such as opposition to abortion rights and gay marriage.

"We are going to put in place a cap-and-trade system that controls the amount of greenhouse gases that are going into the atmosphere. ... I think religion can actually bolster our desire to make those sacrifices now," Obama said.

Clinton evoked Christ to explain her concern for the poor.

" ... The incredible demands ... that Christ called us to respond to on behalf of the poor are unavoidable," she said.

The forum was held about a week before Pennsylvania's Democratic primary election, which the Obama camp hopes will clinch the hard-fought contest to pick the party's candidate to run in November's presidential election.

Presumptive Republican presidential nominee John McCain declined an invitation to the forum, raising eyebrows in the evangelical community.

McCain's Republican Party has been much more closely associated with the "faith vote," especially evangelicals. In the 2004 election President George W. Bush got close to 80 percent of the support from white evangelical Protestants who cast ballots in that year's White House election.

But McCain has been uncomfortable talking about his faith -- in marked contrast to Clinton and Obama -- and many conservative Christians have not warmed to him because of his support for stem cell research and other political heresays.

"It's a missed opportunity for him (McCain). You don't get opportunities like this very often and anywhere from 25 to 40 percent of the evangelical vote is up for grabs this year," said Richard Cizik, vice president for governmental affair at the National Association of Evangelicals.

"This vote is up for grabs for a number of reasons, including the broadening of the evangelical agenda," he told Reuters on Sunday ahead of the forum.

    Clinton, Obama target faith voters at forum, R, 14.4.2008, http://www.reuters.com/article/politicsNews/idUSN1129301720080414






Obama Is Moving to Down-to-Earth Oratory for Working People


April 1, 2008
The New York Times


STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — The Speech is his finely polished sword, a transcendent weapon. Seen and heard on a thousand YouTube postings, Senator Barack Obama’s speeches have made a happening of that hoariest of campaign forms, the stump speech.

But Mr. Obama sheaths that sword more often now. He is grounding his lofty rhetoric in the more prosaic language of white-working-class discontent, adjusting it to the less welcoming terrain of Pennsylvania. His preferred communication now is the town-hall-style meeting.

So in Johnstown, a small, economically depressed city tucked in a valley hard by the Little Conemaugh River, Mr. Obama on Saturday spoke to the gritty reality of a city that ranks dead last on the Census Bureau’s list of places likely to attract American workers. His traveling companion, Senator Bob Casey, Democrat of Pennsylvania, introduced the candidate as an “underdog fighter for an underdog state.”

Mr. Obama, a quicksilver political student, picked up that cue. He often mentions his background as a community organizer but in passing, a parenthetical. Not this time. “I got into public service as an organizer,” Mr. Obama told these 1,200 mostly white Pennsylvanians in a local high school gymnasium. “There were a group of churches, mostly Catholic parishes, and they hired me for $12,000 plus car fare.”

That detail drew knowing chuckles in a town where the median income hovers at just over $20,000. “So I got myself believing that the most important thing is not to be an elected official but to hold them accountable.”

Then, echoing Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton’s focus on bread-and-butter concerns, Mr. Obama went on to talk about the price of gas and to offer the precise amount of his health care premium and to explain exactly what he would do about the foreclosure rate and Big Oil and Big Energy and how he would stop companies from moving to China.

On Monday, he added a dollop of denunciation of corporate salaries at Countrywide, a company at the center of the subprime loan implosion. “So they get a $19 million bonus while other folks are losing their homes,” he said in Lancaster. “What’s wrong with this picture?”

Mr. Obama’s effort to master a plain-spoken and blunt language that extends back centuries in Pennsylvania is accompanied by no small stakes. Voters here, as in neighboring Ohio, where Mr. Obama lost the white and aging blue-collar vote, tend to elect politicians whose language rarely soars and whose policy prescriptions come studded with detail.

“The problem with talking about hope all the time is that these are not hopeful lands; Obama is talking change to people who equate change with life getting worse,” said Hank Sheinkopf, a Democratic Party consultant who has studied the political culture of these working-class states with a Talmudic intensity.

Mrs. Clinton, Mr. Obama’s Democratic rival, has studied this argot. Her style of declamation tends toward that of the school valedictorian, but she grounds her talks in detail after detail after detail — her plan for stanching foreclosures, for tuberculosis, for tax breaks and so on and on, every program coming with a precise dollar sign attached.

A thrill these talks are not, but G. Terry Madonna, director of the Center for Politics and Public Affairs at Franklin & Marshall College, noted that politics that attended to the precarious details of life could provide comfort to the hard-pressed.

“If you’re an unemployed steelworker, a former coal miner, you want to know about job training, who pays your health care,” Dr. Madonna said. “Obama’s speeches are uplifting but without much specificity, and that’s a tough sell for working people who don’t live in a world of ideas.”

Mr. Obama grabbed a big chunk of the male working-class vote in Wisconsin, and another chunk in Virginia and in Maryland. But Pennsylvania is both blue-collar and aging — it has the third highest median age in the nation. And that has proved to be a troublesome demographic for him and a rich target for Mrs. Clinton.

So, noted David Axelrod, Mr. Obama’s chief political strategist, voters can expect to hear the candidate emphasizing his organizing roots. “What we want to do is acquaint people with that dimension of his history,” Mr. Axelrod said. “A lot of this can be pleasing, but empty patter unless you can establish your authenticity.”

His challenge comes laden with complication. Pennsylvania’s culture, as the historian David Hackett Fischer noted in his book “Albion’s Seed,” is rooted in the English midlands, where Scandinavian and English left a muscular and literal imprint. These are people distrustful of rank, and finery, and high-flown words. It should come as no surprise that the word “blather” originated here.

Mr. Obama does not shrink from arguing that the days when high school graduates could find good-paying union job in mills and factories are gone. In Johnstown, he spoke of retrofitting shuttered steel mills into high-tech factories to build wind-powered turbines.

“I don’t want to make a promise that I can bring back every job that was in Johnstown,” he said. “That’s not true.”

Some in the audience applauded; others sat stolidly.

“There is a romance in the Rust Belt about bringing back those old industrial jobs and the culture those jobs represented,” Mr. Sheinkopf said. “Their message to a politician is, Restore our jobs, restore our culture.”

(Senator John McCain, now the presumptive Republican nominee, took this same lesson in the Michigan primary, when he suggested that high-paying industrial jobs were a thing of the past. His opponent, Mitt Romney, insisted he could somehow summon that lost time, and he won handily).

The candidate’s best weapon in this race just might be Senator Casey. Laconic to the core, a politician who dominates the working-class cities of Scranton and Wilkes-Barre, he seems intent on refashioning his candidate — still very much a long shot in the primary. In his telling, Mr. Obama is nearly a shot-and-a-beer guy.

“We can’t just curse the darkness. We have to do our best to roll up our sleeves,” Mr. Casey said. “He’ll fight for your jobs, and your families’ jobs. Understand this: All of our battles are his battles.”

Mr. Obama stood and watched; he might as well have been taking notes.

Obama Is Moving to Down-to-Earth Oratory for Working People, NYT, 1.4.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/01/us/politics/01obama.html




home Up