Barck Obama "began his final push" before IN and NC "by acknowledging the potential damage the Rev. Jeremiah Wright controversy may have done to his candidacy." Asked his biggest worry or his biggest weakness heading into 5/6, Obama said at a presser in Indianapolis this a.m., "Obviously we've had to fight through, over the last week, an awful lot of noise. That's, that's just a fact."
More Obama: "I have no doubt that these are going to be tight races. This campaign has been tight throughout. But I am very confident that the American people are looking for the kind of truth telling and serious policy making that is going to have an impact on their lives. And as long as I am talking about the issues that matter to them, I think we have a terrific chance."
Obama "said he hoped to reach as many people as possible in the coming days" to fight what he called a "caricature" of he and his wife as "elitist, pointy-headed intellectual types."
Obama also "launched into another vigorous defense of his opposition to the gas tax holiday," saying: "Sen. Clinton does have some support for her plan in Congress. After all, the person who first proposed it was John McCain. So I guess when she says 'are you with us or against us' -- Senator Clinton is referring to her and John McCain. That's one vote she's got, because on this issue, Hillary Clinton and John McCain are reading from the same political playbook" (Jones, NBC/National Journal, 5/2).
Pennies From Heaven
Obama's camp has launched a new ad in IN, "Pennies," responding to Clinton's ad on the gas tax holiday and highlighting "the criticism Hillary Clinton's gas tax plan has received from policy experts." Full script:
ANNCR: "Another negative ad from Hillary Clinton. But here's what she's NOT saying. USA Today calls her three-month gas tax holiday 'political pandering.' It's an election year-gimmick, saving Hoosiers just pennies a day. Barack Obama's plan? Take on price-gouging by oil companies. Tax their windfall profits. Invest in alternative energy. Give working families a permanent, thousand-dollar tax cut to help with rising costs. That's change we can believe in." OBAMA: "I'm Barack Obama and I approve this message" (release, 5/2).
Is He Having The "Wright Effect" On Superdelegates?
Obama's "sharp denunciation" of Wright "has superdelegates moving in his direction" -- those who backed Obama this week cited Obama's "reaction as one of the reasons for backing him" (Youngman, The Hill, 5/1).
Among them, MA superdelegate/ex-DNC Chair Paul Kirk publicly endorsed Obama 5/2. Kirk: "After the attention paid to the poisonous and polarizing diatribe of recent days, Senator Obama's clear and compelling message which appeals to our best instincts as Americans is more important than ever." Obama "is the one candidate who has and will continue to expand the electorate beyond the traditional" Dem base, and "will not take us back but will lead us to a new future."
According to the camp, Kirk is the 253rd superdelegate to endorse Obama, and he's 279 delegates away from the Dem nod.
The camp also notes press reports had Kirk backing Obama previously, but he's only now included in the camp's total (release, 5/2). Clinton spokesperson Phil Singer highlights this, arguing, "In their zeal to divert attention from their recent troubles," Obama's camp is announcing what is "NOT a new endorsement -- Mr. Kirk has been publicly backing Senator Obama since at least February" (release, 5/2).
Meanwhile, in a 5/1 interview, unaligned superdelegate/Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC) "blasted" Wright's treatment of Obama, saying, "I was absolutely saddened when it became clear to me Rev. Wright, rather than providing a shoulder for his parishioner to stand on, was engaged in some kind of knee-capping operation. That's not the kind of anatomical analogy we ought to be involved in."
But Clyburn noted that Obama picked up superdelegate nods from ex-DNC Chair Joe Andrew and Rep. Baron Hill (D-IN) this week, and said of Wright, "Just because one sets out to do damage doesn't mean it will be successful. I don't think it was successful" (Weisman, "The Trail," WashingtonPost.com, 5/1).
Still, "a bevy of new polls seemed to show Obama is suffering from the 'Wright Effect'." Obama spokesperson Bill Burton argued "the polls were less important than the steady flow of superdelegates" (Thrush, Newsday, 5/1).
Toss Me A Cold One
"In an effort to turn his campaign's storyline past" Wright, Obama "decidedly downsized the show" while campaigning across northern IN 5/1. "He met with small groups of voters, stopped at a VFW hall and even played a quick game of P-I-G basketball" in Union Mills -- "he said he did not have time for H-O-R-S-E" (McCormick, "The Swamp," Chicago Tribune, 5/1).
Obama was "intent" on "reassuring" older, white IN voters "that he believes in their same values and shares their patriotism," saying in Columbia City: "What I want to do is spend more time listening than talking. It's been wonderful to see these big crowds, but the problem is you don't really learn much listening to yourself talk." Obama "tells most audiences now the story of his Kansas-born grandparents," and he's "started to conclude nearly every one of his campaign events with a forceful recitation of his values."
"At four campaign events" 5/1, the subject of Wright "was not broached publicly." It was, "though, on the minds of several voters who filled his small audiences" (Zeleny, New York Times, 5/2).
Some highlights from IN 5/1:
• Obama "appeared to charm quite a few in the largely female, retirement-age audience" at the Oak Pointe senior housing complex in Columbia City, who "listened to and questioned a presidential candidate quite young enough to be their grandson." Obama talked about health care, Social Security and gas prices, but was asked by one resident "why he doesn't wear an American flag pin on his lapel" (Smith, Fort Wayne Journal Gazette, 5/2).
• "Standing in a 4-H barn among hay bales and farm families," Obama held a forum on rural and ag. policy at the Joseph Co. Fairgrounds in South Bend, "seeking to dispel the notion that he can't connect with small-town Americans" before "a few dozen largely supportive Hoosiers" (Trowbridge, Detroit News, 5/1).
• Obama made a "surprise" stop at VFW Post 1954 in North Liberty, splitting his time "between asking veterans when they served, sipping on a can of Budweiser, and talking about campaign issues with locals." At "a table near the covered pool table, he set down his can of Bud, plopped into a chair, and had a lengthy conversation about gas prices and health care." One local reported the appearance "didn't feel contrived" (Ronco, South Bend Tribune, 5/2).
• Playing his "metaphor-filled" game of P-I-G with eighth grader/supporter Aaron Evers, it took Obama "roughly seven minutes to win the game." Obama, "before missing a shot": "I gotta finish you up right here." More Obama: "We want to make it close to add to the drama, don't we?" Obama, before "sinking the winning shot": "You know, he's tough. He keeps on coming back. He's like Hillary" (Jones, NBC/National Journal, 5/1).
• Also in IN 5/1, Michelle Obama and Caroline Kennedy met with 26 women at a Jeffersonville day-care center. Asked what advice she has "for those of us who would be devastated" if Obama leads in delegates but Clinton wins the nod at the convo, M. Obama said: "We have to help by not letting it get to that." After "talking with the women for more than an hour," M. Obama "read and talked with a group of 4-year-olds in the day care and then hugged each one before she left" (Hershberg, Louisville Courier-Journal, 5/2).
• "25 black ministers from across Indianapolis" gathered at the spot where RFK announced the death of MLK and "praised God" for the "miracle" of Obama's candidacy (King, Indianapolis Star, 5/2).
Watching And Waiting
NBC's Mitchell, on how he can close the race: "Let me bottom-line it. He can put her out of misery, or put her into misery. He can end this race, if he wins Indiana" ("Hardball," MSNBC, 5/1).
Politico's Simon: "I think he has to win ... both states" ("Hardball," MSNBC, 5/1).
MSNBC's Scarborough, on whether NC and IN losses would damage Obama: "I don't want to overstate what Barack Obama has done this week. I really do think talking to superdelegates and Congress and across the country, they're breathing a sigh of relief, because they believe that Barack Obama probably has this locked up. They're breathing a sigh of relief because of what he did with Jeremiah Wright. I will tell you, even if he loses Indiana and North Carolina, they won't be happy, but they will think he's less damaged. And he's so much closer now to getting the nomination because of these superdelegates than he was just three days ago" ("Race for the WH," 5/1).
New York Times' Harwood: "If [Obama] loses Indiana and North Carolina, he's got a big problem" ("Race for the WH," MSNBC, 5/1).
Love, It's A Switch
Joe Andrew held a presser 5/1 to announce his decision to switch his superdelegate support from Clinton to Obama. He argued Clinton's support for a gas tax holiday was "politically expedient to give a quick pander to Hoosier voters," while Obama's run a more "principled" campaign (Pearson/McCormick, Chicago Tribune, 5/1).
Andrew also said he expected the Clintons to "call me a traitor, an opportunist and a hypocrite." That, "Andrew said, is the old-style politics he used himself -- and that Obama can change" (Indianapolis Star, 5/2).
Clinton's camp, meanwhile, "rejected Andrew's contention that the continued battle was damaging the party." Clinton spokesperson Howard Wolfson: "We just couldn't disagree with that more, and more importantly voters couldn't disagree with that more, given the fact that this process has attracted a record number of voters" (Pearson/McCormick, Chicago Tribune, 5/1).
Andrew made the TV rounds to discuss his decision. Some highlights:
MSNBC's Olbermann: "I characterize all this earlier, as you saying in essence that supporting Senator Clinton at this point amounts to helping only one person in this equation, John McCain. Are those accurate words or am I putting too tough words in your mouth?"
Andrew: "Well, I think the point I've made is we have a lot of important primaries yet to come. But after Tuesday, it is literally clearly mathematically impossible for either one of these candidates to become the nominee without the superdelegates. John McCain is going to have millions of people who vote for him in the primaries yet to come, but because he's the presumptive nominee, only is people get to vote, but he gets to put together a fall campaign and go out there and do what's necessary to win the presidency. ... We need to do the same thing. We need to rally around Barack Obama."
MSNBC's Olbermann: "I imagine that this is a deeply personal question for you as it has been for many of us, me especially. What happened to Senator Clinton in this campaign? Why have so many Democrats moved away in a fashion not dissimilar to the one you described today?"
Andrew: "Well, you know, you can be for somebody without being against the other person who's running. I don't think it's a question of many people moving away from Senator Clinton as it is that Barack Obama is a magnet. People are being drawn to him because he is saying things that are different. He is acting different than any other candidate we've seen.There are great United States senators and governors out there who all doing the same kind of thing that Hillary Clinton is doing [and] they're doing a great job. It's just Barack Obama stands alone as a principled figure trying to give complex answers to very serious and complex problems" ("Countdown," MSNBC, 5/1).
Andrew, asked if he has talked to or plans to talk to Clinton: "No. One of the reasons that I've switched is because Barack Obama has inspired me to get out of this political theater. You know I've sparred with everybody from Lee Atwater to Karl Rove. I think all of us on the Democratic side may have learned the wrong lesson from that, which is that we just need to take this game and play it better than the other side. I didn't call Barack Obama and ask for permission, and I didn't call Hillary Clinton and ask for forgiveness."
MSNBC's Scarborough: "What you're saying, Joe, is you're scared of Hillary Clinton?"
Andrew: "No. Again, because what I did was took a lesson out of what happened to Bill Richardson. All Bill Richardson got asked is what did they say, and it turned out to be a negative to Hillary Clinton because of very uncomfortable conversations they had" ("Morning Joe," MSNBC, 5/2).
He also appeared with Clinton chair Terry McAuliffe on "American Morning" this a.m.
McAuliffe, asked how significant Andrew's defection to Obama is for Clinton: "Well, one or two superdelegates either way at this stage doesn't really matter. ... Listen, superdelegates [are] going to come and go ... but you can feel the momentum ... and I think you're going to see a lot more superdelegates come over to Hillary's side."
Andrew, on the basis for his argument that a vote for Clinton is a vote that eventually will assist McCain: "It's just mathematically impossible ... for Hillary Clinton to pick up enough delegates to be ahead of Barack Obama at the end of this process. We need these elections to go on, [but] ... we still need to have a presumptive nominee, and get about the business of trying to take on John McCain and make sure we've got a Democrat who wins in the fall."
McAuliffe: "It's up to the voters, it's not up to superdelegates, or anyone else at this stage. Let everybody vote, and on the morning of June 4th, I do believe the superdelegates will begin to make their decision, and their decision's gonna be, who can best beat John McCain? Hillary Clinton beats John McCain in Ohio and Florida today. And if you win those, you win the election."
Andrew, comparing an extended Dem primary to a virus: "All my good friends who I love in the Clinton campaign have been taken over by a virus. That's why they want another month, as to try to infect a whole bunch of people with that virus."
McAuliffe: "Listen, first of all, he should not characterize all the Clinton people. These people have been working on this campaign now for 16 months. I've known Hillary for 25 years. I adore the woman, that's why I'm out every single day. I am proud of what she has done for this country. I am proud for 35 years..."
Andrew: "So am I."
McAuliffe: "...She has fought on education and health care..."
Andrew: "So am I."
McAuliffe: "...And let's keep this debate above it. It is up to the voters in these 9 upcoming states. Keep the personal attacks out of it, let's keep it to issues. And when you keep it to issues, that's why Hillary Clinton won Pennsylvania by 10 points, after having been outspent 3 to 1. And I feel very comfortable about where we are in these upcoming contests."
Andrew, on saying Clinton is "pandering" by supporting the gas tax holiday: "Well there's no question that it's politically popular to try to give people a break. ... The reality here ... [is] that we've got a choice, not between right and wrong and good and bad, but between two goods and two rights. Both these candidates are great public servants. The question is, which one of them is going to stand up and answer tough questions with complicated answers, to make sure that we do the things that are not politically expedient, but are right for our future."
McAuliffe: "Yeah, I agree with Joe. ... Hillary is the whole package. But let's give a little money back to the people. They need it, they're hurting. We should do it, it's the right thing to do" (CNN, 5/2).
Good Show, Good Show
Pundits also had lots to say on the Andrews switch:
• Syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer, on superdelegate/ex-DNC chair Joe Andrew switching his allegiance to Obama: "[It] tells you Democrats are calculating that there is no way the party will take the nomination away from Obama because it would split it in a way that would create a rupture that would last a generation.And they probably calculate that they're going to win this election anyway in such a heavily Democratic year. But I loved Andrew's performance. It was not just telling, it was entertaining the way he had a heavy heart in this abandonment" ("Special Report," FNC, 5/1).
• CNN's Crowley: "He's one superdelegate. His vote matters as much as anyone else's, but no more so. ... Obviously, this is someone who was with Clinton, someone who knows the Clintons, someone who was appointed by a Clinton or selected, at least, to head the Democratic Party. So, there is a real boost here in terms of perception. And ... there's a lot of perception in politics" ("AC 360," 5/1).
• Politico's Simon: "It is a big plus ... for Barack Obama. It's not just another superdelegate but it's the chairman of the Democratic National Committee under Bill Clinton. And it's not just a pick-up of one superdelegate, it is a switch from Clinton to Obama. And his reasoning is, 'Hey, you can't overturn the voice of the people. You really can't tell black Americans and young Americans that we've got an escape clause to keep Barack Obama out of the White House, and we're going to exercise it'" ("Hardball," MSNBC, 5/1).
• CNN's J. King: "It is moderately significant. ... Number one, he's very well-liked and very well-respected inside the state of Indiana, which he says is his home. And, so, it could give Barack Obama a boost among Democratic activists there. Number two, it is one more, as Barack Obama tries to close the one place where Hillary Clinton still does have a lead, among the superdelegates. ... This, more than anything, is a sign that, guess what, there's also a lot of Clinton fatigue in the Democratic Party -- Joe Andrew giving voice to those who say, yes, maybe Barack Obama is not perfect, but the longer this goes on ... the more she's helping the Republicans" ("AC 360," 5/1).
• Washington Post's Bacon: "This is an argument that the Obama campaign has made and Andrew was making today, too. I think superdelegates who will respond to this probably to some extent have already endorsed Senator Obama. I think this is an argument ... that other people have already heard, to some extent. So, I'm not sure it really hurts her in that department as much. I don't think it's a huge hurt for Senator Clinton."
• Bay Buchanan: "I would disagree, because, right now, the key here is the superdelegates. And this trouble that Obama's had in the last two weeks, he's still picking them up. He's closing on her on the superdelegates. ... And as he picks more and more superdelegates, this is clear she cannot win it" ("Election Center," CNN, 5/1).
• Washington Post's Richburg: "If Bill Richardson out there in New Mexico was called Judas for his betrayal, I'm not quite sure what this is going to be called. ... It's fascinating on a couple of levels because he did this after this whole kind of controversy over Reverend Wright and he's somebody who knows the Clintons very well" ("Lou Dobbs Tonight," CNN, 5/1).
Someone's Still Crushing
NYC Mayor Mike Bloomberg, "who has been dangling his endorsement" in front of the '08ers for months, "praised" Obama for opposing a federal gas tax holiday 5/1. Bloomberg called the idea, supported by Clinton and McCain, "about the dumbest thing I've heard in a long time." Bloomberg: "I just do not think it is intelligent tax policy and it is not a good energy policy. I thought in this case Obama had it right" (Lucadamo, New York Daily News, 5/2).
Meanwhile, WV state Aud. Glen Gainer endorsed Obama 5/1, saying, "Voters are sick and tired of Washington political gimmicks like the gas tax holiday proposal" (Searls, Charleston Gazette, 5/2).
If I Can't Have Chris Dodd, I Guess Barack Will Do
Donors "who previously backed also-ran" Dem '08ers have adopted Obama "as their second choice, preferring Obama by a ratio of 3 to 1" over Clinton "and giving him twice as much money." FEC records show Obama has collected more than $2M to Clinton's $900K from donors who previously backed other candidates. This "underscores a phenomenon apparent throughout" the primary -- that some voters take an "Anybody but Clinton" view (Morain, Los Angeles Times, 5/2).
Omega 3 For Obama
"A week after" Clinton issued what she called her "Oregon Compact," Obama "issued his own set of priorities" for OR. Obama "said he would work to continue" a program that funds timber-dependent counties; "give the state ultimate siting authority over liquified natural gas terminals; and restore depleted salmon runs along the Pacific coast" (AP, 5/1).
Finally, Someone Gets That Kitchen Sink Line Correct
How Wright's playing among pols and voters got more play today:
• Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) "said he doesn't believe someone could sit in church for 20 years and not be influenced by his preacher." But, Burr said of the NC GOP's ad attacking Obama: "I don't believe when someone is committing suicide that it's necessarily your responsibility to help them. I think he's doing an excellent job of doing that on his own right now. I don't know why anybody would jump into the fray" (Zagaroli, Charlotte Observer, 5/2).
• Obama supporter/AZ Gov. Janet Napolitano (D) "said she thinks" Obama's emphasis on health care, education and jobs "is swaying voters in her state and across the West." Napolitano: "I think Senator Obama has had everything but the kitchen sink thrown at him and he has handled it all with grace and aplomb" (Lofholm, PoliticsWest.com, 5/1).
• "Interviews with dozens" of WI Dems and party activists "in recent days revealed no one who regretted voting for Obama since the Wright kerfuffle, 'bitter' comments, and loss" in PA (Hurt, New York Post, 5/2).
Analysis and commentary in the press surrounding Wright, black voters and racial issues also continued:
• "Many black voters are making it very clear" that they're concerned Obama "is going to be denied" a Dem nod "they see as rightfully his, and if that happens, a lot of them may stay home in November" (Lightman/Douglas, McClatchy, 5/2).
• Wright "has found staunch support in the pulpits of black churches around" NC, but "the people in the pews, however, are far less accepting" (Robertson, New York Times, 5/2).
• AP's Gorski writes, Obama's break with Wright "is putting black pastors and their congregations in a difficult position, their loyalties divided between a politician who could be the first black" POTUS "and a celebrated preacher who many believe has been vilified" (5/1).
• Raleigh News & Observer's Shimron: "For many black voters, the break between" Obama and Wright "presents a conflict between a new vision of race in America and civil rights-era disaffection toward the government" (5/2).
• Maryland Gazette's Lee: "Like Obama, millions of American blacks must also choose" to "buy into the system with Obama" or "sing 'God Damn America' with Reverend Wright. Their decision will show us how far America's really come in racial reconciliation" (5/2).
And many columnists continued to weigh in. Some highlights:
• Washington Post's Krauthammer: Obama's "20-year association with Wright calls into question everything about Obama ... It's hard to think of an act more blatantly expedient than renouncing Wright when his show, once done from the press club instead of the pulpit, could no longer be 'contextualized'" as it was in Obama's Philly speech (5/2).
• New York Times' Haberman writes, Rudy Giuliani, McCain and Obama "should sit down at some point to talk one another through their troubles with the clergy." They "could discuss the matter over bowls of strozzapreti," a kind of pasta whose name means "priest strangler" (5/2).
• Philadelphia Inquirer's John-Hall notes, "I doubt McCain will walk away from Hagee. He won't have to. The rules are not the same" (5/2).
• Washington Times' Sherwood writes, if Obama "wants to be the leader of all Americans, he must clearly and decisively separate himself" from "black liberation theology and those churches and pastors that preach it as truth. Why he hasn't done so is a question that still has been neither asked nor answered" (5/2).
• Chicago Sun-Times' Huntley: "The controversy resonates because Americans are still learning who this newcomer to the national political stage is" (5/2).
• Washington Post's Gerson writes, for Obama, "transcending" is "often indistinguishable" from "condescending" (5/2).
One Less Thing To Worry About
Northwestern Univ., "which plans to have alum Jerry Springer give its law school commencement address, yanked its offer to award an honorary doctoral degree" to Wright at the main graduation ceremony next month, "apparently for the first time in school history." Wright was selected by a faculty cmte and "was not scheduled to address the crowd" (Toomey/Esposito, Chicago Sun-Times, 5/2).
Northwestern pres. Henry Bienen, wrote a letter to Wright rescinding the offer of an "honorary doctorate of sacred theology," saying, "In light of the controversy surrounding statements made by you that have recently been publicized, the celebratory character of Northwestern's commencement would be affected by our conferring of this honorary degree" (Cohen, Chicago Tribune, 5/2).
Under the header "Obama's Other Radical Friends," "Prozac Nation" author Elizabeth Wurtzel writes in the Wall Street Journal about Obama's ties to ex-Weather Underground members William Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn, and how America "can accept the '60s as necessary, but can't quite forgive." Since Obama "is too young to have a '60s story to tell, the Weatherman connection becomes his syndrome by proxy." In "acting as if the American people are thinking with their brains" about this, he's "giving us a lot of credit. Could it be that we deserve it?" (5/2).
But Back To Taxes
Temple Univ. law prof. Alice Abreu writes in the Philadelphia Inquirer, only Obama "proposes to change the very process of filling out a tax return" to make it simpler, and his proposal for having the IRS effectively send taxpayers a bill "reflects a creative new vision" (5/2).
Do You Believe There's One Perfect Candidate For Every Consultant?
Washington Post's Kaiser profiles Obama chief strategist David Axelrod, who ha been "a player-coach" for the camp. Axelrod's "troops clearly adore him, and he goes out of his way to praise their accomplishments." Axelrod friend/ex-Chicago Tribune sportswriter Sam Smith: "He loves his candidates when he starts," but when the love fades, "he's usually let down when he finishes [a campaign]." But, Smith says, "This time he found a candidate who isn't letting him down. Obama is the one different guy."
Axelrod: "When we started this campaign, I said to Barack, in many ways idealism died with [RFK], and we needed to rekindle that. And if we did this right, perhaps we could help to that" (5/2).
Stupid Politician Tricks
Obama stopped by CBS' "Late Show" to deliver the "Top Ten Surprising Facts About Barack Obama" 5/1. See highlights on today's Play of the Day.
This article appears in the May 2, 2008 edition of Latest Edition.