Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton exchanged sharps words over trade as they campaigned before Ohio’s crucial primary.

Sen. Hillary Clinton says Barack Obama’s camp is spreading false information about her positions.

1 of 2 The economy and jobs are top issues for Ohio voters, and the rivals for the Democratic presidential nomination have blamed trade agreements for the loss of manufacturing jobs.

Since 2000, the state’s seen nearly a 25 percent decline in manufacturing employment, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics.

Ohio, along with Texas, votes on March 4. The two states have a total of 334 delegates at stake.


Clinton’s supporters have said she must win both states if she is to close the gap with Obama and stop the momentum he has built up with 11 straight wins.

She trails Obama by 69 delegates, according to CNN calculations.

Recent polls, however, show Clinton leading in Ohio.

Over the weekend, Clinton accused Obama of misrepresenting her record on the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Taking a mocking swipe at the Illinois senator’s campaign style, Clinton said people want actions and not words. Watch Clinton mock Obama »


“I could stand up here and say ‘Let’s just get everybody together, let’s get unified, the sky will open, the light will come down, celestial choirs will be singing and everyone will know we should do the right thing and the world will be perfect,’ ” she said Sunday while campaigning in Providence, Rhode Island. Rhode Island and Vermont also hold contests next Tuesday, but only have 36 delegates up for grabs.

Clinton struck a populist tone, saying she has made it clear that she is ambivalent about NAFTA, blasting companies for “turning their backs on Americans” while shipping jobs overseas.

Meanwhile, Obama railed on Clinton for supporting NAFTA when her husband was president. Watch the latest on the back-and-forth »

“Sen. Clinton has been going to great lengths on the campaign trail to distance herself from NAFTA,” Obama said Sunday in Lorain, Ohio. “In her own book, Sen. Clinton called NAFTA one of ‘Bill’s successes’ and ‘legislative victories.’ “

“One million jobs have been lost because of NAFTA, including nearly 50,000 jobs here in Ohio. And yet, 10 years after NAFTA passed, Sen. Clinton said it was good for America. Well, I don’t think NAFTA has been good for America — and I never have,” he said.

The weekend feud kicked off when Clinton blasted recent mailings from the Obama camp, telling a crowd in Cincinnati, Ohio, an Obama mailing spread lies about her positions NAFTA.

The mailer says Clinton was a “champion” for NAFTA while first lady, but now opposes it. NAFTA was negotiated by the first President Bush and signed into law by President Bill Clinton.

Citing a 2006 issue of New York Newsday, the mailer says Clinton thought NAFTA was a “boon” to the economy. The term “boon” was actually the paper’s characterization of Clinton’s stance, and not a quote from her.

“Bad trade deals like NAFTA hit Ohio harder than other states. Only Barack Obama consistently opposed NAFTA,” the mailer says.

A visibly angry Clinton lashed out Saturday at Obama over the campaign literature that she said he knows is “blatantly false.”

“Shame on you, Barack Obama,” she said, adding that she is fighting to change NAFTA. Watch Clinton demand a ‘real campaign’ »

Obama “is continuing to send false and discredited mailings with information that is not true to the voters of Ohio,” she said.

With Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland nodding in agreement behind her, Clinton accused Obama of emulating the tactics of Karl Rove, President Bush’s former political director who is reviled by Democrats.

Obama described Clinton’s anger as “tactical” and defended his campaign.

“We have been subject to constant attack from the Clinton campaign, except for when we were down 20 points. And that was true in Iowa. It was true in South Carolina. It was true in Wisconsin, and it is true now,” Obama said.

The spat over the literature is nothing new; the two campaigns sparred over similar mailings before Super Tuesday. Obama defended the mailings, calling them accurate and accusing Clinton of deliberately changing her position on NAFTA for political expediency. He told a crowd in a Lorain, Ohio, factory, “The fact is, she was saying great things about NAFTA until she started running for president.”

Clinton challenged Obama to “meet me in Ohio, and let’s have a debate about your tactics and your behavior in this campaign.”

The two are set to debate Tuesday night in Ohio.

Bill Clinton has said that if his wife wins in Ohio and Texas, she will win her party’s nomination, but, he told voters, “if you don’t deliver for her, then I don’t think she can be. It’s all on you.”

According to an average of three recent polls, Clinton leads Obama in Ohio 49 percent to 39 percent. An additional 12 percent of the state’s likely Democratic primary voters said they were undecided.

The Ohio Democratic poll of polls consists of three surveys: American Research Group (February 23-24), the Ohio Poll (February 21-24), and Quinnipiac (February 18-23).

Recent polls show a close race in Texas.

The Democratic contenders split the Super Tuesday contests on February 5, but since then, Obama has taken every contest.

* Source: CNN

US Democratic front-runners Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have traded accusations over a photo of Mr Obama circulating on the internet.
The picture, sent to the Drudge Report website, shows Mr Obama wearing traditional African dress during a visit to Kenya in 2006.


The Obama camp says it was circulated by Mrs Clinton’s staff as a smear. Mrs Clinton’s team strongly denies this.

The row comes as the rivals campaign for two crucial primaries next week.

Analysts say Mrs Clinton needs to win the contests, in Texas and Ohio, to remain in the race to choose the Democratic candidate for November’s presidential election.


The photograph shows Mr Obama – whose father came from Kenya – wearing a white turban and a white robe presented to him by elders in the north-east of the country.

Her campaign has engaged in the most shameful, offensive fear-mongering we’ve seen from either party in this election
David Plouffe, Obama campaign chief, accusing the Clinton camp

According to the Drudge Report, which published the photograph on Monday, it was circulated by “Clinton staffers”.
Some Clinton aides have tried in the past to suggest to Democrats that Barak Obama’s background might be off-putting to mainstream voters.

A campaign volunteer was sacked last year after circulating an email suggesting, falsely, that Mr Obama was a Muslim.

But the BBC Justin Webb in Ohio says the photograph – coming at this pivotal moment in the campaign – is being seen by the Obama team as particularly offensive.

His campaign manager, David Plouffe, accused Mrs Clinton’s aides of “the most shameful, offensive fear-mongering we’ve seen from either party in this election”.

The accusation was dismissed by Mrs Clinton’s campaign manager Maggie Williams.

“If Barack Obama’s campaign wants to suggest that a photo of him wearing traditional Somali clothing is divisive, they should be ashamed,” she said.

“Hillary Clinton has worn the traditional clothing of countries she has visited and had those photos published widely.”

Mrs Williams did not address the question of whether staffers circulated the photo.

* Story from BBC NEWS:

For all the expectations of high-stakes combat at Thursday’s Democratic presidential debate in Austin, Texas, the most riveting engagement of the night came at the very end—when Hillary Clinton turned to her opponent and shook his hand. “I am honored to be here with Barack Obama. I am absolutely honored,” she said. “Whatever happens, we’re going to be fine.


You know, we have strong support from our families and our friends. I just hope that we’ll be able to say the same thing about the American people, and that’s what this election should be about.” The Democratic crowd leapt to its feet and cheered.

The moment was Clinton’s most heartfelt since she got teary at a voter’s question in New Hampshire, but it had a valedictory, almost elegiac feel to it. Going into the debate, the burden had been on Clinton to change a dynamic that has turned against her, as Barack Obama has racked up 11 victories in a row in the two weeks since Super Tuesday, grabbing the lead in pledged delegates, and momentum. An ABC News-Washington Post poll released shortly before the debate showed Clinton in a statistical dead heat against Obama in Texas, and hanging onto only a slender lead in Ohio. Her own husband had conceded a day earlier that both states are crucial to her survival. “You probably like it that it has come down to Texas,” Bill Clinton said while campaigning for her in Beaumont, Tex. “If she wins Texas and Ohio, I think she will be the nominee. If you don’t deliver for her then I don’t think she can be. It’s all on you.”

Clinton has shone in most of the debates thus far, while Obama has been weaker in this forum. But the sedate affair on Thursday night is not likely to have much of an impact on the race. There were some slight differences between the two of them here and there on policy. They rehashed the main difference in their health care plans. Though both would make health care more affordable, Clinton would insist upon a requirement that every American have coverage; Obama would not, though he contends that lowering the cost would make nearly everyone decide to do it. Clinton said she would not sit down with Raul Castro until he had shown clear signs of political reform in Cuba; Obama said he would insist upon preparations, not preconditions. That distinction is hardly likely to sway many people in either Texas or Ohio.

Indeed, there were many moments where the rivals seemed more eager to prove how similar they were on policy. Asked how she would differ from Obama on the economy, an issue which has become the top priority for voters, Clinton began: “I would agree with a lot that Senator Obama just said, because it is the Democratic agenda.” And what about that border fence, for which they both voted? “Well, this is an area where Senator Clinton and I almost entirely agree,” Obama said, as he echoed Clinton’s argument for more sensitivity to the opinions of local communities.

Where Clinton tried to score points, she largely missed. When their argument over whether Obama had plagiarized lines from his campaign co-chairman, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, the Illinois Senator got the better of the exchange. “You know, this is where we start getting into silly season, in politics, and I think people start getting discouraged about it,” Obama said. Clinton rejoined with an attack line that fell flat, and even drew some boos: “You know, lifting whole passages from someone else’s speeches is not change you can believe in, it’s change you can Xerox.” And the canned line seemed even lamer after the debate, when bloggers unearthed the similarity between a line she used in that powerful conclusion of the debate—”You know, the hits I’ve taken in life are nothing compared to what goes on every single day in the lives of people across our country”—and Bill Clinton’s 1992 declaration that: “The hits that I took in this election are nothing compared to the hits the people of this state and this country have been taking for a long time.”

Obama probably came out better on a more fundamental question: Which of the two is more ready to be commander-in-chief? Clinton—who has a tendency to get lost in her own resume—wandered into a discourse on her visits to foreign countries, her outspokenness on women’s rights in China and her tenure on the Senate Armed Services Committee. Obama focused on how he would do the job ahead: “My number one job as president will be to keep the American people safe. I will do whatever is required to accomplish that. I will not hesitate to act against those that would do America harm. Now, that involves maintaining the strongest military on earth, which means that we are training our troops properly and equipping them properly, and putting them on proper rotations.”

But Obama’s best moment came when he went right to heart of the main argument that Clinton has been making against him. “I do think there is a fundamental difference between us in terms of how change comes about. Senator Clinton of late has said: Let’s get real. The implication is that the people who’ve been voting for me or involved in my campaign are somehow delusional,” Obama said to laughter from the audience. “And that, the 20 million people who’ve been paying attention to 19 debates and the editorial boards all across the country at newspapers who have given me endorsements, including every major newspaper here in the state of Texas. You know, the thinking is that somehow, they’re being duped, and eventually they’re going to see the reality of things. Well, I think they perceive reality of what’s going on in Washington very clearly.” More and more people are perceiving the reality of what’s happening on the campaign trail as well, and despite her best efforts in Austin Thursday night, Hillary Clinton still appears unable to alter it.

* By Karen Tumulty (TIME; Friday, Feb. 22, 2008)

AUSTIN, Texas, Feb 22 (Reuters) – Was it a pivotal moment that could change the campaign, or the swan song of a candidate who may be nearing the end of her U.S. presidential bid?

Hillary Clinton’s concluding statement in a televised debate on Thursday drew a standing ovation from the audience and plaudits from analysts.

But some said her words — which touched on her personal trials while complimenting her rival, Barack Obama — came too late in a contest that has largely turned in his direction.

Obama, a senator from Illinois, has surged into front-runner status in the dash to become the Democratic nominee after 10 straight wins in the state-by-state nomination process.

Clinton, a senator from New York, has pinned her hopes on decisive wins in Texas and Ohio, which hold their contests on March 4, and aimed to slow his momentum at the debate.

The two engaged in a mostly civil discussion that covered their positions on Cuba, health care, and the war in Iraq.

When asked at the end to name a crisis that had tested their leadership, Obama talked broadly of his life story.

But Clinton responded with an apparent reference to the sexual scandal that led to the impeachment of her husband, former President Bill Clinton, and a national discussion about the state of their marriage.

“Well, I think everybody here knows I’ve lived through some crises and some challenging moments in my life,” she said to applause from the crowd at the University of Texas.

“But people often ask me, ‘How do you do it?’ You know, ‘How do you keep going?’ And I just have to shake my head in wonderment, because with all of the challenges that I’ve had, they are nothing compared to what I see happening in the lives of Americans every single day.”

She went on to describe in emotional terms the disabled soldiers she had recently met and then said she was “honored” to be sharing the stage with Obama, the first black candidate to have a real chance of winning the Democratic nomination.

“It was a good moment for her, she conveyed a message about America and she connected with the audience, and perhaps the viewers,” said Julian Zelizer, professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University.

“For her supporters, moments like those reveal why much of the criticism of her candidacy and personality are simply not true.”


Clinton’s advisers portrayed her closing comments as a turning point.

“It was the moment she retook the reins of this race and showed women and men why she is the best choice,” Howard Wolfson, her communications director, said in a statement.

But the timing was poor. After losing a string of contests to Obama over the last several weeks, she is running neck-and-neck with him in Texas, according to some polls, a state in which she previously had a commanding lead.

“It is a good moment for her that comes very late in the game — probably too late,” Zelizer said. “She doesn’t have momentum, she doesn’t have enough money, and most importantly she doesn’t have the numbers on her side.”

Clinton seemed to acknowledge her critical position.

“Whatever happens, we’re going to be fine. You know, we have strong support from our families and our friends,” she said, looking at Obama sitting next to her. “I just hope that we’ll be able to say the same thing about the American people, and that’s what this election should be about.”

For undecided voter Haley Pollock, 24, that was an admission that the former first lady could fail.

“I think that she’s starting to realize that it’s a lot more feasible that she’s going to lose than it was before,” Pollock told Reuters at a rally after the debate.

Clinton senior adviser Mark Penn denied the comments meant she knew the race was over.

“Not at all. She’s said consistently she’s in this to win,” he said.

The Obama campaign, stung by Clinton’s accusations of plagiarism after Obama used a friend’s lines in a speech, suggested that her closing words were stolen from John Edwards, who dropped out of the race last month.

“Clinton’s ‘best moment’ someone else’s line?” spokesman Bill Burton said in an e-mail to reporters.

It followed with a quote attributed to Edwards at a debate on Dec. 13: “All of us are going to be just fine no matter what happens in this election. But what’s at stake is whether America is going to be fine.”

By Jeff Mason (Feb 22, 2008)

(Additional reporting by Claudia Parsons; Editing by Eric Beech)
(To read more about the U.S. political campaign, visit Reuters “Tales from the Trail: 2008” online here)

BERKELEY, California, 6 Feb (IPS) – Jaded toward their government back home and cynical of the current U.S. administration and the Republicans they historically supported, a new generation of Iranian-Americans appears to be looking to Barack Obama to bring about change, especially with regards to U.S. foreign policy toward Iran.


Many observers believe the refusal by the other leading Democrat for the presidential nomination, Senator Hillary Clinton, to rule out force against Iran in campaign statements, paired with her strong support of Israel, has substantially weakened her support in the community.

What troubles Iranian-American voters is the uncertainty about Senator Clinton’s position on employing military force against Iran. At least with the leading Republican presidential contender, the option is clear: John McCain believes that Iran is resolute on the destruction of Israel and favours sanctions and military action against Tehran.

‘Every option must remain on the table. Military action isn’t our preference. It remains, as it always must, the last option,’ said McCain during a speech to the group Christians United for Israel last July. Unfortunately, his rendition of the Beach Boys song entitled ‘Barbara Ann’, i.e. ‘bomb, bomb, bomb, (pause), bomb, bomb Iran’ earlier this year clearly depicted his frame of mine.

Other Republican contenders, such as Mitt Romney, hold a similar stance: ‘There is one place of course where I’d welcome [Iranian President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad with open arms: and that’s in a court where he would stand trial for incitement to genocide, under the terms of the Genocide Convention,’ Romney said.

The 2000 census estimates the number of Iranians in the United States at 330,000, more than half of them living in California. This figure reflects a major wave of immigration in the years immediately following the 1979 revolution. Iranian-American political and community groups believe the estimate is vastly understated and that the population in fact may be as high as one million.

‘We are witnessing a rather stark shift in the Iranian-American community,’ Trita Parsi, director of National Iranian American Council, a nationwide non-partisan institute based in Washington, told IPS. ‘The Republican Party has lost much support in the community, and it doesn’t help that McCain is the likely Republican candidate, mindful of his singing about bombing Iran. This breaks a pattern in which the community has tended to support the Republican Party for fiscal reasons.’

‘Obama’s momentum seems to be even stronger in the community than in the country in general. Many people I’ve spoken to tend to believe that the difference between Clinton and Bush isn’t great enough,’ Parsi said. ‘Her vote in favour of the Kyl-Lieberman amendment [which threatens to ‘combat, contain and (stop)’ Iran] has particularly hurt her in the community, and reinforced the perception of her proximity to the Bush foreign policy.’

Traditionally, Iranian-Americans who left Iran during or just after the revolution, and have fostered hopes of government change since then, vote Republican. However, almost 30 years later, Iranian-Americans seem to be shifting towards a candidate who will take a less hawkish position on U.S. policy toward Iran.

While they have little sympathy for, and indeed are deeply suspicious of the hardliner government of President Ahmadinejad, polls show that they are nonetheless strongly opposed to any kind of military action against Iran. Most say the last thing they favour is a U.S. invasion or bombing of Iran, and to see the country follow a fate similar to Afghanistan or Iraq, and endure the destruction that ensued its neighbors and bear millions of homeless and refugees.


Dr. Abbas Milani, director of the Iranian Studies Programme at Stanford University, co-director of the Iran Democracy Project at the Hoover Institution in Palo Alto, and an influential figure among Iranian-Americans in San Francisco’s Bay Area, where Obama just won an endorsement from an Iranian American Democrats, finds the difference in popularity of Clinton and Obama to be minimal.

‘They both said that they are willing to negotiate. Obama has been more forceful and categorical and here, based on the empirical evidence that we have, the diaspora overwhelmingly wants principal dialogue, and both of these people seem to confirm that desire.’

He believes Clinton’s harsher rhetoric stems from the fact that she represents New York, a state with a relatively large Jewish population that is inclined toward Israel and prefers a tougher stance on Iran.

Although it was during her husband’s presidency that Secretary of State Madeleine Albright apologised to Iranians for the U.S. involvement in the 1953 coup, which overthrew one of Iran’s most popular and democratic governments, Senator Clinton’s harsh rhetoric against Iran scares many Iranian-Americans who have family and deep cultural roots back home.

Last February, Clinton spoke at a Manhattan dinner held by the largest pro-Israel lobbying group in the U.S., the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, calling Iran a danger to the U.S. and one of Israel’s greatest threats. She mimicked President Bush when telling a crowd of Israel supporters that ‘U.S. policy must be clear and unequivocal: we cannot, we should not, we must not permit Iran to build or acquire nuclear weapons. In dealing with this threat … no option can be taken off the table.’

Even if Senator Clinton has no serious intention of striking Iran, her rhetoric during the last year has made her unpopular among the new generation of Iranian-Americans.

Additionally, unlike Obama, she voted in favour of the Iran Counter Proliferation Act, calling the Iranian Revolutionary Guard a ‘terrorist organisation’. She has defended her position, stating, ‘This resolution in no way authorises or sanctions military action against Iran and instead seeks to end the Bush administration’s diplomatic inaction in the region.’

The editor of one of the most popular websites among the Iranian-American community, Jahanshah Javid, said that, ‘among those who have blogged on in recent weeks, (they) have mostly supported democratic candidates, especially because of their positions on foreign policy which appears to be less militaristic.’

However, he was also feeling the winds of change are blowing toward Obama, ‘because he has clearly stated that he favours negotiations with Iran.’

Author: Omid Memarian is a peace fellow at the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California, Berkeley. He has won several awards, including Human Rights Watch’s highest honour in 2005, the Human Rights Defender Award.


I am Independent politically. But, now, I consider the best political option, for USA and the world, will be to have a president democrat.
In politics do not exist pure, perfect or free errors candidates.


The actual world to govern had a lot people complicated and variable in extreme.

Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are two excellent candidates. According the history and politics characteristics of USA; in my opinion, Hillary Clinton, with her errors included, she can be a real option to improve the national and international politics of USA.

Nevertheless, I do not rule out to Obama. Also, he is a good option to be president of USA.

In reality all it depends on what they do (both candidates) in next days. The fight is very hard. But, at the end, I will support to the best: Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama.

See You Later.
CARLOS Tiger without Time

Barack Obama, then known as Barry, in a 1978 senior yearbook photo at the Punahou School in Honolulu. At Punahou, a preparatory school that had few black students, he talked with friends about race, wealth and class. (below)


Nearly three decades ago, Barack Obama stood out on the small campus of Occidental College in Los Angeles for his eloquence, intellect and activism against apartheid in South Africa. But Mr. Obama, then known as Barry, also joined in the party scene.

“He was so bright and wanted a wider urban experience.” ANNE HOWELLS, Mr. Obama’s former English professor
Years later in his 1995 memoir, he mentioned smoking “reefer” in “the dorm room of some brother” and talked about “getting high.” Before Occidental, he indulged in marijuana, alcohol and sometimes cocaine as a high school student in Hawaii, according to the book. He made “some bad decisions” as a teenager involving drugs and drinking, Senator Obama, now a presidential candidate, told high school students in New Hampshire last November.

Mr. Obama’s admissions are rare for a politician (his book, “Dreams From My Father,” was written before he ran for office.) They briefly became a campaign issue in December when an adviser to Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, Mr. Obama’s chief Democratic rival, suggested that his history with drugs would make him vulnerable to Republican attacks if he became his party’s nominee.

Mr. Obama, of Illinois, has never quantified his illicit drug use or provided many details. He wrote about his two years at Occidental, a predominantly white liberal arts college, as a gradual but profound awakening from a slumber of indifference that gave rise to his activism there and his fears that drugs could lead him to addiction or apathy, as they had for many other black men.

Mr. Obama’s account of his younger self and drugs, though, significantly differs from the recollections of others who do not recall his drug use. That could suggest he was so private about his usage that few people were aware of it, that the memories of those who knew him decades ago are fuzzy or rosier out of a desire to protect him, or that he added some writerly touches in his memoir to make the challenges he overcame seem more dramatic.

In more than three dozen interviews, friends, classmates and mentors from his high school and Occidental recalled Mr. Obama as being grounded, motivated and poised, someone who did not appear to be grappling with any drug problems and seemed to dabble only with marijuana.

Vinai Thummalapally, a former California State University student who became friendly with Mr. Obama in college, remembered him as a model of moderation — jogging in the morning, playing pickup basketball at the gym, hitting the books and socializing.

“If someone passed him a joint, he would take a drag. We’d smoke or have one extra beer, but he would not even do as much as other people on campus,” recounted Mr. Thummalapally, an Obama fund-raiser. “He was not even close to being a party animal.”

Mr. Obama declined to be interviewed for this article. A campaign spokesman, Tommy Vietor, said in an e-mail message that the memoir “is a candid and personal account of what Senator Obama was experiencing and thinking at the time.”

“It’s not surprising that his friends from high school and college wouldn’t recall personal experiences and struggles that happened more than twenty years ago in the same way, and to the same extent, that he does,” he wrote.

What seems clear is that Mr. Obama’s time at Occidental from 1979 to 1981 — where he describes himself arriving as “alienated” — would ultimately set him on a course to public service. He developed a sturdier sense of self and came to life politically, particularly in his sophomore year, growing increasingly aware of harsh inequities like apartheid and poverty in the third world.

He also discovered that he wanted to be in a larger arena; one professor described Occidental back then as feeling small and provincial. Mr. Obama wrote in his memoir that he needed “a community that cut deeper than the common despair that black friends and I shared when reading the latest crime statistics, or the high fives I might exchange on a basketball court. A place where I could put down stakes and test my commitments.”

Mr. Obama wrote that he learned of a transfer program that Occidental had with Columbia and applied. “He was so bright and wanted a wider urban experience,” recalled Anne Howells, a former English professor at Occidental who taught Mr. Obama and wrote him a recommendation for Columbia.

By SERGE F. KOVALESKI (The New York Times)
Published: February 9, 2008

Here’s a quick rundown of the many advantages the Democrats enjoy at this stage of the 2008 campaign. Voter turnout in most states is running well ahead of that for the GOP.


Democratic fund-raising continues to break all records—even those set previously by Republicans. The Democrats’ issues cupboard is fuller than it has been in a decade and a half. And voters have narrowed the field to two wildly popular candidates, either of whom would make history if nominated, much less elected.

Given the embarrassment of riches, it was only a matter of time before Democratic voters looked at the choice between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton and asked the question, Why not both?

That idea had been on some voters’ minds even before the dream was made flesh two weeks ago in Los Angeles, where, at the end of the Kodak Theatre debate, Obama and Clinton smiled, embraced each other for more than the usual nanosecond and then seemed to whisper something knowing in each other’s ear.

After weeks of hand-to-hand combat and rumors of tiffs that may or may not have been real, the Hug rightly or wrongly got even more people thinking about the power of two.

Even if their act was dutiful, evanescent and faked for the cameras, party regulars seemed to eat it up. It was all there: the visionary and the technician, the candidate who could inspire the masses and the candidate who could get under the sink and fix the plumbing.

For Clinton, pairing with Obama would repair some of the damage with African Americans brought on by her campaign and, at least in theory, push her husband to the sidelines. Obama, in turn, would get a mechanic to match his magic, someone who could turn his poetry into governing prose.

A new TIME poll reveals that 62% of Democrats want Clinton to put Obama on the ticket; 51% want Obama to return the favor if he is the nominee. The party’s right brain and left brain, dancing together at last, right?

Unlikely Partners—for Now
Well, not exactly. It’s far too early to know if Obama and Clinton could work together, though there are plenty of reasons to be skeptical. While the Clinton camp saw an opportunity in the general longing of the audience—Clinton fund raiser Terry McAuliffe said on the morning of Super Tuesday that Obama has generated so much excitement, he would have to be considered for the party’s vice-presidential nomination—the Obama people saw a trap.

If Obama and his aides lent any credence now to the dangled notion of a partnership, they know that some of his voters might peel off, thinking a vote for Clinton was, in effect, a twofer. And that could drive down Obama’s turnout. “We’re not running for Vice President,” said Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs.
No, and as long as Obama has a real shot at the top spot, there’s no need to entertain the Veep talk. As a top Obama aide said, “That’s not where this campaign’s head is at.” Instead, the Obama camp had been expecting the Veep proffer for weeks, just as it had expected the Clinton campaign to play the race card after New Hampshire.

Obama headquarters was fully aware that the Clintons had badly overplayed their hand in the days leading up to South Carolina—so badly that Bill or Hillary would have to make some peace offering to Obama’s supporters, if not to Obama himself, to heal the breach. But forgiveness, while long a staple of the Clinton narrative, isn’t something the Obama team is ready to embrace.

An Obama adviser put it this way: “One could argue that the Senator should not even agree to discuss an offer of the vice presidency until Senator Clinton agrees to bar her husband from the West Wing for the duration of the first term. And then once she agrees to that, he should turn it down.”

More to the point, is the job of Vice President to a Clinton worth having? Al Gore learned that being No. 2 to Bill was really more like being No. 3 after you factored in Hillary, who had an office in the West Wing and a larger suite of rooms down the hall from the Veep in the Old Executive Office Building. Gore watched his priorities often take a backseat to hers in the first term—and his future run aground as they fought successfully to avoid impeachment and conviction.

While she joked with David Letterman on his show that there is no doubt “who wears the pantsuits” in her house, there is little doubt that the Clintons intend to work as a team if Hillary is elected. “I’ll be there, talking her through everything,” Bill said in Napa Valley, Calif., last month, “like she did with me.” One unaligned party wise man said, “Obama may look at the Clintons, at both of them—at that whole thing they have—and say, ‘Jeez, that’s just way too [messed] up to be a part of. That’s just no place I want to be.'”

If Obama becomes the nominee, the arguments against teaming with the Clintons might be even stronger.Obama’s defining issue in the race is not health care or the economy or even the war, where he is most distinct from his rival. It’s about being new and different and not from the past; in short, about not being a Clinton.

For months he has attacked Clinton for taking money from lobbyists, for flimflamming voters on her war votes and for playing race and gender cards when she fell behind. To reverse all that and join forces with the Clintons would be seen as a huge betrayal of his most galvanizing argument—as well as his character—by many of his followers. The numbers back this up.

In Time’s poll, 58% of Clinton backers favor bringing Obama onto the ticket; nearly the same percentage (56%) of Obama supporters favor choosing someone else.
The Shadow of History

It would be wrong to suggest that the pro-Obama sentiment is universal inside the Clinton camp. It isn’t difficult to find those allied with Clinton who believe that Obama would make an underwhelming vice-presidential nominee. Clinton, they say, will want an attack dog both on the trail and as Vice President—a role Obama is ill suited for and uncomfortable assuming. Plus, the states he could deliver she could win on her own.

But what really worries Clinton loyalists is that Obama lacks their, well, loyalty. Running her campaign are a host of aides who have worked for the Clintons before, been fired or been kicked aside and yet keep coming back, decade after decade, to help. That’s how the Clintons define loyalty. That pattern may explain why there are those in Clintonland who think Obama has wronged her over the course of the campaign simply because he took her on.

Against all the mutual animus and anger, however, stands a lot of history. And history suggests a deal later is possible, if not likely, whatever the insiders may think now. More often than not, winners in both parties reach out to losers—or at least contemplate an overture—when the time comes to put a broken party back together. John Kennedy tapped Lyndon Johnson in 1960, though the two men were like oil and water. Ronald Reagan named George H.W. Bush in 1980, though they never became very close.

Walter Mondale gave a man he resented, Gary Hart, a good look in 1984, before choosing Geraldine Ferraro. And John Kerry recruited his former rival John Edwards in 2004, though the hard feelings on both sides never went away. Whoever wins these primaries may have no choice but to offer it to the also-ran.

So perhaps it is wisest now to think of the Democratic primary campaign not as one race but two: the one for the delegates and the other for reconciliation. We will probably know who wins the delegate race before school is out. But it might be late summer before the parleys and the peacemaking that lead to a partnership get under way. A lot can happen in six months. The party’s fortunes could dim; the hard feelings could soften. And by August, who knows? There is no telling what a Democratic nominee will need in a running mate—and vice versa.

* By Michael Duffy Wednesday, Feb. 06, 2008

An MSNBC reporter apologizes and is suspended after saying Chelsea was being ‘pimped out.’
WASHINGTON — Angered by an MSNBC correspondent’s demeaning comment about Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s daughter, aides to her presidential campaign said Friday that she might pull out of a debate planned by the cable network this month in Cleveland.Howard Wolfson, Clinton’s communications director, cast as “beneath contempt” an on-air comment Thursday by MSNBC’s David Shuster, who said Chelsea Clinton is “sort of being pimped out” as she intensifies her campaigning for her mother.

NBC News announced Friday afternoon that Shuster had been suspended indefinitely over the remark, which a release called “irresponsible and inappropriate.”

Shuster apologized Friday morning on MSNBC for the term he applied to Chelsea. He issued a second apology on the MSNBC show “Tucker,” where he had uttered his comment while acting as guest host.

Hillary Clinton’s campaign staff has been critical of what it considers a hostile attitude toward her in MSNBC’s coverage, and the Shuster incident brought matters to a head.

Clinton is seeking more debates with Sen. Barack Obama as their race for the Democratic nomination has tightened, and as part of that strategy she agreed to take part in an MSNBC forum Feb. 26.

“We’ve done a number of debates on that network,” Wolfson said. “And at this point I can’t envision a scenario where we would continue to engage in debates on that network, given the comments that were made and have been made.”

NBC News, in its statement, said it was working to keep the debate alive.

“Our conversations with the Clinton campaign about their participation continue today, and we are hopeful that the event will take place as planned,” the statement said.

Last month, another MSNBC talk show host, Chris Matthews, apologized after suggesting Clinton owed her political success to her husband’s philandering. “The reason she may be a front-runner [in the presidential race] is her husband messed around,” Matthews said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”

Wolfson on Friday referenced that controversy, saying, “At some point you really have to question whether or not there’s a pattern here at this particular network, where you have comments being made and apologies given,” he said. “Is this something that folks are encouraged to do or not do? I don’t know, but the [Shuster] comment was beneath contempt, and I think any fair-minded person would see it that way.”

On the “Tucker” show, Shuster said: “I apologize to the Clinton family, the Clinton campaign and all of you who were justifiably offended. As I said this morning on MSNBC, all Americans should be proud of Chelsea Clinton. And I am particularly sorry that my language diminished the regard and respect she has earned from all of us and the respect her parents have earned in how they raised her.”

NBC News, in its statement, said it “takes these matters seriously, and offers our sincere regrets to the Clintons for the remarks.”

Turning down a debate with the nomination in doubt would be a big step for Clinton, who feels such forums work in her favor, providing a chance to demonstrate her grasp of policy and to spotlight her experience. She has accepted offers to take part in four debates over the next month; Obama has agreed to take part in two, including the one in Cleveland.

By Peter Nicholas and Matea Gold, Los Angeles Times Staff Writers (February 9, 2008)

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Democrats Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama were locked in a near dead heat two days before the biggest presidential voting so far while John McCain tried to nail down the Republican nomination for the White House.

With 24 states holding nominating contests on Tuesday, the candidates spent their Sundays appearing on the morning television talk shows and campaigning across the country as polls showed the two races going in opposite directions.
The Democratic race, which Clinton once led handily, had narrowed to a nearly a draw in recent national polls.

Obama held a slight lead in California and was virtually tied with Clinton in New Jersey and Missouri — three states voting on “Super Tuesday” — in a Reuters/C-SPAN/Zogby poll released on Sunday.

While the two people seeking to be the Democratic choice were vying to win the most delegates needed for nomination, they also were making the argument of being the most electable candidate to face McCain in the November election.

“I have been through these Republican attacks over and over and over again and I believe that I’ve demonstrated that, much to the dismay of the Republicans, I not only can survive, but thrive,” Clinton said on ABC’s “This Week.”

Clinton, the New York senator who was a major target of conservatives while first lady during President Bill Clinton’s terms in office, said her record was well known and she had already weathered heated attacks while Obama, a first-term senator from Illinois, was still an unknown quantity.


“I think I can get some votes that Senator Clinton cannot get,” Obama, who would be the first black president, said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” “That broadens the political map. I think it bodes well for the election.”

“I’m always pleased to have so much attention from the nominees — or the two contenders for the Democratic nomination,” McCain said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

Even with half the Democratic national convention delegates at stake and more than 40 percent of the Republican, no candidate could clinch the nomination on Tuesday but a big vote across the board could go a long way toward that goal.

McCain, an Arizona senator, held a 2-to-1 margin in a new national Washington Post-ABC poll. In the Reuters/C-SPAN/Zogby poll, McCain held double-digit leads in New York, New Jersey and Missouri but narrowly trails former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney in California, the biggest prize on “Super Tuesday.”

In an effort to embarrass Romney in the state he once served as governor, McCain was in Massachusetts on Sunday to watch the local football team, the New England Patriots, play in the Super Bowl.

But even as his lead in the polls widened and a big win on Tuesday could sew up the nomination for him, McCain still faced questions from one section of the party over whether he was conservative enough.

Romney hit that theme and pointed to a large turnout in Maine on Saturday that gave him a victory there as evidence conservatives were giving McCain another look.

But McCain pointed to a number of prominent Republican conservatives who were supporting him.

“I’m very happy with where we are,” he said. “I know that Tuesday is going to be hotly contested … And I’m pleased at the gathering support from all parts of the party that we’re gaining.”

One of the problems facing Romney on Super Tuesday is that he is competing for conservative votes along with former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee. Huckabee said Romney should recognize him as the true conservative and get out of the race.

By David Wiessler
Sun Feb 3, 2008

Democrats preparing to vote in Tuesday’s California primary can mark their ballots with confidence, knowing that either candidate would make a strong nominee and, if elected, a groundbreaking leader and capable president. But just because the ballot features two strong candidates does not mean that it is difficult to choose between them. We urge voters to make the most of this historic moment by choosing the Democrat most focused on steering the nation toward constructive change: We strongly endorse Barack Obama.

The U.S. senator from Illinois distinguishes himself as an inspiring leader who cuts through typical internecine campaign bickering and appeals to Americans long weary of divisive and destructive politics. He electrifies young voters, not because he is young but because he embodies the desire to move to the next chapter of the American story. He brings with him deep knowledge of foreign relations and of this nation’s particular struggles with identity and opportunity. His flair for expression, both in print and on the stump, too easily leads observers to forget that Obama is a man not just of style but of substance. He’s a thoughtful student of the Constitution and an experienced lawmaker in his home state and, for the last three years, in the Senate.

On policy, Obama and his rival Democratic candidate, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, are a hairsbreadth apart. Both vow to pull troops from Iraq. Both are committed to healthcare reform. Both offer candid critiques of the failed George W. Bush presidency, its blustering adventurism, its alienating stance toward other countries and its cavalier disregard for sacred American values such as individual liberty and due process of law.

With two candidates so closely aligned on the issues, we look to their abilities and potential as leaders, and their record of action in service of their stated ideals. Clinton is an accomplished public servant whose election would provide familiarity and, most important, competence in the White House, when for seven years it has been lacking. But experience has value only if it is accompanied by courage and leads to judgment.

Nowhere was that judgment more needed than in 2003, when Congress was called upon to accept or reject the disastrous Iraq invasion. Clinton faced a test and failed, joining the stampede as Congress voted to authorize war. At last week’s debate and in previous such sessions, Clinton blamed Bush for abusing the authority she helped to give him, and she has made much of the fact that Obama was not yet in the Senate and didn’t face the same test. But Obama was in public life, saw the danger of the invasion and the consequences of occupation, and he said so. He was right.

Obama demonstrates as well that he is open-eyed about the terrorist threat posed to the nation, and would not shrink from military action where it is warranted. He does not oppose all wars, he has famously stated, but rather “dumb wars.” He also has the edge in economic policy, less because of particular planks in his platform than because of his understanding that some liberal orthodoxies developed during the last 40 years have been overtaken by history. He offers leadership on education, technology policy and environmental protection unfettered by the positions of previous administrations.

By contrast, Clinton’s return to the White House that she occupied for eight years as first lady would resurrect some of the triumph and argument of that era. Yes, Bill Clinton’s presidency was a period of growth and opportunity, and Democrats are justly nostalgic for it. But it also was a time of withering political fire, as the former president’s recent comments on the campaign trail reminded the nation. Hillary Clinton’s election also would drag into a third decade the post-Reagan political duel between two families, the Bushes and the Clintons. Obama is correct: It is time to turn the page.

An Obama presidency would present, as a distinctly American face, a man of African descent, born in the nation’s youngest state, with a childhood spent partly in Asia, among Muslims. No public relations campaign could do more than Obama’s mere presence in the White House to defuse anti-American passion around the world, nor could any political experience surpass Obama’s life story in preparing a president to understand the American character. His candidacy offers Democrats the best hope of leading America into the future, and gives Californians the opportunity to cast their most exciting and consequential ballot in a generation.

In the language of metaphor, Clinton is an essay, solid and reasoned; Obama is a poem, lyric and filled with possibility. Clinton would be a valuable and competent executive, but Obama matches her in substance and adds something that the nation has been missing far too long — a sense of aspiration.

* February 3, 2008

Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican John McCain are the national front-runners for their party’s presidential nominations, according to a FOX News poll released Friday, and Clinton is seen as the candidate most prepared to begin leading the country on “day one.”


That’s the good news for Clinton. The bad news for the former first lady is she is also seen as the candidate most likely to “do anything — including something unethical — to win,” and most likely to embarrass the country.

This is the first FOX News national poll conducted since Democrats John Edwards and Dennis Kucinich, and Republicans Rudy Giuliani and Fred Thompson dropped out of the race.

In the narrowed field, McCain now leads among Republicans with 48 percent, far outdistancing Mitt Romney at 20 percent and Mike Huckabee at 19 percent. Ron Paul receives 5 percent. The number of undecided voters has dropped from 13 percent in December to 5 percent today.

Click here for full poll results. (pdf)

On the Democratic side, Clinton is still the top choice, although by a much closer margin today. The new poll shows 47 percent of Democrats back Clinton and 37 percent Barack Obama. Last month Clinton had a 29-point advantage — 49 percent to Obama’s 20 percent, with Edwards capturing 10 percent.

Clinton and Obama both essentially tie McCain in hypothetical head-to-head matchups. Among registered voters nationwide, the poll finds that 44 percent back Clinton and 45 percent McCain. Similarly, 44 percent prefer Obama, while 43 percent choose McCain. These results fall within the poll’s margin of sampling error.

Clinton (+14 points) and Obama (+18 points) each have a double-digit advantage over Republican Mitt Romney when tested in two-way matchups.

The national telephone poll was conducted for FOX News by Opinion Dynamics Corp. among 900 registered voters from January 30 to January 31. The poll has a 3-point error margin.

When asked to consider the two front-runners on each side, voters say Clinton (34 percent) is the most prepared to begin leading the country on “day one” of taking office, with McCain (31 percent) right on her heels, Obama third (17 percent) and Romney fourth (8 percent).

By a large margin, Clinton also comes out on top as most likely to “do anything — including something unethical — to win” the election. Some 44 percent think so, compared to 11 percent who think Romney would do anything to win, 9 percent McCain and 8 percent Obama. Nearly a third of voters were unsure (28 percent).

“These results suggest that Clinton still faces the challenge of shedding the image of a politician who puts electoral victory ahead of everything else. Ironically, this negative perception is partly due to her broader image as a competent, take-charge leader who can get things done on ‘day one.’ Her ultimate success may depend how skillfully she can “un-couple” these two aspects of her image,” says Ernest Paicopolos, a principal of Opinion Dynamics.

Even so, equal numbers say they would most want to watch Clinton (25 percent) and Obama (25 percent) on television for the next four years, putting both of them ahead of their Republican rivals; 19 percent say they would most want to watch McCain and 12 percent Romney.

Nearly one of four (36 percent) think Obama is the “most positive” presidential hopeful, followed by Clinton at 22 percent, McCain at 18 percent and Romney at 11 percent.

Which candidate would embarrass the country? More than a third (37 percent) says Clinton is most likely to do something embarrassing; Romney comes in a distant second with 14 percent, McCain at 12 percent and Obama at 11 percent. Twenty-six percent are unsure.

Overall, by a 15-point margin, more voters think Clinton is the Democrat making unfair attacks rather than Obama; among Democrats, the two contenders are seen as about equal on this measure, as 37 percent think Clinton is making unfair attacks and 34 percent think Obama is.

Just over one in four voters think Romney and McCain are playing dirty politics, and 28 percent of Republicans agree.

The Bill Factor

Voters think the recent bickering between Obama and former President Bill Clinton mainly helps Obama (32 percent) and the Republicans (30 percent), while hardly any think it benefits Hillary Clinton (12 percent). Furthermore, a 58 percent majority thinks Hillary Clinton should be responsible for what her husband says and does on the campaign trail.

Overall, opinion is split on whether the Clinton campaign tried to use race as an issue against Obama in the South Carolina Democratic primary: 42 percent say yes but 43 percent disagree. Among Democrats, fewer think so (31 percent); a majority (56 percent) says the Clintons did not use race as an issue.

In a presidential race that includes candidates who could be the first black and the first woman president, voters were asked if it is more difficult for African Americans or for women to get ahead in today’s world. Some 29 percent say it is more difficult for women to get ahead, and nearly as many, 27 percent, say it is tougher for African Americans. Another 25 percent say “both” and 15 percent say “neither.”

Women (+9 points) are more likely to say it is more difficult for women to get ahead, and blacks (+13 points) are more likely to say it is more difficult for African Americans.

The Economy

The economy (30 percent) tops the list of concerns voters will be thinking about when choosing a presidential candidate this year, with Iraq (23 percent) coming in a close second. Democrats pick Iraq (36 percent) and the economy (32 percent) as the most important issues, while Republicans put the economy (26 percent) and terrorism (20 percent) at the top, and Iraq (11 percent) and immigration (11 percent) tied as the third issue.

Overall, a 56 percent majority says their current personal financial situation is either excellent (11 percent) or good (45 percent) and, looking ahead, nearly half (47 percent) think their financial situation will be better next year.

If a tax rebate is part of an economic stimulus package, just over half of Americans say they would spend the money (51 percent), while about a third (36 percent) say they would save it. The results are virtually identical among income groups.

By Dana Blanton
(Friday , February 01, 2008)

Democrats Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton sparred, for the most part cordially, over immigration, health care and the war in Iraq in their first one-on-one debate on Thursday as they faced high-stakes Super Tuesday contests that could go a long way toward determining the party’s presidential nominee.


Clinton emphasized that the nation needed a president ready to go to work on “Day One.” Obama responded: “Part of the argument that I’m making in this campaign is that it is important to be right on Day One.”

Five days before Super Tuesday, the two alternated between civility and pointed swipes, underscoring the importance of the upcoming contests. The debate came as Obama’s campaign reported raising a staggering $32 million in January, cash aplenty to advertise all through the nearly two dozen upcoming races from coast to coast — and contests beyond.

Clinton’s campaign reported raising $26.8 million from October through December, the most recent period she reported.
Clinton defended the increasingly high-profile role of her husband, former President Clinton, in her campaign and his recent sharp criticism of Obama. “At the end of the day, it’s my name that is on the ballot.”

Both were asked about the possibility of a “dream ticket” of Clinton-Obama — or Obama-Clinton.

“Obviously there’s a big difference between those two,” Obama said. “I respect Senator Clinton, I think her service to this country is extraordinary.” But he said, “We’ve got a lot more road to travel” before such a decision.

Clinton agreed it was too early to discuss running mates.
Both predicted that one of them would be the next president in a history-making inaugural. Obama would be the first black president, Clinton the first female president.

Clinton said the Republicans are “more of the same” and, gesturing toward Obama, she said, “We will change our country.”
Making amends for his apparent snub of her at Monday’s State of the Union Address, Obama assisted Clinton by pulling back her chair as the debate — televised on CNN — began and ended. They then embraced.

But it wasn’t all sweetness and light.
One of their most pointed exchanges came on the question of whether illegal immigrants should be able to obtain driver’s licenses. Obama supports doing so; Clinton initially supported it and now opposes it.

“Senator Clinton gave a number of different answers over the course of six weeks on this,” Obama said, turning to Clinton. “Initially, you said you were for it, then you said you were against it.” He said he was raising her wavering to underscore that it is “a difficult political issue.”

Clinton called the controversy “a diversion” from efforts to come up with comprehensive immigration reform. “I co-sponsored immigration reform in 2004 before Barack came to the Senate,” she said.

Obama argued for his candidacy, saying, “I respect Senator Clinton’s record. I think it’s a terrific record. But I also believe that the skills that I have are the ones that are needed right now to move the country forward, otherwise I wouldn’t be running for president.”

They also clashed on Iraq.
Clinton suggested only she had “the necessary credentials and gravitas” to lead the country in withdrawing from Iraq without endangering U.S. forces or further destabilizing the region. She said it was crucial to bring Syria and Iran to the diplomatic table.

Obama shot back, “Senator Clinton mentioned the issue of gravitas and judgment. I think it is much easier for us to have the argument when we have a nominee who says `I always thought this was a bad idea. This was a bad strategy.’ It was not just a problem of execution.”

Clinton voted in October 2002 to authorize President Bush to use force in Iraq, while Obama opposed such authority in a speech he gave in 2002 as a member of the Illinois state Senate.

The two also reached out quickly to backers of former rival John Edwards, who bowed out of the race Wednesday without endorsing either one. Both praised his efforts in their opening statements.

Obama called Edwards “a voice for this party and this country for many years to come.” Clinton saluted both Edwards and his wife, Elizabeth, as setting “their personal example of courage and leadership” in their advocacy for the poor.

Asked whether it was good for the country to have another Clinton in the White House, further extending Bush and Clinton family control over government, Clinton drew applause in the Kodak Theatre — home of the Academy Awards — when she replied, “It did take a Clinton to clean after the first Bush and I think it might take another one to clean up after the second Bush.”

The nation’s weakening economy was a prime topic, and both candidates said they preferred Democratic-proposed stimulus plans that would give more tax relief to low- and middle-income workers than would Republican proposals.

Obama focused on Republican front-runner John McCain, praising McCain’s two votes against Bush’s first-term tax cuts and questioning his support now for extending them. “Somewhere along the line, the Straight Talk Express lost some wheels,” the Illinois senator said, referring to the name of McCain’s campaign bus.

Both Obama and Clinton nodded in agreement as they compared Democratic economic solutions to those put forward by the GOP.

Befitting a Hollywood audience, among the celebrities in the theater were Diane Keaton, Jason Alexander, Pierce Brosnan, Rob Reiner, Stevie Wonder, Kate Capshaw, Steven Spielberg, Leonardo DiCaprio, Bradley Whitford and Gary Shandling.
Both candidates acknowledged policy differences but also sought to ratchet back what had become increasingly personal attacks and the animosity of their last debate before the Jan. 26 South Carolina primary, which Obama won by a margin of 2-to-1.

Obama appears to have most of the momentum as of now, including high-profile endorsements and impressive fundraising. But Clinton has considerable institutional strength and is still widely favored to do better overall than Obama on Super Tuesday.

“I was friends with Hillary Clinton before we started this campaign. I will be friends with Hillary Clinton after this campaign is over,” Obama said .
“We’re having a wonderful time,” Clinton said at one point.

* By TOM RAUM and NEDRA PICKLER, Associated Press


So John Edwards has dropped out of the race for the presidency. By normal political standards, his campaign fell short.


But Mr. Edwards, far more than is usual in modern politics, ran a campaign based on ideas. And even as his personal quest for the White House faltered, his ideas triumphed: both candidates left standing are, to a large extent, running on the platform Mr. Edwards built.

To understand the extent of the Edwards effect, you have to think about what might have been.
At the beginning of 2007, it seemed likely that the Democratic nominee would run a cautious campaign, without strong, distinctive policy ideas. That, after all, is what John Kerry did in 2004.

If 2008 is different, it will be largely thanks to Mr. Edwards. He made a habit of introducing bold policy proposals — and they were met with such enthusiasm among Democrats that his rivals were more or less forced to follow suit.

It’s hard, in particular, to overstate the importance of the Edwards health care plan, introduced in February.

Before the Edwards plan was unveiled, advocates of universal health care had difficulty getting traction, in part because they were divided over how to get there. Some advocated a single-payer system — a k a Medicare for all — but this was dismissed as politically infeasible. Some advocated reform based on private insurers, but single-payer advocates, aware of the vast inefficiency of the private insurance system, recoiled at the prospect.

With no consensus about how to pursue health reform, and vivid memories of the failure of 1993-1994, Democratic politicians avoided the subject, treating universal care as a vague dream for the distant future.

But the Edwards plan squared the circle, giving people the choice of staying with private insurers, while also giving everyone the option of buying into government-offered, Medicare-type plans — a form of public-private competition that Mr. Edwards made clear might lead to a single-payer system over time. And he also broke the taboo against calling for tax increases to pay for reform.


Suddenly, universal health care became a possible dream for the next administration. In the months that followed, the rival campaigns moved to assure the party’s base that it was a dream they shared, by emulating the Edwards plan. And there’s little question that if the next president really does achieve major health reform, it will transform the political landscape.

Similar if less dramatic examples of leadership followed on other key issues. For example, Mr. Edwards led the way last March by proposing a serious plan for responding to climate change, and at this point both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are offering far stronger measures to limit emissions of greenhouse gases than anyone would have expected to see on the table not long ago.

Unfortunately for Mr. Edwards, the willingness of his rivals to emulate his policy proposals made it hard for him to differentiate himself as a candidate; meanwhile, those rivals had far larger financial resources and received vastly more media attention. Even The Times’s own public editor chided the paper for giving Mr. Edwards so little coverage.
And so Mr. Edwards won the arguments but not the political war.
Where will Edwards supporters go now? The truth is that nobody knows.

Yes, Mr. Obama is also running as a “change” candidate. But he isn’t offering the same kind of change: Mr. Edwards ran an unabashedly populist campaign, while Mr. Obama portrays himself as a candidate who can transcend partisanship — and given the economic elitism of the modern Republican Party, populism is unavoidably partisan.

It’s true that Mr. Obama has tried to work some populist themes into his campaign, but he apparently isn’t all that convincing: the working-class voters Mr. Edwards attracted have tended to favor Mrs. Clinton over Mr. Obama.

Furthermore, to the extent that this remains a campaign of ideas, it remains true that on the key issue of health care, the Clinton plan is more or less identical to the Edwards plan. The Obama plan, which doesn’t actually achieve universal coverage, is considerably weaker.

One thing is clear, however: whichever candidate does get the nomination, his or her chance of victory will rest largely on the ideas Mr. Edwards brought to the campaign.

Personal appeal won’t do the job: history shows that Republicans are very good at demonizing their opponents as individuals. Mrs. Clinton has already received the full treatment, while Mr. Obama hasn’t — yet. But if he gets the nod, watch how quickly conservative pundits who have praised him discover that he has deep character flaws.

If Democrats manage to get the focus on their substantive differences with the Republicans, however, polls on the issues suggest that they’ll have a big advantage. And they’ll have Mr. Edwards to thank.

Published: February 1, 2008