Senator Obama Mentioned as 2008 Contender
06-17-2006 11:37 PM
Senator Obama Mentioned as 2008 Contender
Obama's Profile Has Democrats Taking Notice
Popular Senator Is Mentioned as 2008 Contender
By Charles Babington
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, June 18, 2006; A01
EAST ORANGE, N.J. -- Barack Obama was standing before a packed high school auditorium when he noticed a familiar face in the crowd -- none other than singer Dionne Warwick. He paused, flashed a mischievous smile, then let loose with a perfectly on-key performance of the opening line of her hit song "Walk On By."
The audience of 300 students and adults roared with approval.
Obama, a first-term Democratic senator from Illinois, seems to be hitting the right notes these days. During Senate recesses, he has been touring the country at breakneck pace, basking in the sudden fame of a politician turned pop star. Along the way, he has been drawing crowds and campaign cash from Democrats starved for a fresh face and ready to cheer what Obama touts as "a politics of hope instead of a politics of fear."
His office fields more than 300 requests a week for appearances. One Senate Democrat, curious about Obama's charisma, took notes when watching him perform at a recent political event. State parties report breaking fundraising records when Obama is the speaker.
The money he is bringing in for fellow Democrats is shaping up as an important influence on 2006. And the potential Obama is demonstrating as a political performer -- less than two years after his elevation from the Illinois state legislature -- is prompting some colleagues to urge him to turn his attention to 2008 and a race for the presidency. Obama has made plain he is at least listening.
"I think he is unique," said Illinois's senior senator, Richard J. Durbin (D). "I don't believe there is another candidate I've seen, or an elected official, who really has the appeal that he does." As for the 2008 presidential race, "I said to him, 'Why don't you just kind of move around Iowa and watch what happens?' I know what's going to happen. And I think it's going to rewrite the game plans in a lot of presidential candidates if he makes that decision."
Obama deflects such talk, while not ruling out a presidential candidacy. The speculation is as much a commentary on the state of the party as it is on Obama. The Democrats' most prominent likely contenders -- such as Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) and John F. Kerry (Mass.) -- are figures who have been in the public eye for many years and wear scars from earlier controversies.
At age 44, the former Harvard Law School standout has little baggage. But Obama also has a scant legislative record in the Senate, where some members privately say they view him as drawn to news conferences and speeches more than to the hard details of lawmaking.
He has yet to carve out a distinctive profile on the policy and ideological debates that are central to how Democrats will position themselves in a post-Bush era.
In his stump speech, he offers a standard Democratic criticism of President Bush's tax cuts as favoring the rich, and promotes energy independence with only modest detail about how to achieve it. Nor does he dwell on the Iraq war, assailing the administration's handling of the conflict but not addressing such questions as a timetable for troop withdrawal.
Instead, it is almost entirely Obama's biography, along with his gift for engaging people in large audiences and one-on-one encounters, that is driving interest.
"It's very exciting for him to come here," said Iqua Colson, a public schools administrator who appeared at the event here. Most of the students are African American, as is Colson, and she said they see the Senate's only black member as an appealing role model: "He represents hope, promise, excellence."
Every speech includes a version of people telling him in 2004 that a Hawaiian-born African American with a Kenyan father, Kansan mother and "an unpronounceable name" could never be elected to the U.S. Senate from Illinois. Before mostly black audiences, he triggers guffaws by saying people rendered his surname as "Alabama" and "yo mama." He refers to himself as "a black guy" before white audiences, "a brother" before black groups.
Every story ends the same, however. He overcame the odds, he tells the listeners, and so can they.
It is a homily that has left some fellow politicians swooning. "I haven't seen a phenomenon like this, where someone comes in so new and is so dazzling," said Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), a 25-year veteran of Congress. Schumer, who heads the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, said Obama "is more requested than anybody else" in the party's hierarchy for fundraising and campaign appearances on behalf of congressional candidates. "Everyone wants him. He's lightning."
Barely known outside his state until he delivered a widely praised speech at the 2004 Democratic convention in Boston, Obama is scrambling to meet his party's demands.
He starred at a March 30 dinner for Connecticut Democrats that drew more than 1,700 people paying at least $175 each -- the state party's biggest such take in decades. "The Darling of His Party," the next day's Hartford Courant front-page headline said, "Wows the Faithful." A March rally on behalf of a Senate candidate in Vermont drew 2,000 people to a hall with 800 seats. "Organizers underestimated Barack Obama's star power," said the next day's Burlington Free Press.
Invitations he has turned down included a chance to be Stanford University's commencement speaker, because he tries to spend Sundays at home in Chicago with his wife, Michelle, and their two young daughters.
Interviewed recently as he jetted between campaign appearances for Democrats in Massachusetts and New Jersey, Obama said he is flattered but so far unmoved by appeals that he seek the presidency in 2008: "It's gratifying to know that my message resonates enough that people are thinking in those terms. But at this stage, I haven't changed my mind from previous demurrals."
Obama, however, is not exactly standing still. He recently hired two nationally experienced political consultants, Anita Dunn in Washington and David Axelrod in Chicago. The senator suggested that a presidential bid is a matter of when, not if.
"We've visited 25 states since taking office," he said. "And in each of those states, we might have 2,000 people show up at a rally. And we'd get back to D.C. and we'd realize we didn't have e-mail addresses for any of those people. That might be a useful thing to have when, you know, I'm running for something and might be looking to raise some money."
Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.), who lauded Obama's political and legislative skills, said he must think about what timing is best for him. "It is unfair to him to heap too much praise on him, because he's so new here," he said. "He's kind of like an all-star baseball player who comes right out of high school or college and has a major impact in that first season. And always the question is, 'Can he sustain it? Will he get burned out?' "
Obama said he wishes reporters and others would pay more attention to his work that helped Illinois veterans receive larger disability benefits, and his legislation encouraging alternative fuels. But he said he understands that "there's a certain story line that attaches to each celebrity. . . . My story line is: 'Rising star comes to D.C. and how quickly will D.C. corrupt him?' "
He praised Clinton's approach to Congress and prominence. "One of the things that both Hillary and I recognize is that we are conferred a huge advantage by virtue of our notoriety," he said. "We don't really have to chase the cameras."
For now, most of his Democratic colleagues believe that Obama's advancement only benefits them. In East Orange, Obama made three stops on behalf of Sen. Robert Menendez (N.J.), including at a fundraiser that brought in $500,000.
Menendez, who has won seven U.S. House races, later confided, "I took some notes on his interactions."
Onstage, Obama carries audiences along with self-deprecating jokes and gently rhythmic riffs that accent his main points. With a comic's timing, he gets big laughs describing how he reacted when friends first urged him to run for the Illinois Senate. "I prayed on it," he says, pausing briefly. "And I asked my wife." He adds that "those higher authorities" gave their assent.
Perhaps because he has been a national figure for so short a time, there's little of the air of self-importance that surrounds many senators. Staffers generally refer to him as "Barack" rather than "the senator," and they don't snap to attention, as some aides do, when the boss suddenly appears.
Offstage, his matter-of-fact demeanor rarely changed in two busy days of travel. As the plane was about to lift off in overcast skies, he nonchalantly discussed the weather-related crashes that killed Missouri Gov. Mel Carnahan and Minnesota Sen. Paul D. Wellstone on campaign trips. An Obama staff member and a reporter later acknowledged that they found the conversation a bit unsettling.
Stylistically, Obama conveys a "sense of authenticity, which I think is the silver coin of the time in terms of leadership," said Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.). In the Senate, he credited the freshman with persuading Republicans to accept a controversial provision on wages in the hard-fought immigration bill.
What Kennedy viewed as a coup, however, was seen as showy overreaching by some Republicans. They complained that in private negotiations Obama seemed more interested in his pet amendments than in the need for an overarching, filibuster-proof compromise.
Such reproaches are bound to increase with Obama's visibility, and the potential danger of moving too far, too fast "is certainly something that I think he thinks about," Kennedy said. "On the other hand, there is enormous thirst within the Democratic Party, within the country, to have new directions, new solutions, new ideas." Kennedy said he doesn't know Obama well enough to counsel him on whether to run in 2008.
But some grass-roots Democrats are ready. "I think he's spectacular," said ophthalmologist David Victor after hearing Obama speak at a Boston rally. "Barack Obama represents the heart and soul of the party, the real future of the party."
Washingtonpost.com staff writer Chris Cillizza and research editor Lucy Shackelford contributed to this report in Washington.
06-18-2006 12:21 AM
No way a guy with a name like that ends up being president
06-18-2006 01:10 AM
He'll be a better choice than Hillary but damn Obama almost sounds like Osama and would be an ironic name for a US president LOL
06-19-2006 09:06 AM
the people would vote a black republican in office first, he doesn't have a chance until that happens
06-19-2006 12:09 PM
Originally Posted by MaynardMeek
I agree, sort of anyway. I expected Barack to run in 2012. He is just a first term senator, and I didn't think he could garner the support necessary to take on Hillary. I read his autobiography, and it was an interesting story to say the least. His mother is white from the heartland of America, his father is African and goes back to Africa leaving his family behind, and Barack admits to using drugs. Not a great background to run for president, but Obama is an incredible speaker and motivator, as witnessed in his address at the last Democratic Convention. He has had several major political victories and maintains a huge following. I guess Barack is a candidate for the whole "american dream" scenario, overcoming obstacles and succeeding. This could play big.
Still, he is a Democrat. Hillary is going to win the nomination - no matter what else hapens - in 2008. And some Republican will beat her for pres because nobody really wants Hillary to win. If Barack was a Republican, his chances would increase dramatically. If Colin Powell ran for pres as a republican against Hillary, he would undoubtly be the first African American to be President of the US. I would wager he would put up landslide type numbers in the race.
06-19-2006 12:38 PM
Historically senators never fair well in presidential campaigns.
Furthermore, he's waaaaaaaaaaaay out there on the far left.
He wants amnesty for illegals and has yet to renounce the tired tax, tax, tax policies of the Democrats.
I really fail to see what is so great about him. Up to this point what has he really accomplished???
06-19-2006 01:07 PM
the only thing great about him is that that he is being promoted as a black democrat. un like the republican party that has more black and minority members in true powerful positions, the left has not been very good on bringing black americans up to that standard... reasons why i wont get into for it is another topic in a whole. Obama is just a new cool thing to look at... and you are correct.. why his politics is outed.. the nation will pass over him as they have done with almost every black liberal.
06-19-2006 01:42 PM
As has been said here, this guy's name alone will kill his presidential aspirations. Nobody is going to want a president named Barak Obama.
Like some others, I agree with the theory that the first black president will be a Republican, and I've always felt this way.
I think that J.C. Watts would be a good pick. Although "JC" stands for "Julius Caesar," nobody knows him by that name. "JC Watts" sounds very all-American. And he was a star college football player and played in the CFL.
06-19-2006 07:21 PM
The fact that the Dems have to bring up this know-nothing, rookie political hack, is a testimony to how intellectually and morally bankrupt the Democrat party has become. They got no credible candidate left in the party. All the Blue Dog Democrates have been circumcised and strangulated to death. It is a party of lunatics, moral degenerates, hypocrites, dinosaurs and yellow dog Democrates. Collin Powell is damn right when he said the Dems are intellectually and morally bankrupt.
It is a damn shame that the Republic does not have a credible opposition. It is unhealthy for a democracy.
06-20-2006 12:31 AM
Originally Posted by BioHazzard
07-05-2006 04:53 PM
No Democrat will be elected until at least 2016. The party needs a whole heap of changes, mainly the addition of a complete platform. They have the fundraising support, they just can't manage to capitalize on all of the mistakes the Republicans have made. Honestly, no matter what party you are, you can admit that there have been numerous opportunities, mainly the DeLay indictment, the NSA scandal, etc., etc. where the Democrats could have capitalized big time, but just ended up stumbling over their own feet.
Barack never says anything worthwhile in his speeches. Yes he's good at speaking, but not at speaking of what he or his party intend to do for our country. He is not a winning candidate for President, never will be. The Democrats need to find a good Governor from a fairly in the middle state, like a Clinton version 2.0, if they want to compete in the future.
07-05-2006 08:08 PM
Billary Klinton was the failed governor of a failed state. As Ross Perot put it,"I wouldn't even consider hiring him to be mid level manager." His treachery at the highest office, resulted in unprecedented security bleach and compromise. The Chinese conducted mass scale theft of secrets concerning nuclear war head design. The Chinese intelligence services loved Klinton/Gore so much that they were actively channelling money into Gore's campaign, hoping to get another traitor into WhiteHouse. Damn Gore was taking money from Chinese nuns and monks who were supposed to have taken vows of poverty. The Russians were putting bugs in the States Dept's conference rooms. The whole Klinton WhiteHouse was leaking intelligence like a freaking sheeve. Al Qaeda grew unchecked and unstopped, precipitating in 911. The stock market has the biggest burst in history, pecipitated by Alan Greenspan's rolling asset bubble inflation scheme. The scumball should be tried for treason. Treachery by way of dereliction of duty.
07-05-2006 10:41 PM
Would you mind providing a source for this information, I spoke to a few of my professors about this comment, none have ever heard of that. Neither have staunch Republican lobbiests and Congress staffers that I have shared your enlightening rhetoric with.
Originally Posted by BioHazzard
07-05-2006 10:42 PM
Originally Posted by BioHazzard
What are you talking about???
Without Algore, earth will reach 10,000,000,000,000 degreees fahrenheit by Friday at 4:38 pm est.
Oh Algore, savior of the nonsexist, bathhouse friendly cosmos...deliver us unto a gender neutral, Prius rich landscape where your nuance and gravitas will show us the light and taxes will obliterate the middle class.
Bush lied kids died!!!
07-05-2006 10:45 PM
Also honestly man, China is so ****ing far behind us in terms of military technology it's not even funny. Do you honestly think our latest breaking developmental secrets are kept in the White House or the State Dept.? Also have you ever even tried to get into either building, the background check alone takes months, doubtful that some random spy would slip through.
I'm sorry, I don't mean to be insulting, but from the standpoint of a polemecist, that arguement lacks proper spelling, grammar, citations and basic logic, I really do not see how you expect anyone on this board to believe it.
07-05-2006 11:09 PM
That's because it's hysterical opinion, not fact.
07-06-2006 06:12 AM
I think Governor Mit Romney has been spoken of running in 2008.
Being a resident of Massachusetts myself, that makes me :shudder:
How about Governor Schwarzenegger running? It's only a matter of time before they change that rule for him
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07-06-2006 06:29 AM
Obama isn't going anyway. I was impressed with him for a "shooooooooooooooooooooort time". since that time, however, he has proved himself to be a true politician with little to no vision. As the article mentioned, he just seems to tow the party line in a splenderous fashion, but nothing more.
I can't think of a single person I'd "almost be please voting for" with the exception of good ole rudy juliani. I like the fact that the turned crime in NY on its head and kicked it in the face and then publically said some pretty nasty stuff about his ex-wife In short, it seems he still has testicles...haha. I'd vote for a man with balls who seems just shy of a raving lunatic before I'd vote for another spineless politician on their knees in front of UN representatives.
07-06-2006 07:53 AM
Yah, I'm not the hugest Bush fan on Earth, but I like the fact that he at least stands for something and sticks with it. At the end of the day I am pleased that he has some personal strength, knows what he wants to do, and does it, which can not be said for most of the proposed Democratic candidates.
Originally Posted by kwyckemynd00
To the person above who said that about Ahnnold, won't happen. Even if that rule wasn't there his approval rating and history as Governor of California is not favorable. Personally I like a lot of his ideas and proposals, but I remember just recently there was a time when his approval rating was lower than Bush's, and that's pretty low.
Overall, I expect McCain to throw his hat in. He's doing everything by the book right now, gaining support from the far right, including the vital financial backers, making 'visits' to New Hampshire and other states, etc. If he runs though I hope he can ditch his ultra-right allegiance right after the primary and market himself for who he really is. We can save anything more on that topic for another thread though.
Yah, everyone the Democrats have proposed is a ****ing loser. Plain and simple. Apparently they didn't learn from 2004. If Feingold runs I will laugh so damn hard.
07-06-2006 08:05 AM
Oh....McCain....if there is anybody I hate more than hillary clinton, its john mccain. That guy will be the death of america if he is president. talk about a people pleasin son of a b1tch. he flip flops like john kerry during a seizure.
i'll never get over him taunting the americna people regarding the immigration debate offering any american citizen $50/hr to pick strawberries and saying we still wouldn't do it. that quote will never die. if he runs, it will be teh death of him.....i'm very glad he said it, otherwise, i think he may have a chance.
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