This election has been going on for so long and has taken us in so many directions that we almost forgot Fred Thompson, the Tennessee senator best known as Arthur Branch on Law & Order, was ever in the race.
To do so, the junior senator from New York must make the right pitch, or gain enough momentum, to win over the superdelegates, those now-omnipotent stars of the Democratic party who will have to push one candidate over the top.
At a moment when race is the hot topic of discussion in the Democratic primary, an endorsement by the Hispanic governor of New Mexico has to be a huge boon for Obama. Especially after pundits were on his back for a comment about "typical white people" yesterday.
It was fun for a while imagining what juicy nuggets might be buried in Hillary Clinton's just-released public schedule as First Lady. Something like, "December 20th, 1998: 9 p.m. — Hillary and Bill Have Makeup Sex, Do Not Cuddle." But what really ended up being in the documents?
Recently, as he's faced sustained media skepticism for the first time, Barack Obama has been more than just defensive: He’s been besieged and slightly peevish at times. But on Tuesday, he accomplished the near-impossible by making the Reverend Jeremiah Wright’s inflammatory remarks seem like just a prelude to the big, conversation-starting speech on race Obama wanted to offer the nation all along. He also achieved something else his skittish supporters had worried he might not again: He won the day’s news cycle. Tuesday’s speech was Obama’s attempt to reclaim not only the high ground, but also the initiative.
The question now is this: How does he keep it up? Here are six answers.
Senator Barack Obama gave a brave, powerful, important speech yesterday in Philadelphia, but he was forced to deliver it by the greatest crisis of his candidacy: the furor created by the incendiary remarks of his former Chicago pastor, the Reverend Jeremiah Wright.
Jesse Jackson has, up until now, been somewhat muted in his support of Barack Obama. Likewise, Obama has kept him at arm's length, even though the former Democratic presidential candidate is a pledged advocate. But today, just after Barack Obama made a speech attempting to lift the lid off and expose the simmering pot of American racial tension, Jackson suddenly emerged exuberant.
"I thought [the speech] was a culmination of tough-minded, tender-hearted and a clear vision," Jackson told the Huffington Post. "It really was warm, filling, captive, reconciling and comprehensive and it displayed real true grit. He was forthright not evasive and used it as a teaching moment in American history: America's struggle to overcome its past and become a more perfect union. And once he made the case about the past and the complexities of Reverend Wright's life or [Geraldine] Ferraro's for that matter, he made the case that we are here now, but this time we will go forward by hope and not backwards by fear."
Barack Obama just finished his big address on race and politics in Philadelphia. This was a big one for him, as he's been forced to address many racially charged issues in the past week because of his friendship and affiliation with the controversial Reverend Jeremiah Wright. Wright is Obama's pastor and officiated his wedding with Michelle Obama. He's also blamed the United States for 9/11, the AIDS virus, and "creating a racist society." In the lull before the Pennsylvania primary on April 22, this has become the main political plotline of the Democratic contest. Today, he addressed these issues and the broader scale of racial tension in America. It was strikingly reminiscent of Mitt Romney's much-touted "Faith in America" address. Beginning with a discussion of the Declaration of Independence and a nod to Obama's mixed heritage, it honestly bared the anger and confusion (and roots thereof) that black and white people still face in America today. Some highlights:
• "For as long as I live I will never forget that in no other country on earth is my story even possible," he explained, referencing the slave ancestry in his wife and daughter's heritage.
• He exclusively referred to Reverend Wright as his "former pastor." He also conceded that he had heard him sermonize controversial ideas but compared it to the many Americans who have heard similar things from their own priests, rabbis, and religious leaders. He called Wright's opinion "a profoundly distorted view of this country."
With the news yesterday that Florida is putting the kibosh on a Democratic-primary revote, the state has solidified its reputation as the place where votes go to die. A statement from Florida's Democratic chairwoman, Karen Thurman, read, "We researched every potential alternative process — from caucuses to county conventions to mail-in elections — but no plan could come anywhere close to being viable in Florida." Meanwhile, Michigan Democrats are also trying to make some kind of revote possible, but the logistics are complicated and the candidates themselves are dubious. Hillary Clinton would like to seat the delegates from the original vote even though Barack Obama wasn't even on the ballot. And Obama doesn't need the risk of losing Michigan while actually on the ballot or the few extra delegates he could gain from winning. Pundits — dissect!
The good news for Barack Obama: The latest Democratic race-based scandal comes during a five-week lull between primaries, so it may not actually result in any tangible loss until the April 22 Pennsylvania contest. The bad news: It might be something people still remember on April 22. Obama is feeling the heat right now for several particularly inflammatory statements made by his former pastor, the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, which have recently received renewed scrutiny in the media. Obama has come out against Wright's remarks and dropped him from the campaign, but questions surrounding the closeness of their relationship and Obama's knowledge of Wright's more provocative statements continue unabated. How damaging to Obama will this controversy become? And are we committing guilt by association, or guilt by … guilt?
With almost six weeks until the next primary, now seems as good a time as ever to have a nice, long, probing discussion about race. Might as well throw in gender too — we've got time. With the Geraldine Ferraro controversy having reached its uneasy conclusion, talk now turns to how exactly the candidates are using and responding to issues of race and gender, and the larger role of voter biases. Is Obama being too sensitive? Is his blackness actually the crux of his appeal? Or is it just the cherry on top of his three scoops of awesomeness? And when can we get back to talking about health-care mandates? Okay, nobody's saying that last thing. But some people are already wondering when the pattern of racist-sexist accusations will peter out for good.
America's first female vice-presidential candidate, Geraldine Ferraro, has resigned from Hillary Clinton's campaign in disgrace after she said that Obama "would not be in this position" if he were a white man. Except, according to her, there's no disgrace at all. In fact, she's owed an apology. After a liberal blog and media feeding frenzy over her comments, she stepped down from her position on the finance committee — but she refused to apologize for the flap. "If anybody is going to apologize," she said defiantly, "They should apologize to me for calling me a racist." She said she's stepping down only so the campaign can move past this issue. Obama himself stopped short of calling her racist, but Hillary aggressively attacked her. "I rejected what she said and I certainly do repudiate it." She rejects and repudiates? She's making sure all her bases are covered. She's also putting Ferraro in the same box as Louis Farrakhan. Ouch!
Ferraro Quits But Offers No Apologies [Campaign 08/Nation]
As you probably already know, but perhaps haven't been much thinking about, Barack Obama won the Mississippi primary last night. It was a big win, something like 60 percent to 37 percent. Clinton didn't make much of an effort in the state, so she probably didn't take the loss too hard — for a woman who claims to want to seat the Michigan and Florida delegations so that every Democratic voter can feel like he's been listened to, she's certainly been ignoring a large amount of them. But the exit-poll numbers indicate a few surprises. For one thing, Hillary Clinton received the lion's share of crossover votes (Republican voters who vote in the Democratic primary), which is a first — every other time crossover voting has been included, Obama has trumped her with this group. But this time, Hillary took them 3 to 1. Obama took 90 percent of the black vote, and Hillary did better than usual with the white vote, which Politico's Ben Smith chalks up to the attitudes of southern white voters. And finally, Obama won either five or seven delegates more than Hillary did last night, depending on who is counting. This effectively erases any ground she may have gained after her big wins last Tuesday.
We will now return to our round-the-clock Eliot Spitzer hookapalooza coverage.
Mississippi Crossovers [Talking Points Memo]
Mississippi Delegates [Politico]
The Magnolia State Stats [Stumper/Newsweek]
Obama Wins In Mississippi [NYT]
Geraldine Ferraro apparently hasn't paid attention to how the offensive-comment cycle has worked this election: Surrogate X says something offensive about candidate Y. General outrage ensues. Surrogate X backtracks, apologizes, and/or vanishes. Ferraro, a member of Hillary Clinton's finance committee, is not backing away from her statement (to Torrance, California's Daily Breeze) that "If [Barack] Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position." Obama's people charged it furthered a Clinton pattern of race-baiting; Clinton only said she "disagreed" with Ferraro. And Ferraro has refused to back down. Yesterday on Fox News she even claimed to be the victim of reverse racism, saying, "I really think they're attacking me because I'm white." And judging from what she told the New York Times, Ferraro has no intention of quietly slinking away. "If they think they’re going to shut up Geraldine Ferraro with that kind of stuff, they don’t know me," she told the Caucus blog. Who else isn't shutting up? The punditry, of course.
Dream ticket? Dream on. That was the message delivered by Barack Obama in Mississippi yesterday when he shook off the notion — recently planted by Hillary and Bill Clinton — of a joint presidential ticket led, naturally, by Clinton. Obama characterized the suggestion as a shrewd plan meant to "hoodwink," "bamboozle," and "okey-doke" the voters. After putting away his Thesaurus of Funny-Sounding Words and Phrases, 3rd Edition, he then questioned how Clinton could claim he's not qualified to be commander-in-chief and then kinda-sorta offer him the veep slot. A lot of other people have been wondering the same thing.
Last week a national Electoral College poll pitted Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama separately against John McCain in each of the 50 states and Washington, D.C. The numbers will obviously change between now and the general election, but the poll shows both Clinton and Obama defeating McCain with combinations of states that shake up the familiar red-blue divide of the past two presidential elections. And though they win with different states, the fact that the poll gives both Obama and Clinton an advantage fails to help resolve a main point of contention in the Democratic primary: Who is more electable? And so, as always, we turn to the pundits.
Remember when there was all that hullabaloo about the Clinton campaign's making Barack Obama look blacker than he is in one of its ads? The campaign dismissed the claim, but we know enough about political advertising to be aware that not one single second of any spot isn't agonized over. (Case in point: The idea that the famous "floating cross" in Huckabee's Christmas ad was anything but planned is ridiculous.) But maybe we were too quick to judge: Last Thursday we noticed that Clinton isn't the only one with trouble nailing down Obama's exact facial characteristics. The Wall Street Journal's crack team of stipple artists (led by Noli Novak) couldn't quite get it right, either. Instead of Obama's trademark dark brow and big open eyes, we got an image of a man who looked, well, a little bit like a generic black dude. That's weird, right? But maybe we should just chalk it up to the limitations of the medium. And in that case, let us say that said limitations are kinder to Hillary. When was the last time you saw her looking that joyful and young?
Clinton, Obama Go on Attack as Superdelegates Hold Key [WSJ]