Clinton, Obama claim more than $100 million in campaign finances for the year

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Dec 312007
 
Authors: JIM KUHNHENN

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton will have raised more than $100 million this year for her presidential campaign, aides confirmed Monday evening, setting a historic new threshold in fundraising.

Rival Barack Obama’s campaign indicated it had reached that record-setting mark as well. In a Power Point presentation to supporters, Obama campaign manager David Plouffe, said the campaign would need “at least $100 million” to compete in the first 26 primary and caucus states. “Obama will have the financial resources,” Plouffe said.

Clinton aides said her figure did not include $10 million she transferred to the campaign from her Senate campaign account at the beginning of the year. That means the senator from New York will have raised more than $20 million during the past three months.

Neither the Clinton nor the Obama campaigns revealed how much of the money raised was designated for the primary phase of the campaign and how much was for the general election – an important distinction that would signal how much they have available to compete for the Democratic nomination.

In the first three quarters, Obama raised more primary money than Clinton.

Clinton had $90.9 million in receipts at the end of September, including the $10 million transfer. By that time, she had raised a total of $80.4 million.

Monday at midnight was the last day of the fundraising quarter. Campaigns won’t have to make details of their fundraising and spending public until Jan. 31, when they file finance reports with the Federal Election Commission.

By only confirming its end-of-year total, Clinton’s campaign was drawing attention to the biggest number it plans to report. But state-by-state presidential contests are approaching quickly, culminating on Feb. 5 when more than 20 states hold primary contests. That means cash-on-hand will be an important total that signals how financially prepared candidates are to compete beyond Thursday’s Iowa caucuses, and the New Hampshire primary on Jan. 8.

Clinton and Obama have been locked in a fundraising race, with both already breaking fundraising records. Obama, of Illinois, had total receipts of more than $80 million at the end of September, and had raised more money for the primary contests than Clinton had.

In his presentation to supporters, Plouffe said Obama had 472,630 unique donors as of Sunday evening.

At the end of September, Clinton and Obama each reported more than $30 million in cash available for the primaries.

John Edwards, who has trailed Obama and Clinton fundraising but is in a three-way competition for the Iowa caucuses, was expected to report between $4 million and $5 million raised in the quarter. Edwards has qualified for $8.8 million in public matching funds, bringing his total for the year to about $44 million.

On the Republican side, dark horse Ron Paul was reporting having raised $19.5 million during the final three months of the year, a sharp increase from the $5.2 million he raised during the previous.

That would bring Paul’s total raised this year to more than $27 million. Paul’s fourth-quarter haul would surpass the third quarter fundraising by each of his Republican rivals.

Paul has caught fire on the Internet, attracting a national following among donors drawn to his opposition to U.S. troops in Iraq and his libertarian views.

 Posted by at 5:00 pm

Presidential rivals spar to last moments of 2007, race toward Thursday’s Iowa caucuses

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Dec 312007
 
Authors: DAVID ESPO

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) _ Presidential contenders rang in the 2008 election year with near-constant campaigning on Monday as a poll showed Democrat Barack Obama and Republican Mike Huckabee leading their rivals with three days remaining before the Iowa caucuses.

Anonymous phone calls and a negative campaign commercial that vanished into thin air also spiced the race, and not even New Year’s Eve was off-limits to campaign oratory.

The poll by the Des Moines Register showed Obama, an Illinois senator, with the support of 32 percent of those surveyed, compared to 25 percent for Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York and 24 percent for former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina.

Among Republicans, Huckabee, a former Arkansas governor, had the backing of 32 percent of those surveyed, and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney had 26 percent.

Other polls have shown far closer races in recent days within both parties, and the leading candidates are engaged in a virtual nonstop round of personal appearances across the state that provides the first test of the race for the White House.

“I’m taking a risk, I know I am,” said Huckabee, who previewed an ad sharply critical of Romney during the day after first assuring reporters he would not air it on TV. Romney has aired ads critical of Huckabee in recent days.

The three top Democratic rivals campaigned in far more traditional fashion, and Obama, Edwards and Clinton combined for more than a dozen appearances before time ran out on 2007.

Obama jubilantly touted his lead in the Register poll during the last of five rallies, telling his audience that he had a six-point lead – and people in the crowd corrected him by noting it was actually a seven-point margin.

“We just might pull this thing off, Iowa,” Obama said. “Who would have thunk it?”

Clinton got the distinction for the last event of the year – in downtown Des Moines with her husband, the former president.

“We want our government back, we want our democracy back,” Edwards told an audience in Storm Lake. Locked in a three-way race, the former North Carolina senator claimed late momentum for a campaign built around his pledge to fight special interests in Washington.

Clinton, a former first lady bidding to become the first female president, seemed primed to counter. “I submit to you there isn’t anybody running who’s taken on more special interests and taken on more incoming fire and survived them than I have,” she told a crowd in Keokuk.

Obama stuck doggedly to the campaign pitch that has made him the most serious black presidential candidate in history. “You can’t afford to settle for the same old politics,” he told a crowd in Perry.

The poll said Obama was benefiting handsomely from an influx of first-time caucus-goers. If so, that meant his finish in the state would hinge to an extraordinary degree on the ability of his organization to turn out supporters.

In yet another sign of uncertainty, nearly a third of those polled said they could still change their minds.

In a gesture that reflected the hand-to-hand nature of the political struggle, his campaign arranged to have a former Clinton supporter, Marlin Eineke, introduce Obama to the crowd. The political convert said he was attracted to Obama’s positive campaign.

New Hampshire holds its first-in-the-nation primary five days after Iowa’s caucuses, and if history is a guide the roster of candidates will be far slimmer by then. Already, Democrats Chris Dodd and Joseph Biden have spoken about dropping out if they fail to meet their expectations in Iowa.

With three days remaining until the caucuses, several Democratic voters reported receiving anonymous telephone calls from self-proclaimed pollsters spreading unflattering information.

Some calls said Obama’s health plan would leave millions uninsured. Others said Edwards’ plans for a troop withdrawal from Iraq were dangerous or that Clinton would lead the party to defeat in the fall.

One Democrat, Michael Hancock of Coralville, said he had received an automated call reminding him that an important college football game would be televised Thursday night at the same time the caucuses were held.

He said he promptly hung up his phone before concluding it was a “transparent attempt to depress turnout from some people.” Neighboring Kansas plays in the Orange Bowl Thursday night.

No group has taken responsibility for any of the calls.

The newspaper poll reported virtually no change in Huckabee’s lead over Romney since a previous survey about a month ago.

Romney, the former Republican governor of Massachusetts, used his personal wealth to jump out to a sizable early lead in both Iowa and New Hampshire. Huckabee’s support among evangelical Christians allowed him to overtake Romney in surveys in recent weeks, although he has more lately fallen back under the weight of criticism of his record as governor of Arkansas as well as his own campaign missteps.

Stepping before more than a dozen television cameras, Huckabee first swore off negative ads in the Iowa race, then previewed a commercial in which he was seen saying of his rival: “If a man’s dishonest to obtain a job, he’ll be dishonest on the job. Iowans deserve better.”

He acknowledged the risk to his campaign of allowing Romney’s critical commercials to go unanswered, but said of his own supporters: “If they abandon us now because we are not going negative I would be surprised.”

“If you gain the whole world and lose your soul, what have you profited?” asked the Baptist preacher-politician.

Huckabee is trying to outflank Romney in their race for primacy in Iowa – and in the national polls.

He told reporters one of the reasons he originally intended to launch a negative commercial was because Romney had assailed a third candidate, Sen. John McCain. McCain has made a relatively modest effort in Iowa, and Huckabee could benefit in the campaign’s final few days if he could peel away some Republicans who had been leaning toward the Arizona senator.

Huckabee also suggested a two-way debate in the final two days that would allow Romney and him to share a stage.

Romney had no immediate response to that as he made his final campaign rounds of 2007.

He launched an upbeat new commercial that said it was “time to turn around Washington.”

At the same time, he was freshly critical of Huckabee’s record as governor, saying voters would be put off by his rival’s position on immigration and the pardons he had granted while governor.

Three protesters seeking a commitment from Huckabee to end the Iraq war were arrested during the day after refusing to leave his office. Police said the three were charged with criminal trespass and released.

 Posted by at 5:00 pm

Huckabee to spend caucus eve trading jokes with Jay Leno on ‘Tonight Show’

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Dec 312007
 
Authors: LIBBY QUAID

SERGEANT BLUFF, Iowa (AP) _ On the eve of the Iowa caucuses, Republican presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee will trade jokes with Jay Leno on NBC’s “Tonight Show.”

While his rivals will be making a final appeal to the state’s voters, Huckabee will be flying to Los Angeles to tape the show with Leno, who returns to the air Wednesday without striking writers.

“It’s just an incredible opportunity to be there, particularly the very first night he’s back from the writer’s strike,” Huckabee said. “Besides, if all else fails and this whole process doesn’t work out, maybe he needs a sidekick and I’ll be auditioning tomorrow.”

A similar late-night appearance backfired on rival Fred Thompson, the actor-politician who irked voters in New Hampshire by skipping a Republican debate last fall at the University of New Hampshire to announce his candidacy on Leno’s show.

The unconventional move is somewhat fitting for Huckabee who broke with tradition on Monday, eschewing campaigning to go for a run and get a shave and haircut in front of his media entourage. He also held an odd news conference in which he announced he had decided against going negative with a critical TV ad against Republican Mitt Romney – and then played the ad for the media.

Huckabee and Romney are in a close race in Iowa.

Huckabee was back out campaigning Tuesday, flying early on New Year’s Day to Sergeant Bluff, where he urged about 200 people at the Pizza Ranch restaurant to turn out for Thursday’s caucuses.

“I want you to go with a commitment, in essence a fervent spirit, that says I will not only go no matter what the weather, I will take people with me to vote for Mike Huckabee,” he said.

He said he hopes the decision not to air his negative ad was the right one.

“We’ll find out,” Huckabee said. “I know a lot of people are cynical and think we pulled a stunt yesterday. I just decided if that’s what it takes to get elected, that’s a lousy way to run a country.”

In Sergeant Bluff, Huckabee supporter Bob Dunker said he didn’t mind that Huckabee was heading to California.

“I’m thinking it’s OK for him to get national exposure, because when you don’t have money, I think you need to tell your story to America any way you can,” Dunker said. “Hey, when he can be here at 9 o’clock on New Year’s Day talking to us, he can go wherever he wants tomorrow. I’m sure he’ll be back in Iowa Thursday.”

 Posted by at 5:00 pm

In waning hours before Iowa caucuses, uplifting appeals to voters replace stinging insults

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Dec 312007
 
Authors: LIZ SIDOTI

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP)– Uplifting appeals largely replaced stinging insults Tuesday as Democratic and Republican candidates did the only thing left to do in Iowa races that are too close to call – encourage supporters to vote for them.

“The polls look good, but understand this – the polls are not enough. The only thing that counts is whether or not you show up to caucus,” Democrat Barack Obama told a fired-up crowd of young and old packed into a high school gymnasium.

Amid murmurs of “Amen!” at a pizza parlor in Sergeant Bluff, Republican Mike Huckabee urged hundreds: “Don’t go alone. Take people with you. Fill up your car. Rent a van. Hijack your church’s bus, whatever you’ve got to do to get people to the caucus who are going to vote for me.”

Candidates made the pitch repeatedly as they canvassed the state for Thursday’s caucuses, the first votes of the presidential nominating process. At least 130,000 Democrats and 80,000 Republicans are expected to participate in 1,781 neighborhood meetings at schools, fire stations and community centers across Iowa on what is forecast to be a clear but cold night.

New polls show both races competitive, the outcomes extraordinarily unpredictable.

Among Democrats, Obama, an Illinois senator, is fighting with Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York for the lead as former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina gives them strong chase. Two former governors, Huckabee of Arkansas and Mitt Romney of Massachusetts, are vying for first on the Republican side.

Given the tightness, turning out voters will be critical.

Thus, hordes of volunteers made thousands of get-out-the-vote phone calls Tuesday, the campaigns rolled out uplifting television ads and the candidates made their pitches on the first day of 2008. The efforts were intended to maximize media exposure and voter outreach.

There were signs that Democratic voters are more energized than Republicans.

Democrat Joe Biden, who ranks in the low single digits in polls, attracted 500 people to a noontime event at a Des Moines brewery – a bigger crowd than any Republican candidate usually gets.

Obama’s campaign drew at or over capacity crowds. When he asked for a show of hands, many people said they’d never been to a caucus. In a boost for Obama, Democrat Dennis Kucinich asked his supporters to support Obama if he doesn’t meet the cutoff point for voting in the caucuses.

As they campaigned in Iowa, all but one candidate, Romney, shunned the negativity that spiked in recent weeks.

Obama, Clinton and Edwards played nice. Huckabee made good on a promise to clean up his act, the day after he held a news conference to say he wouldn’t run a critical ad against Romney – but then showed it to a room full of reporters and cameramen.

“It does remind you a bit of a person who stands up and says ‘I’m not going to call my opponent any names, but here are the names I’d call him if I were going to call him names,'” Romney told reporters in Johnston.

With two days left in the campaign, Romney continued his ads against Huckabee. He also assailed Huckabee’s defense of his own failure to read the National Intelligence Estimate on Iran last month.

“President Bush didn’t read it for four years; I don’t know why I should read it in four hours,” Huckabee said in an interview published Monday in the Mason City Globe Gazette.

Romney seized on the comment: “I’m not sure whether Governor Huckabee meant the attack as a joke, but this is not a time to be mocking our president, and it was I think in bad taste.”

A multimillionaire, Romney also indicated that he had funneled more of his personal fortune into his campaign, but wouldn’t say how much. He had contributed $17 million through September.

For the most part, candidates spent New Year’s Day trying to energize supporters.

In the Des Moines area, Romney combined football and politics at a series of “House Party Huddles.” At one, children ran around bashing one another with large, red foam mitts that read “Mitt ’08.”

At an Elks Lodge in Cedar Rapids, Huckabee pulled out a bass guitar and played “Blue Suede Shoes” and “Mustang Sally” with a singer and drummer, a warm-up perhaps for his appearance Wednesday with Jay Leno on NBC’s “Tonight Show.”

Obama’s family was enthusiastic, buoyed by a Des Moines Register poll that showed him leading. His wife, Michelle, talked about “when Barack is the next president of the United States” and he referred to her “the next first lady of the United States.”

Later, in Council Bluffs, Obama said that while some of his rivals focused on their experience, he was proud to run a campaign on hope.

“You’ve got to have hope if you are a black man named Obama running for the presidency of the United States of America,” he said.

His chief rival, Clinton, campaigned with her 88-year old mother, Dorothy Rodham, and daughter, Chelsea, in tow as she worked to solidify her already strong support among female voters. Her husband, former President Clinton, campaigned separately, joking at one event that he was missing out on a day of football games and being “the quintessential indolent American male on New Year’s Day.”

His faux grumbling aside, Clinton’s campaign seized on a CNN poll that had her in the lead as aides picked apart the methodology of the Register survey.

“I don’t know about you but I am feeling great!” she said at her first event in Ames. Working hard to grab the momentum, Clinton joked about the extremes to which she would go to win support, recalling a campaign appearance among farmers and ranchers in an arena that normally is the site of cattle auctions.

“If you want to look inside my mouth to figure out whether you want to vote for me, that’s fine, too,” Clinton quipped. “Whatever it takes.”

Edwards also brought his wife and two young children along for the final push, a “marathon for the middle class” during which he will continue to hammer away at pocketbook issues on an overnight drive to energize backers and deliver them to the caucuses.

“We hope for the next 36 hours that all of you will be as focused and energized as we are,” he said, beginning the tour with a rally before about 500 people jammed into a ballroom at the student union at Iowa State University in Ames.

All three also turned to the airwaves to urge voters to attend caucuses.

Clinton and Obama were to air longer-than-usual, two-minute ads during Wednesday’s evening news programs. Edwards bought a full-page ad in the Des Moines Register featuring a testimonial from a worker who was laid off from an Iowa Maytag plant. The worker also will appear in a one-minute TV ad for Edwards.

In a sign of the increasingly heated battles beyond Iowa, McCain, who isn’t playing Iowa as aggressively as he is New Hampshire, opened a new line of criticism against Romney in a new Web video that could end up on TV. “Mitt Romney says the next president doesn’t need foreign policy experience,” it says.

Conversely, Romney rolled out a Web video skewering McCain, and began airing a TV ad in New Hampshire that pivots from his criticism of his rivals and urges people to “vote for tomorrow.”

 Posted by at 5:00 pm

Hunting for elusive elephants

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Dec 312007
 
Authors: Sean Reed

The Collegian crew set off today at the crack of noon with a mission – to hit up Republican campaign offices and chat it up with volunteers for the other side of the ticket.

Unfortunately, this proved more difficult than expected.

After checking out all the campaign Web sites, we were dismayed to find two disappointing truths: a) no Republicans were planning events for the day, and b) not a single Republican candidate was listed as having an office within the city limits.

The county Republican Party was equally elusive. Their Web site listed no address and a phone number listed that led only to a full voice mail.

It looked like the elephants were off the agenda.

Still determined to justify last night’s hotel bill, the crew, after a couple of side trips to a military surplus store (see Living on the Hedge) and the inaccessible facilities of the Daily Iowan, the University of Iowa’s student paper, decided to go with our standby plan to hunt for any campaign office and bug the volunteers.

All the offices had a few things in common – the people were all very nice and obviously hard working, albeit slightly uncomfortable talking to us (due to the fact that field office personnel are not authorized to talk to the press) – but there were little differences that made each unique.

The Edwards camp had quite possibly the most cramped office we have seen thus far. The volunteers were nice enough, but didn’t seem too comfortable with our presence, with the exception of a Colorado native who had moved to Iowa in her teens, who seemed less awkward.

After allowing Brandon to snap a few shots of some of the volunteers, they informed us that the Republicans were not entirely neglecting Iowa City. Just around the corner was “little New York” — the field offices for Rudy Giuliani and Hillary Clinton, located next door to each other.

Excited to meet some Republican volunteers, we thanked the Edwards folks and set off.

If energy had been lacking in the Edwards office, it certainly wasn’t here. And for good reason. The staffers were friendly and thoroughly excited to be working on the campaign.

Unlike some of the other offices, most staffers were students from the University of Iowa, rather than transplants from out of state.

The fine folks at the Rudy office are the only Republican campaign volunteers in Iowa city, one staffer informed us. The other candidates are pooling their resources to the west, where more farming and industrial areas foster a more positive environment for Republicans.

These folks, rather than being content to cater only to those friendly to the Republican Party, were trying to convert people in an area that, they admitted, was more liberal.

You can’t help but admire that kind of commitment.

Stepping in the door of the Clinton campaign headquarters, we were greeted warmly, but when we asked permission to ask the volunteers about their experiences and take a few photos, things cooled rather quickly.

We were referred to the director of the office, who promptly told us we had to get permission from the central campaign office in Des Moines. When Erik Myers placed the call, he was told we had permission to take photos of the building’s exterior, but that we did not have permission to speak with the volunteers or photograph the inside.

Dejected, we moved on to the Obama office.

When we first stepped in, it looked like it would end like our Hillary stop. After hearing our request to poke around, we were again told they would need to get permission from their main office.

However, unlike the Hillary campaign volunteers, a volunteer made the call and, after being given the green light, gave us free reign to poke around.

Afterward, the office staff warmed up considerably. One of the staffers, after hearing we were from Colorado, even jumped on Facebook to see if we knew any of her friends.

The volunteers coming down from making phone calls upstairs seemed genuinely excited about their work and the gains they were making.

One particularly excited staffer was overheard mentioning how she went out of her way to take information to potential voters at a diner and, as a result, three Iowans now knew where the caucus for their precinct would be held.

She and a few others even made plans to mix business with pleasure and bring information cards out with to their respective New Year’s Eve celebrations.

The grassroots excitement that I saw here and at the Giuliani office gives me hope that there is still some life in American politics.

At these offices, it’s not about bipartisan bickering and spiteful attacks or personal glory. It’s about good, hardworking people supporting people and ideas they believe will better our nation, which is what politics should be about.

It’s nice to know that somewhere in America, the system is working as it should.

 Posted by at 5:00 pm

One Dem against troop withdrawal

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Dec 312007
 
Authors: Aaron Hedge

Stopping in Iowa City in hopes of giving the Republican frontrunners some exposure after covering a Democratic event in Council Bluffs was probably a bad idea.

The socially conservative Republicans have pretty much abandoned the biggest college town in Iowa. Rudy Giuliani was the only hopeful with any noticeable effort – or even an office here.

Mitt Romney, John McCain, Mike Huckabee and Fred Thompson don’t seem interested in the college-age group. And even Rudy has abandoned the state in hopes of greener pastures closer to his New York base in New Hampshire.

So when we saw a small military surplus store on the outskirts of the city, we couldn’t help but stop in to find out what the proprietors of what might be presumed a traditionally conservative establishment might think. Interestingly enough, we found two pro-war liberal-leaning single mothers.

Brenda Roe, who works the register at CC Military Surplus, has an interesting view on foreign policy for a Democrat.

While she is not sure which Democrat she supports right now, she says Hillary has the most practical outline for withdrawal from Iraq and the best health care plan out of any of the candidates she has heard from. Like many other Iowans, however, she will walk in to her caucus on Thursday night on the fence between a decision on one of the big gun lefties.

Brenda described people in the Iowa City area as either conservative and elite or liberal and poor or not strongly tied to the city.

“It’s conservative for the doctors and attorneys and people who own stuff, but the college is all liberal,” she said.

But her situation on the margins is a little different.

While selling Editor-in-Chief David McSwane a paratrooper knife, Brenda explained that, though she has never caucused before, she is considering it this year because of the complicated issues at stake.

Moving her short, stocky figure around the shop, she helped us with notes and told us about the store’s inventory with help from her boss, the store manager Missy Michel-Daugherty.

Neither of the women, who are also sisters, have caucused before. Brenda hasn’t because she used to work as a legal secretary for a very politically active law firm and didn’t want to deal with political bullshit on her time off. Missy never caucused because she has always been too busy working nearly 100 hours a week to keep surplus moving through her store. Still, she can’t afford to supply her employees with health care because of the small-business nature of the surplus industry.

Roe had worked for a trucking company the year before, but quit this year to work for Missy. After leaving her comprehensive health care plan along with her trucking job, Brenda now has to worry about her 14-year-old’s well-being, despite working as hard as she ever had.

“It’s not because we’re not doing our job,” she said. “It’s because (health care’s) not available.”

Clinton’s plan would mandate continued health care, when a consumer switches job.

The surplus store, located in a shopping center on the frigid plains east of town, is filled with Airsoft and Paintballing supplies, pro-war bumper stickers that say things like “Got Freedom? (Iraqis don’t),” olive green anglehead flashlights and American flags.

Roe’s views on the war reflected the ambience in the shop. She wants the war in Iraq to continue until the country is established as a sovereign entity in order to ensure a stable environment in the Middle East.

While most Democratic candidates are one way or the other on Iraq, Hillary is the only candidate with a health care plan that Roe likes and wants to keep U.S. military presence in Iraq until the civil unrest ends.

And the GOP doesn’t offer her solace either.

With the Republican candidates focusing their attention on the conservative, rural western half of Iowa and the New Hampshire primaries, Roe finds some of their policies hard to swallow. Mitt and Mike don’t strike her fancy because of their hollow talk, she said.

“Lots of pretty words and nothing behind it,” she said of the Huckabee campaign.

But with the frontrunners stoking pissing matches in the tense days leading up to the premier presidential event in the country, Brenda and Missy keep paying attention to the lighter aspects of life, encouraging a young group of college reporters to spend New Year’s Eve taking advantage the biggest hot female contingent in the state courtesy of the University of Iowa.

“It’s New Year’s,” Brenda said. “You’ll like the way the ladies are dressed.”

Hoping for some fun tonight and a more promising conservative base awaiting us in Cedar Rapids and Des Moines tomorrow, my colleagues and I keep bringing you coverage as the race unravels.

-Hedgefund

 Posted by at 5:00 pm

Biden and the bigger fish

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Dec 312007
 
Authors: Sean Reed

Everyone loves an underdog, and the folks in Council Bluffs are no different.

Today the Collegian crew, after a bit of dallying around town, including a brief stop at Wal-Mart (within which the Council Bluffs Police Department is stationed – no joke) and Barack Obama’s campaign headquarters, met up with the fine folks of the Biden campaign.

Their office, located off the beaten path in a mini-mall right next door to Bill Richardson’s campaign office, was far less impressive than Obama’s independent headquarters in downtown Council Bluffs, but the friendly staffers more than made up for their small quarters.

Collegian crew members visited the Biden office twice today – once in the morning to meet up with a former colleague of Erik’s from his UNC days, and then again at 2 p.m. for a special stop by the Senator’s son, Bo, for which a small crowd – not much more than a dozen people – gathered.

The attorney general for the great (yawn) state of Delaware, Bo Biden’s speech was obviously that of a seasoned politician, but it was effective.

While he mentioned one or two campaign issues, mostly the Iraq war and the recent assassination of Pakistani opposition leader Benazir Bhutto, the brunt of the younger Biden’s speech focused on comparing his father to “bigger” Democratic candidates. Though he never mentioned them by name, it was clear that Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama were the candidates in the attorney general’s cross-hairs.

“One is talking about experience,” Biden said, referencing Clinton’s campaign. “Our candidate has five times more experience.”

Playing on Obama’s “Hope” campaign signs, he referenced the Violence Against Women Act, a law written in 1994 by Joe Biden that allocated funding for the investigation of crimes against women and increased the rights of victims, as an example of his father’s “record of changing things that gives people hope.”

In addition to playing off of his father’s opponent’s campaign slogan, he also decried the big two for attempting to buy the vote rather than by connecting with the people.

“Biden, Dodd, and Richardson have been here the most,” he said. “Others have spent the most.”

However, he appealed to the pride of his audience and told them he didn’t think the voters of Iowa could be swayed so easily.

“Iowa is still about the ideas, not the money,” Biden said.

All these remarks served to feed the view of Joe Biden as the underdog in a presidential race dominated by money – and it was very effective.

At first, I was taken aback by how little play the elder Biden’s stances on issues was given in his son’s speech, but after reflecting during the longer-than-expected drive to Iowa City, the brilliance of the speech hit me. This wasn’t a campaign speech meant to sway potentials, this was a motivational speech.

Everyone gathered at that small office had already made up their minds, excluding one attendee who said he was undecided. Bo Biden was merely giving them a pep talk for their next job – ensuring that the 15 percent benchmark needed to be declared a viable candidate by the state’s Democratic candidate was met.

Earlier, volunteers at the campaign had explained that at every precinct, voters gather into “preference groups” in support of each candidates. According to the caucus Web site, voters are given 30 minutes to do this.

What is interesting about this, though, is that groups suspecting they may fall short of the 15 percent have the opportunity to speak with members of other groups, in hope of swaying less certain individuals to their side.

The citizens who attended to the event today, for the most part, were not fence-sitters. They know why they support Biden and didn’t need any convincing.

What they did need was some inspiration.

The caucuses are like a sporting event, and the Biden supporters are, at least right now, like the lovable ragamuffin team with a hardcore homegrown fan base (think the Red Sox before their Series win against the Yankees).

Today, Biden gave them the nobody-expects-us-to-win-but-let’s-show-them-what-we’re-made-of speech. The kind given by a high school football coach before the big game.

Of course, this isn’t a football game. If Biden supporters want their man to survive, they have to fight Hillary and Barack’s $20 million of exposure.

It won’t be easy, but if any fringe candidate can do it, Biden’s the man.

 Posted by at 5:00 pm

Searching for the Red

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Dec 312007
 
Authors: Erik Myers

The race for the GOP ticket is a tossup like none other. I’ve loved watching the twists and turns and drama bombs that have gone off and no single candidate has escaped the flak, and I love it.

The GOP wars are far more fun to watch than the plodding back-and-forth clashing that drags on between Clinton and Obama, with the occasional squeak from Edwards. That whole affair is summed up by media wizards as such: Clinton is a directionless ice queen with a shifty campaign staff, while Obama is a national politics virgin whose dopey idealism makes him fresh for the pounding. Meanwhile, the GOP race has become a dogfight for the ages, with Romney and Huckabee riding the roller coaster that is Iowa, while Giuliani and McCain making the retreat to New Hampshire where the action is picking up, all while Dr. Ron Paul prepares to unleash his army of scrawny libertarians upon us all.

But the action of the GOP race is nil in Iowa City, to my great disappointment. After a few hours of aimless scrounging, we came across the “New York Corner” of town: the strange neighboring offices of Clinton and Giuliani. We stepped into the Giuliani office first, where a team of supporters manned phone lines and filed forms with swift determination. The blare of Fox News was mere background noise to these young neo-cons.

As Iwamoto snapped photos, the rest of us struck up conversation with two volunteers as they marked up forms. I was shocked when the round-faced fellow told us that Giuliani’s office was the only (italic) conservative station in the city.

“Romney and Huckabee are focusing on Western Iowa, where the conservatives are,” he said. “You’ll find it’s a bit more left-leaning out in here, in the east.”

In the background, one volunteer muttered “awwwwk-ward” as she put down the phone, punctuating his point.

While our group has plans to check out Huckabee tomorrow, and hopefully Romney the following day, I’m disappointed with the lack of visible conservatives so far. Perhaps the silent majority is in full effect out here, or maybe everyone is too busy watching the Bowls to bother with this political shit (even though the Hawkeyes and the Cyclones are almost as shitty as the Rams). Even our excursion into a military surplus store this afternoon, one awash in “redneck and proud of it” gear, was managed by liberal-leaning mothers. There is a disturbing lack of Ron Paul in this landscape; I was saddened to read that the blimp’s floating above fucking Florida. YouTube videos of that grey creeper do not do my eyes justice.

I’m left to wonder if we’ll be lucky enough to hit a nice red splotch in this bluish territory we have pushed into; hopefully Huckabee’s presence in Cedar Rapids tomorrow will bring me a right-winger. As for tonight, the New Year brings new hopes and new surprises: The youth of the Rudy office seem to know Iowa City hotspots better than anyone else we’ve spoken with. We don’t know if these young locals know what’s up when it comes to getting down in this city, but I remain optimistic.

-E.M.

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Biden and the bigger fish

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Dec 302007
 
Authors: Sean Reed

Everyone loves an underdog, and the folks in Council Bluffs are no different.

Today the Collegian crew, after a bit of dallying around town, including a brief stop at Wal-Mart (within which the Council Bluffs Police Department is stationed – no joke) and Barack Obama’s campaign headquarters, met up with the fine folks of the Biden campaign.

Their office, located off the beaten path in a mini-mall right next door to Bill Richardson’s campaign office, was far less impressive than Obama’s independent headquarters in downtown Council Bluffs, but the friendly staffers more than made up for their small quarters.

Collegian crew members visited the Biden office twice today – once in the morning to meet up with a former colleague of Erik’s from his UNC days, and then again at 2 p.m. for a special stop by the Senator’s son, Bo, for which a small crowd – not much more than a dozen people – gathered.

The attorney general for the great (yawn) state of Delaware, Beau Biden’s speech was obviously that of a seasoned politician, but it was effective.

While he mentioned one or two campaign issues, mostly the Iraq war and the recent assassination of Pakistani opposition leader Benazir Bhutto, the brunt of the younger Biden’s speech focused on comparing his father to “bigger” Democratic candidates. Though he never mentioned them by name, it was clear that Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama were the candidates in the attorney general’s cross-hairs.

“One is talking about experience,” Biden said, referencing Clinton’s campaign. “Our candidate has five times more experience.”

Playing on Obama’s “Hope” campaign signs, he referenced the Violence Against Women Act, a law written in 1994 by Joe Biden that allocated funding for the investigation of crimes against women and increased the rights of victims, as an example of his father’s “record of changing things that gives people hope.”

In addition to playing off of his father’s opponent’s campaign slogan, he also decried the big two for attempting to buy the vote rather than by connecting with the people.

“Biden, Dodd, and Richardson have been here the most,” he said. “Others have spent the most.”

However, he appealed to the pride of his audience and told them he didn’t think the voters of Iowa could be swayed so easily.

“Iowa is still about the ideas, not the money,” Biden said.

All these remarks served to feed the view of Joe Biden as the underdog in a presidential race dominated by money – and it was very effective.

At first, I was taken aback by how little play the elder Biden’s stances on issues was given in his son’s speech, but after reflecting during the longer-than-expected drive to Iowa City, the brilliance of the speech hit me. This wasn’t a campaign speech meant to sway potentials, this was a motivational speech.

Everyone gathered at that small office had already made up their minds, excluding one attendee who said he was undecided. Beau Biden was merely giving them a pep talk for their next job – ensuring that the 15 percent benchmark needed to be declared a viable candidate by the state’s Democratic candidate was met.

Earlier, volunteers at the campaign had explained that at every precinct, voters gather into “preference groups” in support of each candidates. According to the caucus Web site, voters are given 30 minutes to do this.

What is interesting about this, though, is that groups suspecting they may fall short of the 15 percent have the opportunity to speak with members of other groups, in hope of swaying less certain individuals to their side.

The citizens who attended to the event today, for the most part, were not fence-sitters. They know why they support Biden and didn’t need any convincing.

What they did need was some inspiration.

The caucuses are like a sporting event, and the Biden supporters are, at least right now, like the lovable ragamuffin team with a hardcore homegrown fan base (think the Red Sox before their Series win against the Yankees).

Today, Biden gave them the nobody-expects-us-to-win-but-let’s-show-them-what-we’re-made-of speech. The kind given by a high school football coach before the big game.

Of course, this isn’t a football game. If Biden supporters want their man to survive, they have to fight Hillary and Barack’s $20 million of exposure.

It won’t be easy, but if any fringe candidate can do it, Biden’s the man.

 Posted by at 5:00 pm

Iowa caucuses a make or break for top Democrats

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Dec 302007
 
Authors: BETH FOUHY

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Iowa could make or break a Democratic candidate on Thursday. The question is, who?

While the state has long played a key role in choosing the Democratic presidential nominee, it has unparalleled influence this year, even after several larger states moved up their contests to try and muscle in. Those efforts have done little more than compress the calendar into a five-week sprint that ends with the multistate primary Feb. 5 – strengthening Iowa’s position as the leadoff caucus state rather than diminishing it.

Even New Hampshire, which holds the first primary of the season, has seen its once-mighty position diminished somewhat by Iowa’s outsized role this time.

Hillary Rodham Clinton, Barack Obama and John Edwards are locked in a tight three-way contest in Iowa just days before voters attend their precinct caucuses on Thursday. And while all three have strong organizations in other early states, the best laid plans in those places could come apart depending on what happens in Iowa.

Only Obama and Clinton have raised enough campaign cash to be sure of being competitive through Feb. 5 and beyond. Edwards has agreed to accept federal matching funds, which will constrain the amount of money he is allowed to spend in each state.

Trailing in the polls, Bill Richardson, Joe Biden and Chris Dodd have also concentrated nearly all their resources in Iowa in hopes of scoring an upset.

The impact of unexpected news events, such as the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto in Pakistan, may further complicate a fluid situation.

Here’s a look at what to expect in the next several weeks:

IOWA – Jan 3 (45 pledged delegates)

All six major Democratic candidates will blitz the state before next Thursday’s caucuses. Hundreds of staff and volunteers from each campaign will flood likely caucus goers with mail, visits and phone calls. The television airwaves have been saturated for weeks with advertising.

Clinton, who has struggled in Iowa despite leading the field in national and most other state polls, has the most riding on the outcome here. A win could fuel a wave of momentum for the former first lady, while a loss, particularly to Obama, would shatter the notion of inevitability she has tried to project.

The New York senator is barnstorming the state and has deployed dozens of surrogates including her husband, former President Bill Clinton. Her closing argument – “It’s time to pick a president” – underscores her central message: A candidate like Obama may inspire and move voters, but Clinton is the best prepared to actually do the job.

Obama and Edwards are competing to be the strongest “anti-Clinton” candidate in the field. Both are promising to bring fundamental change to Washington.

Edwards’ base of support lies with caucus goers who were with him when he ran for president in 2004. Obama and Clinton are competing for newcomers – hers are mostly older and female, his are younger and male.

Spending by outside groups has added a new dimension to the contest. EMILY’S List, AFSCME and the American Federation of Teachers are coordinating to boost Clinton through mail, TV and phone banks, while Edwards is receiving assistance from labor-backed groups headed by his 2004 campaign manager.

Obama has called on Edwards to ask the groups to cease their work in Iowa, and privately Obama’s advisers fret that he is being hurt by the influx of spending on the other candidates’ behalf.

NEW HAMPSHIRE – Jan. 8 (22 pledged delegates)

The candidates are reinforcing their organizations in New Hampshire to prepare for whatever verdict Iowa delivers.

The Clinton campaign, which had long counted on the state to be its firewall in the event of a less-than-stellar Iowa showing, has scrambled as her lead here has all but evaporated. The situation was further roiled when a prominent New Hampshire supporter, Bill Shaheen, stepped down as a campaign co-chairman after raising concerns about Obama’s teenage drug use.

But Clinton has strong ties to the state thanks to her husband’s 1992 and 1996 campaigns. Her organization numbers several hundred staff and volunteers in New Hampshire, methodically working phones and canvassing.

Obama strategists say the key to victory in the state lies with independents who can vote in either the Democratic or Republican primary and who polls show strongly oppose the Iraq war. The campaign is counting on a strong showing among these voters but is targeting traditional Democrats as well, making about 20,000 calls a night.

The Edwards campaign says it has four times the staff in New Hampshire that he had in 2004, when he finished a disappointing fourth. The campaign says its volunteers have knocked on 235,000 doors in the state, where 220,000 people voted in the primary four years ago.

MICHIGAN – Jan. 15 (128 pledged delegates; national party says the state will lose them all)

The Democratic candidates have agreed not to compete in Michigan because the state moved the date of its primary in violation of party rules. The Democratic National Committee has penalized the state by stripping all its delegates, but the eventual nominee may choose to restore the delegates prior to the convention next August.

NEVADA – Jan. 19 (25 pledged delegates)

Nevada will be the first state with delegates at stake after the New Hampshire primary and could play an important role if the race is still competitive coming out of Northeast.

While party leaders estimate only about 40,000 voters will take part in Nevada’s caucuses, all the major candidates have spent considerable resources here in hopes of securing a win among a Western, heavily Hispanic electorate.

The campaigns are all counting on momentum and strong organization to fuel their efforts here. The candidates are basing their organization on an Iowa caucus model, building relationships precinct by precinct.

Richardson has spent more time here than any other candidate, hoping to parlay his Hispanic heritage and proximity as governor of neighboring New Mexico into a strong showing.

All the campaigns are vigorously competing for the backing of the Culinary Union, which represents some 60,000 service workers along the Las Vegas strip. The union will announce an endorsement in early January.

SOUTH CAROLINA – Jan. 26 (45 pledged delegates)

The three top-tier candidates have grounds to lay claim to South Carolina – Obama and Clinton because of their popularity among black voters, Edwards because he was born in the state and won its primary four years ago.

Clinton and Obama have strong organizations in the state and have begun sustained television advertising recently. Both have made a concerted effort to woo black voters, who were 50 percent of primary voters in the state last time; they’ve run ads on black radio and sought endorsements from community leaders and black legislators.

Edwards has run television ads here since November and has made more campaign visits than Obama or Clinton. Polls show him running a distant third but slowly gaining ground.

FLORIDA – Jan. 29 (185 pledged delegates, may be lost)

Like Michigan, Florida has been penalized for moving its primary in violation of party rules. The national party has stripped the state of its delegates, and the candidates have pledged not to campaign in the state, although they have made several fundraising visits.

MEGA TUESDAY – Feb. 5 (At least 20 states and 2,075 pledged delegates)

Contests from Connecticut to California on this day could end up determining the Democratic nominee.

Clinton has seen her lead diminish somewhat in California, whose 441 delegates represent the day’s largest prize. But the campaign is running generally strong there and is targeting absentee voters who can begin casting ballots Jan. 8.

The campaign is also building organizations in states holding caucuses on Feb. 5, including Minnesota, Colorado and Kansas.

Obama has bolstered efforts in California, and polls show him running strong in Georgia and Missouri. He’s strongest in his home state of Illinois, while Clinton is dominant in her home state of New York and in nearby New Jersey.

 Posted by at 5:00 pm