Wednesday, February 28, 2007

On Deck: Bill Richardson

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 691

New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson has scheduled a breakfast this coming Saturday at a café not far from our house, so I’ll be heading over to see him there. I thought Richardson’s recent speech to the DNC Winter Meeting was worthwhile, if far from electrifying, and I’ll be interested in hearing what he has to say on Iraq (the surge, how/when we get out, and what happens then), Iran and North Korea, and, while he’s here, maybe healthcare and campaign finance reform.

I think Bill Richardson has the chops to contribute substance to the issue debates in this campaign, so I’m looking forward to meeting him. Look for the usual write up after the event.

There are also rumors abroad that Hillary Clinton will be in town next Monday, but details are pretty sketchy so far. More on that as it develops.


Monday, February 26, 2007

Odds and Ends

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 693

Lots of different thoughts flying around the Iowa corner of the blogosphere since the state’s former Governor announced last Friday that he was dropping his bid for the White House. The blog entries run the gamut from entirely practical, “So You Worked For Tom Vilsack, What Do You Do Now?” at Iowa Progress, to the just-short-of-silly “Senator Vilsack?” at Century of the Common Iowan. But, almost inevitably, discussion since the weekend has gravitated to the horserace after Vilsack: who’s candidacy does Vilsack’s withdrawal benefit?; who’s does it hurt?

I won’t claim any particular insight here, except to observe that in the latest poll I’ve seen on the Democratic race in Iowa, Tom Vilsack pulled 14%, putting him in 4th place behind Edwards, Clinton and Obama. That strikes me as 14% of likely caucus-goers who are suddenly entirely up for grabs. Some have speculated that the bulk of that number will swing to one candidate or another; as in almost everything else, Hillary Clinton’s name gets mentioned a lot in this respect. But I’m inclined to the view that Vilsack’s support will fragment, and will likely benefit the second tier of candidates most, if for no other reason than the campaigns of Joe Biden, Chris Dodd and Bill Richardson have nowhere to go but up.

But most heartening to me is this observation from Chris Cillizza and Shailagh Murray of the Washington Post that the biggest beneficiary of Vilsack’s departure is…Iowa, actually. They argue that with an Iowan Native Son out of the running, none of the other candidates have any thing left to scare them out of trying to compete in Iowa. I hope that turns out to be true, because it means more candidates here more often, meeting more voters, and hearing more of what’s on the minds of the people who’s support they’re asking for. And that can’t be a bad thing.

Lastly, and unrelated to any of this, Barack Obama’s campaign is conducting an organizing event in Grinnell next Monday, March 5th. Anyone who’s interested can learn more here.


Friday, February 23, 2007

"V" For...Vacation

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 696

Unable to force an immediate withdrawal of US forces from Iraq, Tom Vilsack has apparently decided to settle for an immediate withdrawal as a candidate for President.

His loss is MidAmerican Holdings' gain. My only disappointment at his announcement is that he was not heard to utter, “I am expressly not a candidate.”

Vilsack’s stated reason for dropping out was lack of money to continue the campaign. I do wish someone would have asked him exactly how much money would be required to allow him to stay in the race, just to hear him say, “I can’t recall.”

But don’t be a stranger, Tom. Let’s do lunch the next time you’re in the Ruan Center.


The Money Wars

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 696

With the Iowa campaign calendar once more relatively quiet for the next few days, here are a couple of thoughts going in to this weekend.

Barack Obama’s swing through Hollywood this week is reported to have netted him about $1.3 million, which is not a bad haul for 18 hours’ work. Also this week, and this can’t be a coincidence, the Hillary Clinton campaign launched an email drive to raise $1 million through small private donations in one week. I see a couple of significant points in this: one, the email launching the fundraising drive was from Bill Clinton, and this is the first time that I’ve seen where Hillary’s campaign has directly involved him as a messenger and fundraiser; two, the campaign sent out a follow-up email the next day from James Carville not only trumpeting the success of the fundraising drive’s first 24 hours, but also citing a specific dollar amount – over $285, 000 in the first day – that came in as a result of a single email from Bill Clinton.

Here’s where this is going. I think the message from the Clinton campaign to the Obama campaign is: You’re moving in on Hollywood money? We’re moving in on grass roots money, and we’ll get what you get, dollar for dollar, and then some. You’ve got David Geffen? We’ve got Bill Clinton. You forego public financing because you think you can keep up with us? We will out-fundraise you back to the Stone Age. And Obama campaign be warned: there is no free pass to the High Road. The minute you start getting some traction, we’ll tie your newfound Hollywood patrons around your neck like an albatross, and we’ll be the wholesome beneficiaries of public support while you spend days off-message wrestling with questions about taking money tainted by the proverbial Hollywood “sleaze.”

This is how the game is played, in both parties and in any campaign with stakes higher than City Dog Catcher. Normally this all goes on out of public view, because that is what usually serves the candidates best. But in this case, both sides are sending a message, like the fish wrapped in Luca Brasi’s coat. This episode doesn’t necessarily set the tone of the entire campaign, and I expect that the current hubbub will die down. But there will be flare-ups from time to time, and the press will point back to this when they happen.

The important thing is that both campaigns – and, more directly, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama themselves – manage their street fights to ensure that Democratic prospects in the general election are not damaged. That’s the real battle, and they need to keep their eye on the ball.

Finally, as far as David Geffen’s comments to Maureen Dowd are concerned, here’s all you need to know: the Oscars are this Sunday, and Geffen wants to make sure he works his way into Ellen DeGeneres’s opening monologue. That’s all, folks!


Thursday, February 22, 2007

Obama's Des Moines Town Hall Event

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 697

As promised, I dropped by Senator Barack Obama’s town hall event at the Polk County Convention Center in Des Moines last night. Since I work in downtown Des Moines, and my office is a short way from the convention center and both are connected via the Skywalk, it will probably be the easiest commute I’ll have to any campaign event this election cycle.

The event was scheduled to begin at 7:45 PM, with doors scheduled to open at 6:45. I got there after work around 6:00, and while several dozen people were there already, I was the first person to actually get in line to go in. Note to future event attendees: it doesn’t make much sense to get there early unless you get in line!

The doors actually opened at around 6:20. The venue was enormous, like an airplane hanger, filled with seats. The seating was segregated by ticket color; once again, there were blue and red tickets not available to the general public. I asked several campaign volunteers where and how one could obtain something other than the general admission white tickets, and none of them knew, either. This, along with the consulting salary paid to Tom Vilsack by MidAmerican Holdings, may be one of the biggest mysteries of the entire campaign so far.

After a little shifting around, I ended up about six rows back from the stage, which proved to put me about 40 feet away from Obama for most of the event. Not bad, considering that, alas, lots of others probably needed binoculars to see him clearly.

I must say the event got off to a slightly weird start. The usual introductions were made, first by the Polk County Democratic Party chairman, then local Congressman Leonard Boswell (who also did emcee duty at Hillary’s town hall in Des Moines last month – he’s certainly keeping his options open), then a local activist and schoolteacher. The schoolteacher speaks the usual “please welcome Barack Obama” cue…the crowd rises to its feet as one…all eyes swing toward the entrance…wild cheering…booming music…and…then….nothing. No one. Barack does not appear. Thirty seconds pass. A minute. The cheering falters. Two minutes. Applause gives way to impatient rhythmic clapping. An announcement from the stage that Obama will be there in a couple minutes more.

Obama finally arrives, of course, to undiminished enthusiasm. Audible sighs of relief from the campaign staff. He explains that he had been speaking to his daughters on the phone. Gooshy “oooh”s and “awwww”s from the crowd, and Barack quickly goes on to hit his stride. Referring to the scale of the night’s event, Obama promised many additional returns to Iowa, with the opportunity for retail politicking Iowans have come to expect. He then made opening remarks concerning health care, education, energy and the war, and opened the floor for questions.

Although much was made by both Obama and his introducers of the tough questions Iowans ask at these events, the overwhelming majority of questions were softballs, served up to be easily hit out of the park. At one point, an audience member addressed his question to “President Obama,” to which the candidate replied, “President Obama – I’ll claim that!” (just as an aside, imagine the cries of unpardonable arrogance and hubris that would have roared up at such a statement if it had been made by, say, Hillary Clinton). And, as in the Hillary kickoff last month, the audience was surprisingly reticent on Iraq. Barack spoke about the war at a number of points throughout the night, but little or nothing on the topic originated with the audience. I’m still wrestling to try to understand why this is.

This event presented an interesting contrast between Barack Obama delivering a prepared speech versus extemporizing in a Q&A setting. Overall, he seemed at ease, if ever-so-slightly rhetorically diminished, in dealing with the questions from the audience. His answers and delivery were smooth, and the experience of seeing the candidate occasionally pause for thought before answering a question was refreshing and humanizing in a way that Obama’s campaign must find very satisfying.

How well did Barack Obama do last night? The answer depends on your assessment of the challenges faced by his campaign. If you believe that the key to success for Obama rests in continuing to show up in front of throngs of curious voters and adulatory supporters, to keep building name recognition and reinforce his image as a dynamic and eloquent campaigner, then he did very well. If you believe that Obama needs to supplement his established image by demonstrating greater passion for solutions and for the prospect of becoming President in order to implement those solutions, he did less well. And if you believe that evidence of potential Presidential leadership ability based on past or current performance is what’s needed to ultimately elevate Barack Obama from political celebrity into the realm of electoral inevitability, then the candidate still has a long road ahead of him.

In other words, the higher your expectations for this event, the less satisfying the result is likely to have been. This is no condemnation of Barack Obama or his campaign. If anything, it is confirmation that a first-time candidate for president with less than three years tenure in national office might benefit from taking his initial steps in smaller gatherings, with less media and public attention, to hone his pitch, and frankly, allow himself the freedom to make mistakes in settings that won’t be instantly televised and webcast around the world.

There’s no denying that a campaign trying to build momentum in counterweight to the aura of inevitability that the Clinton campaign is working hard to create might find taking a small step out of the limelight for a period of time to be painful. But all candidates make mistakes, all campaigns need to establish their rhythm, and Barack Obama is no exception. The smart thing would be to recognize this, understand that we’re still nearly a year out from the caucus, and leverage this small window of opportunity to tune up the campaign and the candidate in preparation for the rigors to come.


Sunday, February 18, 2007

Mic Time v. Face Time

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 701

Barack Obama is making an early return to Iowa for a town hall event in Des Moines this coming Wednesday, February 21.

The event is being held at the convention center downtown, another huge venue that doesn’t augur well for candidate-voter face time. This is starting to make me feel a little cranky. I have questions to ask of those who want my support for their presidential ambitions, and I’d like to be able to ask them without need of a PA system. When will the top-tier candidates downshift from rock star mode and take the time to more fully engage with people in this state?

Ranting aside, this is a double-edged dynamic at work in the campaign. On the one hand, the field is very hot very early, and that results in a bit of disruption to the normal campaign rhythm in early-entry states like Iowa and New Hampshire. On the other hand, all the accelerated competition for attention does require the campaigns to come out in detail on issues sooner rather than later, which injects substance and gravity into the process far earlier than would otherwise be the case. If it is not exactly win-win, neither is it lose-lose; it is something in between. Welcome to politics.

So I’ll be there Wednesday to hear what Obama has to say, and in hopes of snagging some mic time (if not face time) with the candidate. Full account to follow, as always.


Thursday, February 15, 2007

Granite State Karma

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 704

Attentive readers of this blog - both of you - will recall that a couple of weeks ago I made some rather snarky comments of faux pity toward the good citizens of New Hampshire over holes in their weekend presidential campaign schedule due to cancellations of previously planned visits by Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden.

You guessed it.

Joe Biden’s breakfast talk in Des Moines on Saturday has been - yes - cancelled. The Iraq resolution continues to glacially crawl its way toward the floor of the Senate, and appears headed for a vote on Saturday, preempting Senator Biden’s planned Iowa weekend.

I’m told the event will be rescheduled.

So too, no doubt, will the vote on Iraq.

I blame myself.


Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Biden Time

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 705

Looks like Joe Biden plans on spending this coming weekend in Iowa. The senator’s public schedule includes stops in Ames and Marshalltown on Friday, Cedar Rapids, Davenport and Des Moines on Saturday, and Allison, Cedar Falls, Hampton and Waverly on Sunday. This is an unusual concentration of time in the state for any candidate so far this year, and signals that Biden is starting to dig in for the long fight and longer odds he must know awaits him here.

Biden’s visit comes in the immediate wake of Barack Obama’s tour of the state last weekend, including the enormous rally at Iowa State, and just a couple of weeks after Hillary Clinton’s much-covered campaign kickoff in Des Moines. In contrast to the Clinton and Obama mega events, Biden’s appearances are decidedly small, more in keeping with the traditional retail-style politics of the Iowa caucuses. The Friday appearances are a town hall at the state veteran’s home, followed by a soup supper hosted by the local county Democratic party organization at a church in Ames. Saturday features breakfast and remarks to the Women for a Stronger America group at a café in Des Moines, lunch with the AFL-CIO in Cedar Rapids (closed to the press – I wonder why?), and a dinner hosted by the local county Democratic party organization in Davenport. Finally, Sunday has Biden at a house party in Cedar Falls, followed by a speech at Wartburg College in Waverly, and wrapping up with an address to the local county Democratic party organization in Hampton.

The senator’s schedule is notable in its focus on party and union groups, signaling that Biden has decided against media-driven events aimed at introducing himself to voters here in favor of churning out yardage in the ground game of organizing and mobilizing that is the essence of campaigning for president in Iowa. This tells me a couple of things: Biden recognizes that he can’t compete with Clinton and Obama for media attention, and also that he thinks their campaigns may have miscalculated in foregoing retail politics for the bright lights, and hopes to capitalize by filling that vacuum. With the latter, I suspect he also hopes to put a few dents into the Edwards campaign, which has been pretty quiet here the last month or so.

I don’t know if any of the foregoing is true, or would be effective if it were true, but Biden’s schedule is good news for me either way, as it means I will at last come face-to-face with a candidate. I’ll be at the café on Saturday to hear Biden speak to the Women for a Stronger America breakfast. I’m mulling a couple of different questions for the candidate, about the war, presidential signing statements, and judicial nominations, and am pretty hopeful that I’ll be able to ask him at least one. Getting an answer can be an entirely different matter, of course, but I’ll do my best!


Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Vilsack for...Lobbyist

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 706

I’ll admit that this story caught me off guard: Tom Vilsack, who just left the Iowa governor’s mansion last month and is, of course, running for president, has signed a two-year contract with the corporate parent of Iowa’s largest utility, MidAmerican Energy, as a “consultant on renewable energy and the environment.”

According to reports, Vilsack’s new consulting gig will involve working 40 hours per quarter, and he’ll be paid hourly by the friendly folks at MidAmerican Holdings Co., MidAmerican Energy’s parent company. How much money will that amount to? When asked, Vilsack could not recall.


“Essentially, I am going to do research and provide input to policymakers in the holding company on issues involving renewable energy,” Vilsack said. He went on to add, “I'm already doing a lot of this work as part of the campaign.”

Well, that makes sense: if you’re campaigning for President of the United States, you might as well leverage that to make some money in the private sector! Turn your hobby into real cash!

Seeking to allay the concerns he obviously knows this will raise, Vilsack is quoted as saying, “I am expressly not a lobbyist.” Chisel that one next to Al Gore’s “No controlling legal authority” in the Pantheon of Tone-Deaf Political Rationalizations.

This is all stupendously misguided. Tom Vilsack should immediately renounce this indefensible deal with MidAmerican, acknowledge the obvious conflict of interest involved, and apologize for making such an egregious error in judgment. If MidAmerican, or any other corporation, wants to know what Tom Vilsack thinks about renewable energy and the environment, they should do what the average citizen is obliged to do: attend a speech, visit the campaign website, research his record as governor. Instead, they sign up the man who would be our next president to a consulting contract that – Hey! What do you know? – would expire right around the time the next president will be taking the oath of office.

Does anyone else see the Dick Cheney parallel here?

Will every caucus-goer with MidAmerican’s level of insider access to Tom Vilsack please raise your hand?

Can anyone take Vilsack’s talk of being a political outsider untainted by the ways of Washington seriously in light of this?

This is sickening, it is embarrassing, and, if not repudiated directly, immediately and personally by Vilsack himself, is enough in itself to exclude Tom Vilsack from any consideration as a candidate for president.


Monday, February 12, 2007

Obama's Kickoff

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 707

As promised, I drove up to Ames yesterday for Senator Obama’s campaign event. This turned out to be a speech to about 5,000 people in the basketball arena at Iowa State. The crowd appeared to be mostly students from the university, but a fair number of the post college-age population was there as well.

I got to the venue about two hours before show time (lesson learned from the Hillary Clinton kickoff: if you go to one of these media feeding frenzy events, go early!). I came around to the east entrance of the arena to see exactly two people waiting outside. Couldn’t be right. I walked around to the West side, and found the line-up there. Fortunately, there was a small foyer that I was able to go into and get out of the cold (yep, it’s still freezing here!). The doors opened about 35 minutes later.

The early arrival paid off: I was one of the first few dozen people to get in. I passed up the available seats and made my way to the arena floor, and snagged a place to stand that was pretty much dead center to the rostrum, and about 30 feet from the stage. There was a cordon separating an area just about 10 feet deep in front of me, reserved for people who arranged to get the double top-secret unannounced red tickets (Hey! Who did you have to be to get one of these? Where were they doled out? No answers!). Whoa – just reread that: the Spoiled-Rotten Iowa Voter just came leaping out there, didn’t it! “GRRRRR! I couldn’t get closer than 30 feet from the candidate! I was robbed!” Uh-huh. Anyway, after the red ticket cordon there was another cordon to separate a final five feet of space in front of the stage for press and security people. Red tickets aside, I got a much better slot than for the Hillary event, even though this time the building was enormously larger. I even had the chance, if I had wanted, to be one of the people who were actually on the stage behind the rostrum. I passed this up because, one, I didn’t want to spend the event looking at the back of the candidate, and two, I would’ve felt bad being up there as an uncommitted when I know there would’ve been an actual supporter just dying to stand in my place. Good choice, as it turned out.

And then, the down-side of getting there early: the wait. The standing up wait. The watch the arena fill up while listening to the cover band wrestle its repertoire wait. The take pictures of the arena filling up wait. The call everyone in my address book because I really, really have the time to talk wait.

Finally, of course, things begin to happen: staff people start to mill about the rostrum with affected nonchalance (“Oh! There were 5,000 people watching me just then? I never even noticed!”), the press gets in position, the selected audience members are taken to their positions on the dais. More staff buzzing, not a few in what must be the de rigueur uniform of the Obama campaign: jeans, pale blue dress shirt (untucked), and blue blazer. Staff passing out printed placards to the crowd, then (and I thought this was a masterstroke) passing out hand-lettered signs (“Nurses for Obama!” “Barack the Vote!”) to give the cameras the appearance of people who had so much enthusiasm for the event that they took the time to make their own signs…because, of course, what person planning to attend the event would ever have imagined that the campaign would provide its own printed signs?!? Other campaigns, take note: this little bit of stage management goes over like gangbusters: the press absolutely laps it up.

Then the introductions. First, the vice-chair of the local Democratic party committee. Then, the specter at the feast, the candidate who unsuccessfully ran for congress in the district last November. Finally, the president of the campus chapter of Young Democrats, who, bless her undergraduate heart, absolutely froze at the microphone, blinking and stammering in the lights for a painful eternity before finally managing to blurt out, “Please welcome Senator Barack Obama.”

Badlam as Barack hits the stage. The phrase “rock star reception” is overused, and anyway, hardly does justice to the welcome he receives from the crowd. Seriously, what it’s like to get that kind of lift from a crowd of strangers probably only Bono, the Pope and a handful of other mortals know. Add Obama to their number.

As preamble to the main event, two Iowa Democratic elected officials (State Treasurer and Attorney General) announce that they are endorsing Barack Obama for President and signing on to his campaign. This is bigger news than it may sound, as these are the two most prominent Democratic office holders to have yet issued an endorsement of any candidate, and puts the other campaigns on notice that Obama has what it takes to pull the organizational muscle that’s a big part of winning here.

In contrast with the Hillary kickoff, this was a speech, not a town hall meeting. Obama talked about his family, his background, his political career, his newly-launched campaign for the White House. And the war. Eloquence throughout and to spare. But it isn’t all oratory and no substance; Obama talks in some detail about his plan to get U.S. troops out of Iraq by the end of March, 2008, for example. But the crowd is there to hear a broader message: hope for the future, national renewal, a return to respectability for the United States on the world stage, and Barack does not disappoint.

Barack Obama is, at most times, an inspiring speaker. In his best moments, it is possible to take him at his own valuation as a once-in-a-generation leader from the JFK mold. He places his personal story in the continuum of national progress on civil rights and civic enlightenment, and when he concluded by quoting Martin Luther King, Jr. about reaching out to bend the arc of the universe toward justice, he absolutely brought the house down.

Is he the real deal, a reporter from the New York Times asked me afterwards. Only time will tell. Barack Obama is at the beginning of this campaign, not the end. And although he is a formidable candidate, there is no way to know for a long while whether he will live up to the potential shown here. Which plays us right back to the question: is he the real deal…is he the real deal…


Sunday, February 11, 2007

DNC Winter Meeting Wrap Up

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 709

Now for a few belated thoughts in the aftermath of last weekend’s DNC Winter Meeting. Here are my impressions after watching the candidates speak:
Biden – Would anyone be surprised if I said he got off to a slow start? He began his speech with an awkwardly-delivered joke about the Observer debacle, and followed it with yet another apology. Will Biden’s campaign be able to find a way to move on?
Clark – Not much dynamism, but Clark spoke movingly and personally about the war. Polite applause.
Clinton – Hillary continues to refine and polish, but she gave basically the same speech to the DNC that she gave here the previous week. For all that, Senator Clinton got more standing ovations than any other speaker, which I took to be more an indication from the party establishment of her position at the head of the field than genuine admiration for what she said. BTW, no emails came from the Clinton campaign touting her DNC speech, but I did get a note thanking me for attending the January 27 event in Des Moines, and promising lots more meetings on a smaller scale in keeping with the retail tradition of Iowa caucus politics. Emails like that one tell me that Hillary’s campaign gets it.
Dodd – America the tired nation: probably not the note any presidential candidate wants to strike. Dodd’s point was that the country was tired of the Bush administration, and he’s right; but saying “America is tired” over and over again starts to take on its own context after a few repetitions. I’m beginning to suspect this campaign is meant as more of a Last Hurrah for Chris Dodd than a serious run for the White House.
Edwards –According to an email I received from Edwards’ campaign, his speech “blew the roof off” of the DNC Winter Meeting. Hmmm…not as such; more of a sweeping appeal to emotion and union support, I’d say. One can see how it was that Edwards made millions as a trial lawyer, swaying juries on behalf of his clients, but I remain unconvinced (to this point) that he’s got what it takes to sway the electorate. POSTSCRIPT: Edwards followed up his speech by announcing his plan for universal health insurance. The proposals strike me as trying to address the health coverage issue with a series of sideways blows inartfully portrayed as a frontal assault. Any campaign that cannot do better needs to get into another line of work.
Gravel – If you don’t know who Mike Gravel is, let me assure you that there is good reason. I’m pretty sure most Rotary clubs around the country could produce an equally qualified candidate for the White House.
Kucinich – Wow. Dennis Kucinich may well be the most colorless American politician since Calvin Coolidge.
Obama – Extraordinarily impressive, Barack showed up for the serious moment. No campaign placards, no cheesy classic rock anthem. You could’ve heard a pin drop during most of his speech.
Richardson –I received an email from Richardson’s campaign this past week telling me that his speech was “electrifying.” I wouldn’t go anything like that far, but Richardson made a solid address, built around a critique of the Bush administration and his own record as governor of New Mexico. The delivery, unfortunately, was a bit flat and conventional, but Richardson’s speech was well worth listening to.
Vilsack – Played the “I’m an outsider” card. That Vilsack is not part of the Washington establishment is indisputable, but choosing that as his theme is perhaps making too much of a good thing. Whatever anger the electorate may have had pent up about the perennial “mess in Washington” was purged, at least for the time being, in last November’s elections. If matching your message to the mood of the country is part of winning (and, of course, it is), then the Vilsack campaign needs to go back and do some serious homework.

OK, so now I’m off to the Obama rally in Ames. The venue has been moved from a gymnasium to the largest indoor stadium on campus, so I’m not sure how close I’ll be able to get to the stage, let alone to Senator Obama himself. Check back on Monday, though, and I’ll give you all the details.


Saturday, February 10, 2007

Here He Comes

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 710

As we’ve known for about the last month, Barack Obama will officially throw his hat in the ring today with an event at the Old State House in Springfield, Illinois.

Any guesses about where he’s headed after that? Hard to believe, but, yes: Iowa!

Obama will be heading for a 4:00 PM event in Cedar Rapids directly after his announcement, then move on to a 7:30 PM meet-and-greet in Waterloo. The next day, Obama will be holding an event at Iowa State in Ames. I will be there, and I’m (audaciously!) hoping there won’t be hundreds of press people there and I’ll actually get to speak with the candidate. Tune in afterwards and I’ll give you all the details, plus some concluding thoughts on last weekend’s DNC Winter Meeting in Washington.

More to follow!


Friday, February 2, 2007

Quiet Weekend

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 717

This is shaping up to be a pretty quiet weekend on the Iowa campaign trail, in marked contrast to last weekend. The Democratic National Committee is holding its winter meeting in D.C. this weekend, so the center of gravity has momentarily shifted in that direction. Among the candidates and potential candidates, Chris Dodd is the leadoff speaker this morning, followed by Barack Obama, Wesley Clark, John Edwards, Dennis Kucinich and Hillary Clinton. Tomorrow will be Joe Biden, Bill Richardson, Mike Gravel, and last, though he hopes not least, Tom Vilsack. Vilsack’s speech, along with the others on Saturday, will be broadcast on C-SPAN, which amounts to major national exposure for the former Iowa governor. Still, the 2003 winter meeting was where Howard Dean made his mark before screaming his way out of contention after the 2004 Iowa Caucus, so anything can happen!

And while it’s quiet here in Iowa simply due to a lull in the campaign schedule, think of poor New Hampshire: the Granite State has been hit with news of campaign trip cancellations from not one, but two candidates. Hillary Clinton is canceling a weekend campaign swing there in order to travel to Arkansas for the funeral of Bill’s stepfather, and Joe Biden is canceling his trip on Monday in order to be present for a Senate vote on Iraq.

And, regarding Biden: I’m thinking there are serious questions about how his campaign is being run. First, the whole NY Observer debacle eclipses his campaign launch and puts him off message from day one, and then later the same week someone looks at the calendar and says, “Oops! Better cancel our first campaign trip to New Hampshire!” Don’t get me wrong: I think it’s laudable that Biden is focusing on his day job, especially when it comes to Iraq, which he is also working to make the signature issue of his presidential campaign. But can you imagine a more bungled first week of a campaign than this?

*glancing at Wesley Clark*

Well, okay. Maybe.


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