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November 2006 Archives

Bottom line: I think Sen. Barack Obama, who is seriously considering a run for president, is going to jump into the 2008 race. I predict the freshman Illinois Democrat will announce near the end of this year or the beginning of 2007, sometime after he returns from a holiday break in his native Hawaii. Here's what's on Obama's to-do list:

MR. SNOW: Greetings. Welcome to Amman. First, I am joined by my close personal friend, Senior Administration Official, for a background briefing on the President's dinner with the King of Jordan. So let me introduce to one and all, Senior Administration Official, to give you a readout and then answer your questions.

Showing her resolve, Speaker-designate Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-Fl.) on Tuesday that he is not going to chair the House Intel Committee. "Today I advised him that I would select someone else as Chairman," she said. It was an obvious call for Pelosi.

Sen. Barack Obama steps up his pre-exploratory 2008 presidential campaign, making his first trip to New Hampshire on Dec. 10.

The Illinois Democrat will be the guest at a party hosted by the New Hampshire Democratic Party in Manchester. Obama has been to Iowa, the home to the first presidential caucus, several times. New Hampshire, now that's a different story; this will be Obama's inaugural presidential mode visit.

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton--the other top tier 2008 possibility, coming off her re-election in New York, has not made recent stops in Iowa or New Hampshire. But she knows the territory from her husbands' presidential campaigns.

Obama has told me if he gets in the 2008 primary for president, he fully expected to be part of the traditional process of running in the early Iowa and New Hampshire contests.

President Bush is in Riga, the capital of Latvia for a summit of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. NATO has 26 member countries from Europe and North America...founded April 4, 1949.

NATO has an extensive website ......

Bush has met with all the Baltic heads of state. He tells Latvian president Vike-Freiberga he will ask Congress to grant some kind of visa break for Latvians who want to enter the U.S. A provision for Polish nationals was in the Senate version of the now stalled immigration legislation.

Sen. Barack Obama's biggest cheerleader, Sen. Dick Durbin, launched an online petition drive on Monday to persuade his fellow Illinois Democrat to run for president.

Several people tell me that Obama, who is seriously considering a bid, is phoning people he knows to get input -- and cold-calling key figures in Iowa and New Hampshire.

Sen. Dick Durbin is one of Sen. Barack Obama's biggest presidential boosters.
Now he's launching an on-line petition drive to persuade Obama to jump in the 2008 White House race.

Obama is weighing a bid--and Durbin hopes the petition drive tips the scales toward his fellow Illinois Democrat.

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), on ABC's "This Week" says the Democrats want 2007 to be a year of transition--even if the Iraq Study Group does not declare that the U.S. needs to fashion some kind of withdrawl plan from Iraq.

The recommendations of the Baker-Hamilton group could come out this week. Watch for a big rollout.

And here is the latest from Durbin on the status of Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), mulling a White House bid.
DURBIN: I did speak to Barack just a few days ago in Washington and I know that he and Michelle were sitting down and making some hard choices at this point. It's an important personal and family decision.

Click below for full comments of Durbin, who will be the Senate whip after the new Democratic controlled Senate convenenes in January.

President Bush, just returned from Viet Nam, leaves Monday for Estonia on a trip fraught with implications about the civililian government of Iraq. Until the Iraq government is able to control the sectarian violence, it will be difficult for the U.S. to extract troops from Iraq.

Bush attends a NATO meeting in Latvia and then heads to Amman for meetings with the Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and the King Abdullah of Jordan. The king was a guest on ABC News "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" Sunday morning. He said fixing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the key to ending the conflict in Iraq. What does that have to do with Iraq? The king said it "resonates" through the region. Is linking Iraq to other hot spots--Lebanon, Israel, Palestine--going to make it harder to resolve Iraq?

click for transcript

Morning all....the comment section is not working. Please save your comments and send them in later.

Meanwhile.....I'm booked to be interviewed on MSNBC around 9:30 a.m. central time this morning. The segment is supposed to be about Sen. Barack Obama.

What worse scenario could there be for Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.), who fiercely values loyalty, than to have to choose between the 2008 presidential candidacies of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) and Barack Obama (D-Ill.)?

Comprehensive and eloquent, though not unique -- it was not intended to be -- Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) on Monday laid out his vision of how the U.S. should proceed in Iraq.

Gov. Blagojevich is starting his second term making a smart choice for a top job. He's tapping wounded Iraq war vet Tammy Duckworth to be the new director of the Illinois Veterans' Affairs Department.

Potential presidential hopeful Sen. Barack Obama (D-ill.) said Monday he is against sending in more troops to Iraq in the hopes of getting the U.S. out faster. In a speech delivered to the Chicago Council on Global Affairs he said there are "no good options" left. Obama said it was doubtful the Iraqi civilian government "can function for long" and there is little that the U.S. can do to stop sectarian violence. Obama also supports talks with Iran and Syria.

He is for--as he has been-a phased redeployment in four to six months (in his book he wanted this to start by the end of this year)

This reduction in U.S. troops should be tied to "precise levels and dates" and "should not depend on Iraqi approval." Obama is calling for troops to be redeployed to Afghanistan, to be part of a NATO force there.

Another test for 2008?
Obama again publicizing HIV screening -- and he's got a big speech on Iraq today

For the second time in 97 days, Sen. Barack Obama -- who is mulling a 2008 presidential run and giving a big speech on Iraq today -- will take another public HIV/AIDS test.
Given his marriage to his wife, Michelle, and the certainty he is not shooting up anything, Obama's test results will again be negative.

Two Sweet columns--from the Sun-Times and The Hill--on the Democratic leadership plan to try to send to the slammer anyone caught authorizing dirty trick election time robo-calls.

With their new power, Democratic leaders want to craft a constitutional way to stop voters from being flooded with robo-calls peddling deceptive information. They are floating the notion that authorizing calls with fraudulent content should be made into a crime.

Howard Dean, watch your back. James Carville wants you out.

Democratic strategist James Carville, in his trademark scorching rhetoric, said Wednesday he wants to dump Dean as chief of the Democratic National Committee.

I ran into Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) outside the Senate chamber this afternoon, and got this update on his presidential decision timetable. He is not going to “dilly dally,��? he told me. Meanwhile, he will deliver a major speech on Iraq Monday and will talk to Wal-Mart critics as will 2008 potential White House rival former Sen. John Edwards. All this, plus new Obama committee assignments just a click away.

Durbin: It's official.


It's official.
Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) was tapped to be the assistant Majority Leader on Tuesday.

Terrance Gainer: Back on the beat.

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Terry Gainer is back on the beat.

Senate Democrats, organizing their new majority control of the chamber, on Tuesday picked Gainer, former chief of the Illinois State Police to be the sergeant of arms.

The 2008 presidential race is lurching center stage, Sen. Barack Obama--already polling second to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton--said women and minorities have a higher hurdle to cross when it comes to winning the White House.

"You know, my sense is, whether it's the African- American candidate running, a woman candidate running, if it's a nontraditional candidate, there's an additional threshold you have to meet," Obama said.

Is the nation racist and sexist? This question comes as Obama and Oprah Winfrey are but two of the luminaries at today’s groundbreaking ceremony for the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial on the National Mall.

Spoke Obama, "For all the progress we have made, there are times when the land of our dreams recedes from us – when we are lost, wandering spirits, content with our suspicions and our angers, our long-held grudges and petty disputes, our frantic diversions and tribal allegiances."

Obama speech below.

Sweet, Brown columns go inside Rahm


My colleague Mark Brown provides a unique look into Rahm Emanuel in his Sunday column, "Emanuel's political climb leaves an old friendship on back burner"
And here's the top of my column:
Call him abrasive, cold-blooded, arrogant, manipulative, fierce loyalist, even charming, if it serves his business purpose.

In their new positions as power players with the Dem takeover, President Bush and Vice President Cheney met with Senators Harry Reid and Dick Durbin, the leaders when the new Congress convenes next January.

On Friday night, Durbin is celebrating being elected to the Senate 10 years ago at Fultons in the Loop--a kick off to a re-election campaign.

Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.), an architect of the campaign that won the Democrats the House, is putting in a bid to become the number four leader in House, with his selection by his colleagues virtually assured. When the Democrats organize for the new Congress, Emanuel will be in line to be the Democratic Caucus Chair, the Chicago Sun-Times has learned.

One leader out. Another leader may be in.

It did not take House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) long to decide. He has no desire to lead the Republicans as the minority leader. But does he want to stay on as a mere member?

BY LYNN SWEET Sun-Times Columnist

While other Democrats were predicting they would retake the House, Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.) was cautious and more than a bit superstitious.

Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) will announce Thursday that he is not going to run for mayor in 2007.
Rep. Jesse L. Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.) is also holding a news conference about his mayoral intentions.

Both lawmakers will hold newly powerful positions in Congress, now that the Democrats have won control.

The view from inside the Sun-Times city room.

Sometime aftert midnight: A row of reporters are lined in a row in front of the four television monitors in the city room, tuned to the local news channels. They are watching the jaw dropping spectacle of GOP Cook County Board President candidate Tony Peraica not only declining to concede to Democrat Todd Stroger--but claiming the election was stolen and marching to the place where the ballots were being collected.

Reporters, photographers and editors scrambled to stuff this unexpected turn of events into the paper. It's 2:14 a.m. and the team is still reporting and updating.

et tu.

From Sun-Times reporter Dan Rozek:

8:45 p.m. Democratic congressional candidate Tammy Duckworth anxiously described herself as "a wreck" Tuesday evening as she watched election returns with her husband at her Drury Lane Oakbrook headquarters.

This dispatch from Sun-Times feature writer Leslie Baldacci:

9:00 p.m. A growing crowd of about 200 supporters for House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert were milling about the Rainbow Room in St. Charles' historic Hotel Baker, where Hastert was huddled upstairs with his advisers.

Sun-Times crime writer Frank Main is reporting tonight from the North Side soon to be victory party for Gov. Blagojevich.

8:35 p.m. -- Gov Blagojevich running mate, Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn, sounded optimistic that the numbers would hold up and his boss would become the first Democratic governor re-elected in Illinois since Otto Kerner in 1964.

Dispatch from the front...from Sun-Times religion writer Cathleen Falsani who this evening takes on a higher calling... and Sun-Times political writer Scott Fornek...

8 p.m. -- Just as the bulk of supporters began to show up at Judy Baar Topinka's election night bash at the Swissotel, they were greeted by the unpleasant news that the Associated Press had already called the race for Rod Blagojevich. Topinka's running mate, DuPage County State's Attorney Joe Birkett, was not happy.

No matter whether the GOP or Democrats win control the House in Tuesday's election--and as I write this it is too early to know--the future of House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) is on the line.
Keep in mind the speaker is officially elected by all members when the new Congress convenes. As a practical matter, it is the call of the majority party. GOP leaders are considering delaying holding their leadership elections--for party positions--because of an expected realignment in GOP ranks no matter what. Hastert is not expected to want to stay on as minority leader. He has said he wants to stand for speaker again if the GOP retains the majority. Not clear if he really means it--especially if the GOP hangs on by one or two votes. Hastert may even quit the seat he is expected to win today if the Republicans loose the House.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch....the Associated Press conducted an exit poll of Illinois voters...and found most respondents had an unfavorable opinion of Hastert.

Here's the final prediction from the sages at the Cook Political Report.....Cook analyst Amy Walter, a Chicago area native concludes the Dems win the House.
The Cook summary: "Going into Election Day, we see a 20-35 seat gain for Democrats in the House, a four to six seat gain for Democrats in the Senate and a six to eight seat gain for Democrats in the governor's races."

Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.) the boss of the House political operation will be hoisted on the shoulders of Democrats if he pulls this off. He is skedded to fly to Washington today after voting to take in election returns. Emanuel and Democratic House Leader Nancy Pelosi throw a lunch today for their best donors in D.C.

And....tonight....after I wrap up my column writing chores sometime after 10:30 p.m. I'll be on WMAQ-channel 5, joining Carol Marin and the 5 crew. I will be beamed from the new nifty camera in the Sun-Times newsroom.

And...for political junkies, former executive director of the Democratic Party of Illinois, Barbara Guttmann, arranged for the tv's at John Barleycorn West, 2142 N. Clybourn, to be all news all night.

Lots of concerns about the robo calls flooding some areas. Democrats fear robo calls bordering on harrassment may cut voter turnout among independents and swing voters for Tammy Duckworth in the sixth c.d. race.... In other developments....the Justice Department is sending a record number of observers to monitor todays midterm polling.....including in Chicago and Cook County.

After a month long blitz--selling his new book, stumping for Democrats, testing the water for a 2008 presidential run, Sen. Barack Obama on Monday traveled to Waukegan, Ill. to stump for a House candidate. He found himself answering questions about a real estate deal he made with a local shady developer named Tony Rezko. Rezko was recently indicted on corruption charges.

Obama, on the road to the White House, will have to run in the primary of public perception, just like his rivals and the Rezko episode is at the least a learning experience for him.

Obama, in a session with local reporters said "I'm human like everybody else and I'm going to make mistakes."

click below for excerpt of the question and answer session at the Waukegan airport.
(for full background read Sunday's Sun-Times story by Chris Fusco, Dave McKinney and Mark Brown at

For the first time, Sen. Barack Obama was playing defense with the press. It was after a get-out-the-vote rally on Monday. Instead of the usual fawning Washington reporters tossing softballs as they worked up adoring stories about him running for president in 2008, Obama was taking questions from the City Hall news crew about his astoundingly bad judgment.

They drove up to Waukegan to find out for themselves why on earth Obama had anything to do with the shady, recently indicted Tony Rezko.

WLS radio reporter Bill Cameron put it this way in the lead-off question: "What in the world were you doing in a real estate deal with Tony Rezko?''

Ground game rules.

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By Scott Fornek and Lynn Sweet
The battle to replace Rep. Henry Hyde, one of the most closely watched in the nation, is down to a massive war on the airwaves and intense get-out-the-vote drives.

NBC's Tim Russert made a four-way play on Sunday's "Meet the Press," with the chairman of the GOP and Democratic campaign committees at the table. Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.), the boss of the House Democratic political operation, mixed it up verbally with Sen. Elizabeth Dole (R-S.C.) chief of the Senate GOP election drive. Emanuel held to his rule...(superstion, perhaps) to never predict victory. Polls show that Dems stand a good chance of picking up the House.

Russert: Will you win the House?

EMANUEL: I'd rather be us than them.

Robo Calls: You getting any?


The polls are done. The money is raised. The ads are cut. Turnout is what is left. It's time for political big names to flood the phone lines with get-out-the-vote messages. Who's calling? Please let me know.

Monday will be a special homecoming for Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.).
His image makers, used to playing offense--as in how many positive stories a day can they generate--will be playing defense since Obama got caught in a real estate deal with the shady Tony Rezko.

Obama, in a story by my Sun-Times colleagues Dave McKinney, Chris Fusco and Mark Brown about the circumstances surrounding the purchase of his mansion, revealed that HE APPROACHED Rezko at a time where everybody knew Rezko was under a cloud.

Obama told the Sun-Times, "To the best of my recollection, I told him about the property, and he developed an interest, knowing both the location and, as I recall, the developer who had previously purchased it."

Obama is supposed to be the big draw at rallies on Monday to help Democratic House candidates Tammy Duckworth, Melissa Bean and Dan Seals.

The Obama operation manages his image in part by only releasing in advance portions of even his PUBLIC schedule. He did not want y'all in Illinois to focus on this, but Obama is wrapping up his national travel tonight (between his book tour and the election, he's been on the road since Oct. 18) at an event in Iowa--the state with the first '08 presidential test vote. Obama is also stumping hard Sunday in Tennessee for Harold Ford's Senate campaign in Tennessee.

It could be called "political junkie.'' It was good to be back in a guest chair on this weeks edition of channel 11's "Week-in-Review.'' I was covering an event that Rep. Melissa Bean (D-Ill.) was appearing at in Zion on Saturday and right away when I walked in people came up to me to continue a conversation started on the show.

I talked about the GOP's get-out-the vote operation in the 6th and 8th cd's...A viewer e-mailed to disagree...PLUS some other comments.

Republican House hopeful Peter Roskam is blaming Democratic rival Tammy Duckworth for something she had absolutely no control over -- coverage of their race by al-Jazeera.

(blog comment feature is fixed and OPEN for business.)

Negative ads are standard end-of-campaign tactics.

Negative ads based on lies, distortions, deceptions embellishments are b.s.

Here's some help to sort through the sorid mess as political ads--slams and positives--are flooding the playing field. That's television, direct mail and stuff on the net.

The memo that is a click below comes from It's an independent non-partisan research tank run by former CNN reporter Brooks Jackson. Some of the items have to do with campaigns in other parts of the U.S. Some of the material--especially dealing with claims about Social Security and Medicare--are applicable to the big races in the 6th and 8th c.d.'s in Illinois.

Former Sen. Peter Fitzgerald (R-Ill.) comes home next week to headline a post-election tell-all about the 2001 appointment of federal prosecutor Patrick (no relation) Fitzgerald and to comment on the pervasive government corruption that touches so much of the Dem and GOP ruling class.

The former senator, who lives in a Virginia suburb outside of Washington, wanted to tap a prosecutor who had no connections to the GOP or Democratic political establishement. He caught flak from House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) for not consulting with him over the appointment. His reasoning: Why should he?

Patrick Fitzgerald has proved fearless in going after City Hall and Blagojevich's state operation. He was a little overwound in sending Judy Miller to jail in his Novak leak probe.

Peter Fitzgeral tells his story this Thursday.

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Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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