2008 Race for the White House: February 2008 Archives

BROWNSVILLE, TEXAS--Travel on a presidential campaign plane is very expensive for reporters. That's true for the Clinton, Obama and McCain press corps. Here's a sampling from the latest invoices I received Friday from the Obama campaign for the ATA charter that carries reporters, Obama staffers, Secret Service agents, crew and Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) on this latest campaign swing. For example, the price for the short hop in Texas between Dallas and Austin on Wednesday was $442.12.

The prices are first class plus--call it the candidate class premium. There are lots of meals and snacks.

And there are other pricey items each news organization has to pay, besides the charter bill: buses for ground transport at each stop, food at filing centers, internet connections, plus hotels. Last night the Obama travel press stayed at a Hilton in Houston for $175 the negotiated group rate.

THIS INCLUDES UPDATED MATERIAL FROM FIRST POSTING....
HOUSTON, TEXAS--A stark new ad by the Clinton campaign--"It’s 3am and your children are safe and asleep" and something is happening--:Who do you want answering the phone?" is triggering a strong response by Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and his team.

At a veterans event here, a very serious looking Sen. Barack Obama just responded. He said the ad plays on "peoples’ fears."

"I don't think these ads will work this time because the question is not about picking up the phone, but the question is what kind of judgment will you exercise when you pick up that phone.

"In fact, we have had a red phone moment. It was the decision to invade Iraq. Sen. Clinton gave the wrong answer. George Bush gave the wrong answer. John McCain gave the wrong answer.

But I stood up and said that a war in Iraq would cost us thousands of lives and billions of dollars...
....that’s the kind of judgment I intend to show when I answer that phone in the White House as President of the United States of America," Obama said.

That phrase that Obama used--that Clinton had her "red phone moment" was the same language Obama campaign manager David Plouffe used earlier in a Friday morning conference call. "We don’t think the ad is going to be effective at all, because Sen. Clinton has already had her red phone moment," Plouffe said.

FORT WORTH, Texas -- On the campaign trail, Democratic front-runner Sen. Barack Obama talks about how he would use the bully pulpit if president, and he offered a demonstration Thursday when he drew wild cheers as he told a mostly African-American crowd that parents need to shape up, turn off the TV, help their kids with their homework and stop letting them grow fat eating Popeyes chicken for breakfast.

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Obama press conference on campaign plane
Photos by Lynn Sweet

SOMEWHERE ABOVE TEXAS--En route from Austin to Beaumont for a town hall meeting, Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) held a press conference on his campaign plane. He was asked if he was ready to write the obit for Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.)

AUSTIN, TEXAS--Barack Obama told Ellen DeGeneres that his poll numbers went up after he danced on her show....Day One as president would be "really cool" and chewing on the stop-smoking Nicorette "tastes like you’re chewing on ground pepper – but it does help."


click below for excerpts

EN ROUTE AUSTIN, TEXAS--Credit Christiana Bellantoni of the Washington Times LINK for digging up what Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) was doing while his traveling press corps sat in a bus after a rally Ducansville, outside of Dallas. He was taping a segment of the Ellen Degeneres show.

ABOARD OBAMA CAMPAIGN PLANE OVER TEXAS-Sometime after the beef brisket bbq and before the aircraft landed in Austin, Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) strolled through the campaign plane for a brief visit with his travelling press corps.

Developing

DALLAS, TEXAS.--"I hate being a front-runner," Hillary Rodham Clinton tells Judy Woodruff from the "Newshour" on Wednesday.

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Photos by Lynn Sweet

En route on the Obama plane from Cleveland to a rally in Columbus, Mark Halperin of "The Page" snapped this photo of Obama chief strategist David Axelrod and Lynn Sweet

COLUMBUS, OHIO—One of the Obama rules is to leave no disputable assertion unanswered if you think it distorts your position, your record or your honor.

Presumptive GOP nominee Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) got a taste what it is like to be mocked by Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) on Wednesday, in what seemed a preview of a potential general election match-up.

CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, try as she did Tuesday night, could not throw Sen. Barack Obama off the course he is on to win the Democratic nomination.

Health care dominated much of the debate on the campus of Cleveland State University hosted by NBC's Tim Russert and Brian Williams -- almost solidly for the first 16 minutes -- and Clinton is right when she says her plan has a better chance than the proposal offered by Obama of covering more people.

CLEVELAND, OHIO--Complete transcript of the Democratic presidential debate on Feb. 26, courtesy MSNBC.

CLEVELAND, OHIO--Reporters watching the debate here in the filing center groaned when Hillary Rodham Clinton made a very lame joke--I think it was a joke--about always getting the first question.

She then refers to a Saturday Night Live skit from last Saturday that was very clever--mocking puffy Obama press -- but her line about it was not. She got some laughs and boos from the audience

Sweet: Dodd to endorse Obama.

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WASHINGTON--At a press conference in Cleveland later Tuesday morning, Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Ct.), who folded his presidential bid in January, will endorse Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) for president, the AP and Connecticut papers are reporting.

WASHINGTON -- An Associated Press news picture of Sen. Barack Obama trying on local garb during a 2006 visit to Kenya was posted on the Drudge Report on Monday, triggering testy exchanges between the Clinton and Obama campaigns.

The dustup over the picture -- which had previously been on various Internet sites and featured in a U.S. tabloid paper -- comes as Obama and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) debate today in Cleveland.

The Drudge Report said the photo was circulated in an e-mail by unidentified "Clinton staffers," which prompted Obama campaign manager David Plouffe to call it "fear-mongering" and "divisive politics." Clinton spokesman Phil Singer said it was "outrageous" to finger the Clinton campaign for circulating the photo and said as far as he knew, they had nothing to do with it.

WASHINGTON--The Clinton campaign puts in play big time Monday the question of who is ready to be commander-in-chief. At the debate last week in Austin, Texas, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton declined to say Sen. Barack Obama is not up for the job, while Obama made the case he was ready. On the day before Tuesday's debate in Cleveland, Clinton is ready to tackle the question again.

WASHINGTON—Retired Air Force Gen. Scott Gration, who accompanied Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) on his trip to Kenya in 2006, on Monday defended Obama’s trying on local garb over his clothes during a visit to the rural Wajir region in the country, a picture of which is at the top right now of the Drudge Report. LINK


Obama was merely being a “great guest,” Gration said.


WASHINGTON -- The Sunday meeting with Cleveland area Jewish leaders was not on the schedule Sen. Barack Obama's campaign gave reporters, but the stop in Mayfield Heights, hosted by Ron Ratner, a major fund-raiser for Obama, was one of the most important of the day. More than a year into his run for president, Obama is still explaining his record, relationships and religion to Jewish voters.

WASHINGTON--Ralph Nader just told NBC "Meet the Press" host Tim Russert he will make this third run for president. Nader demonstrated off the bat on Sunday that he can whip up controversy for front-runner Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), saying he flip-flopped on support for the Palestinian cause. This will touch a nerve because the Obama campaign has been working to lock-in Jewish voters by stressing his strong backing for Israel.

Nader was seen as a spoiler in 2000 when he siphoned votes from Al Gore, with the most critical and protracted battle taking place in Florida. Nader won some 97,000 votes in Florida and Gore lost to Bush in Florida by 543 votes.

Obama, on a trajectory to win the Democratic presidential nomination, on Saturday said Nader has "a pretty high opinion of his own work" at the same press conference in Ohio where he called him a "heroic figure."

Nader said it was "political bigotry" to assume that only two candidates should run for the White House. Calling him a spoiler is "astonishing," Nader said. He said was a Obama a "liberal evangelist." Nader hit Obama right off on what for Obama is a very sensitive, hot button issue. Nader said Obama " was pro-Palestinian" when he ran for the state senate in Illinois.

Obama on Saturday, asked about Nader's anticipated entry, portrayed Nader as being in the race to satisfy his own ego, thus diminishing him, while at the same time praising Nader for his work on behalf of consumers.

Obama revealed that Nader had called him and "reached out" to his campaign.

"My sense is is that Mr. Nader is somebody who, if you don't listen and adopt all of his policies, thinks you're not substantive. He seems to have a pretty high opinion of, of his own work. Now -- and by the way, I have to say that, historically, he is a singular figure in American politics and has done as much as just about anybody on behalf of consumers," Obama said.

HOUSTON, TEXAS--The high number of viewer --7,576,000 million -- who watched the Thursday Democratic debate on CNN showed that people are engaged in the primary, especially when it features a one-on-one with Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton.

The debate at the University of Texas at Austin was the second most watched on CNN. The Jan. 31 debate at the Kodak Theater in Los Angeles drew 8.2 million, the highest rated primary debate in cable news history.

AUSTIN, TEXAS--Democratic debate transcript, courtesy of CNN.

AUSTIN, TEXAS---Hillary Rodham Clinton, now facing an uphill battle with Barack Obama, did most everything she had to do at the debate, even ending on an aspirational, unifying note that “I am absolutely honored to be here with Barack Obama. Whatever happens, we’re going to be fine."

It was an emotional moment. But it suggested she realized how tough it may now be for her to become the Democratic nominee and seemed she was bracing for the end.

Clinton's campaign sent out the video clip of her closer.

CUBA
AUSTIN, TEXAS-- With Fidel Castro announcing he will be stepping down, the question is would Clinton and Obama sit down with whoever leads the Cuban “dictatorship” in the future. Obama raised a question of whether he is backtracking on previous statements about normalizing relations with Cuba.

AUSTIN, TEXAS---This is a critical debate for Hillary Rodham Clinton and she has a strong opening, acknowledging indirectly she has an uphill fight when she talked about determination and keeping going against "insurmountable odds."

Barack Obama, who is suffering from a cold, delivers a version of a stump with no particular flair. But he has won 11 contests in a row and just needs to get through the night.

Clinton reminds the audience at the University of Texas at Austin campus she had her first political job here. She also cites her relationships with the late Texas icons Barbara Jordan and Ann Richards.

AUSTIN, TEXAS--The AP's Nedra Pickler, on the Obama campaign, threw an audible to Sen. Barack Obama this morning and the Texas Longhorns intercepted her play. Read all about it in this pool report from a visit Barack Obama made Thursday morning to the locker room at the University of Texas, home of the Texas Longhorns.

AUSTIN, TEXAS--The New York Times shakes up politics with this story about Sen. John McCain (R-Az.) in the Thursday paper. LINK The story implies McCain had some kind of an affair with a lobbyist and did favors for her. His campaign said the story was a "smear."

On Thursday morning, McCain, with wife Cindy standing next to him during a press conference in Akron, said he never abused the public trust.

AUSTIN, Texas -- Sen. Barack Obama is on a trajectory to win the Democratic presidential nomination.

Obama has gained too much ground in recent days for Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton to overtake him, short of a major gaffe. Obama and Clinton meet tonight for their second one-on-one debate here sponsored by the Texas Democratic Party, Univision and CNN.

AUSTIN, TEXAS--White House hopeful Barack Obama and Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa are meeting right now as I type this; they are together in the motorcade from the airport to a hotel here. Hoffa met Obama at the airport, where Obama was arriving after a rally in Dallas. The union is endorsing the Illinois Democrat for president over Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Hoffa may be meeting with the Obama press corps later today; it's not clear yet if it will happen. UPDATE. Will huddle with Hoffa at 5:30 p.m. Chicago time.

React from the Republican National Committee

“Nothing says ‘change’ like the Teamsters and James Hoffa. Long-winded speeches and partisan endorsements are no substitute for serious policy discussions. Some partisan groups may applaud Obama’s ‘most liberal’ rhetoric, but the freshman senator must still answer real questions about his record and experience.” – Alex Conant, RNC Spokesman


DALLAS, TEXAS--After he launched his presidential bid, Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) said he would take public financing for his campaign if the Democratic nominee if his GOP counterpart agreed to do the same. At the time, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said he would and now he has emerged as the Republican presumptive nominee. Obama was asked to re-affirm his pledge. He declined.

Obama does not like work on the timetable of someone else. But his hestitancy to speak out left him open to criticism from McCain and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) that he broke his pledge

In an op ed the Wednesday USA Today, Obama spelled out his conditions for taking public financing. LINK

HOUSTON, TEXAS—By this stage in the presidential primary battle, the Obama camp—and Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) —knew or should have known that every time Obama lifted lines from Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick —no matter who originally wrote or conceived the material—he left himself politically exposed.

HOUSTON, TEXAS -- Sen. Barack Obama on Tuesday night filled the Toyota Center here, home court for the Houston Rockets, right up to the nosebleed sections as he celebrated his Wisconsin win with about 18,000 screaming supporters.

As Obama comes closer to clinching the Democratic presidential nomination, the campaign of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton is getting more effective in being able to throw Obama off his storyline in the media. All this makes Texas and Ohio even more important.

HOUSTON, TEXAS---A transcript of Barack Obama's speech Tuesday night, delivered here just after he was declared the winner of the Wisconsin primary. My annonations in italics.

"Ya'll know how to do it in Texas. Houston, I think we've achieved liftoff here."
You get the NASA reference, right?

"I want to thank all the wonderful faith leaders who are here who gave me a little circle of prayer before coming out here today."
Texas has a lot of mega churches

Sweet: Michelle Obama

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HOUSTON, TEXAS--This is the video of the Michelle Obama comment about being "really proud" of her country for the "first time."

SAN ANTONIO—A Roger Simon story in Politico about the possibility that the Clinton camp was plotting to poach pledged Obama delegates—not superdelegates aka automatic delegates-- triggered exchanges on Tuesday between the campaigns in dueling conference calls.

Obama campaign manager David Plouffe said he had no independent confirmation this was happening, but nonetheless said this was an example of the Clinton team trying to “subvert” the process. Clinton top spokesman Howard Wolfson strongly denied this was their plan.

SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS--Another example of Sen. Barack Obama borrowing stirring language from Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick.
Patrick on June 30, 2006: "I am not asking anybodyto take a chance on me. I'm asking you to take a chance on your own aspirations."

Obama on Nov. 2, 2007: "I'm not not asking you to take a chance on me. I'm asking you to take a chance on your own aspirations."

SAN ANTONIO—With a backdrop of a painting of the Alamo, Sen. Barack Obama is in a poor area of this city right now—Tuesday afternoon-- talking at a roundtable here about home foreclosures and the mortgage crisis. He blamed the mess on special interest lobbying, because the lenders have Washington lobbying operations. Meanwhile even though Wisconsin and Hawaii are voting today, the Clinton and Obama campaigns are looking ahead to the March 4 mega-battles in Texas and Ohio.

Texas presents some very specific challenges for both Democrats. The state has a combination system with a primary and a caucus held on the same day. After voters cast a ballot in any of the 8,300 precincts—or did early voting—they then can show up in person that night to vote for a another pool of delegates. There is an expected high early voting rate here. Early voting started today and runs through Feb. 29.

SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS--Here's a clip of Chicago singer songwriter Susan Werner with her "Barack Obama Get Happy,'' performed Friday in Tulsa.

WASHINGTON -- After the Clinton campaign threw a spotlight Monday on a riff Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) borrowed from a speech made by Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, the Illinois senator said he was happy to give his friend credit as he downplayed the questions being raised by his rival about the authenticity of his soaring, inspirational rhetoric.

WASHINGTON--Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama lifts some lines from Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick when he defended himself Saturday night about being an inspirational speaker who may have more sizzle than steak. In doing so, he borrowed a riff from Patrick (a native Chicago South Sider) who shares with Obama a key strategist, David Axelrod.

"Don't tell me words don't matter," said Barack Obama at the Wisconsin Democratic Party Founders Day dinner on Saturday in a rebuttal to Hillary Rodham Clinton's assessment that he is about "speeches" and not "solutions." He then goes on to quote some very famous lines. Just about the same thing Patrick said in a speech in 2006, when he was running for governor. Patrick is endorsing Obama.

How the Obama team ginned up superdelegate controversy.

WASHINGTON -- The Obama campaign and its shrewd manager, David Plouffe, have outsmarted the Clinton team when it comes to whipping up pressure on the unpledged Democratic delegates who may prove critical in determining who wins the Democratic presidential nomination.

"You know, this, this issue of how the superdelegates ought to vote, you know, this great epistemological, metaphysical issue, no one thought about it three months ago," Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), a Clinton supporter, said Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press."

WASHINGTON--The secret did not keep for long, but secret it was--Barack Obama flew to Chapel Hill, N.C. on Sunday to meet with John and Elizabeth Edwards about an endorsement. WTVD in Raleigh-Durham has a picture of Obama and Edward embracing, taken from their chopper and a tick-tock on when Obama landed Sunday. LINK


Hillary Rodham Clinton had her own secret meeting with the Edwards earlier at their home more than a week ago. I'm told by an Edwards source that Elizabeth warmed up to Clinton when they got together.

WASHINGTON--Sen. Dick Durbin and Sen. Chuck Schumer share a townhouse here. But Durbin is for Sen. Barack Obama and Schumer is with Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton. They faced off Sunday. Transcript of them on NBC "Meet the Press." Plus transcript of Obama strategist David Axelrod and Clinton top adviser Howard Wolfsonon CBS "Face the Nation."

WASHINGTON--The SEIU top leaders just started a conference call where they made the Barack Obama endorsement official. This national endorsement will substitute all the state-by-state endorsements that were split between Obama, Hillary Rodham Clinton and John Edwards, said SEIU chief Andy Stern. This will let SEIU members flood the zone for Obama in Wisconsin, facing a Tuesday primary vote.


The SEIU also wants to be a player in ending the Democratic primary race sooner rather than later. I think they were also impressed with Obama's on-the-ground organizing efforts. Unions notice that kind of thing.

WASHINGTON -- Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) is on track to become the Democratic presidential nominee, and he's getting the attention his accomplishment deserves. Thursday, Sen. John McCain, the presumptive GOP nominee, and the Republican National Committee treated Obama like the front-runner he is and attacked him -- for not being transparent when it comes to disclosing his earmark requests.

I'm returning to transparency and Obama -- I've written columns on this topic since 2004 -- because Obama's reluctance to tell the whole story on earmarks and other matters is a habit with him. Now Obama has created an opening that his GOP opponents are using to hit him.

WASHINGTON--UPDATE at 9:24 p.m. Chicago time.
The New York Times reports that civil rights legend Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) who endorsed Hillary Rodham Clinton will, as a superdelegate cast his vote for Barack Obama. The Obama campaign was sending this story around. LINK

OLD
The Service Employees International Union, one of the most politically engaged labor organizations, on Friday is expected to announce its support for Barack Obama. Obama's Big Mo continues.

The SEIU announded late Thursday--after reports surfaced about the Obama endorsement--that its leaders will "Make (a) Major Political Announcement Tomorrow." Last fall, the SEIU said it was staying out the primary.

"This Friday, February 15, SEIU President Andy Stern and Secretary-Treasurer Anna Burger will discuss a major political announcement with reporters via teleconference," the union said.

WASHINGTON-- Catching up....New Mexico finally counts its votes and Hillary Rodham Clinton wins...and Barack Obama picks up the backing of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union.


click for UFCW statement

WASHINGTON--Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.) is running for vice president with the slogan, "just a heartbeat away from having a heart." Emanuel, a superdelegate who is friends with Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) would prefer, I bet, that the Democratic presidential nomination be resolved without having to count on the superdelegate votes.

"I’d be perfect for Vice President for either Hillary or Barack. I’d balance them both—I have more experience in the executive branch than Barack and I’ve spent more time alone with Bill than Hillary has," Emanuel said.

Emanuel launched his vice presidential bid --by now you surmise this is a joke, I hope--during a speech at the Washington Press Club Foundation dinner on Wednesday night where he shared the keynoting honors with Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas). MSNBC's "Hardball" host Chris Matthews subbed as host, filling in for the ailing Tony Snow, the former White House press secretary.


WASHINGTON--UPDATE Former Sen. Lincoln Chafee (R-R.I.), now an independent, endorsed Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) on Thursday. He cited Obama's opposition to the Iraq war before he was in the Senate and his ability "to be moral and just and to bring people together."

Chafee said "I'm sure Sen. McCain will understand." Independents can vote in the Democratic primary in Rhode Island. While in the Senate, Chafee was part of a group of moderate Republicans who often crossed party lines.

OLD
Barack Obama is taking Valentines Day off, staying in Chicago.

WASHINGTON--The Illinois breakfast is a proud tradition here. Every Thursday when the Senate is in session, the Senators, for years--no matter who--host a morning session for any Illinoisan who shows up.

Sen. Dick Durbin has been carrying the ball, since for months now, Sen. Barack Obama has been skipping the breakfasts because he has been on the Democratic presidential campaign trail.

WASHINGTON--Hillary Rodham Clinton's new ad hits Barack Obama for not debating in Wisconsin.


WASHINGTON — Sometime tonight, after the House and Senate finish voting, members of Congress who are backing Barack Obama’s presidential bid will huddle in the Capitol Hill living room of Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) to map strategy to capture more superdelegates for the Illinois senator.

Obama’s top congressional superdelegate wranglers will aim to be there: On the House side, Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.) and Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) and Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), who is handling the Senate portfolio. Mike Robertson, Obama’s delegate and congressional relations coordinator, is also expected to be on hand.

WASHINGTON-Hillary Rodham Clinton deputy campaign manager Mike Henry resigned on Tuesday, following the departure of campaign chief Patti Solis Doyle and the growing strength of Barack Obama. Obama was projected to win Virginia on Tuesday, with Maryland and the District of Columbia not yet called.

In a note to the staff, Henry said, "Our campaign needs to move quickly to build a new leadership team, support them and their decisions and make the necessary adjustments to achieve the winning outcome for which we have all worked so hard for over a year now."

Henry was one of the first hires on the Clinton team more than a year ago.

Click below for Henry's note......


BETHESDA, Md. -- At a rally at a high school here on Monday, an optimistic Michelle Obama called herself "perhaps the next first lady" as Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) and their mega-surrogates skipped across the region stumping for Tuesday's "Potomac Primary" in Washington, D.C., Virginia and Maryland with 168 delegates at stake.

In the past days, the Obamas and the Clintons -- Bill Clinton and daughter Chelsea -- have worked the territory while behind the scenes, the fight for superdelegates steps up. No matter the outcome on Tuesday -- and Obama is favored, because there is a large African-American and affluent population in all three jurisdictions -- the delegate count is expected to remain close.

WASHINGTON--UPDATE 3:30 P.M. CHICAGO TIME
NEW
From Barack Obama spokesman Bill Burton, regarding Obama meeting Monday with John Edwards: "No meeting today – scheduling problem."
OLD
Seeking his endorsement, Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) flies to North Carolina later Monday to meet with former Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.) in his Chapel Hill home. On Thursday, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) made a similair house call on Edwards who dropped his presidential bid but has not said if he will back of his former rivals.

An Edwards aide told me that Elizatbeth Edwards was in on the Clinton meeting. The reason for the meetings is to go over--again--a lot of what has been talked about, the committment of the Democrats to fighting to eliminate poverty.

WASHINGTON--Obama campaign manager David Plouffe crunches numbers in a Sunday memo (at the click) and sees bright prospects for Barack Obama after the Illinois senator won all the weekend contests.

This ran in the Chicago Sun-Times on June 14, 2007.--

ARLINGTON, Va. -- Growing up, Patti Solis Doyle, the daughter of Mexican immigrants, could hear the rumble of the L train running in the alley behind her home at 1726 W. 21st.


Today, Doyle is the manager of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's presidential campaign, lives in an affluent Washington neighborhood and sends her two children to one of the best private schools in the city.

Toiling in a business where it is rare for females to pilot major campaigns and minorities in key posts are even harder to find, Doyle started in Chicago's City Hall and made it to Hillaryland, where she became a charter member of the band of loyalists devoted to Clinton for the past 16 years.

ALEXANDRIA, VA.--Patti Solis Doyle, who rose from a staffer in Chicago's City Hall to campaign manager for Hillary Rodham Clinton's presidential drive, stepped aside on Sunday as Clinton's team confronts the reality that Barack Obama is in a position to beat the New York senator.

Doyle said in a statement that she will serve as a "senior adviser" and that Maggie Williams will be the campaign manager. Williams earlier took on an informal top role after Obama beat Clinton in Iowa. On Sunday, Williams, who served as chief of staff for Clinton when she was first lady.

Doyle is a Pilsen native and the sister of Ald. Danny Solis (25h), who started with Hillary Clinton during the 1992 presidential campaign, moving from Chicago to Little Rock, Ark.

Clinton said in a statement, "Patti Solis Doyle has done an extraordinary job in getting us to this point - within reach of the nomination - and I am enormously grateful for her friendship and her outstanding work. And, as Patti has said, this already has been the longest presidential campaign in history and one that has required enormous sacrifices of everyone and our families. I look forward to her continued advice in the months ahead. Patti and I have worked with Maggie Williams for more than a decade. I am lucky to have Maggie on board and I know she will lead our campaign with great skill towards the nomination."


RICHMOND, Va. -- Now that Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) is the presumptive GOP presidential nominee, rivals Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) are recalibrating their campaigns to stress electability, as each argues they are better prepared to beat him in November.

With Clinton and Obama the star headliners, the Democratic Party of Virginia drew its largest crowd ever -- more than 5,000 people -- at the annual Jefferson Jackson dinner here coming before Tuesday's primaries in Virginia, Maryland and Washington, D.C.

Dem contenders shift focus, knowing independents may be key to election

CHICAGO--'It's hard to imagine now," said Dan Pfeiffer, a spokesman for Barack Obama's presidential campaign. "But when we first started this thing. ... We never knew that it was all going to come together."

Pfeiffer is in his office at Obama's national headquarters at 233 N. Michigan, which over the last year has morphed from looking corporate to cluttered, with stuff everywhere and an oddball assortment of furniture sprinkled throughout.

Reflected Pfeiffer, "Were people going to really all come work for us? Were we going to be able to raise money to compete with Sen. Clinton? Was the appetite, was what everyone saw in Barack's appeal in the previous year going to translate to a presidential campaign or not?"

The answer to all those questions turned out to be yes. One year ago, on Feb. 10, 2007, Obama stood in front of the Old State Capitol in Springfield to officially declare his candidacy. Now he's in a deadlock with Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) in a contest that may not be decided until the Democratic National Convention in Denver, with more states voting this weekend.

RICHMOND, VA.--Barack Obama sweeps the Saturday contests. Wins Louisiana, Nebraska, Virgin Islands and Washington State.

RICHMOND, VA.--I'm at the Democratic Party of Virginia's Jefferson Jackson dinner on the campus of Virginia Commonwealth University, where Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) and Sen.Barack Obama (D-Ill.) will be speaking tonight. Virginia votes on Tuesday, as does Maryland and Washington D.C.

CHICAGO--Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and his team are calling for Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) to release her income tax returns. Obama has released the top sheets of his return, not the schedules that are almost always part of a return of anyone who owns a home and who has various sources of income. But Clinton has declined to make public ANY returns which would l detail earnings of Bill Clinton and the senator.

In not disclosing, the Clinton campaign is making a tactical decision, not any stand on privacy. On Friday, Clinton spokesman Howard Wolfson said Clinton will release returns "if she is the nominee."

The Clinton campaign in turn, said if Obama wants to talk about disclosure, asks why Obama has declined to discuss his dealings with Tony Rezko, who trail on public corruption charges is starting in Chicago.

The Obama camp counters that the issues are separate.

CHICAGO--Clinton campaign spokesman Howard Wolfson is all but conceeding the remaining February states to Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.). "The states in play this month do favor Sen. Obama," Wolfson said in an expansive Friday conference call. In all, 25 journalists (counting one who went twice) asked questions. That is, for people who don't follow these things, a very high number. The Obama campaign has a conference call coming up later today and Obama himself is scheduled to be at a press conference in Seattle this morning.
.

Wolfson reported at the top of the call that Clinton raised $8 million on-line since the polls closed in California on Tuesday. "When people found out the money was needed, they responded," he said.

With Sen. John McCain (R-Az.) the presumptive GOP nominee, the stage is set for a fight over Independent voters.

Asked about Obama's appeal to Independent voters, Wolfson said, "Sen. Obama's weaknesses, his position on issues, in our opinion are not widely known by Independent voters. He has gotten the most favorable press, I think, in the history of American politics over the past several weeks. He got enormous, enormously favorable press around the Kennedy endorsement.

"And so it is not a surprise that in an early stage in the process where his positions on issues are unknown, his vunerabilities are unknown; that he might be running ahead of where he would ultimately wind up if he were the Democratic nominee. I think if he were the Democratic nominee that would change. The Republicans would begin mounting an attack on him and Independents would learn information about him that they don't currently have. I'm talking by the way about his issue positions here."

CHICAGO--Nebraska votes on Saturday and former Sen. Bob Kerry (D-Neb.) stars in this spot for Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) .

CHICAGO--Barack Obama is in New Orleans today--Louisiana votes Saturday--and in a speech he will unveil his plan to rebuild the city and Gulf Coast, plus other post-Katrina business. He will also tour a local school.

Meanwhile, the Hillary Rodham Clinton camp is trying to get Obama to agree to more debates. This morning, Clinton campaign manager Patti Solis Doyle (and Chicago native) wrote Obama campaign manager David Plouffe pushing for a string of one-on-ones.

Doyle's point is that there has been only one-on-one debate.

Plouffe and Obama's rebuttal is that they have had plenty, referring to the debates with Dodd, Biden, Edwards, Kucinich, Gravel on the stage. Click for the Solis-Doyle letter. Obama said Wednesday he'll do at least one more.

Who's the underdog now?

CHICAGO--Now that Sen. John McCain (R-Az) has the GOP presidential nomination nearly clinched—and Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) is in a dragged out fight with Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) for the Democratic title—the first post on this blog two years ago today seems worth taking a second read.

Day one for the Sweet blog featured a dust-up between Obama McCain over pending ethics legislation.

February 07, 2006
Here's tomorrow's news today
By now you know that Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and Sen. John McCain (R-Az.) have tangled big time.

McCain accused Obama of "self-interested partsian posturing", questioning in a Monday letter if Obama was sincerely seeking bipartisan détente on a lobbying and ethics reform bill.

CHICAGO-This from Clinton spokesman Howard Wolfson on Hillary Rodham Clinton's $5 million loan to her campaign....

"Late last month Senator Clinton loaned her campaign $5 million. The loan illustrates Sen. Clinton’s commitment to this effort and to ensuring that our campaign has the resources it needs to compete and win across this nation. We have had one of our best fundraising efforts ever on the web today and our Super Tuesday victories will only help in bringing more support for her candidacy."


CHICAGO--The Obama and Clinton campaigns are running hard on this Super Wednesday, each mounting arguments critical to the sucess of Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.).

Last night, Obama top strategist David Axelrod told me that Obama would be the underdog no matter that the results now show Clinton and Obama running even with Obama having a lot of momenteum.

On Wednesday morning, Obama said, "I'm always the underdog," then amended his assesstment to this:

"Here's a fair way to put it. I think we are less of an underdog than we were two weeks ago. All right? I mean I think that's fair. Two weeks ago, we were a big underdog. Now we are a slight underdog."

Highlights so far from Clinton campaign conference call and Obama press conference, in progress as I write this. Obama is at a Sheraton hotel near Midway Airport in Chicago.

*Clinton spokesman Howard Wolfson predicted the battle for the nomination could do to the Democratic convention in Denver. He noted that the fight over the seating of the Michigan and Florida delegates could be criticial.

*Debates. Team Clinton wants a debate a week before now and March 4. Organization Obama is open to more debates, does not want Clinton to be his scheduler. Obama said there have been 18 debates so far. "Here's the good news. We will have more debates...I am sure we will accept at least one."

*Obama said that if Clinton is the nominee, the GOP has a "whole dump truck they can back up" with stuff on her.


Democrats just don't know who they want to nominate for president.

The mixed results of Super Tuesday only mean that Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) wake up today and look to the next round of contests Feb. 9 and beyond.

CHICAGO--The Obama Super Tuesday election night party is in a small ballroom in the belly of the Hyatt Regency on Wacker Drive. And only half the room is really available for people to stand in to celebrate Obama's victories, since the whole set-up is really designed for optics: to look good on television and in pictures.

A multi-tiered press riser--a mother of all risers--is in the middle of the room. The actual space where an Obama supporter can stand is quite limited. Reporters are banned from leaving a penned in area to talk to people in ballroom, though they are free to mingle in the hallway, which right now has the feel of a giant cocktail party.

While there is room for people to stand behind the risers, there's no way they would be able to see anything except on the jumbo televisions.

There is a roped off area for VIPs who hold blue tickets. There are several VIP events going on; a reception on the same level as the ballroom;a room for elected officials; and an event being run by the Obama Finance team for their best donors and fundraisers.

CHICAGO--Sweet TV.

Barack and Michelle Obama voted at the Shoesmith Elementary School at 1330 E. 50th this morning; this video I shot shows them taking a few minutes working on their ballots and Obama taking a few questions from reporters.


CHICAGO--"It was close, but in the end I voted for Obama," joked Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) after casting a ballot at an elementary school in Kenwood accompanied by his wife Michelle.

Voting a few blocks from their home, the Obamas' took several minutes to mark up their ballots at the Shoesmith Elementary School, 1330 E. 50th, in the 23rd precinct of Chicago's 4th ward. While Michelle was hunched over her ballot, Obama turned to her a few times for what seemed like a consultation. Besides president, there were a lot of local offices on the ballot, including some races that may have escaped Obama's attention, such as for a Cook County sub-circuit judge.

CHICAGO--Barack Obama campaign manager David Plouffe lowered Super Tuesday expectations on Monday, predicting that Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) will win more states and delegates than the Illinois senator.

But behind the scenes, the Obama camp has been aiming to create momentum out of Tuesday's voting -- no matter the outcome -- by being able to claim a number of wins in states, even if the victories did not yield many delegates.

That's why the Obama team decided to spend the past few days stumping in primary and caucus states with relatively few delegates.

Obama will vote this afternoon in Chicago, after flying in from Boston. He tentatively has a basketball game planned with brother-in-law Craig Robinson (Brown University's basketball coach) and former pro player Alexi Giannoulias, the state treasurer.

CHICAGO--Obama campaign manager David Plouffe lowered Super Tuesday expectations on Monday, predicting that Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) will win more states and delegates. But the strategy behind the decision for Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) to spend the past few days travelling to small delegate yield primary and caucus states is to have a higher state win score on Tuesday night.

Plouffe excerpt; full memo at the click....
We fully expect Senator Clinton to earn more delegates on February 5th and also to win more states. If we were to be within 100 delegates on that day and win a number of states, we will have met our threshold for success and will be best positioned to win the nomination in the coming months.

(this is a longer version of the print column)
LOS ANGELES — The Obama campaign pulled off a tour de force on Super Bowl Sunday afternoon in targeting female, independent and Republican voters at a rally featuring a surprise endorsement from Maria Shriver, the wife of GOP California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. She was joined onstage by Shriver’s cousin Caroline Kennedy, Oprah Winfrey and Michelle Obama.

The only man in what was designed as an all-female lineup was Stevie Wonder, who just came by Pauley Pavilion on the campus of the University of California, Los Angeles to attend the hastily arranged rally. He sang an a cappella riff the audience joined in with just two words: Barack Obama.

LOS ANGELES -- California is a sprawling political battleground and to make inroads in this diverse state in the last weekend before Tuesday's primary here, the Obama and Clinton campaigns are targeting women, Hispanics, African Americans and young voters.

LOS ANGELES--A new poll in the San Francisco Chronicle LINK shows Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) is surging in California, deeply cutting into a lead now barely held by Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.)

excerpt:
The poll also highlights the dramatic split the Clinton-Obama battle has caused in the state's Democratic Party. Rich versus poor, young versus old, liberal versus conservative, men versus women: Each of those groups has lined up on different sides of the primary divide.

clintonlosangelesrallyfeb22008 015
Hillary Rodham Clinton at California State University-Los Angeles rally. (photo by Lynn Sweet)

clintonlosangelesrallyfeb22008 013
Clinton and California backers at rally including former Gov. Gray Davis, Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums (with microphone) Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Rep. Brad Sherman; Christine Lahti (in back); Supervisor Gloria Molina and others.
(photo by Lynn Sweet)

clintonlosangelesrallyfeb22008 007
Sally Fields at Clinton rally (photo by Lynn Sweet)click for more pictures
click below for more photos

LOS ANGELES--What a combo targeting voters--an all-female mariachi band--at a Cal State campus rally here for Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) on Saturday morning. Clinton is zeroing in on females and Hispanics in her California campaign. "Yes she can!" people were chanting, a play on "Yes we can," a slogan with a long history, currently being used by the Obama team.

Clinton invoked the name Robert Kennedy--in a day when Sen.Barack Obama (D-Ill.) picked up the endorsement of his wife, Ethel Kennedy. She said how proud she and Obama (not by name) were in the finals. A few minutes later she jabbed, "My opponent will not commit to universal health care." That's a reference to her call for a mandate for health insurance coverage and Obama's approach that if prices are driven down, people will buy coverage.

"Instead of this mean spirited demogoguery, let's fix this immigration system," she said to a heavily Hispanic crowd.


Sally Fields and Brad Whitfield (Josh on the "West Wing") spoke as part of the warm-up for Clinton; so did Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.); farm labor activist Dolores Huerta for Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums, who represented East Bay in Congress and vouched for Clinton, speaking as a veteran of the civil rights wars of the 1960s. I spotted Clinton pals Ted Danson and Mary Steenburgen in the audience and Christine Lahti.

LOS ANGELES, CALIF.--Barack Obama won't be in California again before the Tuesday primary here--but he is sending in a powerful team of surrogates--Oprah Winfrey, Caroline Kennedy and wife Michelle, all to appear at a rally here. Oprah hosted a fund-raiser for Obama at her home near Santa Barbara last year and stumped with Obama in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina.

At a news conference on Friday morning here, a California reporter asked him if he was skimping on California.
“We'll see. I don’t share that view," said Obama who probably knew that an Oprah visit was in the works. “I think this is gpoing to be very competitive. But we’ve got 22 states,” Obama said. “And just from a purely strategic perspective, I think everybody understands that if we are spending all of our time in one state and not spending time in the other 21, then that might not lead to the most delegates"

LOS ANGELES, CALIF.—The Obama and Clinton camps returned to sharper rhetoric on Friday, after hitting the mute button at the Thursday debate.

*But first: Paul Bedard, who pens "Washington Whispers" at U.S. News & World Report, has an item about Barack Obama's exercise routine where I'm quoted about working out with Obama. LINK

* Obama, at a press conference at the Westin Bonaventure before taking off for New Mexico (no endorsement from Gov. Richardson, the trip is to talk economics in a Feb. 5 western state) said Clinton at the debate did not “adequately explain” how the U.S. got into Iraq. During the Hollywood debate, Clinton having to explain her vote authorizing the war was one of her weakest performances of the night; too much explaining. Obama ally Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) gets on a conference call soon to talk about the debate and Iraq.

*Turning to health care, Clinton's team, livid about a direct mail piece issued by the Obama campaign, held a conference call in the morning with health care experts condemning what they called “GOP attack tactics” in their mailer.

HOLLYWOOD, CALIF.--Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton meet in the first one-on-one Democratic presidential debate. Transcript.

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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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This page is a archive of entries in the 2008 Race for the White House category from February 2008.

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