Chicago Sun-Times
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Sweet: Obama, Clinton, on Super Wednesday. "I'm always the underdog," Obama said.


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.

*Superdelegates. You will be hearing more and more the Obama campaign talking about pledged delegates. The Obama campaign is mounting the argument that the superdelegates--governors, mayors, Democratic big shots who automatically go to the convention--should take their cue from delegates who had to be elected, not appointed.

*"Who matches up better in that debate about who cleans up Washington," Obama asks rhetorically talking about Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) poised to win the GOP nomination. The answer is Obama, Obama said.

The senators are headed to Washington today to vote on the Bush economic stimulus package.


My 2008 Minnesota Caucus Experience: I put my vote in a cat box (really)

Fantastic! Encouraging! Exciting! And my candidate won.

Let me start again. I left my apartment at 6:20PM to head across the street to the school where the caucus was being held. What a sight! As I stepped out onto the front steps of my apartment, I saw dozens and dozens of people walking down the sidewalks in all directions – all seemingly heading to the caucus. I had to wait a few seconds before I could break into the line on the sidewalk. I was heartened!

I followed the group up the slight hill into the school (no sidewalks had been shoveled; everyone was literally trudging through about five inches of snow). There was the beginning of a semi-organized chaos. A long line had already begun to form to vote. I’ve never been to a caucus before, so I didn’t have a very good idea of what to expect. There was one tiny 8” x 12” district map on the wall to my left that everyone was crowding around trying to get a look at to determine which district they should get in line for. Ends up that I was in district 62 (could have been in 61).

However, that really didn’t help either. There appeared to be one person directing people to the two different lines with an Obama sticker on his shirt. Got in line, waited, saw other people from the 62 line get in my line because they picked the wrong line, and waited some more. Approximately 20-25 minutes from the time I came in the front door of the school did I read the table where I wasn’t asked for any type of identification, did I sign my name, address, e-mail address and phone number on a sheet of paper. There were three women manning the sign-in table. I was then handed a small piece of paper (very small) with the names of all the Democratic candidates (even those that had dropped out) on it. I then was asked my name by a young guy with what appeared to be about 100 sheets of paper stapled together, he found my name and crossed it off. Don’t know what that was about.

I then got in the line to drop my vote into a box (which I didn’t know that at the time). Waited, looked around, waited and finally got up to a table where there was a box with the words in magic marker on it “Murkey’s Toy Box.” I asked the guy what that meant. I guess no one had asked him, he looked chagrined. He said that the party leaders had asked him to bring in a box for people to put their votes in and this was the only one he had – his cat’s toy box. So I put my vote in Murkey’s cat toy box. How quaint is that?

The caucusing took place in the school cafeteria. It was already filling up and it wasn’t even quite 7PM. So I took a seat at one of the lunch tables, interested in what a caucus entailed. I never saw the line for voting decline – people were streaming in at a steady rate.

My perspective is that there were tons of young people and when I say young – I mean 18-22 years of age – there to have their voice heard. My neighborhood evidently isn’t populated by quiet youth. I saw hope, I saw enthusiasm, I saw interest. I saw the face of my neighborhood: many ethnic groups represented, I saw the elderly (came with their walkers!), mothers with their young children, fathers, working people (their uniforms probably still on from coming straight from work), and me.

The leader of our district stood up right at 7PM and announced what we would accomplish that evening. He would be reading of the rules of caucus, the DFL platform, vote on planks, vote for presidential candidates, vote for delegates and district leaders. I have to say, it was very orderly – but enthusiastic.

By the time this man (can’t recall his name) start reading the rules of caucus, the cafeteria was jammed full, standing room (barely) only. There was barely room for him to stand and read. I don’t know the official capacity of this particular cafeteria, but it was full to the rafters. The leader went through all the steps of caucus. I found it all quite fascinating. Seemed authentic, real, down-to-earth and made me feel like my voice counted. Never felt like that in any “normal” voting I’ve done in the past. This seemed very “grass roots.” I liked it; I wasn’t sure when I went over that evening if I would or not. I was surprised by the electricity in the air.

I also noticed so many people I recognized from my bus route. I also recognized some people that I’ve just encountered in the neighborhood and from the Fringe Festival. I was pleased to political activism in action and out in force in my neighborhood. The chair announced right before the vote results were announced, that this was the biggest precinct turn out in over 30-40 years. He said typically there are around 150 people that turn out – the 1200+ was a huge increase!

The group elected two vote counters and one judge to oversee the count. When 8PM rolled around, they went to the front of the cafeteria and started counting. Everything was out in the open. I liked that. You could feel the excitement in the air, everyone anxious to hear how this group voted. At 8:25PM, the chair read off the count – Obama 952, Clinton 150, and a handful of other votes (probably amounting to around 25 votes for other candidates). Obama won overwhelmingly in my precinct. A huge cheer went up and everyone clapped. I left after that.

I’m so glad I went to the caucus. It was an experience like none other I’ve had in the political arena.


The fatigue factor with Axelrod's ham-handed PR stuff is, well, high. Richard Daley (he who puts democrats to SHAME--google his sneering youthful photo yelling at Abe Ribicoff at the '68 travesty of a convention) gave the Obama campaign that line. It's been out there. C'mon! Obama's better than that. And was it Axelrod who started the scary, Reagan rally "USA! USA!" chant last night?
While the press was coralled like they were covering 'Desert Storm'.
You wanna be a Democratic candidate? Act like one!
Where is the investigation of Edwards possibly being denied FEC funding? When will we read about that?

Obama claims that Sen. Clintons supporters will vote for him but that his supporters are so closed-minded that they would vote for a Republican instead of Sen. Clinton.

What does that tell you about his campaign?

I think it is so typical of the Democrats to have done what they did. Clearly, the Democrats had a frontrunner from the beginning of this whole mess. Why would you introduce such divisiveness? I can see it now, another Republican in the White House. Thanks O.

I would personally like to thank latino voters for once again giving Obama a spanking at the voting booth last night. Like Nevada and Florida, latinos showed how much more grounded and knowledgeable they are than my fellow white people are. Because unfortunately, too many of my people are too naive to see the used car salesman technique that Obama has perfected. So again, thank you latinos, and the rest of us in this country just might owe you a huge debt of gratitude come November.

After months of positive press coverage and being the media darling does anyone really think he's the "underdog?" I've never seen Oprah campaigning for any underdogs.

The longer MRS.BILL CLINTON stays in the race the more it reminds voters of the Clintons and their stay in the White House. The more SEN.OBAMA stays in the race the more the voters will become comfortable with him as a candidate.

Dear Lynn,

Every political race has a fundamental or critical element to it. At times it is an issue, on other occasions it is an event (a war for example), and at other turns an election is about where we are as a country.

In this election the country has one need above all. Citizens of all persuasions want a break from the past eight years. Beyond that, the country is searching for some decency and a calming influence. People want a President who, though they can be bright, is not so strident, so aggressive, and mean spirited.

This race will not be about policies or processes (both important). Quite the contrary, the race is about picking a President who addresses the needs I pointed out in the previous paragraph.

"Obama claims that Sen. Clintons supporters will vote for him but that his supporters are so closed-minded that they would vote for a Republican instead of Sen. Clinton.

"What does that tell you about his campaign?"

Actually, it tells you that many people who are independents or Republicans like me (I am a registered Republican) would rather vote for Obama than the negative and dirty-attacks Hillary we hate. And if it comes to Hillary versus McCain, we'd rather vote for McCain.

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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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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Lynn Sweet published on February 6, 2008 10:27 AM.

Sweet column: Democrats don't know who they want. was the previous entry in this blog.

Sweet: The Mark Penn, David Plouffe dueling memos on why (Clinton)(Obama) will be the nominee. Clinton loans $5 million to campaign is the next entry in this blog.

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