8 on ’08: Obamania

Everything you need to know from the last week of the 2008 presidential campaign.

By: Garrett M. Graff

Without further ado, here are the top eight developments you need to know about what's happening on both sides of the presidential campaign:

1) This week saw two major presidential announcements: Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. The former you probably heard a lot about. The latter, not so much—and that's a problem for the former Massachusetts governor. More than 600 newspeople showed up for Obama’s announcement in Springfield, and yet only about a third that number attended Romney’s fete a few days later in Michigan. Expect more of the same—right now all the “sexiness” seems to be on the Democratic side. The more the focus remains on the Democratic primary, the better news it is for John McCain. He needs to remain the known quantity to Romney’s unknown. Romney can’t afford to be overshadowed too many days.

2) John Edwards’s disastrous “Bloggers vs. Catholics” story entered a second week and showed the “unscripted” campaign stumbling repeatedly to right itself. What had once been one of the campaign’s strengths—the wholesale adoption of the Web—has now knocked it off message day after day and failed to appease either the bloggers or the Catholics.

3) California is moving forward with plans to move its primary into February 2008, which would shorten the calendar even more and thus reduce the window within which anyone but a top-tier candidate could win. February 5 could become the equivalent of a Super Tuesday primary a whole month earlier than the typical first Tuesday in March if Illinois, California, Florida, Michigan, and others all end up on that day. Because nothing but expensive air wars and massive ground operations could hope to win those states, it would be nearly impossible for a candidate without a giant bankroll to go into that day competitive.

4) Mitt Romney continues to refuse to cede an inch of ground to John McCain, most of all in McCain’s hometown, Washington, DC. According to sources familiar with the discussions, Romney is making serious in-roads into the GOP House leadership and has a total of 23 congressmen lined up for a fundraiser later this month. One name on the host committee not to underestimate: Nels Olsen, the DC power behind Korn/Ferry International, the world’s largest executive search firm. In that role, Olsen has recruited many of the top trade-association executives in town and thus his phone calls get returned promptly by a lot of powerful people who literally owe their jobs to him. Lots of finance staffers would kill for his rolodex, and he knows relationships and networks inside and out.


5) The “Draft Al Gore” movement is simmering, even though there doesn’t appear to be much interest on the former vice president’s part. Through it all, he’s maintaining a high profile, including this week’s announcement of his Live Earth concert series. A petition asking Gore to run broke the record this week for the most recommendations ever on the liberal blog DailyKos.com.

6) Whether Hizzonor Rudy Guiliani gets into the race is beginning to look less like a question. He made a high-profile swing through California, hired some serious political staff, ramped up his fundraising, and picked up some endorsements—oh, and he actually quasi-announced on the Larry King Show. How the twice-divorced, pro-gay, anti-gun, pro-choice Catholic from New York does in Republican primaries is a very big unknown, but he certainly alters (and widens) the race.

7) In the second tier of candidates, Tom Vilsack and Mike Huckabee are both making strong appearances. Vilsack’s energy-security speech to the Commonwealth Club in California was very well received and is helping in his campaign’s positioning of Vilsack as the “issues” candidate. Huckabee continues to grab a headline now and again—this week, it was a major endorsement in South Carolina.

8) Hillary’s first foray on the campaign trail in New Hampshire this past weekend showed that questions about her position on Iraq won’t be going away anytime soon. She tied herself up in nuanced knots on whether her vote to authorize the war in 2002 was a mistake—and, much like John Kerry’s comments in 2004, her comments did little to appease anyone. In the end, she may be able to roll to victory regardless of Iraq, but every day the issue is front and center is a day that is won by John Edwards, who voted for the war but later admitted it was a mistake, and Barack Obama, who has been against the war from the start, beginning with a famous speech at Chicago’s Federal Plaza in 2002.

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"8 on ’08" is a weekly Friday column that summarizes the eight biggest developments in the 2008 presidential race. To read previous installments, click here.