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Monday, July 21, 2008

Political Odds and Ends

Politico has the scoop on how Barack Obama managed his impressive June fundraising totals.

After locking up his party’s presidential nomination, Barack Obama’s fundraising operation came roaring back to life in June, generating more than a million dollars on five days, including a whopping $25 million that came in on the last day of the month.

His one-day haul represents nearly half of his monthly total and more than Republican rival John McCain generated for the entire month. During the month, McCain did not have a single day in which he raised a million dollars.

Overall, Obama raised $54 million for his campaign in June, compared to $22 million for McCain.

Since this came on the last day of the month, this might explain why it took so long to release the numbers. That said, this report stinks. Obama was well on his way to a sub par month and then suddenly out of the blue, he had a stunning day on the last day. What exactly drove him to such a number? Were his supporters really so moved for some sort of an end of the month push that they nearly matched his entire fundraising total for the month? Something is very fishy about this report.

James Dobson appears to be on the brink of endorsing John McCain.

Conservative Christian leader James Dobson has softened his stance against Republican presidential hopeful John McCain, saying he could reverse his position and endorse the Arizona senator despite serious misgivings.

"I never thought I would hear myself saying this," Dobson said in a radio broadcast to air Monday. "... While I am not endorsing Senator John McCain, the possibility is there that I might."

Dobson and other evangelical leaders unimpressed by McCain increasingly are taking a lesser-of-two-evils approach to the 2008 race. Dobson and his guest, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary president Albert Mohler, spend most of the pretaped Focus on the Family radio program criticizing Democratic candidate Barack Obama, getting to McCain at the very end.

This would be a significant coup for McCain and a rather stunning reversal for Dobson. At the end of the primaries, James Dobson threatened to not vote at all if McCain was nominated. The Conservative punditry spent the immediate aftermath of McCain's clinching of the nomination hyperanalyzing the possibilities of much of the base staying home or even going third party. Much of that fear has subsided but McCain still has plenty to work on with the base.

Barack Obama has landed in Iraq.

Sen. Barack Obama -- who has made ending the Iraq war a cornerstone of his run for the presidency -- huddled on Monday with Iraqi officials and U.S.-led coalition military commanders about the conflict, now in its sixth year.

It is the second trip to Iraq for the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee and the latest leg of an overseas trip that began in Kuwait and Afghanistan and will go on to Jordan, Israel, the West Bank, Germany, France and Britain.

The senator from Illinois first visited Iraq in 2006.Obama, accompanied by two key Senate colleagues, arrived Monday afternoon in the southern city of Basra, according to U.S. Embassy spokesman Armand Cucciniello.

The trip is quite secretive for obvious security reasons though reports have him in Basrah meeting with troops. The interesting part of the trip is still to come. He is set to meet with General Petraeus soon. That meeting and Obama's statements afterwards will have significant political impact. Petraeus is likely to see Obama's withdrawal plan as dangerous. How Obama responds will go a long way to determining whether or not this issue is a positive or negative for him.

Meanwhile, the political fallout from Maliki's interview with Der Spiegel continues.

It may not sway many voters, but on Friday, as Barack Obama embarked on an extended trip abroad intended in large part to relieve concerns about his commander in chief bona fides, the terms of debate on Iraq began a dramatic shift that appears to favor his candidacy.

President Bush, who’d been opposed to any timetable for removing American forces from Iraq, reached an agreement with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to set a “general time horizon” for a withdrawal.

“It’s a devastating blow to the McCain campaign — not just that Maliki moved to Obama’s position but that Bush did as well,” said Richard Holbrooke, a former United States ambassador to the United Nations for the Clinton administration.


In a morning conference call with reporters, McCain senior foreign policy adviser Randy Scheunemann played down a report over the weekend that Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki supports Barack Obama's 16-month withdrawal plan, and said any troop withdrawal must be "conditions-based."

Scheunemann simultaneously played up both the statement by a Maliki aide that the prime minister's remarks had been "misinterpreted and mistranslated" and Joint Chiefs Chairman Mike Mullen's statement that a withdrawal driven by dates would be "dangerous."

As I said yesterday, there is significant nuance in difference between what Obama and Maliki want. The media will likely not care very much what that difference is and thus this may likely become a political problem for McCain.

Finally, the Republicans have managed to make ANWR an issue again.

House Minority Whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) on Sunday strongly criticized Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) for not allowing a vote on a measure that would allow offshore drilling.

While acknowledging that Pelosi can prevent such a vote, Blunt said the Democratic leader would have to live with that decision, which he argued “does not make sense to the American people.”

“When we’re talking about offshore, we’re talking about 50, 100, 200 miles offshore,” Blunt said on CNN’s “Late Edition.” “Nobody's going to see that. This is an environmentally safe thing to do.” Earlier in the program, Pelosi had stated in a pre-taped interview that she would not allow such a vote.

“We’re going to exhaust our other remedies in terms of increasing supply in America,” Pelosi said. When pressed on the issue, she added that she has “no plans” to allow such a vote.

The Democrats are not only the wrong side of this issue, public opinion wise, but they are dug in. Here is an op ed from Dianne Feinstein that sums up the position they continue to take. Taking the merits of the argument and putting them aside, it is simply one that the public generally disagrees with. Drilling is favored overwhelmingly in most any poll.

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