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This week as Senator Barack Obama moved ahead for the first time in the campaign, in super-delegate count, Senator Hillary Clinton scored a victory in West Virginia. However, observers say that it was a pyrrhic victory since the national media reported, “Obama loses by wide margin, but adds to his super delegate lead,” and “the loss did not threaten Obama’s lead in the race for the nomination and he’s looking ahead to the Oregon primary (where he is expected to win) and the campaign against John McCain” in the general election.
What started as a political snowflake has now blossomed into an unstoppable, mountainous avalanche on the national political scene, as Obama is on the threshold of being nominated as the Democratic Party’s candidate to be the next president of the United States. It’s historical and it has bedazzled the political and social experts. Prior to four years ago, Obama was an unknown state senator in Illinois who gave a riveting speech at the Democratic National Convention in Boston that catapulted him to national prominence, and a “little” name recognition. However, that limited bask in the limelight was insignificant when pitted against the “international” recognition that the “Clinton” name enjoyed. That was no contest. Clinton, a former first lady, wife of a popular two-term president, is reported to considers herself heir apparent to the presidency and expected to return to “her” former address at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, D. C.—the White House.
Yet today, Obama, a neophyte in the U. S. Senate, has trumped Clinton in every contest—states won, popular votes, state delegates, money raised and now super delegates—and has injected a new equation into national, and indeed all politics. What has Obama done and how did he do it, despite expected and unexpected opposition?
Obama is a different kind of politician; he comes from a different school of thought and he believes in his ability to reach young people with a new message that focuses on the nation’s similarities rather than its differences. In addition, Obama is running “to be the president of the United States,” not merely “to defeat Clinton or Senator John McCain.” His is not a protest campaign; it is not “an-against-somebody” (negative) campaign; it is “a-for-something” (positive) campaign. And he is making a sound case to young, primarily first-time voters who hears his message and yearns for change—a change that “old-school” politics cannot offer, accept or deliver. Clinton is “old-school” politics and McCain is “older-school” politics.
But there are still mountains of challenges and obstacles the Obama campaign faces as it continues on the “road to the White House.” David Plouffe, Obama’s campaign manager, sent out a news blast on Monday that stated, “For the first time since this campaign began, Barack Obama has taken the lead among super-delegates. As it stands, we have 281 super-delegates who have committed to cast their votes for us. That includes 23 since last Tuesday’s elections, and 3 who switched their support from Senator Clinton. We have just 150 delegates to go before Barack Obama clinches the nomination.”
The flood of super-delegates who have switched to the Obama camp sends a strong message that the Illinois senator is regaining the momentum that a few setbacks may have caused a few weeks ago. Super-delegates including Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) member, Congressman Donald Payne (D-NJ), who said, “After careful consideration, I have reached the conclusion that Barack Obama can best bring about the change that our country so desperately wants and needs;” Kevin Rodriquez of the Virgin Islands; Jennifer McClellan of Virginia; former U. S. Senators Sam Nunn (Georgia) and David Boren (Oklahoma); and former President Bill Clinton’s cabinet secretaries, Robert Reich and Bill Richardson (governor of New Mexico and former presidential candidate).
On the local front, Super-delegate Inola Henry of the Los Angeles Unified School District was undeclared until last Tuesday. After Obama scored a decisive, double-digit win in North Carolina, she became an Obama super-delegate and said, “Because of the tone of the campaign. While I agree with her right to run her campaign, it was the way that the campaign was going, and I think maybe not her so much, even though there were occasions when she said some things that I thought she could have said better. But it was her surrogates and her campaign and it was just ticking off everybody.”
There have also been some subtle and overt racial overtones that have dogged Obama’s campaign which seemed to have escalated, at all levels, as he gets closer to the “finish line.” The term “blue-collar voter” consistently used by the Clinton campaign is a code word for “white,” because in reality there are blue-collar voters who are Black and who Clinton is not referring to relative to West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Indiana. Consider the now infamous remark that former President Clinton made when Obama won South Carolina. Then during the Pennsylvania primary, the Governor there stated bluntly, “You’ve got conservatives Whites here and I think there are some Whites who are probably not ready to vote for an African American.” As a result, it became easy to understand why in Pennsylvania, such a remark (and others) has had a direct resultant effect and may have caused some of the name-calling, vandalism and even bomb threats some of Obama’s foot soldiers have reportedly encountered and continues to do so.
Obama has been labeled one of the most liberal senators in the U. S. Senate and that seems to attract some negativity. Why? That McCain is a conservative should attract the same. In presidential campaigns, ideological and political differences are branded by rivals as the source of their opponents’ negativity. Obama’s liberal leanings are no more negative to his style of politics than McCain’s conservatism. The voting public will go with one or the other for his brand of politics. The real negative that McCain has is that he will constantly be “Bushed,” when making statements, according to Obama, such as, “great progress economically over the last seven and a half years.” Gasoline prices, massive home foreclosures and endless funding of the Iraq fiasco can easily and totally dispel the validity of any purported economic progress over the last seven and a half years.