Most of the presidential candidates have unique ways of conveying their messages to the people—the potential voters—including Senator Barack Obama, the Democratic senator from Illinois. Now, it appears that Obama’s message has placed him in the lead in Iowa where the first primary will be held in less than a month. According to the Iowa polls there are shifting dynamics in the Hawkeye State and it appears to favor Obama over the other Democratic candidates.
There has been some aggressive jousting between Obama and Senator Hillary Clinton in the national arena for high profile endorsements and the results of the Iowa primary will up the ante.
In the congressional arena, Obama has been endorsed by Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. (D-Ill.), one of his home state congressmen and Rep. John Conyers. Clinton has been endorsed by Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.), one of her home state congressmen and Rep. John Lewis.
In the California and entertainment arena, Obama has the endorsement of Assemblywoman Karen Bass and talk-show diva, Oprah Winfrey while Clinton has Berry Gordy, Quincy Jones and Magic Johnson.
How all of these factors will play out in the voting booth is what really counts.
Previously, there seemed to have been a Clinton phenomenon at work but the pundits have reminded the soothsayers that the presidential race is not a sprint, it is a marathon and the race is not always for the swift but he who endures to the end. Iowa is just the first lap.
Whereas Obama is a relatively new phenomenon on the national political scene, his credentials are solid; he does not have the baggage that Clinton has. Back in early November, David Plouffe, the national campaign manager for Obama, said, “We believe this is a sequential process that starts in Iowa and winds its way throughout the other early states until we get to California which obviously will be a pivotal contest. And what we’re seeing in Iowa is a dead heat race.” He couldn’t have been more right because the present polls bear him out and then some.
Some of the major issues that Americans are concerned about in this election are Iraq, healthcare, oil prices (gasoline, etc.) and the economy. The sub-prime foreclosure crisis is rapidly inching its way up the chain of major issues. Obama has overshadowed all of the other candidates when it comes to Iraq even Clinton, who voted for the Invasion of Iraq and, unlike former Senator John Edwards, has adamantly refused to accept responsibility for her misguided vote. All the other candidates, except Obama, either voted for the Invasion or supported it at its inception. He came to the Senate after the vote was cast but even before he was elected, he spoke out against the Invasion and has since called it “the wrong war, at the wrong time.”
Clinton’s appeal among the Black population is an obvious carry-over from her husband’s popularity; it is a case of “relation by association.” Both Obama and Clinton are first in their race and gender as front-runners, and that makes this presidential race unique and exciting.
Iowans have tended to look and listen to the candidates for themselves, to a large degree, and not let outsiders influence their thinking. Michele Obama and Bill Clinton have been stomping the fields on behalf of their spouses. Plouffe continued, “The reason Iowa is closer than the national polls is because voters there are paying more attention as the election is getting closer and they are seeing a lot of the candidates, and in our case, they’re learning more about Senator Obama.”
To understand Obama’s mass appeal, one needs to understand his background, his upbringing, his education and his words. As a member of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, he connects with Americans by asking some of the tough questions about the administration’s unpopular, failed policies. His contemporaries agreed that one of his strongest assets is listening. And it is by listening that Obama has come to learn so much, about so many, in such a short space of time. In his resume, being an alumnus of Harvard University stands out, not because of who he is (his family tree), but for what he has accomplished. And his ability to reach out to those with different opinions can be gleaned from his statement following the resignation of the former Secretary of Defense. He said, “To truly end the ideological mismanagement of this war, we must replace not just a person, but a strategy, and that will take the work of both Democrats and Republicans finding common ground and common solutions.”
Those who work with the senator describe his candidacy in glowing terms, such as Congresswoman Carolyn C. Kilpatrick (D-Mi), the recently installed chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus, who stated, “I am proud of Senator Barack Obama for pursuing his interest in becoming a presidential candidate. He joins a list of well-qualified, committed Democratic candidates who will serve America well with their leadership and vision. The American people will certainly have a stellar group of public servants from which to choose.”
California, as the nation’s most populous state and the most (55) electoral votes is a pivotal state and its significance cannot be overlooked. Mitchell Schwartz, the California campaign manager said, “Before we got here, there were over 100,000 people who visited us on the web and agreed to support us. We call this a campaign of inspiration, not of obligation. And it’s a grassroots campaign, so we are calling it the ‘mass-roots campaign.’ It’s shown by the support we have: the one in South Los Angeles, in Oakland and in Santa Barbara, right before the big Oprah event.” Finally, for the first time, it appears that “race” has not been injected into the candidacy of a presidential candidate, who just happens to be a Black American. For as Obama has stated about his senatorial campaign, “My election wasn’t just aided by the evolving racial attitudes of Illinois’ white voters. It reflected changes in Illinois’ African American community as well.”