Obama Rejects Public Financing, “Declares Independence”

Screenshot from Obama\'s site.

On Barack Obama’s website, his campaign asks potential contributors to

“declare their independence”–and to give him their money.

Barack Obama just did what we all thought he would, but in a much more clever way.

The Illinois senator’s campaign emailed a video to supporters today announcing his decision to turn down$84.1 million in taxpayer-provided financing for the general election this November. The move was expected since his incredible fundraising machine generated $95 million in February and March alone (see our post from February 27).  However, this is the first time since the system was created that a major candidate has ever rejected the public funds, and it is especially interesting in an election where both candidates claim to be champions of ethics and campaign finance reform. McCain is now expected to reject financing himself, in order to be able to keep up with Obama.

What was NOT expected today was the way he and his campaign broke the news: as a “declaration of independence” from a “broken system.” He stressed the loopholes afforded to candidates by unrestricted donations to political parties as well as advocacy groups, such as the famed Swiftboat Veterans for Truth of 2004, one of many so-called “527s”  (named for the section of campaing finance legislation that provides for their existence).

The public financing of presidential elections as it exists today is broken, and we face opponents who’ve become masters at gaming this broken system.  John McCain’s campaign and the Republican National Committee are fueled by contributions from Washington lobbyists and special interest PACs. And we’ve already seen that he’s not going to stop the smears and attacks from his allies running so-called 527 groups, who will spend millions and millions of dollars in unlimited donations.

McCain has criticized Obama for going back on his word from when the campaign announced that he would “aggressively pursue an agreement with the Republican nominee” to mutually accept public financing. However, Obama has said in the past that if he did reject public funding, his cache of small donations (90% are of $100 or less) is still in the spirit of keeping the influence of the wealthy from overwhelming democracy.

We will see if the media and the public buy into Obama’s call for much-needed reform, or if they see the move as simply hypocritical.  Either way, we can be sure that our next president will make an effort to take the money out politics–at least in his second term.

Obama’s video message [BarackObama.com]

Obama Forgoes Public Funds in First for Major Candidate [New York Times]

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Obama and the Jews

There’s been a bit of friction between Obama and the Jewish population.  Staunch Israel supporter and my very Jewish roommate, Benjamin Singer, linked me to this New York Times opinion piece explaining why Obama will be “good for the Jews.”

It’s a tricky business. But if Israel is your voting priority, then at least ask the right questions about Mr. Obama. Knock off the churlish whispering campaign about what’s in his heart on Israel (what was in Richard Nixon’s heart?) and focus first on what kind of America you think he’d build and second on whether you believe that as president he’d have the smarts, steel and cunning to seize a historic opportunity if it arises.

It’s a good read, especially if you’ve heard some boychiks kvetching and schlepping his name through the drek.

Obama and the Jews – [New York Times]

Big Pennsylvania Endorsement for Obama

As Barack Obama began his bus tour of Pennsylvania, he got a boost from Sen. Bob Casey, a first term Senator, and son of the popular former Pennsylvania Governor of the same name.  Casey praised Obama at an event in Pittsburgh:

“He started this campaign as an underdog, but he knows what it’s like to be a fighter,” Casey said. I’ve been    impressed by so much watching this campaign … impressed by his compassion, his strength, his ideas, and I think especially under fire.”

Many have been saying a Clinton victory is most likely in Pennsylvania, which holds its primary on April 22, because of Hillary Clinton’s large lead among Catholics, as well as other demographics, there. Casey is a Catholic, and is expected to help Obama make inroads in that respect. He’ll need all the help he can get, as recent polls have Clinton up by double digits.

At the same event, Obama also criticized McCain’s statements and positions on the War in Iraq. He brought up the Arizona Senator’s remarks about potentially keeping troops in Iraq for “100 years.”

Union Coalition to Back Obama

 

With John Edwards out of the picture, more and more major unions are backing Barack Obama. Today, it was announced that the International Brotherhood of Teamsters–a branch of the Change to Win union coalition–will endorse Obama.

Made up of over 1 million blue collar workers such as truck drivers, police officers, warehouse workers, etc., the Teamsters have a large worker base in states like Ohio and Pennsylvania. Teamster President James Hoffa will be campaigning with Obama in Ohio, a pivotal state that Clinton is vying for to stay in the race.

“We’ve been fortunate this primary season that we have had a lot of friends running for president,” said Teamsters Communications Director Bret Caldwell. “This is based on our members and leaders. It’s a demonstration of support for Senator Obama. It’s not a decision against any other candidate.”

Change to Win is made up of 5 million union members who separated from AFL-CIO and contains seven separate unions.  Three of those unions–the service employees, the food and commercial workers and Unite Here–have already endorsed Obama. With the addition of the Teamsters, the entire coalition will likely endorse Obama as well. (2/3 of the seven unions need to endorse a candidate for Change to Win as a whole to make an endorsement.) AFL-CIO has not come to a consensus to make an endorsement as of yet.

This adds a new dimension to Obama’s support base: these unions are made up of primarily white, blue collar, male workers in states with upcoming primaries. Good timing, Teamsters.

Teamsters Set to Back Obama – [NY Times]

Obama Opens Up National Lead

In a Reuters/Zogby poll released on today, Barack Obama has opened up a large national lead over Hillary Clinton, 52-38%. The poll also showed Obama up 47-40% over John McCain in the November general election, bolstering his argument that he is the most electable candidate. The poll cautions it was taken before Clinton’s plagiarism accusations and before Obama’s decisive victories in Hawaii and Wisconsin.

Specifically, Obama led all ages other than seniors, all income groups other than those making under $25,000 a year, and among Democrats and Independents. He also led narrowly among white voters and was tied with Clinton among women. The minority vote should come into play in Texas, a state which votes on March 4th, where about 30% of the state is Hispanic and 15% is African American. In the Reuters/Zogby poll Clinton led among Hispanic respondents and Obama led among African Americans.

This poll shows how widely Obama’s momentum spread with his 10 straight victories. The vote in Wisconsin, in which Obama defied expectations, shows that Clinton’s unsubstantiated claims of plagiarism does not resonate with voters. Obama should perform well in both Texas and Ohio, where he has made inroads among Clinton’s sympathetic demographics, and perhaps clinch the nomination.

Obama surges past Clinton — [Reuters]

Nine in a row for Obama; McCain strengthens lead

                                          obama

CNN, MSNBC, and FoxNews are all projecting Barack Obama and John McCain as the winner of tonight’s Democratic and Republican primaries in Wisconsin, respectively. Based on recent polls, both candidates were the expected victors in the Wisconsin primaries. And although Wisconsin marks the ninth state in a row for Obama, it has failed to make him the clear Democratic front runner, and certainly has not discouraged the Clinton campaign from finding any way to make a comeback.

Hawaii’s polls end in a few more hours – we’ll keep you updated as results come in.

Election Center 2008 – [CNN]
You Decide 2008 – [FoxNews]
Decision ’08 – [MSNBC]

Major Union Endorses Obama

On the wave of his surge in delegates over Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama received an important union endorsement Thursday. United Food and Commercial Workers, one of the United States’ largest unions with 1.9 million members, finally voted after long deliberations.

The group was torn between the three Democratic candidates, but turned to Obama after his streak of state wins and the elimination of Edwards.

“Both candidates are good on worker issues, but there is something about Senator Obama that has mobilized our leadership and mobilized our membership,” said Joseph Hansen, president of the food and commercial workers.

Service Employees International Union, another large and influential group, is said to be on the verge of an Obama endorsement as well.

Both endorsements will be a boost for Obama’s Hispanic support base, which has generally leaned toward Clinton. Many workers in both unions are immigrants, with jobs including janitors, nurses, supermarket, and meat-processing workers.

Clinton has also found union support from the American Federation of Teachers and the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees.

Large Union Backs Obama; Another Is Likely to Do Same – [NY Times]