The Cash Race And An Early Endorsement

So, who are you liking for ’08? A year ago, among the chatter of those who were whispering Obama, I would have told you you were looped. I’m dead serious. Don’t get me wrong, I liked the guy, but really what chance would he stand against the Clinton fund raising machine? A machine so in tune with the DNC and DCC that those who would try to work against it was a fool.

Occasionally, VERY occasionally, I’m wrong. For the past few days, all anyone could talk about was money. How much money could the presidential wannabes pull in during their first three months on the campaign trail. And as the numbers trickled in, a very preliminary picture of what the slobber knocker for the nomination would look like began to form.

The Mayor did okay, but McCain didn’t, possibly a precursor to the end of the Maverick’s one time popularity among politicos on both sides of the aisle. Since then, John’s ordered a retooling of his fundraising machine, but one is left to ask the question, Is it really the machine, or the man that is at fault here? His flip flopping on whether or not to woo the religious right, his adherence to an Iraq policy that is growing less and less popular by the day, and the most recent Baghdad debacle makes it seem as though the Straight Talk Express is getting ready to pull in for its last stop.

On the Democrat’s side of the aisle, Hilary did well, as was expected, raking in a cool $26 million in her first three months. While the number is in and of itself astronomical, I don’t think that she shocked anyone by leading the pack. Edwards enjoyed a pleasant surprise with his fourteen mill and jump in the polls, though many experts believe that all of this is in part a result of what is called the sympathy vote in reaction to the announcement of his wife’s cancer (My hopes be with you guys!). Whether you agree with that assessment or not, I think the safe bet is to wait and see if the rise in the former Senator’s popularity flags or holds before making a final judgement.

And then there was the Obama factor. Since his keynote address at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, Senator Obama has become a kind of ray of light to many in the Democratic party and on the left side of the political spectrum. His fresh face and ability to inspire has… well… inspired many, but when it came to this first real benchmark on the way to the presidency, the Obama camp had held off on reporting it’s fund raising abilities.

Today, the wait on how much he has been able to raise is over, and I said DAMN! Dude brings in $25 million dollars, with about TWICE the number of individual donors as Hilary. That is a powerful statement, and one that has all but validated Barak’s status as a serious contender for the nomination.

I mean, think about it, Hilary with all of her connections and power, only just barely outraised a one term senator, and that ladies and gentlemen, equates to a whole new ball game.

For a good breakdown of the numbers across the board, and her own cautious opinion, check out Shamanic over at Newshog.

She brings up a good point, with all this money, and the pushing up of the primaries, this could end up being one of the bloodiest primaries we’ve ever seen. But here’s where I think I’m going to differ a little, and maybe this is just me being overly optimistic, but I think I got a good bead on this one.

On the right, I think it will be a very bloody battle. Even this early in the game, we have seen a rather helacious public showing from the front runners. In Giuliani’s corner, there is of course the liability of his third wife, coupled with his support of public money to fund abortion, he’s definitely got a long road to travel with the conservative arm of the GOP. Conversely, McCain’s not fairing so well either, as mentioned above. In the end, what I think we see is a field ripe for some good old fashioned mud slinging, muck raking, and hay making.

On the left, I believe there is room for hope that the Democrats will not dip down into the politics of destruction. Thus far, we haven’t really seen much of a clash between Obama and Clinton with the exception of the now infamous apple/1984 ad that hit youtube like wildfire. And while the person responsible for this was an indirect employee of Obama, the ad itself was not affiliated with the campaign, and the author is no longer employed as such.

But I think what is even more significant here is the character of the man himself. I’ve seen Obama speak twice. Once at the 2004 convention on tv, and secondly I saw him live here in Virginia.

It was the Virginia gubernatorial race. Democratic hopeful Tim Kaine was in a vicious battle with the Republican chosen man Jerry Kilgore. The race was not just a battle of political philosophies, but also of political archetypes. Kilgore was a representative of the GOP political attack machine, a product of the low taxes, socially conservative crowd. His ads were filled with personal attacks, the kind sketched in black and white with the ominous crossover and the disgustingly blatant quoting out of context.

On the other hand, Kaine represented a new archetype. The Kaine campaign embodied a sense of hope, and enjoyed a foundation of good governance. Serving as Lt. Governor under the immensely popular Democratic governor Mark Warner, Tim Kaine had “a good news story to tell,” and it was slowly taking hold across the state.

And then about a week before the election, it happened. A friend of mine informed me that Senator Barak Obama was coming to speak on Tim Kaine’s behalf. I still remember this day clearly. Virginia can get cold quickly in the Autumn, and on that day even though the sun shone warmly through the reddening leaves of the trees, I shivered on my way to the high school gymnasium.

There was an energy in the crowd there. One of hope. It was a party that I liken to the early days of this country when people truly cared about politics because politics cared about them. A live jazz band played, and no one was a stranger. The elderly looked upon the young with admiration, and the young looked upon the elderly with respect and awe.

We were there not just to celebrate the joys of self governance, we were there to enjoy a kind of revolution in the way politics is conducted. And there, on that crisp Autumn day, I saw the new standard bearers of the Democratic party. Senator Obama spoke with passion and faith. He promised a better way, not just a better way of governance, but a better way to engage in political discourse. And Tim Kaine followed up on that. Tim Kaine had a good news story to tell, and damn it all if he weren’t gonna tell it.

I guess since that moment I have been a fan of both men, and now that we see Senator Obama’s ability to put cash in the war chest, I find myself filled with hope. And it’s no the dollar amount that really gets me, it’s the donor number. Twice as many as Hilary. Millions from netroots campaigns.

And I have little doubt in my mind that Obama is going to conduct his campaign in this new template, one of good governance and not mudslinging. See, I think that’s the real key. Not how much money, or what issues you support, or even how to tapdance around the tricky issues so as not to alienate one demographic or another. Instead, I think the ultimate winner will be this kind of candidate, and if so, America also.

So yeah, for a horse race nut such as myself, I think it may be a bit early to endorse any one candidate, but I think as of now, my choice goes to Barak. He has his obstacles to overcome, sure. Right now his biggest hurdle is from the claim that he’s all style and no substance, but to that I say two things. One, it’s early, give him time. Two, go check out his website. It may not mean much, but already in the beginning stages of the campaign his stance on the issues is much more clear cut than Kerry’s were.

Finally, I just wanted to share one last thing with yall. I watched it for the first time in a very long time, and even now it gives me chills. Here you can watch as Obama paints a very hopeful picture of America in the speech that made him famous.

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