The Real Barack Obama

There has been a report that Barack Obama, possible candidate for the Democratic nomination for President, was seen last Friday night, on his way home from Washington, asleep on plane, in economy, with a biography of Robert Kennedy next to him.

One U.K paper draws the comparison between one candidate heading to Iowa with a 10 car cavalcade, a massive entourage and dozens if not hundreds of media in tow - and the other, who was alone, asleep, in economy after a long week's work in Washington.

Yes, it's a contrast.

So is it true? If Barack just a regular guy? These stories sometimes take on a life of their own, but nothing has emerged yet to dispute it.

Obama In New Orleans Today

Barack Obama was today in New Orleans, his third visit to the area since Hurricane Katrina hit. He is participating in the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee which is conducting hearings into recovery efforts in the wake of the disaster.

Obama was critical of the fact that the President did not mention Katrina once during his State of the Union Address. He said that President Bush came to New Orleans after the disaster, and told locals that they would do whatever it takes to help people rebuild their lives.

Obama said that we should never again turn our backs on these people.

The visit by Obama and the Committee will include a tour of some of the worst hit areas by Katrina.

Bobby Rush Backs Obama

The man who Barack Obama challenged in 2000 for his position in the United States House is now backing him in the race for the Democratic Nomination.

Rep. Bobby Rush (1st Illinois), has said that it was a tough decision to support Obama, given his close relationship with the Clinton family. But he said that he will be with Obama until the end.

Bill Clinton supported Rush during the primary race in 2000 where Obama led a failed challenge. However, since that time Rush and Obama have formed a close working relationship, with Rush calling him a favorite son.

Rush said that he and Obama are from the same area and represent the same constituency. Rush will be doing his best to sure up the local vote for Obama.

Obama leads McCain in Poll

In a Rasmussen Poll, conducted between January 17 and 18, Barack Obama leads John McCain as preferred President, 47-44.

This is a big jump on the result of the same poll in December. In that poll, McCain had the edge over Obama, 46-40.

In another Rasmussen poll conducted between January 15-18, Obama was sitting on 24% to Hillary Clinton's 31% as preferred Democratic nominee. This is much closer than some of the other polls conducted in the same period.

Hollywood for Obama

Barack Obama will be heading to Hollywood on February 20 for a fundraiser hosted by Steven Spielberg, David Geffen and Jeffrey Katzenberg.

There will be a $2100 a head function at the Beverley Hills Hilton and a private function at David Geffen's home for those pledging to donate over $46,000.

Key Kerry Backer Goes to Obama

One of John Kerry's key fundraisers in 2004 has joined the Barack Obama campaign for the Democratic Nomination.

Alan D Solomont said that Obama was the "sort of person that America wants right now in the White House."

Apparently Solomont was approached by other Democrat candidates for his support, and he does have a close relationship with Hillary Clinton. However, Solomont chose to support Obama after Kerry withdrew from the race this week.

Solomont helped raise $35million just in New England for the Kerry for President campaign.

This is a major coup for the Obama camp, because Solomon also has links to Bill Richardson who has also thrown his hat into the ring.

Obama might have struggled to compete with the fundraising capabilities of Clinton and Richardson, so this move will be extremely positive for his campaign.

It certainly will make his decision on February 10 that little bit easier.

Obama calls for Universal Health Care

Barack Obama today called for universal health care for every American within 6 years.

Obama was speaking this morning at a conference of Families USA.

America spends more than any country on health care, yet 46 million people remain uninsured.

Obama said that America cannot afford another "...disappointing charade in 2008"

Obama said that "In the 2008 campaign, affordable, universal health care for every single American must not be a question of whether, it must be a question of how. We have the ideas, we have the resources, and we must find the will to pass a plan by the end of the next president's first term."

Read the full speech here.

Obama on State of the Union

Barack Obama appeared on NBC Today this morning with a response to the State of the Union Address by President Bush. Although asking for Congress and America to give the new plan in Iraq a chance to work, Obama said that the President has had over 3 years to fix the situation.

Obama called for a phased withdrawal of troops, after consulting with military leaders on how this would work. He also said that America has to work with the Iraqi Government, to make sure the conflict doesn't spill further in the region.

Obama has been against the war in Iraq from the beginning, and now his call for dimplomacy is being echoed by even senior Republicans in Congress.

Saying that there must be a change in how the Iraqis are viewing the situation, Obama opposes what he now sees as an open ended commitment by Bush.

He also gave credit to Hillary Clinton, calling her an "extraordinary public servant". He said that Democrats would have to make a decision on who could lead them with vision into the future.

Baseless Attacks On Obama

It didn't take long for the smear campaign against Obama to begin. Less than a week after he launched his exploratory committee, stories are emerging which accuse Obama of studying at a school that trained Muslim extremists. These stories are without foundation.

With his mother, Obama spent 4 years as a child in Indonesia, and while there attended a public school. Just like regular kids do. And given that Indonesia is a predominately Muslim country, it stands to reason that Muslim kids would be at the school.

However, allegations that he was trained at age 6 for anything other than basic education, are ridiculous. The school has confirmed that they are not extremist, and offer education to all kids, regardless of religion - they have Christian and Buddhist students too.

Obama said that "The notion that somehow at the age of 6 or 7 I was being trained for something other than math, science and reading is ludicrous".

Obama called on the press to play a role in making sure these smear campaigns are seen for what they are. "It is an indication of the climate of smear that can arise in these presidential campaigns, but also the important role that the press has in terms of making sure that stories are substantiated and that gets out rapidly"

About Barack Video

The Obama exploratory committee has launched a very impressive video - "About Barack".

If this this the quality of the the material coming out of the Obama camp already - he will be serious competition for Clinton.

This video goes a good way to addressing the "lack of experience" question.

Its definitely worth watching, so check out the video here.

Post/ABC Poll Results - Obama 17%

The Washington Post/ABC poll conducted between January 16 and 19, put Barack Obama on 17%, with 561 Democrats and Democrat leaning independents across the country surveyed.

Barack Obama 17%
Hillary Clinton 41%
John Edwards 11%
Al Gore 10%
John Kerry 8%
Joe Biden 3%

Note: There is a 4% margin of error for a poll of this size.

Obama on 17% - Clinton 41%

In a Washington Post/ABC poll to be released Sunday, Hillary Clinton has the confirmed frontrunner status over Barack Obama.

Surveying Democrats and Democrat leaning Independents, Clinton leads Obama 41-17. Obama is unchanged since last months survey, even with his announcement this week.

This is not bad news for Obama, sitting in second place this far out is a good position to be in. Just over 2 years ago, Obama was a little known Democrat from Chicago. But now, according to this poll, he leads over other candidates like John Edwards and Tom Vilsack, as well as possible runner John Kerry.

That's no small achievement.

Full poll results to follow.

George Soros Backs Obama

George Soros will apparently be backing Barack Obama in his campaign for the Democratic nomination.

Soros was a strong supporter of Obama's Senate campaign in Illinois in 2004.

This will be disappointing news for the Hillary Clinton campaign who would have hoped to secure the support of the billionaire.

It is quite a boost for Obama.

Clinton Attempts to Steal Obama Thunder

In what might be described as an obvious attempt to spoil the extensive coverage of Barack Obama's announcement to set up an exploratory committee, Hillary Clinton has been doing the rounds of the major news networks, to give her take on the situation in Iraq.

Clinton has just returned from a visit to Iraq and Afghanistan, and is trying to have her voice heard amongst all the voices talking about Obama's announcement.

She has been moderately successful too, now deciding to take a strong stance against Bush's new plans for Iraq.

Clinton of course was one of the biggest early supporters of the war in Iraq, which is in stark contrast to Obama, who has always opposed the conflict. Seemingly, at 5 minutes to midnight in her quest to run for President, she has shifted ground.

Yet unlike other candidates like John Edwards who has long said he made a mistake on Iraq, Clinton is shifting ground, but without an apology.

Will Hillary announce in the next week in an attempt to beat Obama to the punch when he decides on February 10? Its extremely unlikely that Clinton will set up an exploratory committee, she will just go for the all out announcement that she is running.

Barack Obama Announces Exploratory Committee

In an video announcement this morning at 10am (ET), Barack Obama has declared that he is setting up an exploratory committee to seek the Democratic nomination for President.

The video message can be viewed on his website

Obama said in his message that over the next several weeks, he will be going across the country, talking to people and "..listening and learning more about the challenges we face as a nation, the opportunities that lie before us and the role that a presidential campaign might play in bringing our country together."

On February 10, in Illinois, after conducting his discussions, he will share his future plans with his friends, neighbours and fellow Americans.

Obama criticized the direction that America was headed. On Iraq, he said it was a tragic and costly war that should never have been waged.

Obama stated that "..Change in our politics can only come from you. Meaningful change always begins at the grass roots." But he has "...great faith and hope in the future."

There is no doubt that the massive attention has put some pressure on his website.

Such is the interest in the skinny kid with a funny name who is running for President.

Barack Obama set to run for President

Senator Barack Obama is set to announce his decision on running for the Democratic nomination for President. And it is almost certain that the decision he makes will be "Yes, I'm running".

Reports out of Chicago from Obama staffers are confirming that he could make his announcement as early as this week.

Obama appeared on CBS's 'Face the Nation' on Sunday along with John McCain to discuss the escalation of the war in Iraq.

Asked about the nomination, Obama went further than he has previously, saying that "I will have something to say about that fairly soon".

Add that to the fact that he has employed key advisers to stake out the ground in key states Iowa and New Hampshire, and Obama looks ready to roll.

Watch out for the flood of media reports when Obama makes his decision. The only thing in political news that would take Barack Obama out of the spotlight would be the announcement of the other leading contender. Which for that purpose is very much a possibility.

So keep an eye on the reaction of Hillary Clinton, who has spent the last week building her foreign policy credentials by visiting Iraq and Afghanistan.

As the two leading candidates in published polls thus far, Obama and Clinton are set to come under increasing pressure from media outlets over the coming weeks.

Barack Obama on Troop Surge

Barack Obama appeared this morning on NBC Today, stating that the troop surge is "wrong headed".

Obama urges that more needs to be done to make the Iraqi Government try to find a political solution. He has stated that "They have got to take responsibility" but that there is no evidence that they will significantly change behavior. Obama argues that there does not appear to be an end goal from President Bush, that if benchmarks aren't met by the Iraqi Government there wouldn't be any consequences.

Obama is arguing for a non partisan solution to the situation in Iraq, calling it an American problem.

As a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Obama will be questioning Secretary of State Condelezza Rice today.

Obama also stated that Chris Dodd, who announced his candidacy for the Democratic nomination for President yesterday, was a wonderful man, and wished him luck in his quest.

However, Obama was not yet ready to make an announcement on his own candidacy.

The Non-Issue Issue

News reports are going wild about a revelation, published as recently as 11 years ago that Barack Obama has taken drugs in the past. And the information is coming from as trusted and confidential a source as Obama himself. Obama made these confessions in his memoir "Dreams From My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance". There are only 800,000 copies in print.

The Washington Post has provided this scoop, reporting that "...his open narrative of early, bad choices, including drug use starting in high school and ending in college, as well as his tortured search for racial identity, are sure to receive new scrutiny." Well, yes. And of course, much more scrutiny when it gets written about in the Washington Post. And then subsequently reported all over other news networks including FOX and NBC.

So does it matter what happened in his life 20 or more years ago? There appears to be little doubt that the 45 year old Obama has strong family values, has been a solid public representative, and conducts himself with dignity in public life.

One thing that can be said for this "news" - it's out in the public domain early. It will be much harder to get traction on this issue when it's not news to the wider public.

Not to mention that the scoop for the story is Obama himself. What, honesty in a politician? The legs on this story will drop off when it is recognised that yes, Obama tried drugs, many years ago, and in the meantime has attended Harvard Law School, been elected to the State Legislature, become a United States Senator and is now a serious contender for the Presidency.

Lets all move on to the real issues. There is no doubt that the "experience" issue will be next on the agenda.

There are murmurings that Hillary is expecting the Obama poll surge to decline after questions are raised about Obama's perceived lack of time in Washington, combined with a limited time dealing with foreign affairs matters.

We hear rumours that this story will break shortly.