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Inside Politics

- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Farm teams

Flyover country is speaking out. Almost 3,000 "rural adults" were surveyed by Zogby International — revealing they favor Sen. John McCain over Sen. Barack Obama in the presidential matchup, 50 percent to 34 percent, respectively.

But heads up, Bob Barr, Ralph Nader, et al. The farm vote has some potential. Eleven percent of the respondents said they won't vote for either aforementioned candidates and 5 percent are unsure who they want in the White House. Seventeen percent said they are "switching parties" from the one they favored in 2004.

"This coupled with the fact that Republicans are narrowly the party of choice for U.S. House and Senate races, with 47 percent for Republicans compared to 40 percent for Democratic candidates, shows that rural America is shaping up to be a battleground for votes this fall," said Jack Odle, editor of Progressive Farmer magazine, which published the results Monday.

"Rural America is definitely in play this year and not in any one party's pocket. Votes, particularly in congressional races, are up for grabs," Mr. Odle said.

The survey of 2,963 heartland adults was conducted throughout the month of May and has a margin of error of two percentage points.

Air raid

"O-Force One" — an apt name for Sen. Barack Obama's cushy campaign plane, suggested by CBS News correspondent Allison O'Keefe.

Name game

Serious fans of Sen. Barack Obama have adopted a "national Hussein campaign" to help reduce the "stigma" associated with the presumptive nominee's middle name. Devotees are changing their middle names to "Hussein," borrowing from the movie "Spartacus," in which a batallion of warriors claim to be named Spartacus to protect the real guy from his Roman attacker.

Local college students like Jillian Hussein Boshart, Daniel Hussein Ready and Willy Hussein Richardson have taken the plunge, according to KXLY, an ABC affiliate in Spokane, Washington. So did Gary Don Ackerson, who is now Gary Hussein Ackerson.

"I'm a white, Anglo-Saxon Protestant," Mr. Ackerson said Monday. "I get strange remarks, even angry remarks."

He's stirred more than a bit of controversy among his conservative friends and family, KXLY said.

"My son said I was crazy. I want to get people to think, to talk, to vote," the newly minted Hussein vowed.

If Mr. Obama wins the election, Mr. Ackerson says he'll keep the name, but what if Mr. Obama loses?

"I'll probably change my name back to Don," he said.

Grudge report

Yes, yes, former President Bill Clinton is anxious to put any misunderstanding between himself and his wife Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and the Obama campaign in the past. But there's still acrimony, perhaps.

"Bill Clinton suggested he is still mad at one politician, South Carolina's Rep. Jim Clyburn, who abandoned his neutrality to back Obama after claiming that the former president had injected race into the campaign," said Kate Snow of ABC News on Monday.

"When Clyburn's name was brought up as a supporter who criticized the former president, Clinton interrupted to say Clyburn was never a supporter of the Clintons. When Clyburn's description was changed to 'longtime friend,' Clinton replied, 'Used to be.' Pressed on whether Clinton 'severely damaged' his standing with African-Americans as Clyburn has claimed, Clinton snapped, 'Yeah, that may be. By the time he got through working on it, that was probably true.'"

But Mr. Clinton says that he has no hard feelings about the man who defeated his wife.

"I'm not, and never was, mad at Senator [Barack] Obama," Mr. Clinton told the network.

Polympics

That's our snappy little term for the politicizing of the Olympics, set to get under way this week.

The fact that China banned dog meat from "112 designated Olympic restaurants" made the op-ed pages of the New York Times.

"One might observe that when it comes to important issues like human rights in Tibet, Chinese leaders don't seem to care what the rest of the world thinks, yet when it comes to dietary niceties, they kowtow to the most irrational foreign prejudice," the Times said.

The public pines to keep things sports-centric at the games, however, according to a research released Monday by Harris Interactive a survey of 6,620 adults in six countries conducted July 2 and 14.

Majorities in the U.S. (66 percent), Italy (66 percent), Germany (63 percent) and France (58 percent) as well as just under half of Spaniards (47 percent) and 39 percent of Britons believe that politicians from their respective countries should not be allowed to make statements against the Olympics at the games.

Majorities in France (65 percent), Italy (62 percent), Germany (60 percent), Great Britain and Spain (both 50 percent) and 46 percent of Americans believe that athletes should be allowed to publicly express their position, "enforcing the idea that this is about the athletes," the survey said.

Good luck.

Palin probe

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin is one of many under consideration for Sen. John McCain's potential vice-presidential running mate. But trouble could be afoot.

"Just simmering beneath all the Palin buzz is an investigation into her firing of state Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan. Last week, the state Senate approved the hiring of an independent investigator into the firing, thereby throwing some cold water on the Palin-for-VP bandwagon," said Real Clear Politics on Monday.

The controversy is over whether Mrs. Palin, or someone close to her, pressured Mr. Monegan to fire a state trooper who got a divorce from the governor's sister, according to the Anchorage Daily News.

"Some think this could sink Palin's VP chances, no matter the outcome. Maybe. One reason it might is that with the investigation just beginning, there isn't enough time to clear Palin's name before McCain has to make a decision. Going into the fall with a running mate under investigation isn't the best move."

Contact Jennifer Harper at jharperwashingtontimes.com or 202/636-3085.