- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Leno’s guest

On the eve of the Iowa caucuses, Republican presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee will trade jokes with Jay Leno on NBC’s “Tonight Show.”

While his rivals will be making a final appeal to the state’s voters, Mr. Huckabee will be flying to Los Angeles to tape the show with Mr. Leno, who returns to the air tonight without striking writers.

“It’s just an incredible opportunity to be there, particularly the very first night he’s back from the writers’ strike,” Mr. Huckabee said. “Besides, if all else fails and this whole process doesn’t work out, maybe he needs a sidekick, and I’ll be auditioning tomorrow.”

The unconventional move is somewhat fitting for the former Arkansas governor, who broke with tradition Monday by eschewing campaigning to go for a run and get a shave and haircut in front of his press entourage. He also held an odd press conference in which he announced that he had decided against going negative with a critical TV ad against Republican rival Mitt Romney — and then played the ad for the press.

Mr. Huckabee was campaigning yesterday, flying early on New Year’s Day to Sergeant Bluff, Iowa, where he urged about 200 people at the Pizza Ranch restaurant to turn out for the caucuses tomorrow, the Associated Press reports.

“I want you to go with a commitment, in essence a fervent spirit, that says I will not only go no matter what the weather, I will take people with me to vote for Mike Huckabee,” he said.

States of envy

All eyes may be on Iowa and New Hampshire, but many of them are rolling.

Despite efforts to evict the two states from the front of the presidential calendar, both managed to hang on for another election cycle that culminates with the Iowa caucuses tomorrow and the New Hampshire primary on Tuesday. As a year of press attention reaches its crescendo, voters in other states are saying enough is enough, the Associated Press reports.

According to a national survey conducted for the Associated Press and Yahoo News, slightly more than half of all voters said New Hampshire and Iowa have an extraordinary amount of influence over who wins the two parties’ nominations.

“They have way too much — WAY too much — say,” said Kevin Thomas of Tacoma, Wash. “California’s a big state, and they don’t have any say, and Iowa’s not even half the size of California. It really makes me as a voter wonder what’s going on.”

Fewer than one in five voters said they favor the current system that allows Iowa and New Hampshire to hold the first contests, while nearly 80 percent would rather see other states get their chance at the front of the line.

“I think they should take turns, maybe take it to a small state like Rhode Island that doesn’t have a whole lot of voting power,” Mr. Thomas said.

Cash machines

Democratic Sens.Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama will have raised more than $100 million this past year for their presidential campaigns, setting a historic threshold in fundraising.

In a PowerPoint presentation to supporters, Obama campaign manager David Plouffe said the campaign would need “at least $100 million” to compete in the first 26 primary and caucus states.

“Obama will have the financial resources,” Mr. Plouffe said.

Clinton aides said her figure did not include $10 million that she transferred to the campaign from her Senate campaign account at the beginning of the year. That means that the senator from New York will have raised more than $20 million during the past three months, the Associated Press reports.

Neither the Clinton nor the Obama campaigns revealed how much of the money raised was designated for the primary phase of the campaign and how much was for the general election — an important distinction that would signal how much they have available to compete for the Democratic nomination.

In the first three quarters, Mr. Obama raised more primary money than Mrs. Clinton.

Mrs. Clinton had $90.9 million in receipts at the end of September, including the $10 million transfer. By that time, she had raised a total of $80.4 million.

Monday at midnight was the last day of the fundraising quarter. Campaigns won’t have to make details of their fundraising and spending public until Jan. 31, when they file finance reports with the Federal Election Commission.

Stormy weather

“I’d like to wish you a happy New Year, but I’m afraid I have a different sort of prediction,” columnist John Tierney writes in the Science section of the New York Times.

“You’re in for very bad weather. In 2008, your television will bring you image after frightening image of natural havoc linked to global warming. You will be told that such bizarre weather must be a sign of dangerous climate change — and that these images are a mere preview of what’s in store unless we act quickly to cool the planet,” Mr. Tierney said.

“Unfortunately, I can’t be more specific. I don’t know if disaster will come by flood or drought, hurricane or blizzard, fire or ice. Nor do I have any idea how much the planet will warm this year or what that means for your local forecast. Long-term climate models cannot explain short-term weather.

“But there’s bound to be some weird weather somewhere, and we will react like the sailors in the Book of Jonah. When a storm hit their ship, they didn’t ascribe it to a seasonal weather pattern. They quickly identified the cause (Jonah’s sinfulness) and agreed to an appropriate policy response (throw Jonah overboard).

“Today’s interpreters of the weather are what social scientists call availability entrepreneurs: the activists, journalists and publicity-savvy scientists who selectively monitor the globe looking for newsworthy evidence of a new form of sinfulness, burning fossil fuels.”

Expectations

“Setting expectations low and then exceeding them is part of presidential politics — though often these things are well out of a campaign’s control, and one doesn’t want the bar set too low, for fear of discouraging supporters,” Steven Stark writes in a blog at www.realclearpolitics.com.

“In any event, the campaign that has to worry about the bar being set too high for Thursday night is Obama’s, which now probably needs to win or risks heading into New Hampshire with the air seeping out of its balloon,” Mr. Stark said.

Part of that is a result of [Monday night’s] Des Moines Register poll that — thanks to its forecast that independents and even Republicans would flood the Democratic caucuses for Obama — gave him a final poll lead no one else has found. But part of it was happening even before this poll. ‘Obama campaign predicts Iowa win,’ reads the headline of [yesterday] morning’s Newsday.

Greg Pierce can be reached at 202/636-3285 or gpierce@washingtontimes .com.

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