That, and other news, in today’s Political Panorama.
All over TV this weekend, the verdict was that this is now Barack Obama’s race to lose — or that he already is the presumptive nominee. Polls show him opening up a sizable lead in New Hampshire, his crowds are larger and he has the momentum. On “The Chris Matthews Show,” the verdict on whether he will be the nominee was unanimous — all 12 of the journalists on “The Matthews Meter” said he will.
But if there is anything that this race has proven, it is that predictions often are wrong, often based on comparisons to past campaigns rather than the present. It can be an exercise in futility. Just as Obama’s movement is being compared to Robert Kennedy, could it also be Gary Hart circa 1984? He won New Hampshire, but was eventually stalled by establishment candidate Walter Mondale, who stopped Hart’s momentum by grabbing from the pop culture arsenal and asking, “Where’s the beef?” That was the Wendy’s commercial where octogenarian Clara Peller asked that question, and Mondale picked it up as a way of demonstrating that Hart’s inspirational talk of “new ideas” lack specifics.
Hillary Clinton is trying to drive this point home with speeches across New Hampshire citing “Talk vs. Action.” Maybe it will work — but she doesn’t have the benefit of an instantly recognizable, commercial catch-phrase to sweep across the electorate.
As for Mondale and Hart, the former is backing Clinton and the latter appears to be endorsing Obama. As Hart wrote in a recent commentary on Huffington Post, “As one who has struggled throughout a lifetime for restoration of idealism to American politics, I can only smile, and perhaps shed a tear of happiness, that our time may have come.”
The Dueling Debates: Ron Paul was excluded from Fox’s debate last night, and Dennis Kucinich was left out of the ABC News forum on Saturday. Neither went down without a fuss. They have good reason to be upset — after all, why doesn’t New Hampshire get the chance to hear their views as well, just as Iowans did. But what their absence did do was make both forums less confusing and, dare I say, easier to watch. Moderators Charles Gibson and Chris Wallace actually proved the merits of experience vs. change, as they all but reassured that their forums would be free of gimmicks.
The drawback was that, with New Hampshire just around the corner, it was all but impossible to look at these debates as sober discussions of the issues. It was all about tactics, body language and performance — who likes whom and by how much? By the time that John Edwards lined up with Barack Obama against Hillary Clinton, it was like a game of Risk. Earlier on Saturday, Hillary Clinton actually was relaxed, engaging and even irreverent at a voter forum in New Hampshire, but at the debate she initially appeared defensive and angry. Perhaps this was unavoidable as the clock ticked toward primary day. Does anyone really recall what Obama said about Pakistan or what Mitt Romney said about taxes?
Tonight on TV: The New Hampshire primary heads to late night tonight, when Ron Paul appears on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” and Mike Huckabee appears on “Late Show with David Letterman.” This day also marks the return of “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” and “The Colbert Report,” sans their writers.
Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton appears tonight on “Access Hollywood,” of all places, where she talks to the show’s Maria Menounos about “Dancing with the Stars,” working iPods and cleaning kicks.
She also gets in serious campaign speak.
“I am passionate about this country and what we need to do to change what is happening,” Clinton says. “I know that you don’t get change by hoping for it or demanding it. You get change by working hard to bring people together. That’s what I have done my whole life and I want people to know that about me. To know that I am a fighter, you know you can’t be a president that says, ‘Send me to White House and everything will be wonderful!’ That is not the way the world works.”
Summit Story: Ridley Scott is developing a project based on the 1986 Reykjavik Summit between Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev, the Washington Post reports. Reagan’s arms control adviser, Kenneth Adelman, is a producer on the film. That summit had the two superpowers trying to negotiate an elimination of all nuclear weapons, but the meeting ultimately ended without an agreement.
Obama List: Jeffrey Ressner of The Politico has a list of some of the co-hosts of Barack Obama’s next fund-raiser in Los Angeles at the home of investment manager David Fisher and his wife, Marianna.
“Sponsors of the event include a troupe of top Hollywood names: Interscope’s Ted Field; Phoenix Pictures’ Mike Medavoy; producer Paula Weinstein; environmental activist (and wife of Universal Studios’ president) Kelly Meyer; Sony Pictures Entertainment CEO Michael Lynton and vice chairman Yair Landau; producer Wendy Wanderman; former MCA Records chief Jay Boberg; former Jim Henson Company CEO Charlie Rivkin; Screen Gems Senior Vice President Eric Paquette; George Clooney’s TV production president, Abby Wolf-Weiss; and various venture capitalists and financiers.”
Fisher is a portfolio manager at Capital International Asset Management. His colleague at the firm is John Emerson, the chairman of the Los Angeles Music Center and a key fund-raiser and supporter of Hillary Clinton.