Some observations coming out of Super Tuesday:
The “phenom” phase of Sen. Barack Obama’s campaign may be ending. The shine may be starting to deflect off the star. Yes, it’s still a tight race for the Democratic presidential nomination between the junior senator from Illinois and the junior senator from New York. But up to this point Obama has had the distinct advantage (and disadvantage) of being less well-known. That era will soon be behind him.
Most damaging to Obama so far is a New York Times article published several days ago showing that while in Iowa during a stump speech Obama claimed to have “passed” a bill regulating nuclear power plants.
Trouble is, that measure never was approved by the Senate. The bill was to have required nuclear power plants to alert citizens if even minor leaks of radioactive waste were discovered. Under current law, only significant leaks must be made public.
While Obama claimed to have “passed” a bill that never did pass, he also participated in negotiations that watered down the measure to the point of meaninglessness. That, however, didn’t stop him from claiming the mantle of being pro-environment and anti-nuclear pollution while campaigning. Is this another case of “I invented the Internet”?
What’s worse, he took campaign contributions worth hundreds of thousands of dollars from Exelon executives and employees. Exelon is the company that owned a plant that kept smaller leaks quiet. According to its own Web site, it is also the largest nuclear power provider in the nation.
We can all expect to see more of the same as reporters dig deeper into Obama’s record. For example, are the young and/or upscale ultra-liberals who form the core of his voter base going to be thrilled by comments he made while in Idaho, trying to portray himself as pro-gun rights?
According to The Washington Post’s Web site, the following happened while he made a visit to Boise State University’s Taco Bell Arena before a roaring crowd of thousands:
“Obama was not shy about tailoring his stump speech for the setting, adding a line to rebut any fears that he is aggressively pro-gun control, an issue he almost never mentions on the trail. He urged the crowd not to listen to ‘people who say, “He doesn’t believe in the Second Amendment.” We’ve got a lot of hunters in Southern Illinois and I’ve got no intention of taking away people’s guns.’ ”
How are the ultra-liberals going to feel when they learn their shining star is hunter- and gun-friendly? Is this guy a friend of Mitt Romney — liberal while campaigning in blue states and conservative while in red states?
Another media hit against the senator that is bound to be used against him if he claims the nomination: The National Journal last week named him the “most liberal” member of the U.S. Senate. That’s a great title to claim in the middle of the primaries when the most liberal Democratic voters are heading to the polls. It is nothing but an albatross heading into a general election when Republicans will be looking under every tablecloth to find a way to tag the Democratic candidate as “too liberal” for the country.
Clinton certainly has major issues of her own: Whitewater, Lewinsky, the list goes on. But she has been about as fully vetted as any candidate for any office has ever been. The chance of a major surprise is slim. But Obama’s record and list of positions are full of surprises, which is why it’s dangerous for any voter to fall in love with any candidate before really getting to know him or her.
(Bonnie Erbe is a TV host and columnist. E-mail bonnieerbe(at)CompuServe.com.)