Obama surges in race for Democratic Party nomination

Posted on 14 Feb 2008 at 8:54pm
By Lisa Keen Keen News Service

Clinton talks to gay press, heads to Texas for last shot at gaining support for her presidential candidacy


The winds of change blew in Barack Obama’s direction this week, as the U.S. senator for Illinois overtook U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York in the delegate race for the Democratic presidential nomination.

After first winning the caucus and primary races over the weekend in Washington, Louisiana, Nebraska and Maine, Obama made another clean sweep of the newly dubbed "Potomac Primary" states of Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia on Tuesday, Feb. 12.

Obama’s latest wins boosted his delegate count above that of Clinton’s for the first time in the campaign, though both counts are relatively close and Clinton is favored to take the giant delegate states of Texas and Ohio on March 4.

On Tuesday night, Clinton and Obama reached out to rallies in their favored strongholds Clinton to the large state of Texas, speaking in El Paso; and Obama in the small state of Wisconsin, speaking in Madison.

On the Republican side of the presidential race, U.S. Sen. John McCain of Arizona bested former Gov. Mike Huckabee of Arkansas in four out of six states last weekend and Tuesday. McCain, with 812 delegates, appears poised to reach the magic number of 1,191 as early as March 4 in Texas or Ohio.

But on the Democratic side, Obama and Clinton are in a delegate-by-delegate fight for the nomination that has some party officials worried that a resolution may require a contentious and controversial vote by superdelegates 796 (currently) party leaders who can vote on the nomination by virtue of their having held public office or party leadership positions.

National Stonewall Democrats said Tuesday that at least 21 of these delegates are openly LGBT people. As of Wednesday, 12 of those 21 had reportedly declared their support for Clinton.

Clinton talks

Clinton currently has the greatest need for LGBT superdelegates and voters.
She has lost the lead in the delegate count and lost many of the last seven states by two-to-one margins.

The senator from New York has had to replace her campaign manager and loan her coffers $5 million during the past week, too signs that normally prompt speculation that her campaign is in trouble.

But if she wins big in Texas and Ohio on March 4 and polls favor her right now  she could regain momentum quickly.

Clinton picked up the endorsement of the D.C. Council’s two openly gay members, Democrat Jim Graham and independent David Catania. But in an apparent attempt to woo gay voters in the D.C.-Maryland-Virginia primaries Tuesday, her campaign made a Saturday night phone call to Kevin Naff, news editor of the area’s gay newspaper, The Washington Blade, and offered a 10-minute interview Sunday morning, Feb. 10.

Naff covered considerable territory during the interview, including why the candidate favors repealing only part of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), compared to Obama’s preference for repealing the entire law.

Clinton said keeping one section of the law that section which would allow states to ignore gay marriages or relationships legally recognized in other states  was necessary to fend off efforts to amend the federal constitution to ban gay marriage.

"I was able to explain to other senators that DOMA ensured marriage would be left to the states that was critical in defeating the amendment," she told the Blade. "It gave us an argument with both Republicans and Democrats."

Clinton said she would prefer a version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act in the Senate that includes protections based on gender identity, and she promised forceful advocacy on behalf of equal rights for gays.

In the interview, Clinton appeared to bristle at the suggestion that Obama has mentioned gay people during many of his appearances before non-gay audiences, while she has not. But, instead of discussing that point, she called it "ironic" given that Obama had allowed an anti-gay performer to take part in his campaign’s gospel tour in South Carolina.

Talking the talk

Obama mentioned gays in his stump speech at least twice during the week of Feb. 3, before large, general audiences in Seattle, Washington, and Alexandria, Virginia.

In Alexandria, he said, "I’ve seen how politicians can exploit our fears to make us afraid of each other," said Obama. "Afraid of immigrants, afraid of gay people. I’ve seen how destructive, how corrosive fear can be."

He was also prompted by a questioner in the audience in Alexandria, a gay veteran named Dustin Davis, to explain what he would do to repeal the military’s "Don’t ask, don’t tell" policy.

"Why would we not want able men and women who are willing to sacrifice on our behalf why would we tell them no?" said Obama. "Why would we spend money kicking out Arab-speaking linguists that we need right now in order to apprehend terrorists because of some hang-ups that are outdated and outmoded and make no sense. We are going to overturn it."

"How am I going to do it?" he continued. "I’m going to do it by putting together a military panel made up of people like General [John Shalikashvili]."

Shalikashvili, who was chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during President Bill Clinton’s first term, said last year that, although he initially supported the "Don’t ask, don’t tell" policy of excluding all but the most closeted of gay men and lesbians from the military, he no longer believes gays would undermine military efficacy.

"If we can get military officers to credibly talk about this issue the most recent polls have shown the average person who is serving in Iraq and Afghanistan don’t think this is an issue," said Obama. "This is a political issue. It needs to stop being a political issue. We need to solve the problem."

There seemed to be only scattered other mention of gay issues in the campaigns in this week’s primary and caucus states. Several news reports in Washington State made note of the fact that caucus ballots asked voters whether they were gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender.

"I went to the Democratic gathering at Highland Middle School, in the Overlake part of Bellevue," wrote Seattle Times reporter Danny Westneat. "…Practically everyone refused to fill out the part of the ballot that asked whether they were gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. Why a political party needs to know who you’re sleeping with, I have no idea."

And campaigning for her mother in Wisconsin, which holds its primary February 19, Chelsea Clinton was asked about Sen. Clinton’s position on equal rights for gays.

According to the Capital Times, a Madison newspaper, Chelsea Clinton was well-versed in her mother’s positions.

She noted, among other things, that Clinton supports civil unions but not marriage and believes "Don’t ask, don’t tell" should be repealed.

Conservative endorsements

On the Republican side, McCain won Washington state, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia this week, while his only remaining challenger, Mike Huckabee, won two contests, those in Kansas and Louisiana.

Huckabee won the endorsement last week of Focus on the Family leader James Dobson and is hanging in the race. But McCain won the endorsement this week of former Reagan domestic policy adviser Gary Bauer.

Dobson highlighted John McCain’s refusal to support a federal constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage as his reason for backing Huckabee.

"I am deeply disappointed," said Dobson, "the Republican Party seems poised to select a nominee who did not support a Constitutional amendment to protect the institution of marriage."

In endorsing McCain, Bauer said he believes that, while McCain doesn’t support a federal constitutional amendment on gay marriage, he would support such a ban at the state level.

Lisa Keen. All rights reserved

E-mail LisaKeen@aol.com

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 15, 2008


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