Gore, Solis Doyle, Iraq: Obama prepares himself for the months ahead

The exchanges between the two campaigns are already getting heated, but don't forget that Democrats just recently switched to general election mode. While John McCain had ample time to take control of his party in the months that followed February 5th (whether he succeeded, of course, is another question), Barack Obama is still busy taking steps to ensure that Democrats are unified and preparing various other plans for the months ahead.

(1) After keeping a low profile for months (not without silly speculation that he might jump in at any moments), Al Gore made his first high-profile appearance in the presidential campaign today as he endorsed Obama at a rally in Detroit, Michigan. Gore celebrated Obama as "the candidate best able to solve these problems and bring change to America" and rejected any criticism of the Illinois Senator's (in)experience. Given the elder statesman stature Al Gore has achieved within the party, this was a necessary step for Obama to claim the mantle of Democrats past and proclaim himself the new leader of the party.

Note the importance of the event taking place in Michigan. This is also the state in which Obama organized John Edwards's endorsement on May 14th. The Obama campaign has no doubt noticed that Michigan has unexpectedly emerged as their weakest link, with a number of polls suggesting that Michigan could be the Kerry state in which Obama is the weakest. The importance of the state's blue-collar population reinforces the challenge that awaits Obama. His campaign's decision to stage two of the biggest shows of Democratic unity in this state reveals their belief that it would be enough for the party's base and registered Democrats to come home for Obama to pull ahead in Michigan. Whoever Obama chooses as his running mate, he will surely send politicians like John Edwards who are close to labor to campaign in Michigan.

Speaking of last night's Michigan rally, Obama better find a way to instruct his supporters not to boo when they hear Clinton's name if he wants to sooth over hard feelings. The Washington Post reports that, after Gov. Jennifer Granholm mentioned she had supported Hillary in the primaries and before she was able to move on to the standard line about how she is now fired up to support Obama (what does Obama want more right now than former Clinton supporting women publicly backing him), she "received a deafening chorus of boos..."

(2) Obama's campaign hired Patti Solis Dolye, Clinton's former chief of staff, to serve as the chief of staff of the... VP contender once he or she is chosen. This is one of this week's richest political stories, but also one that is entirely reserved for political junkies. It might be true that the Obama campaign is intending his gesture as an overture towards the Clintonites and it might be true that placing Solis Doyle in such an important position is meant to appeal to Hispanic voters, but which insider works for whom in what post and at what time is not the kind of question that moves undecided voters. If anything, it will prevent Republicans from attacking his campaigns for the lack of high-profile Latinos -- a line of attack campaigns typically attempt to put their opponents on the defensive.

The consequences of Solis Doyle's hire on the Democratic veepstakes, on the other hand, are fascinating. Hillary fired her longtime aide and confidante shortly after Super Tuesday, and their relationship is said to not have survived. We also know that many (and not just in Clinton's entourage) have been blaming Solis Doyle for a series of mistakes and for mismanaging the campaign. The reaction of Clinton insiders to Solis Doyle's new role in the Obama campaign leaves no doubt as to the lingering hard feelings. So does Obama's decision to hire Doyle for this particular position not imply that he has already decided to not give the vice-presidential nomination to Hillary Clinton, or is he planning on welcoming his former rival to the ticket with the poisoned gift of an awkward reunification?

(3) Finally, the Obama campaign announced today that the candidate would travel to Iraq and Afghanistan before the general election. The GOP has been taunting Obama for weeks now on why he is not imitating McCain's decision to take a trip there recently. Obama's trip will come later than the foreign travels general election candidates have taken in recent cycles (John McCain also traveled through Europe this spring), but he could not afford living the country when Hillary Clinton was still in the race. With the media's attention now devoted to the general election, Obama is sure to receive a lot of press when he embarks on this journey and this will be a crucial moment for his presidential hopes.

The upside of a well-covered trip is obvious, as it would immediately raise Obama's stature and increase voters' confidence in him on national security. The drawback is as evident: Given that Obama's lack of foreign policy experience, a single misstep or misstatement could cost him dearly as it would feed a concern voters already have about him. This is what happened in the French presidential election last year, as Socialist candidate Ségolène Royale was pilloried for two silly mistakes during a trip to China and then again when she provided the wrong answer to a question about the country's military. As a woman, Royal had more to prove on national security issues and these missteps ended up being devastating. But when her opponent Nicolas Sarkozy blundered the same exact question a few weeks later, no one seemed to care.

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  • Doyle was working for Clinton, while engaged in a personal relationship with Axelrod. This was reported last night on CNN. Hiring her was incredibly foolish. Her allegiances are phony and this will come back to haunt Obama. Double-agents are not trustworthy. She might be really working for McCain.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 17 June, 2008 08:04  

  • Anon,
    Solis Doyle has been one of the closest advisers to Hillary since the early 1990s. That she was close to many in the Obama campaign was not a secret, but it is absurd to suggest her allegiance wasn't entirely Clinton's.

    By Blogger Taniel, At 17 June, 2008 10:36  

  • I'm always surprised at the level of viciousness coming from the Clinton camp towards those who leave the Clinton camp. Patti Solis Dolye is someone who spent her whole life working with and for Hillary Clinton, and was one of her closest friends. While it's debatable how solid a job she did for Hillary during the nomination battle, what's not debatable is that the entire Clinton campaign was lackluster and dysfunctional from top to bottom. Patti Solis Dolye took the hit for the entire campaign underperforming and was axed. And there was a LOT of nasty stuff that was written up about her in the aftermath questioning her work ethic, her professionalism, and her managerial skills. These stories came from within the Clinton camp. Her lifelong friendship with Hillary was trashed, and by all accounts, they haven't spoken since. Yet, when word came that Obama was interested in hiring her, people from the Clinton camp whispered that this would be looked at as an act of disloyalty. This is after they fired her and TRASHED HER REP PUBLICALLY! Unbelievable.

    Now she's some sort of "double-agent" and Obama has "dissed" Hillary by hiring her in her new role. It's almost like working with the Clinton's is like joining the mob. Once you're in, you can't get back out again without bloodshed.

    After thinking about it, I look at this hire as a way for Obama to reach out to Clinton staffers who want to work with the Presidential nominee, but are being held by the Clinton's strange sense of "ownership". If PSD can be rehired and trusted to do the task that Clinton axed her from, then there's room for others if they're willing to take the plunge. It's a message to Hillaryland more than it is to Hillary herself.

    By Anonymous dannity, At 17 June, 2008 13:08  

  • So CNN is part of the Clinton "mob" by reporting her dealings with Axelrod? If so, then let Doyle sue CNN. Hillary and Doyle have reportedly parted friends as a result of this. Obama should think twice about hiring someone that stabs a longtime friend in the back. Questionable allegiances are not solid footings for a president to be. Rev. Wright comes to mind. What would Obama give to have cut him off earlier? Judgement is at stake here. Obama claims to have it, but he fails to show it.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 17 June, 2008 15:22  

  • Her dealings with Axelrod? You know who else is close with David Axelrod? Hillary Clinton.

    Stick that in your consiracy pipe and smoke it.

    By Anonymous dannity, At 17 June, 2008 15:39  

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