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TOP OF THE TICKET | DON FREDERICK AND ANDREW MALCOLM

It's a tricky business when you run for president, Obama

August 26, 2007|Don Frederick and Andrew Malcolm

Running for president is a difficult and very tricky business, as it should be. It is particularly difficult for someone who claims to represent a fresh new political page, like Barack Obama.

How do you attract attention and support in the conflict-driven media and political arena without the kinds of conflict, divisive rhetoric and criticism of opponents that attract that attention and support -- and still be the new page?

In recent weeks, Obama has taken a more aggressive stand versus his Democratic opponents in a number of areas. At a Democratic dinner in Iowa, with The Times' Peter Nicholas listening in, Obama added a new wrinkle to his rhetorical repertoire.

Although he describes himself as a "hope-peddler," Obama took on the president's chief political strategist, Karl Rove, who had announced his resignation. "We all, I know, shed a tear when Karl Rove left," Obama said, "We thought, 'Golly, how are we going to manage now that Karl's not in there making great decisions and helping unify the country?' "

Is this a sign of a new edgier side to the Illinois senator? Where's the unifier with the new attitude?

Then, the Associated Press reports, at a recent gathering in a living room in New Hampshire -- the kind the state's voters relish -- there were eight people present as Obama described himself as an outsider to the world of Washington and politics-as-usual.

One of the attendees was Maggie North, who voted for Howard Dean in 2004. "You can be it," she told Obama. "But you've got to stop -- excuse me for being blunt -- you've got to stop getting involved in the way people are fighting each other, chewing you up a little more."

Obama responded, "That's what you do when you run for president. Some of that's OK, it thickens your skin . . . "

But North remained unconvinced. "What happens when you engage in that," she said, "is you become like everybody else."

Small moments at small events. But that's likely to remain a tricky problem for Obama. How much of his refreshing newness can the first-term senator risk smudging off?

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Angels owner endorses his friend, the Yankees fan!

Is there no shame in politics? Or even Mudville?

The presidential campaign of Rudy Giuliani announced that the former New York mayor and lifelong insane Yankees fan has been endorsed by Angels owner Arte Moreno.

What? Moreno couldn't go outside the American League to find a presidential candidate to endorse? What are the playoff implications of this?

"Arte Moreno is a good friend," explains Giuliani, who attended an Angels-Yankees game last week. "And one of the most respected owners in Major League Baseball." Giuliani, who is constructing a national campaign strategy that counts less on the earliest voting states, was in the state on his ninth campaign trip to California this year.

We're not into endorsing candidates here. We try to be equal-opportunity offenders. But, politics aside, teams are something else. And this one, whether you call them the Anaheim Angels or the Los Angeles Angels, gave the New Yorkers a huge "endorsement" of another kind at the aforementioned game. In other words, a major league whupping: Final score Angels 18, Yankees 9.

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Academics are getting into political giving

Those folks with the pointy heads, the beards and the leather patches on the elbows of their sport coats are getting into the political money game big-time.

A new study by the Center for Responsive Politics finds that political donations by academics totaled $8.8 million in 1996, ranking them 34th in terms of giving occupations. By 2004, those in the field of education gave $37 million, ranking them 11th.

Using the center's data, a Boston Globe article notes that so far this year, professors and others in education have given more money to federal candidates than workers in the fields of pharmaceuticals, computers and oil have. Education ranks 14th for 2007, behind law, medicine, Wall Street and real estate.

Of the more than $7 million donated in the first six months of 2007, more than $4.1 million of it went to presidential candidates -- primarily Democrats. Barack Obama received the most ($1.5 million) and Hillary Clinton came in second ($940,000). Republican Mitt Romney came in third ($448,000).

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Congress' approval rating heads south

We can only hope House and Senate members have been enjoying their summer recess, because they're getting some news that might put a damper on the rest of their break: A new Gallup Poll shows that public opinion concerning Congress has sunk to a historic low.

The survey reports that 18% of Americans approve of the job lawmakers are doing, matching the poorest figure since those folks started asking this question in 1974.

That previous low was recorded in early 1992, a time when, as a news release from Gallup notes, "a check-bouncing scandal was one of several scandals besetting Congress, leading many states to pass term limit measures for U.S. representatives (which the Supreme Court later declared unconstitutional)."

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