YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

THE NATION | On the Trail | HIGHS & LOWS

Candidates' Christmas cheers, jeers

December 21, 2007|Don Frederick;Robin Abcarian;Maria L. La Ganga

Mindful of the season, it's been naughty and nice on the presidential campaign trail of late.

With voters increasingly focused on the holidays -- and all-important Iowans known to dislike unrelenting negative campaigning -- several candidates embarked upon a delicate balancing act. Elbows were still being thrown, but the White House contenders also wanted to seem likable. One result: a plethora of Christmas-themed ads in Iowa and New Hampshire.

Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton highlighted the trend. Along with filming a holiday-flavored spot, she and a cadre of allies (including childhood friends) traipsed throughout Iowa to testify to her kinder, gentler side. But before the tour began, her husband, former President Clinton, used a nationally televised interview to pointedly question rival Barack Obama's qualifications for the nation's highest office.

A new batch of polls of Iowa Democrats showed Clinton with the slightest of leads or essentially tied with Obama; John Edwards also was drawing significant support.

Among Republicans, Mitt Romney's recent propensity to tear up in public prompted speculation that he hoped to soften his image. ("I'm a normal person," he said in New Hampshire.)

Meanwhile, he was paying major attention to the once-obscure rival threatening him in Iowa -- Mike Huckabee. Romney attacked Huckabee for decrying, in a magazine article, the "arrogant bunker mentality" of the Bush administration's foreign policy. And along with Fred Thompson, Romney hammered Huckabee's record on crime.

Huckabee, for his part, was first out of the gate with a Christmas ad -- and then parried questions on whether a cross shape in the background was a not-so-subtle message to his evangelical backers. Huckabee insisted the image was coincidental, while no doubt reveling in a poll that showed evangelicals fueled his surge in Iowa.

Feeling ill: Flu-like symptoms briefly forced Rudolph W. Giuliani into the hospital. His recovery probably won't be helped by new polls showing his once-substantial lead nationally among Republicans has vanished.

Paul's machine: Ron Paul, whatever his ultimate fate in the GOP race, continued his transformation into a fundraising machine. A concerted effort on Sunday generated more than $6 million in donations, his website said.

Honest Obama? In endorsing Obama, documentarian Ken Burns -- who knows a bit about the Civil War -- compared his pick to Abraham Lincoln.

He's out: Republican Tom Tancredo on Thursday generated by far the greatest media interest in his presidential quest -- by announcing he was ending it. He basked in having influenced tough stances on illegal immigration that have marked the GOP campaign, and he threw his support to Romney.


-- Don Frederick


Frederick is one of the writers of The Times' political blog, Top of the Ticket, at topoftheticket.




Who has the most friends?

Will popularity online translate into something meaningful at the polls?

If the social networking website MySpace is any indication, Democrat Barack Obama -- with about 203,000 friends -- is killing the competition.

By contrast, rival Hillary Rodham Clinton has about 152,000 friends. Another Democrat considered a top-tier contender, John Edwards, is way behind -- not much more popular than back-of-the pack candidate Dennis J. Kucinich, with about 50,000 cyberspace pals versus Kucinich's 36,000 or so.

On the GOP side, it's no contest at all: Ron Paul by a landslide, with about 101,000 friends. The new powerhouse in Iowa opinion polls, Mike Huckabee, is nearly twice as popular on MySpace as Rudolph W. Giuliani (about 19,000 friends versus about 10,000).


-- Robin Abcarian



Wanted: janitor to

the world

Who in his or her right mind would want the job described by Susan Rice, an assistant secretary of State in the Clinton administration, as she campaigned for Barack Obama in Des Moines this week?

The next president will be a kind of janitor to the world, cleaning up what Rice called "a series of unprecedented messes" left behind by President Bush:

"From the war in Iraq to a whole host of challenges posed by Iran, wrecked alliances, a resurgent Al Qaeda, a deteriorating situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the climate changing and the planet warming, a still-intractable Palestinian-Israeli conflict, genocide in Darfur, China rising, an unconstrained Russia becoming more and more provocative and arguably belligerent, the legacy of Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib and torture and the suspension of habeas corpus."

Finally, a breath. "And that's just on the international side."

-- Maria L. La Ganga



Californians won't cast presidential primary ballots until Feb. 5, but in case you were wondering about the mood in the Golden State, Hillary Rodham Clinton's once prodigious lead has narrowed significantly in the Democratic race, according to a new Field Poll of likely voters. She won the support of 49% in October, but that dropped to 36% in December, while Barack Obama improved his standing from 19% to 22%.

Among Republicans, Mike Huckabee moved from 4% in October to 17% in the survey released this week. That placed him behind Rudolph W. Giuliani, who held at 25%.

Los Angeles Times Articles