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TOP OF THE TICKET

Where would Obama be without McCain-Feingold?

June 29, 2008|DON FREDERICK AND ANDREW MALCOLM

Funny how things go around and come around.

In his run for the U.S. Senate in 2004, Barack Obama was one of the first beneficiaries of the so-called millionaire's amendment that was struck down last week by the U.S. Supreme Court. The amendment to the 2002 finance law allowed candidates to exceed normal fundraising limits when facing wealthy office-seekers spending out of their own pockets.

Obama's main Democratic primary foe that year was Blair Hull, a wealthy investor who poured $28 million of his own money into the campaign.

Hull's spending on himself released Obama from the $2,100-per-donor cap then in effect, allowing him to raise up to $12,000 per donor.

A review of Obama's receipts in 2003 and 2004 shows that $1.7 million of the $6 million he raised for the primary was in amounts greater than $2,100. Of that, $360,000 was in donations of the new maximum of $12,000, and $450,000 in donations of $10,000.

That national campaign finance law was co-written by another now-familiar name, Arizona Sen. John McCain.

Now McCain is the presumptive Republican nominee who on Nov. 4 is to face Obama, the presumptive Democratic nominee, to become president. Talk about unintended consequences.

Some analysts believe that Obama might well have lost his Senate bid -- his crucial first step onto the national political stage -- without the financial boost he received from the amendment to the McCain-Feingold Act. Obama certainly would have been unable to finance the television advertising campaign he was able to run statewide.

And then, talk about luck, an Illinois court unsealed Hull's divorce filing, allowing Chicago newspapers to report embarrassing details about the millionaire's marriage as the ads for Obama began airing. Obama ended up capturing 53% of the vote in the seven-way primary race.

But wait! His luck wasn't over. In the ensuing general election, Obama faced Republican millionaire investor Jack Ryan. But, would you believe it, allegations of a sex scandal involving his ex-wife forced Ryan out of the race. And the Illinois GOP -- talk about desperate -- turned to that political powerhouse Alan Keyes, who was destroyed by newcomer Obama, who captured 70% of the vote.

A label from

Grover Norquist

John McCain has been trying hard of late to link Barack Obama with Jimmy Carter in the public consciousness, hoping that the "ineffectual" label that many voters affix to the former president will prove transferable.

Grover Norquist -- the conservative activist who specializes in promoting an anti-tax agenda and, more generally, revels in the role of agent provocateur -- is pushing a similar, and broader, case against Obama.

Norquist dropped by The Times' Washington bureau the other day and asserted that the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee has no major differences with the party's litany of losing White House candidates since 1980: Carter, Walter Mondale, Michael Dukakis, Al Gore and John Kerry.

Indeed, as part of his negative critique of Obama's liberal stances on economic issues and other matters, Norquist termed Obama "John Kerry with a tan."

Since Norquist isn't running for anything, he may get away with such remarks, but we doubt McCain will be incorporating the line into his speeches any time soon.

Pelosi's an

Edwards fan?

And for vice president? House Speaker Nancy Pelosi continues to tout Edwards.

"I've always tried to encourage Mr. Edwards to run for leadership," Pelosi told reporters. "I think he's an extraordinarily talented person."

Wait a moment. Didn't former Sen. John Edwards run for leadership four years ago? When he sought the Democratic nomination for president and ended up the vice presidential nominee with John Kerry? And again this year, when Edwards tried again for his own nomination?

"We're talking about Chet Edwards, a member of Congress from Texas, who represents Waco," Pelosi clarified.

In fact, the nine-term Democrat also represents Crawford, which makes him President Bush's congressman.

Who'd be a

Jedi knight?

"Star Wars" creator George Lucas was on Capitol Hill in Washington last week to testify on something or other. And when there's no news to be heard, reporters start asking the silly questions.

They wanted him to liken politicians to his movie characters. Like, was Darth Vader based on Vice President Dick Cheney? Or something.

Anyway, Lucas played it cagey. Until he was asked if Sen. Barack Obama would be a Jedi knight.

"I would say," Lucas says, "that's reasonably obvious."

Clinton

vs. Clinton

The combative Democratic primary ended with Bill and Hillary Clinton essentially tied -- with each other (though perhaps with a slight edge for the ex-president).

In the recent L.A. Times/Bloomberg national poll, 52% of registered voters expressed positive feelings about Bill, and 49% said the same about Hillary -- a gap well within the survey's margin of sampling error, plus or minus 3%.

Negative attitudes toward the two also are about the same -- 36% gave Bill the thumbs-down, while 39% said they didn't care for Hillary.

But Bill gains an advantage when comparing the gap between positive and negative numbers. The margin for him is 16 points; for her it's 10.

--

Excerpted from The Times' political blog, Top of the Ticket, at www.latimes.com/ topoftheticket.

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