Thursday, March 8, 2007 | Barack Obama made a nice showing on his first swing through Southern California, raising an estimated $500,000 in San Diego and a cool $1.3 million in Los Angeles, thanks mostly to a Spielberg-Geffen-Katzenberg fund-raiser, which brought out the stars. You might say California was Obama’s for the asking.
But then, Al Gore won an Oscar and a huge ovation, and you could see Hollywood dreaming of a comeback movie with Gore as the star and Obama in the supporting role.
Obama is a phenomenon. Every election cycle brings its shooting stars — politicians who rise brilliantly only to fade in the snowy drizzles of Iowa and New Hampshire or fizzle out in the swamps of South Carolina. But Obama, helped by a political conjuncture as rare as the man himself, shows no sign of fizzling. He is rising steadily in the polls.
It’s not every campaign where the two leading Democrats are a woman and an African-American, and if that’s not enough they are running against a Republican party reeling from a failed presidency and a strong anti-war movement. Anti-war movements have a way of producing big surprises — like Eugene McCarthy and Bobby Kennedy knocking President Johnson out of the race in 1968.
Hillary Clinton hits Southern California later this month and may well surpass Obama’s fund-raising totals despite the insults leveled at her and her husband by David Geffen, one of Hollywood’s highest rollers. Clinton leads all other Democrats in the polls, though she does worse than her rivals when matched up against the leading Republicans, Rudy Giuliani and John McCain.
Beyond Obama’s unique background — an African-American not descended from slaves — it’s his position on Bush’s war that gets the most attention. The other leading Democrats, all of them U.S. senators in 2002, supported Bush (though all wish they hadn’t), and are finding it hard to escape blame for a failed war.