COMMENTS: Democratic Frontrunners

NBC and CBS both examined the Campaign 2008 rivalry between Democratic frontrunners Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama. CBS looked at their competition for support from black voters. Dean Reynolds observed that "Obama's racial identity gives pause to some." He is not the descendent of African slaves but the multiracial child of a Caucasian mother and a Kenyan father. "I self-identify as African-American. That is how I am treated and that is how I am viewed and I am proud of that," was how Reynolds quoted him. Put another way: "The big city cab drivers who once refused to pick him up had no doubt about his blackness back then." Nevertheless, Jim Axelrod pointed out, Obama trails Rodham Clinton among African-Americans in Democratic opinion polls: "This highly complicated choice comes down to record trumping race," Axelrod concluded--plus the Bill factor: "Her husband is highly popular among blacks."

On NBC, Andrea Mitchell, too, looked at husband Bill's role in drumming up support for his wife, not among blacks but among women, who represent two-thirds of Iowa's Democratic caucusgoers. Obama counters with his own "celebrity surrogate super weapon," fellow African-American Chicagoan Oprah Winfrey, whose daytime ratings in the state surpass "most primetime television." Mitchell summed up the match up: "She is one of the world's most admired women and the among the richest…he, according to some polls, is the second-most admired man in the world." Late in the day Rodham Clinton countered with another superstar endorsement. "Barbra Streisand, a Funny Girl," Mitchell acknowledged, "but no match for Oprah."

The third Democratic frontrunner in Iowa is John Edwards. He sat down with anchor Brian Williams for an interview in NBC's Making of a President series. Williams followed up on a couple of CBS stories from yesterday, when Chip Reid covered Edwards' departure from his sunny image of Campaign 2004. "No more Mr Nice Guy?" Williams inquired, crediting Newsweek with the insight. "I think it is a mistake to equate strength and passion with some big change in who I am." Williams also referred--without crediting his rival anchor by name--to yesterday's CBS interview by Katie Couric in which Rodham Clinton declared "she was certain she would be the nominee." "If she is certain, she is living in a fantasy world," Edwards snorted. As for issues, Edwards tried to recast the values debate. He referred to "the huge moral things that need to be done in this country--to lift people out of poverty; strengthen the middle class; insure the uninsured…I have spent my entire life fighting against very powerful interests on behalf of ordinary Americans. I am proud of that."


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