Early primary schedule accelerates campaign

Published 6:26 am Wednesday, July 25, 2007

By By Steve Flowers
The avalanche of states moving their presidential primary to February 5 next year has made a tremendous impact on the 2008 Presidential Race. This cavalcade, which includes Alabama, will change the dynamics dramatically. It has diminished the role that New Hampshire and Iowa have traditionally played as early states in the nominating process, making them somewhat irrelevant.
This earlier primary schedule has accelerated the campaigning and debates. CNN had televised debates in early June featuring the eight democratic candidates followed by a similar show featuring the ten republican aspirants. There was a second televised democratic debate this week.
In the first telecast, the moderator, Wolf Blitzer, asked the democrats how they would use former President Bill Clinton in their administrations if elected and most said they would use him as a goodwill ambassador to other nations, especially Africa and developing nations. The same question was posed to the republicans regarding how and if they would use our current and soon to be former President George W. Bush. The first to get the question was former Wisconsin Governor and Health and Human Resources cabinet member, Tommy Thompson, who tongue in cheek but honestly answered, "Well I don't think I would send him to the United Nations."
Thompson's response highlighted the fierce dislike the world community has of Bush. The remaining candidates were almost as blunt as Thompson in their hesitance to use Bush in any public relations role internationally or at home. Bush's approval rating has hovered around 25% in this country and is probably in the single digits worldwide. Any presidential candidate tied to Bush and especially his war is a good bet to lose in 2008. The President's unpopularity and the escalation of the primary date has made Bush an early lame duck. He will be a setting sun for the next seventeen months of this term in office.
However, Bush's unpopularity nationwide has not deterred our junior senator, Jeff Sessions, from standing by his man. Sessions is the ultimate, hardcore, lifetime, true blue republican. He has not run from Bush but instead embraced him. Obviously there are still a lot of Bush loyalists in Alabama. Sessions brought Bush to Mobile for a $1,000 per person fundraiser on June 21st. Sessions had the even more controversial Dick Cheney to Birmingham in April for a fundraiser. Bush raised $750,000 for Sessions and the Cheney event brought in $500,000.
Sessions appears to be a safe bet for reelection to his third six-year term next year. With the 2008 General Election only fourteen months away, the odds are insurmountably stacked against a democratic challenger. It is really too late to mount a serious campaign unless a multimillionaire democrat is lying in wait ready to spend $6 million of their own money. That person is doubtful to surface.
It had been rumored that Agriculture Commissioner, Ron Sparks, had his eye on the race. However, he has decided not to be the sacrificial lamb. It might not have been a bad move for Sparks politically to run against Sessions and lose. Sparks could lose and build name identification for a 2010 race for Lt. Governor. However, if he could not raise enough to run a decent campaign or if Sessions attacked him viciously like he did Roger Bedford in 1996 it could destroy him. Sparks could not count on his primary benefactor, the Farmers Federation. They will not leave Sessions who has been their ally in Washington. It appears that Jeff Sessions will have clear sailing for 2008.
In the democratic contest Barack Obama continues to shock the political world with his fundraising prowess. He has raised more campaign money than any of the other eighteen presidential candidates. His $32 million surpasses his democratic rival Hillary Clinton. Most of his largesse has come from small contributors, primarily through the internet. He had a recent Alabama fundraiser that netted him over $100,000. Whether he can wrestle the nomination away from Hillary is yet to be seen. Regardless he is the star of this year's presidential contest thus far.
See you next week.
Steve Flowers is Alabama's leading political columnist. His column appears weekly in 70 Alabama newspapers. Steve served 16 years in the State Legislature. He may be reached at www.steveflowers.us.

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