Obama Roundup: Gaining in Polls, Liberal Voting Record, and Position on the War

Barack Obama seems to be all over the news today. Rasmussen shows that he has pulled within five points of Hillary Clinton, who still leads 35% to 30%. While the polls mean little this far out, this follows two other recent polls which show Obama gaining. Clinton has been helped by the feeling that her victory is inevitable, and reports of polls such as these can bring that into question. Of course Hillary Clinton has additional advantages, such as better organization so far. This is seen in this report from The Hill of Obama missing out on millions of dollars by not returning calls from potential donors.

We are also likely to hear a lot about the latest survey from The National Journal which ranks Obama as the most liberal candidate running–even more liberal than Dennis Kucinich. While amusing, there is far more to perceptions of electability than how liberal the voting record is. These voting records are also poor measures for comparing candidates, which is obvious from reviewing the actual votes upon which this is based. Even if the composition of the votes gave a good measure as a member of Congress, they are a weak predictor of what someone would propose as President when not limiting to voting on what has made it out of Congressional committees. A member could have a lot of extreme ideas, or perhaps a number of excellent moderate ideas, which are not reflected in these scores as they didn’t involve a floor vote. The evidence seen of Obama’s ability to work with the opposing party is also more meaningful than how liberal he scores within his party.

The Boston Globe tries to argue that Obama’s record on Iraq is more nuanced than it actually is. They cite issues such as voting for appropriations while we are actually at war and reluctance to set a fixed deadline as nuanced, however these are peripheral issues. The real question remains whether the candidate would have taken us to war unnecessarily. This description of Obama places him in a far more favorable position on the war than either Hillary Clinton or John Edwards:

Obama’s aides hand out copies of a 2002 speech he gave in Chicago, two weeks after the Senate gave President Bush the power to wage war. In it, Obama denounced the coming war as “dumb” and “rash” and said members of Bush administration were trying “to shove their own ideological agendas down our throats, irrespective of the costs in lives and in hardships borne.”

In recent weeks, Obama has said his early opposition to the unpopular war is significant.

“I think it’s a contrast between me and the other candidates,” he told The Des Moines Register earlier this month. “I have consistently believed that this war was not just a problem of execution, but was a problem of conception.”

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