Today on the presidential campaign trail

August 18, 2008 1:05:47 PM PDT
Keeping up strong pace, Obama raises $7.8 million in one day ... McCain says Obama tried to legislate failure in Iraq for political gain, is not ready to lead ... Showbiz politics: Conventions offer priceless exposure, more choreography than a Broadway show. ---

Obama raises $7.8 million in San Francisco

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - Barack Obama raked $7.8 million Sunday at three separate fundraisers in San Francisco, telling a VIP dinner crowd - many of whom paid $28,500 to attend - that he would win the presidency in November but to expect a tough battle with Republicans in the meantime.

"John McCain, all he wants to do is talk about me," Obama told supporters. "They know they can't win on the issues. So what they'll do is they'll try to scare people:'He's risky. He's risky. We're not sure.'"

Obama was introduced at the dinner by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who called him "a leader God has blessed us with at this time."

At an April fundraiser in this liberal city, Obama remarked about bitter small town voters who "cling" to guns and religion, which rival Hillary Rodham Clinton seized on as evidence Obama was an elitist.

Obama avoided any such characterizations this time but did say many voters are angry and confused.

"The fact of the matter is, at a certain point, when government has not been serving the people for this long, people get cynical. They tune out," he said. "And they start saying to themselves, a plague on both your houses. They are willing to consume negative information more frequently than positive information, for good reason. They've seen how promises haven't been kept."

Obama has maintained a strong fundraising pace, bringing in $51 million in July to McCain's $27 million. But his campaign has also been spending at a rapid clip and the Illinois senator has turned down public funding for the general election campaign, requiring him to keep up a robust fundraising schedule for the fall.

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McCain: Obama tried to legislate Iraqi failure

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) - John McCain told fellow veterans on Monday that his Democratic rival Barack Obama tried to legislate failure in Iraq and has refused to admit he erred when opposing the military increase there last year.

McCain said Obama placed his political self-interest ahead of his country's, a theme the Arizona Republican has often repeated. McCain told a friendly convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars that Obama's positions have changed as his political ambitions grew.

"With less than three months to go before the election, a lot of people are still trying to square Sen. Obama's varying positions on the surge in Iraq. First, he opposed the surge and confidently predicted that it would fail. Then he tried to prevent funding for the troops who carried out the surge," McCain said.

"Not content to merely predict failure in Iraq, my opponent tried to legislate failure."

Obama has acknowledged the surge reduced violence in Iraq but says it has failed in its political goal of facilitating a reconciliation among contentious Iraqi factions.

McCain said victory in Iraq is in sight, but much depends on the next president's judgment.

"Even in retrospect, he would choose the path of retreat and failure for America over the path of success and victory," McCain said. "In short, both candidates in this election pledge to end this war and bring our troops home.

"The great difference is that I intend to win it first."

Obama campaign spokesman Bill Burton responded, "It is hard to understand how Sen. McCain can at once proclaim his support for the sovereign government of Iraq, and then stubbornly defy their expressed support for a timeline to remove our combat brigades from their country. ... John McCain is intent on spending $10 billion a month on an open-ended war, while Barack Obama thinks we should bring this war to a responsible end and invest in our pressing needs here at home."

Obama was scheduled to speak to the group on Tuesday. President Bush plans to attend on Wednesday.

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The modern political convention exists to be seen

WASHINGTON (AP) - Modern political conventions are like a Super Bowl minus the game.

They are the bling on the body politic: shiny, pretty and a touch goofy. They exist to be seen, more than to do.

They are like a Miss America pageant where the fix is in. The Olympic opening and closing ceremonies without all that sweating in between.

It's the party having a party. Politics is put to choreography, each song chosen for certain effect, each sign - even the crude, seemingly spontaneous ones - part of a script.

What's the point? Is there a point somewhere in that sea of nutty hats?

In essence, conventions tell voters it's time to focus on their choices in the November election as the diversions of summer slip away.

The Democrats in Denver and the Republicans in St. Paul, Minn., will honor their past and trot out their rising stars. Mostly what they'll do is showcase Barack Obama and John McCain with every bit of eye candy, pleasing rhetoric and excitement they can muster - as long as that excitement is not generated by dissent.

When 75,000 people come out to hear Obama accept the nomination at Invesco Field at Mile High, home of football's Denver Broncos, on Aug. 28, that won't be his biggest crowd of the year. But it will be his biggest crowd with so many voters watching on TV.

That kind of priceless exposure is the principal reason for the modern political convention. Americans will see Hillary Rodham Clinton bury any lingering animosity from being defeated by Obama in the primaries. They'll see McCain the GOP iconoclast take the party forward as his own.

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THE DEMOCRATS

Barack Obama campaigns in New Mexico.

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THE REPUBLICANS

John McCain spoke at the Annual Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States National Convention in Orlando, Florida.

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QUOTE OF THE DAY:

"I think that would be up to, first of all, to John to decide whether he wants a pro-choice running mate; then we would have to see how the Republican Party would rally around it. At the end of the day, I think the Republican Party will be comfortable with whatever choice John makes." - Former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge on possibility of McCain choosing a pro-choice running mate.

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STAT OF THE DAY:

John McCain's overall advertising budget for August is expected to exceed $20 million, and, by the convention in early September, the Republican presidential candidate is on track to spend some $60 million on TV expenditures, according to his campaign manager.

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Compiled by Natasha Metzler and Jesse J. Holland.


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