02-19-2017  7:58 pm      •     

Democratic presidential contender Barack Obama couldn't sprint fast enough to publicly correct his wife when she candidly said that "Iowa will make the difference. If Barack doesn't win Iowa, then it's just a dream." An Obama campaign spokesperson said that Iowa's only one state and a win or loss there won't derail his self-proclaimed American Dream campaign. He's dead wrong, and Michelle's right. But Obama acts like he doesn't know she got it right. He's spent a lot of money in the state, and has more field offices there than Hillary Clinton and John Edwards. But he has skipped several key Democratic forums and events in Iowa.
Obama has spent some time chit chatting with farmers and local townspeople in Iowa's back country towns. He's talked about affordable health care, farm support programs, and the war in stump speeches in the state. However, his no-shows on the big ticket events have raised red flags about his prospects in Iowa.
Iowa is crucial to Obama. It is a bell weather of how effective a candidate is in connecting with mid-America voters. It's a state small and folksy enough where voters can look a candidate in the eye and tell if they're honest and sincere and can speak plainly.
In 2004, the ability to connect with a dairy farmer, a waitress, or a tractor driver helped John Kerry and the inability to do that hurt Howard Dean. That won't be enough for Obama. He's got an added obstacle that Dean and Kerry didn't have. He's the first Black presidential candidate running in one of the Whitest, most rural, and conservative centrist states in the nation. He's got to do more than speak the language of mid-America. He's got to convince the voters that he's not a Black presidential candidate, but a color neutral presidential candidate. The slightest hint that Obama will tilt toward minorities on the big ticket issues will thicken the clouds of suspicion about him.
Obama also has a problem with polling day conversion. More than a few White voters say they will vote for the candidate solely on their competency and qualifications, not color. Then on Election Day turn right around in the privacy of the voting booth and vote on color. The conversion phenomena did in Harvey Gantt and Harold Ford in senate races in North Carolina and Tennessee, and Tom Bradley in the race for governor in California. In pre-election polls, they had comfortable leads over their White opponents and were projected to win their races handily.
 Nearly all White voters say that they have no problem voting for an African-American for president. In the next breath they say that qualifications rank at or near the top of the list in determining their candidate choice. Obama has consistently ranked well beneath Hillary and Edwards on the qualification scale. That's not exactly racial code speak for saying that Obama as a Black candidate doesn't have the right stuff. Yet it does suggest he's got a long way to go to overcome voter suspicion about his qualifications
A second place finish will not totally dash Obama's dream but it will cast deep doubt on whether he can pull one or two Southern or Western states out of the GOP orbit. He'll need substantial White male centrist voters to do that. 
That feat is mandatory this time around for a Democrat to cinch the White House. There is almost no chance Obama can pull that off.
Michelle didn't need a crystal ball to predict that Iowa is the political and psychological break point state for Obama. She got it right. The question is is her hubby listening?

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst.

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  • WASHINGTON (AP) — One month after the inauguration, the stretch of Pennsylvania Avenue in front of Donald Trump's White House still is a hard-hat zone. Skeletal remains of the inaugural reviewing stands poke skyward. Random piles of plywood and cables are heaped on the ground inside crooked lines of metal fencing. The disarray outside the president's front door, though not his fault, serves as a metaphor for the tumult still unfolding inside. Four weeks in, the man who says he inherited "a mess" at home and abroad is presiding over a White House that is widely described as itself being a mess. At a stunning pace, Trump has riled world leaders and frustrated allies. He was dealt a bruising legal blow on one of his signature policies. He lost his national security adviser and his pick for labor secretary to scandal. He's seen forces within his government push back against his policies and leak confidential information. All of this has played out amid a steady drip of revelations about an FBI investigation into his campaign's contacts with Russian intelligence officials. Trump says his administration is running like a "fine-tuned machine." He points to the rising stock market and the devotion of his still-loyal supporters as evidence that all is well, although his job approval rating is much lower than that for prior presidents in their first weeks in office. Stung by the unrelenting criticism coming his way, Trump dismisses much of it as "fake news" delivered by "the enemy of the people" — aka the press. Daily denunciations of the media are just one of the new White House fixtures Americans are adjusting to. Most days start (and end) with presidential tweets riffing off of whatever's on TV talk shows or teasing coming events or hurling insults at the media. At some point in the day, count on Trump to cast back to the marvels of his upset of Democrat Hillary Clinton in the November election and quite possibly overstate his margins of support. Expect more denunciations of the "dishonest" press and its "fake news." From there, things can veer in unexpected directions as Trump offers up policy pronouncements or offhand remarks that leave even White House aides struggling to interpret them. The long-standing U.S. policy of seeking a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Trump this past week offered this cryptic pronouncement: "I'm looking at two-state and one-state, and I like the one that both parties like. I can live with either one." His U.N. ambassador, Nikki Haley, the next day insisted, "We absolutely support a two-state solution." Trump's days are busy. Outside groups troop in for "listening sessions." Foreign leaders call or come to visit. 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Trump shouldn't mistake the fact that some of his supporters like his style with the fact that a lot of Republicans just want the policies he promised them. He has to deliver that." Put Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., in the camp of those more interested in substance than style. "I'm not a great fan of daily tweets," McConnell said Friday, referring to the "extra discussion" that Trump likes to engage in. But McConnell was quick to add: "What I am a fan of is what he's been actually doing." He credits Trump with assembling a conservative Cabinet and taking steps to reduce government regulation, and promised: "We like his positions and we're going to pursue them as vigorously as we can." The challenge may be to tease out exactly what Trump wants in the way of a health care plan, tax changes and trade policy. 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