Saturday, February 16, 2008

Obama finding help in, from South Dakota

Chicago used to be the place for political machines. But Illinois Senator and Presidential hopeful Barak Obama is building his apparatus with parts from South Dakota.

Former SD Senator Tom Daschle (D) is co-chair of Obama's national campaign. Sioux Falls Argus Leader political writer David Kranz reports that Daschle is credited with coaxing the recent Kennedy family endorsements for Obama.

Last week, Daschle was named as one of eight South Dakota "superdelegates" to the Democratic Party National Convention (Aug. 25-28 in Denver). The Democratic Party allows each state a number of uncommitted delegates. Usually, these are symbolic honors for state Party leaders. But, with Obama in a close race with Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY), the Convention could wind up deciding the candidate. Superdelegates could prove decisive.

South Dakota's superdelegates, inlcuding State Party Chair Jack Billion, support Obama. Daschle is a large exclamation point. Only Representative Stephanie Herseth-Sandlin is not a declared Obama supporter (she was for John Edwards). But Kranz reports that Herseth-Sandlin's most recent comments have favored Obama and been critical of Clinton.

Obama also has a cordial relationship across the aisle: South Dakota Republican Senator John Thune. At a 2005 interfaith meeting in Sioux Falls, I heard Thune describe Obama as someone capable of rising above DC's partisan pettiness. That same year, Thune and Obama went on CNN for a series of respectful debates. In 2006, they co-sponsored an alternative fuels bill.

Thune has endorsed GOP front-runner John McCain (AZ) for President. But, should Obama win the White House, the two young Senators seem to have a constructive working relationship.

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