An elected official from US Senator Barack Obama’s home state of Illinois is trying to start a movement to draft Obama to run for President in 2008. Senator Obama, whose father was born in Kenya, is the only African-American currently serving in the US Senate. Illinois State Comptroller Dan Hynes is a fellow Democrat, whom Barack Obama defeated in the 2004 Illinois primary race for the US Senate nomination. Hynes says the former rivals are now good friends.
He told VOA English to Africa reporter Howard Lesser, “I did talk to him briefly. I wanted to let him know I was going to make a public statement urging him to run, and I didn’t want him to be caught off guard. He took it in stride, and said he was flattered. But he’s got to make this decision on his terms, and it’s one on which he’s going to consult with his family.”
Obama has said repeatedly he has no plans to run for President. But he has made recent campaign stops in Iowa and Maryland on behalf of other Democratic Party candidates and high-profile trips to crisis-ridden places in Africa and New Orleans, Louisiana. A presidential boost from television celebrity Oprah Winfrey last week on the Larry King Show, telecast internationally on the Cable News Network (CNN), may have helped the popular Senator make the list of contenders, alongside Democratic frontrunner, Senator Hillary Clinton and earlier party nominees Al Gore and John Kerry. Analysts and web bloggers note, however, that the nod from non-politician Oprah followed a question about whether she would consider a run for Chief Executive, with Barak Obama sharing the ticket as her Vice Presidential nominee. Winfrey, an Illinois resident, declined a presidential draft, but candidly said she would be happy to support her senator, Barack Obama.
State Comptroller Dan Hynes launched his Obama draft movement last month. He says he is trying to draft the Senator because he believes his unique qualities stir enthusiasm at campaign events, bring in new voters, and make him highly suited for the job.
"I think that over time, people have really grown in their respect for him, and I think he’s seeing first-hand just the type of electricity that’s out there, and hopefully, that’s causing him to reconsider,” says Hynes.
One of the skills the Illinois Comptroller believes Senator Obama would bring to the job of President is his foreign policy experience, drawn particularly from the time he spent living in Asia and his strong family ties to Africa.
“Barack is somebody who I think has a great deal of knowledge about international affairs. He certainly has a unique connection to the continent of Africa, and certainly, I think, that strengthens his foreign policy credentials. But more, I think, we saw when he visited Africa and as he’s served on various committees in the United States Senate that he has both a grasp of the issues, but also a vision for America as it relates to foreign policy,” he says.
If the first-term Senator Obama fails to capture the nomination, he will not be alone among African-American government leaders who have yet to prove they have the voter appeal to capture white middle-class voters in the Southern United States. Besides Oprah Winfrey, former and current US Secretaries of State Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice, both African-Americans, have also opted not to test the waters on draft movements to put them in the White House.
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