BARACK OBAMA has a realistic chance to be the Democratic nominee for president. As the only white employee at a Detroit civil rights organization years ago, I am moved by this remarkable moment in our nation's history.
But as a media consultant to Democrats, I am worried. I want to know more about Obama. And I want to know it now, not in the fall when the Republicans and their thugs in "independent" groups start slinging the sludge.
Who's this slumlord? While running as a reformer, Obama has had a 17-year relationship with an indicted Chicago con man who's going on trial for fraud, extortion, and money laundering. ABC News found that Obama has been close to Antoin "Tony" Rezko, a major slumlord and wheeler-dealer who used minority set-asides and community groups as fronts to win government contracts.
As a state senator, Obama wrote letters to the city and state backing Rezko's successful bid to get $14 million in tax money to build senior citizen housing that wasn't in Obama's district.
ABC and the Chicago Sun-Times both found that Obama asked for and got Rezko's help in buying land neighboring Rezko's property for $300,000 below the asking price. When the deal became public, Obama said it was a mistake that he regrets. He may not be done regretting it.
The Sun-Times has learned that Obama is the unnamed political candidate in the federal indictment against Rezko. His US Senate campaign got $10,000 out of quarter-million-dollar scheme engineered by Rezko.
Obama's dealings with Rezko took place while it was well known that Rezko was under investigation by US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, who sent Scooter Libby to jail. Rezko goes on trial Feb. 25, three weeks after Feb. 5, when half of all the delegates will be chosen.
The gang of three. I worry that Obama will get pounded by the GOP for being one of only three state senators to vote against making it a crime for convicts on probation or bail to have contact with street gang members.
Keyes to victory. I'm worried that Obama has never had a tough race against a Republican. He became a US senator because both his primary and general election opponents imploded over ex-wives' recriminations. In order to beat the last-minute entrant, GOP goofball Alan Keyes, all Obama had to do was continue breathing.
No whining. I don't know how Obama's team will deal with the ceaseless attacks from the far right that the Clintons are used to (and dole out). How will they respond to the bilge from Fox news, Rush Limbaugh, Matt Drudge, and hate-filled talk radio?
Keeping the faith. Three crosses adorn an Obama mailer in South Carolina headlined "Committed Christian." It's packed with phrases such as "The Lord's work," "The Call," "Guided by his Christian faith." It's surely a response to an anonymous e-mail sleazing its way around the Internet claiming Obama is a Muslim (false) and was sworn into office on the Koran (false).
Hillary is no angel. We know a lot about Hillary Clinton: Whitewater, filegate, cattle futures, the Chinese dishwashers who wrote checks for $500 and $2,000 to her campaign, the money from Ponzi schemer Norman Hsu, the $100,000 to her Senate campaign from a sleazy marketing operator in Nebraska, who paid her husband $2 million for unspecified "consulting services."
As a result, we know they can take a bullet. And new revelations won't shatter anyone's illusions about the Clintons.
Her 40-point handicap. Hillary starts a general election with 40-some percent of voters against her. Besides diminishing her own chances, her high negative rating worries other Democratic candidates in close contests.
In "Glengarry Glen Ross," the sinister boss (Alec Baldwin) tells his salesmen about a contest. First prize is a Cadillac Eldorado. Second prize? A set of steak knives. Third prize? You're fired. John Edwards isn't getting the car or the cutlery.
The Spoiler. The only reason Michael Bloomberg is taken seriously as a potential independent candidate is his wealth. The vacillating, term-limited mayor of New York has the same position on abortion, handguns, same-sex marriage, immigration, Iraq, and the Bush tax cuts as Clinton and Obama. If he runs, he could siphon off enough votes from Democrats and independents to elect a Republican. How's this for an epitaph: "He stopped the first woman/African-American from becoming president."
Dan Payne is a Boston-area media consultant who has worked for Democratic candidates around the country.