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Obama Watch: Another Hint of '08 Intent?

After yesterday's post on Barack Obama's visit to Iowa this weekend, another tidbit of information came to The Fix's attention that will certainly fuel even more chatter that the Illinois senator is seriously pondering a 2008 presidential bid.

Obama will be accompanied on the trip by Steve Hildebrand, considered one of the major "gets" for candidates eyeing the 2008 race due to his expertise as a field organizer and campaign manager. In 2000, Hildebrand managed Vice President Al Gore's Iowa caucus victory over New Jersey Sen. Bill Bradley. Four years earlier he ran the Midwest for the Clinton-Gore reelection effort.

Hildebrand also has considerable experience in Senate races. In 1986 he was the state finance director for Tom Daschle's first successful run for the Senate. In 1990 Hildebrand was deputy campaign manager for Ted Muenster's (D) unsuccessful bid against South Dakota Sen. Larry Pressler (R).

By 1998 Hildebrand was serving as political director at the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. In 2002 and 2004 he managed Senate races in South Dakota -- winning in 2002 with Tim Johnson and losing in 2004 with Daschle. Hildebrand now runs a political consulting company with fellow Senate operative Paul Tewes.

"I'm honored to be joining Senator Obama in Iowa at the Harkin Steak Fry," said Hildebrand. "With a record crowd in attendance, the more than 2,000 Iowa Democrats will get a real treat when they hear from the biggest star in American politics."

It's important to remember that Hildebrand is not signed on with Obama in any formal capacity. In fact, Hildebrand has been helping Daschle as he moves around the country exploring a White House bid of his own -- a longshot prospect at best.

But the presence of Hildebrand at Obama's side this weekend means that Obama will meet all the right movers and shakers in the state. As we have said before, although Obama is extremely inexperienced politically, a compelling case exists that he should run for president in 2008. The smart money is still on him waiting until 2012 or 2016, but this latest development has to give even those most pessimistic about an Obama '08 bid some pause.

By Chris Cillizza  |  September 15, 2006; 7:01 AM ET
Categories:  Eye on 2008  
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Next: The Line: Virginia Senate Seat Now in Play


Seems that we have the "total package" in Obama. He's an up & comer. Keep your eyes on him.

Posted by: | September 26, 2006 1:33 PM | Report abuse

Just name me one outstanding black leader of any country--past or present that was good for the his country ? Go ahead make my day. Africa is a mess and so is central America. Take Kofie Annus, A UN chairman, look at the mess he is responsible for .... What is needed is a native American---like Hugo Chevite (z)

Posted by: Fred on Toronto | September 22, 2006 11:19 AM | Report abuse

Just name me one outstanding black leader of any country--past or present that was good for the his country ? Go ahead make my day. Africa is a mess and so is central America. Take Kofie Annus, A UN chairman, look at the mess he is responsible for .... What is needed is a native American---like Hugo Chevite (z)

Posted by: Fred on Toronto | September 22, 2006 11:18 AM | Report abuse

Obama---I read an article on him last week and it noted that he was born in Africa and came to USA at 15 age. This guy has some dark secerts and was a stoog for the CIA. Sorry ,folks--he is no democrat but a republican spie. Check out the election in his state and his support of Bush. I'd be very careful of Hilary. Just as we voted for junior Bush--- now maybe a wife--who's next--President's nannie /Laughing stock ofthe world !

Posted by: archers | September 22, 2006 11:11 AM | Report abuse

Someone has commented that this country is not ready for a black President. Is Obama black? If I'm not wrong, he's neither black nor white.

Peter S

Posted by: Peter S | September 18, 2006 8:53 AM | Report abuse

Someone has commented that this country is not ready for a black President. Is Obama black? If I'm not wrong, he's neither black nor white.

Posted by: Peter S | September 18, 2006 8:50 AM | Report abuse

Obama for President 08!

Posted by: Peter S | September 18, 2006 8:43 AM | Report abuse

"This country is not ready for a black President. It may never be ready for one?" I have to steal a page from "Kinky" Friedman's campaign and borrow his slogan for governor of Texas: Why the Hell not? Isn't that great: "Kinky for governor, why the Hell not? Haha, that's great. Well, why aren't we ready for a black President? I will tell you this, in 1996 Republican's were ready to nominate Colin Powell as their candidate and run him against Bill Clinton. In 2008, Rice and Obama have a chance if they really decide to run. I don't think either of them will, but if either of them did I would give it consideration for my vote. As a Republican, I will tell you that I like Obama. He has charisma that can make a great candidate. He is positive, upbeat (not typically democratic these days, barring Edwards) and at least tries to appear non-partisan. I think we all are a little partisan at heart, right folks? I know I am! But, I like Obama. I loved his speech at the Democratic National convention when we was wired and said something to the extent of "I have gay friends in red states and hunters who own guns in blue states." He's right on that. I think he would try and cross lines to strike a nice balance of policy. Rice has established a very conservative record on defense...although we know very little else about her views on anything else. I, personally, think she's highly intelligent (which is usually a turn-off for us Republicans) and she's black (another turn off for us Republicans). I like her, and would definately give her a chance. I know other Republicans who would also. Now, I can't get over reports that she has had an affair with President Bush....okay. I have to laugh my ass off at that one. Now CNN has reported lately that she's into her Canadian counter-part. He's a single guy and she's a single woman...who's business is that but their own? It amazes me that they are all up into Condi's love life, it's a laughable concept with not much merit. In any event, I'd definately vote for a black President. How many of you would actually disqualify a candidate for being black? If any of you would, this is a sick world in which we live!

Posted by: reason | September 17, 2006 11:22 PM | Report abuse

I just returned from the Harkin Steak Fry and what a crowd and what a reaction to Obama! The fairgrounds were swarming with Democrats and reporters. Obama tried to sit down to eat a steak with Culver and Harkin and could barely get the room to do so as folks crowded in for autographs and handshakes. He created a tremendous buzz in West Indianola earlier today.

Also ran into Gov. Mark Warner who made the point that 'everything starts in Iowa' -- a not so veiled reference to his intentions.

Great afternoon.

Posted by: QC Democrat | September 17, 2006 10:52 PM | Report abuse

I am quite supportive Senator Obama and what he is about. I think that he is looking at all of his options and isn't really interested in running in '08. If he remembers his history, he will note that shortly after Virginia Governor L. Douglas Wilder won his election in 1989, he tried to run for President in 1992. It was a bad mistake and should never have been done in the first place. The senator will do well to wait in '08, run for re-election and then if he so decides in '12 go ahead and run for higher office.

Posted by: Walt | September 16, 2006 4:55 PM | Report abuse

I got lucky and was able to capture Barack Obama on video. His speach was very inspiring.Feel free to use it in any manner you see fit. The video is on my blog.
The Hillbilly

Posted by: jim | September 16, 2006 8:45 AM | Report abuse

"the Kerry-Edwards ticket was not compelling enough to earn my vote, so I went 3rd party."

How arrogantly impotent for our democracy.

Really accomplished a lot by that, huh?

Third Parties might be a great idea for a future scenario, but for the past 6 years, they have been nothing more than a tool of the rogues you yourself condemn.

Posted by: JEP | September 15, 2006 10:49 PM | Report abuse

Sad state of affairs if the potential presidential candidates be judged by the above comments.

I suppose the proponents of Obama, Edwards and sort of Feingold, are like the Chicago Bears fans. The best Bears quarterback is always the guy on the bench. The Next best quarterback is the guy who plays for somebody else.

Gore. Nope.Retread
Hillary. Hot/Cold. Not a chance. Divisive, but raises money like a champ. But she still has Bill.
Kerry. Nope. Retread. and He still has Teresa.
Edwards. Nope. Just another Pretty face.
Feingold. The Democratic Bullpen's Southpaw. Anyone remember George McGovern? Not in 2008.

All of them get blown away if John McCain runs. Can you believe that he's going to be what 72 in 2008. That's older than the Gipper when he got elected.

OBama stands out. And he can project an image that distinguishes his reform agenda from McCain's reform agenda.

Posted by: poor richard | September 15, 2006 3:50 PM | Report abuse

Chris is not mentioning today that he still is not clear about Obama's nationality.
Yesterday he said that Obama was from Kenya, which he is not. I guess old Chris does not have someone check out his facts, or maybe he still believes that Obama IS from Kenya.
Hey, just asking.

Posted by: Ed | September 15, 2006 3:28 PM | Report abuse

Edwards can't hold that lead until January 2008.

Posted by: An Iowan | September 15, 2006 3:08 PM | Report abuse

This comment:
"I agree that Hillary Clinton looks like an overwhelming front-runner. However, she is an incredibly divisive figure." deserves a reply.

Connie says: Hillary has high negatives of over 40% who will not vote for her/have an unfavorable view of her.

ON CNN: people on the street were asked about her running for president. It was split with the women as well who said NO WAY.

Whether our nation will ever have a woman or a black as president is debateable. Right now I want THIS president to succeed and could care less about Obama or Condi or Hillary. I did hear Condi on the Rush Limbaugh show and she was standing up for our president. If she runs, I might consider her, but right now I am worried over the McCain and Powell attacks to undermine our president. I just want to keep the Republicans in charge for the rest of the term.

Posted by: Conservative Connie | September 15, 2006 2:57 PM | Report abuse

typo. set the machine so the cnadidate can't lose. I type too fast.

Posted by: zippy | September 15, 2006 2:12 PM | Report abuse


The insightful and well researched academic report on the Diebold machines missed the point. It was obviously written by very knowledgable computer people.

In the real world, Thems thats gots the machines controls the votes. The folks that have the machines in their control don't have to do devious things like use viruses and sophisticated things like that.

The have an RNC programmer come in an set the vote totals so the favored canmdidate can't win.

Thats why as long as Blackwells people in Ohio and Jebs folks in Florida administer the state's voting and control the machines, their candidate will win everytime.

A story from my youth in a Chicago Project's polling place in 1972 (This is under Richard the First). Car pulls up. Two guys grab the ballot box. Throw it in the trunk and drive away. Cop on duty sat, shrugged and smiled.

A less sophisticated method of adjusting vote totals if someone is worried about vote totals.

Now its done electronically.

Posted by: zippy | September 15, 2006 2:11 PM | Report abuse

This country is not ready for a black president. It may never be ready for one.

Posted by: candide | September 15, 2006 12:55 PM | Report abuse

JEP calls me out with "Just wondering, who WOULD you support for President in 08'? You project a veiled negativity towards these Democrats we are talking about...
If you were to make some positive statements about someone you approve of, we might get an idea of why you seem determined to reply negatively to every pro-Edwards or Obama post.

We know you think Edwards and Obama are a couple greenhorns, that has been well determined. But instead of naysaying, and pointing out all the pitfalls to youth in politics, if you really are a Democrat, lets hear some positive comments about your choice of candidates."

A) I am not a Democrat. I am likewise not a Republican. If either party could offer a qualified candidate, they'd get my vote. In 2000, I was rooting for McCain, but the Republican nutjobs screwed up that election & the subsequent 6 years. Bradley might have been a compelling candidate then as well, but now we'll never know. In 2004, I might've been able to support Dean or Clark. While I was rooting for Kerry over Bush, the Kerry-Edwards ticket was not compelling enough to earn my vote, so I went 3rd party.

For 08, I am most interested in Feingold. This country sorely needs a politician with deeply held convictions, who's not afraid to stand up for them. McCain, by comparison, has lost some of his luster - he'd be a huge improvement over Bush, but I'm hoping for a better alternative in 08.

I think Edwards & Obama are candidates of deeply held convictions, but I do not think either is currently capable of winning the general election. I disparage them not because of their positions on the issues, but because I don't think they can win. If the Dems nominate one (or both) I might be compelled to vote for them in the general, but I'm not convinced that either is the best person for the job, because neither has yet prooved capable of accomplishing anything (unlike Feingold).

For Hillary, I feel like she's qualified and could be a great President - except she has so much baggage that would get in the way. Again, its not her fault, but that is the reality of the situation. A Hillary nomination would continue tearing this country apart.

For Condi, she's emminently unqualified. There is no compelling reason to vote for her. Send her to the NFL, which is apparently where she'd prefer to be anyway.

Posted by: bsimon | September 15, 2006 12:37 PM | Report abuse

JEP: your post about Hillary doing the job she was elected to do goes like this "Doing the job she was elected to do i.e. Serving the folks in the state of NY." and just like you am going back to the new fix but got side tracked by the news conference by GW. Any way that is what "she was elected to do". A good job by any standard.

Posted by: lylepink | September 15, 2006 12:25 PM | Report abuse


- A short lived comet in a starry night.

Posted by: Mandy | September 15, 2006 12:00 PM | Report abuse

Ah yes, the 2008 debate. Do you people realize the first 2008 poll was taken and reported back in October 2004? Could it be that the polling groups knew Kerry was a loser and wanted to start focus on the next race?

The Marist poll reported back in Feb. 2005 that McCain, Guiliani, and Condi Rice were the top tier contenders at 20% apiece. The media turned around and said it was just name recognition. Well, here we are today, in Sept 2006 and who are the top contenders? McCain, Condi and Rudy. Forbes gave Condi the status of 2004 and 2005 as the most powerful woman in the world. (Now she is the second most influential/powerful
woman in the world after German PM Merkel)

Some say Condi is being groomed for higher office. So the debate in my viewpoint is whether she will be the next president or the next VP.

Thanks for keeping the 2008 discussion on the FIX. Interviews and speculation has been buzzing for 2 years, so why stop now?

Posted by: Tina | September 15, 2006 11:59 AM | Report abuse

Tom Daschle was exploring a run for president in 2004, and when Judy Woodruff of CNN interviewed Tom and wife Linda, he was sqirming in his seat. I think it finally realized that Linda's work as a lobbyist for Boeing and moving from a $1 million mansion to a $3 million mansion was a reminder to me that the people of his own state ( South Dakota) booted him out of the Senate.

He would have to turn over his tax records and with the lobbying problems of Boeing, he could not survive the stink. Remember this Darlene Dryun person who was in the Pentagon and got convicted for using the OIL TANKER LEASING as leverage for her own children to get jobs and other payoffs?

Tom Daschle can't survive being investigated, so he is not running for president. You can bet on it.

John F Kennedy, the last Senator elected directing to the office of president (without being VP first) was also in the House for a few years, had been running in 1956 for president. Obama had only been in office for 2 years, so he is not going to be seen as presidential material in his first term. (Most people just don't support senators who lack executive experience)
Senators want to act like a president (look at McCain) but they have a record of votes which people can use to force them into a corner. (look at Kerry "I voted for it before I voted against it)
Who talks like that?

Tom Daschle was mentioned for 2008, but he has nothing to offer today. He should help either Gore or Hillary, because Tom is going nowhere.

Posted by: Cheryl | September 15, 2006 11:48 AM | Report abuse


Just wondering, who WOULD you support for President in 08'? You project a veiled negativity towards these Democrats we are talking about.
There are few Democrats I would actively blog "against," maybe Lieberman.
If you were to make some positive statements about someone you approve of, we might get an idea of why you seem determined to reply negatively to every pro-Edwards or Obama post.

We know you think Edwards and Obama are a couple greenhorns, that has been well determined. But instead of naysaying, and pointing out all the pitfalls to youth in politics, if you really are a Democrat, lets hear some positive comments about your choice of candidates.

Again, let me state, in this day and age, political inexperience may well be an asset.

And putting folks like Hildebrand on the same page with Obama makes up for miles of inexperience, so I would be careful suggesting that only a "seasoned" politician can make the grade, sometimes that seasoning gets a little rank.

Posted by: JEP | September 15, 2006 11:05 AM | Report abuse

Just one note about Hillary, before The Line arrives;

Some people on this blog call her divisive, but I would suggest she has quite steadfastly represented her own constituency rather than her own opinions, and that is what a really good leader is all about.

So when someone suggests she has chameleon characteristics, I say that is her job. She has represented her constituents according to their needs, not her own national political needs, so she deserves some respect for doing the job she was hired by the voters to do; represent their will.

It hasn't helped her with her own base, especially in terms of national politics.
Simple logic suggests she considers her current Senate realities to be more important than her own presidential aspirations.

And that deserves our respect, whether we agree with her war policy or not.

Posted by: JEP | September 15, 2006 10:51 AM | Report abuse

Like I said yesterday, what the Caped Composer just listed as needs for Obama still exist as needs for Edwards.

"I said it yesterday and I'll say it again today . . . I think he's fantastic, but he needs more experience before he runs for the White House. Right now, those who are enamored of his presidential prospects are more taken with the concept of him, and with his positive image, than with actual substance. Let him accumulate a list of accomplishments"

He's spending his time making speeches & building a campaign organization. All of which is exactly what he needs to do to win the nomination. But what has he done to win the general? The guy still lacks a list of accomplishments he can point to and say "This is what I've done as XYZ, and its what I'll do as President." The guy is trying to make too big a jump. What it takes to win the Dem nomination is not the same thing it takes to win the general, as has been nakedly apparent for the last 2 Pres elections.

Posted by: bsimon | September 15, 2006 10:47 AM | Report abuse

Ditto, JimD's last post...
I'm hooked.

Posted by: JEP | September 15, 2006 10:45 AM | Report abuse

JimD, I understand the need for '08 info. I'm just as much a political junkie as anyone here, and earlier this year, when the '06 cycle wasn't imminent, I was hankering for '08 speculation, too. But now that the last big primary has passed, and we're heading into the final months of the midterm, my "fix" is for '06!

(Regarding Obama . . . I said it yesterday and I'll say it again today . . . I think he's fantastic, but he needs more experience before he runs for the White House. Right now, those who are enamored of his presidential prospects are more taken with the concept of him, and with his positive image, than with actual substance. Let him accumulate a list of accomplishments, as a senator and, perhaps, governor of Illinois, or a cabinet post if the Dems win in '08. His time will come, but 2008 is too soon for Barack Obama.)

Posted by: The Caped Composer | September 15, 2006 10:39 AM | Report abuse

"Because Iowa Dems love Bill,"

Edwards' penchant for populism is often compared to Clinton's.

And you are wrong about Hillary getting a bye on the war issue in Iowa. However, I would guess she will assuage her message over the next year to match the general public more closely, instead of her own, more war-supportive NY constituency, which is quite rightly protective of Israel.

The more secure Israel is in the Middle East, the less hawkish Hillary has to be about Iraq, so that piece of the puzzle will probably have changing dimensions based on political realities that few, if any of us, can predict.

The fact is, Iowa really likes Edwards, even those who do not openly support him give him a positive nod. About the only Iowans I met who weren't friendly about Edwards and his family were Republicans.

...something about him has them worried.

Posted by: JEP | September 15, 2006 10:32 AM | Report abuse

Caped Composer -

I agree we should be concentrating on '06, but presidential politics is like a drug to us political junkies. It is no accident that this blog is called "The Fix".

Posted by: JimD in FL | September 15, 2006 10:29 AM | Report abuse

Where's the Friday line? Why all this '08 speculation when we've got some serious '06 business on our hands? The slate for '08 cannot accurately be determined until the fallout of '06 is clear, so bring on the line!

Posted by: The Caped Composer | September 15, 2006 10:29 AM | Report abuse

I agree that Hillary Clinton looks like an overwhelming front-runner. However, she is an incredibly divisive figure. I live in a very red portion of a state that leans red. Hillary is widely detested even by people who barely follow politics. She is perceived as practically a socialist. I know that most liberals see her as a moderate but they are a minority.

Posted by: JimD in FL | September 15, 2006 10:27 AM | Report abuse

Thanks Judge, you and Jeff pretty well are thinking along the same line as me. There is little doubt that Edwards is in front in Iowa, the folks know him from a few years back and he is a very charming in person.Give him that,you must remember he is associated with the "loser" tag. The repubs will eat him alive. Just noticed GW holding a press conference around 11:30 this morning. As I mentioned earlier, GW is who we should be focusing on and the rebuke he suffered yesterday. For the younger folks out there are beginning to see how the complete incompent prosecutation of the war in Iraq has been handled and this administrations continueing efforts to link it with the "war on terror" is finanally getting to the American People. No way we should let the pressure off in the least, but put as much more as we possibly can. Use the video clips "we would do the same thing again" knowing what we know now. These folks can not realize just how much they have hurt this country, or is it they just don't care?

Posted by: lylepink | September 15, 2006 10:24 AM | Report abuse

I think alot depends on who the Republican nominee is. Obama's main chip is his personal likability. If McCain gets the nomination, I think Obama (or Richardson) might be the only candidate with the likability to beat him. But if a weaker Rupblican nominee gets the nod, like Romney or Maccaca, then I think the argument for Obama weakens because a personable nominee is less important

Posted by: Joey | September 15, 2006 10:22 AM | Report abuse

A Hillary nomination is another likely Dem loss in 08. Even if she were to win, this country would continue down the path of bitter, divisive politics. Hillary running for Pres will be bad for America. It has nothing to do with her credentials; its the sad result of 15 years of GOP attacks.

Posted by: bsimon | September 15, 2006 10:21 AM | Report abuse

I have to agree with the posters who admire Obama but do not see him as a viable candidate in 08.

Posted by: JimD in FL | September 15, 2006 10:20 AM | Report abuse

Iowa may seem smitten with Edwards, but he is just dating Iowa, Iowa won't marry him.

When all is said and done, Hillary will be the bride. Why? Because Iowa Dems love Bill, and he will unleash a charm campaign. And, many Iowa Dems also love Hillary, regardless of her stand on the Iraq war.

Unless Gore runs.... then all bets are off especially if Obama is his VP choice. Hints in that direction could leave Hillary at the altar.

Any other Iowans who agree with me?

Posted by: Truth Hunter | September 15, 2006 10:11 AM | Report abuse


Posted by: Iowa | September 15, 2006 10:04 AM | Report abuse

I'm sortof with eltibu. Though don't see Feingold's name as a big, flashing negative. Obama running for Pres in 08 would be shooting himself in the foot. He should play it cool & try to get something done, to which he can attach his name, before making a strong run later. Or accept a VP nomination, but don't take it as a consolation prize in the run for Pres.

Posted by: bsimon | September 15, 2006 10:01 AM | Report abuse

b.e.s., Chris said earlier this week that there would be a Friday line on the Senate. Hopefully it won't be too much longer.

Posted by: Zathras | September 15, 2006 9:59 AM | Report abuse

I'm all for the '08 speculation and everyone should definitely read up on the Diebold problems, but it's Friday, aren't we supposed to have a line?

Posted by: b.e.s. | September 15, 2006 9:45 AM | Report abuse

Hey, gang, Che's post this morning may be too long for some of you, but try to read the whole thing, it is absolutely essential for democracy that we regard this information and act on it.

Election fraud is no small matter, in Minnesota for instance, there's a Secretary of State battle going on that pits a populist, voting rights activist Democrat against a Republican who is reminiscent of Blackwell in Ohio in 04' and Harris in Florida in 02', and if we do not keep these anti-voting Republicans out of office, we will see the same shenanigans in Minnesota.

You can find the whole story at this link,
but suffice it to say, this is ground zero in the battle for our future voting rights.

Posted by: JEP | September 15, 2006 9:39 AM | Report abuse

I think quite well of Barack Obama but do not believe his becoming a candidate in '08 for President is viable. Better he learn and bide his time, it may come, but not in '08. The Dems had better find acceptable candidates soon for both President and Vice President. At this time I do not see any. Hillary, Kerry, Gore, do not stand a chance. Feingold may, however with the Jewish name, it may hold him back.

Posted by: eltibu | September 15, 2006 9:30 AM | Report abuse

From Jeff-for Progress' post at 9:03

"Also, Edwards is currently leading in Iowa, so there may an opportunity for cooperation on this front as well."'s the key post this morning, watch this unfold into some early and productive unity between potential candidates and Democrats in general.

Iowans really like Edwards, he has been the poll-leader in the Tall Corn State for months. The Iowans I know who have met him and his family seem sincerely moved by his JRE's, and are all now committed to helping him towards the 08' date.

From what I have heard, if you don't want to support Edwards, don't ever meet him personally. When you do, you might be inspired to revise your loyalties.

And Obama is such a close neighbor,(Illinois) he, too is very popular with the Iowans who know about him, especially the young Democratic Party activists and volunteers in their field HQ across from the Des Moines airport. Obama is one of the young Democrats' favorite figures across the blogs, too.

Barack hooking up with Hildebrand bodes well for the whole Democratic party, it puts a youthful character on a tired process. Hildebrand's "loss" in South Dakota with Daschle makes him one of the most savvy organizers in the game, he has seen the best and the worst of the Republican political gang, and should be Obama's best asset, outside his own eloquence and personability.

So expect Obama to get a very warm welcome in Iowa, and also expect him to come away with considerable political capitol. It may be early to prognosticate, but as far as Iowa goes, Edwards/Obama could be the beginning of an era of positive, progressive and non-partisan politics.

Posted by: JEP | September 15, 2006 9:28 AM | Report abuse

How to steal the next election using the Diebold AccuVote-TS voting machine or others like it

By Rev. Bill McGinnis

Researchers at Princeton University have released a new "Security Analysis of the Diebold AccuVote-TS Voting Machine," which finds many possibilities for election fraud in these particular voting machines. Their report also recognizes that similar problems likely exist with other direct recording electronic (DRE) voting machines, saying, "Simply put, many computer scientists doubt that paperless DREs can be made reliable and secure, and they expect that any failures of such systems would likely go undetected."

Here is a direct quotation from this report, describing some of the ways by which the next election could be stolen (most footnotes removed) . . .

2.2 Injecting Attack Code

"To carry out these attacks, the attacker must somehow install his malicious software on one or more voting machines. If he can get physical access to a machine for as little as one minute, he can install the software manually. The attacker can also install a voting machine virus that spreads to other machines, allowing him to commit widespread fraud even if he only has physical access to one machine or memory card."

2.2.1 Direct Installation

"An attacker with physical access to a machine would have least three methods of installing malicious software. The first is to create an EPROM chip containing a program that will install the attack code into the machine's flash memory, and then to open the machine, install the chip on its motherboard, and reboot from the EPROM.

"The second method is to exploit a back door feature in Diebold's code to manually install the attack files from a memory card. When the machine boots, it checks whether a file named explorer.glb exists on the removable memory card. If such a file is present, the machine boots into Windows Explorer rather than Diebold's BallotStation election software. An attacker could insert a memory card containing this file, reboot the machine, and then use Explorer to copy the attack files onto the machine or run them directly from the card.

"The third method exploits a service feature of the machine's bootloader. On startup, the machine checks the removable memory card for a file named fboot.nb0. If this file exists, the machine replaces the bootloader code in its onboard flash memory with the file's contents. An attacker could program a malicious bootloader, store it on a memory card as fboot.nb0, and reboot the machine with this card inserted, causing the Diebold bootloader to install the malicious software. (A similar method would create a malicious operating system image.)

"The first method requires the attacker to remove several screws and lift off the top of the machine to get access to the motherboard and EPROM. The other methods only require access to the memory card slot and power button, which are both behind a locked door on the side of the machine. The lock is easily picked -- one member of our group, who has modest locksmithing skills, can pick the lock consistently in less than 10 seconds. Alternatively, this slot can be reached by removing screws and opening the machine. Some attackers will have access to keys that can open the lock -- all AccuVote-TS machines in certain states use identical keys, there are thousands of keys in existence, and these keys can be copied at a hardware or lock store.

"A poll worker, election official, technician, or other person who had private access to a machine for as little as one minute could use these methods without detection. Poll workers often do have such access; for instance, in a widespread practice called 'sleepovers,' machines are sent home with poll workers the night before the election."

2.2.2 Voting Machine Viruses

"Rather than injecting code into each machine directly, an attacker could create a computer virus that would spread from one voting machine to another. Once installed on a single 'seed' machine, the virus would spread to other machines by methods described below, allowing an attacker with physical access to one machine (or card) to infect a potentially large population of machines. The virus could be programmed to install malicious software, such as a vote-stealing program or denial-of-service attack, on every machine it infected.

"When the machine is rebooted, it normally emits a musical chime that might be noticed during a stealth attack; but this sound can be suppressed by plugging headphones (or just a headphone connector) into the machine's headphone jack.

"To prove that this is possible, we constructed a demonstration virus that spreads itself automatically from machine to machine, installing our demonstration vote-stealing software on each infected system. Our demonstration virus, described in Section 4.3, can infect machines and memory cards. An infected machine will infect any memory card that is inserted into it. An infected memory card will infect any machine that is powered up or rebooted with the memory card inserted. Because cards are transferred between machines during vote counting and administrative activities, the infected population will grow over time.

"Diebold delivers software upgrades to the machines via memory cards: a technician inserts a memory card containing the updated code and then reboots the machine, causing the bootloader to install the new code from the memory card. This upgrade method relies on the correct functioning of the machine's bootloader, which is supposed to copy the upgraded code from the memory card into the machine's flash memory. But if the bootloader were already infected by a virus, then the virus could make the bootloader behave differently. For example, the bootloader could pretend to install the updates as expected but instead secretly propagate the virus onto the memory card. If the technician later used the same memory card to 'upgrade' other machines, he would in fact be installing the virus on them. Our demonstration virus illustrates these spreading techniques.

"Memory cards are also transferred between machines in the process of transmitting election definition files to voting machines before an election. According to Diebold, 'Data is downloaded onto the [memory] cards using a few [AccuVote] units, and then the stacks of [memory] cards are inserted into the thousands of [AccuVote] terminals to be sent to the polling places.'

"If one of the few units that download the data is infected, it will transfer the infection via the 'stacks of [memory] cards' into many voting machines."

You can download a complete copy of this report in PDF format by clicking here.

You can visit the report's main website at

Blessings to you. May God help us all.
Rev. Bill McGinnis is an Internet Christian minister, writer and publisher. He is director of, a small private think tank in Alexandria, Virginia, and all of its related websites, including,,, and His agenda is to help maximize the happiness and well-being of all people.

Posted by: che | September 15, 2006 9:17 AM | Report abuse

I could not disagree more with Intrepid Liberal about Obama's willingness to engage with religious folk. Listening to ordinary people's concerns and broadening the base is hardly a losing strategy. Socially ostracizing folks because of their beliefs (Obama is himself religious, so this would be ridiculous) just seems like some sort of perverse political correctness.

I've read Obama's address to the Spiritual Progressives and Sojourner Conferences and I am totally comfortable with it as a progressive humanist. That he engages with conservative religious folks as well, is that much more of a plus for me.

Obama defends the separation of church and state, but acknowledges that religious ethics play and have played an important part in American social movements from anti-slavery, to populist, to Civil Rights. Not talking to folks that don't fit a certain profile seems a page out of the Cheney-Bush Town Hall meeting by invitation only book.

Look at how the Bush team is attempting to rewrite history to make the anti-slavery movement part of the current rightwing Republican heritage. Kevin Phillips nails these folks right in American Theocracy, they resemble most the pre-Civil War southern Democrats, rather than the party of Lincoln. E.J. Dionne's observation that Democrats are expanding into Republican districts in the states carried by Lincoln is a further example, that we are becoming in part Lincoln Democrats. "With malice towards none, with charity for all," seems totally congruent with the Democratic party I believe in.

Just a further note about Hildebrand, it's interesting about his having a former Gore connection (he managed Gore's 2000 Iowa primary campaign). Also, Edwards is currently leading in Iowa, so there may an opportunity for cooperation on this front as well. For reasons too long to elaborate on here, I believe that Gore, Edwards, Obama, (and Biden) have the most to add to a progressive policy platform in 2008. Biden, I actually think of in non-partisan terms since national security should be a non-partisan affair, not the ultra-partisan travesty, Bush and Co. are making of it.

Posted by: Jeff-for-progress | September 15, 2006 9:03 AM | Report abuse

To add to lylepink's comment above: "Representative Peter T. King, Republican of New York and chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, said: "I just think John McCain is wrong on this. If we capture bin Laden tomorrow and we have to hold his head under water to find out when the next attack is going to happen, we ought to be able to do it." "

Let's see him say "If THEY capture my son or daughter tomorrow and THEY have to hold his/her heads under water to find out when the next attack is going to happen, THEY ought to be able to do it." Congressional Republicans do not understand the concept of principle; reciprocity is a b*tch. Hard to not give Bush credit for this know-nothing attitude.

Posted by: Judge C. Crater | September 15, 2006 8:41 AM | Report abuse

Obama is being poised to be "pressured" into the No. 2 slot of '08. That will give the "Muskie effect" (from early '68) to whoever is at the top of the ticket and take some of the wattage off that nominee. My bet is that he succumbs to the pressure late in '07, and starts publicly grooming for the 2nd slot by early '08.

Posted by: L.Sterling | September 15, 2006 8:39 AM | Report abuse

"Hildebrand has been helping Daschle as he moves around the country exploring a White House bid of his own -- a longshot prospect at best."

No doubt the GOP is salivating over that prospect. DON'T run, Tommy, DON'T run!

Posted by: Judge C. Crater | September 15, 2006 8:39 AM | Report abuse

CC: This Hildebrand guy does not change the fact that Obama will never get the 08 nod. No matter how much the speculation may be at this time, the only thing about this is to gain him a little more attention than he deserves. In real time this is not the best thing for the dems, any of them, to be doing by taking the spotlight off GW and the Iraq war. Least we forget the dems top priority is to take back the House and hopefully the Senate as well. By doing this when the attention should be on the rebuke of GW by the Senate repubs is not, in my opinion, a very good thing to be doing at this point in time. We have less than two months before the Nov. elections and by all means we should be getting together on a nation wide campaign. For the dems to not think of what happened in 94 is to their own disadvantage, use the war in Iraq, the folks growing disagreement, and this administrations admitted mistakes by going there and how it is being so badly handled.

Posted by: lylepink | September 15, 2006 8:13 AM | Report abuse

I must admit that I am surprised. I am also excited. Obama and Edwards are the only candidates with a strong message and that's what Democrats need. We need to shift the agenda and talk about the American Dream, how Republican policies abandon the poor, emaciate the middle class, and how our own vision restores America's promise for everyone.

Posted by: Yockel | September 15, 2006 7:38 AM | Report abuse

For all of Obama's charisma he appears to be infected already by the Washington culture. His comments recently about Democrats and religion played right into Republican hands and much of his statements the past year appear calibrated and mealy mouthed. Rather like Hilary Clinton. Perhaps his mega wattage will dwarf those failings but I'm hoping Democrats can do better. Feingold is preferable on principle. Edwards is preferable on populism.

Posted by: Intrepid Liberal Journal | September 15, 2006 7:32 AM | Report abuse

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