Thursday, February 07, 2008

Harkin Spots 'Dark Clouds' over Clinton Campaign

Citing reports that Hillary Clinton loaned her campaign $5 million before Super Tuesday, the officially "neutral" U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, today said that financial revelation placed "dark clouds" over Team Clinton, perhaps showing that the presidential candidate from New York is in some measure "running on fumes."

According to the Associated Press, Clinton acknowledged Wednesday that she loaned her campaign $5 million late last month as Obama was outraising and outspending her heading into the Feb. 5 Super Tuesday contests.

"That's very interesting," Harkin told Iowa Independent and other media on a conference call Thursday. "And that's before Super Tuesday. You wonder if their campaign is running on fumes."

Harkin added, "I think there are some real dark clouds there on that."

A veteran U.S. senator, Harkin -- who is also a superdelegate at the Democratic National Convention in Denver in late August -- continued to tell reporters he was neutral and at one point joked that he would not reveal his hand regardless of how "ingenious" media members were with framing their questions to Harkin on the matter.

"I haven't made up my mind yet," Harkin said. "I'm still neutral in this race and I intend to stay that way."

Harkin did not endorse a candidate before the 2008 Iowa caucuses -- as he did in 2004 when Harkin stood behind third-place finisher Howard Dean on the stage during the infamous speech by the Vermonter, now the head of the Democratic National Committee.

Having known Harkin since the 1970s (he helped secure certain details of my little sister's arrival as a Vietnamese immigrant) I told the senator my instinct is that he's an Obama man.

"I'm neutral," Harkin said.

But moments later he made a number of statements that might indicate otherwise. The senator even went so far as to suggest that U.S. Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., might be better prepared for the presidency than Clinton because he has served both as a federal and state legislator.

"Don't discount that," he said of Obama's time in the Illinois Senate. "That's sort of down at the nitty gritty level where you really have to work with people."

Harkin also noted that Hillary Clinton (elected in 2000) has been in the Senate just four years longer than Obama (elected in 2004).

"Four years, does that make that much difference?" Harkin asked.

Said Harkin: "I think they both have the necessary experience and background."

I asked Harkin if the superdelegate process was fair, if it in fact amounted to some "netherworld, English House of Lords" elitist process that could negate the will of regular people -- people Obama and Clinton have been fighting for to gain at times is a razor's edge of advantage in some places.

"Maybe this is something the Democratic Convention ought to look at," Harkin said.

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