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Opinion: Ticket Takings: No cute dogs today but lotsa politics

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Some signs this morning that black support for Sen. Hillary Clinton is fracturing. The New York Times reports that in an interview Rep. John Lewis, a very influential black Georgia Democrat who endorsed Clinton last fall, has decided to switch to Sen. Barack Obama.

In a similar report early Friday the Associated Press was more cautious, quoting Lewis as praising Obama’s campaign and inspiration but stopping short of unendorsing Clinton for the Illinois senator. Either way, the apparent erosion presages serious trouble for the New York senator’s camp.

Speaking of endorsements, Sen. Barack Obama seems to have gotten one from a possibly unwelcome place. Daniel Ortega, the Soviet-backed Nicaraguan leader whose Sandinista forces battled U.S.-supported Contras there in the 1980s, says he sees ‘revolutionary’ change coming to the United States in the persona of Obama.

Speaking of Obama’s candidacy, Ortega, who was ousted in a 1990 election and then returned to the presidency in an election last year, says Obama forces ‘are laying the foundations for a revolutionary change.’

Ortega, who’s apparently seen Obama’s large campaign rallies, said he has ''faith in God and in the North American people, and above all in the youth, that the moment of great change in the U.S. will come and it will act differently, with justice and equality toward all nations.’'

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And despite polls showing most U.S. Latino voters support Sen. Hillary Clinton, Ortega called Obama a spokesman for the millions of impoverished Mexicans and Central Americans who’ve migrated to the United States in search of a future. These statements will be especially helpful for the Illinois senator in places like Arizona.

Meanwhile in Houston, where the Texas primary is set for March 4, Obama spokesmen still struggle to convince viewers that a scene captured by a TV news crew occurred in an unofficial Obama volunteer campaign office. Last week the camera filming joyous post-Super Tuesday Obama volunteers inadvertently showed a prominent wall decoration: the Cuban flag overlaid with a picture of deceased communist guerrilla leader Che Guevara.

Protests erupted immediately. In an on-camera interview with Channel 26 this week, Maria Isabel, who runs the office, was to explain the communist icon’s presence, when she developed sudden second thoughts and ran off-camera.

TODAY’S POLITICAL PANDER PRIZE goes to former Gov. Mike Huckabee, who’s still campaigning for the Republican nomination as Sen. John McCain continues to collect GOP endorsements. (Mitt Romney did his party duty Thursday and quietly got in line for 2012.)

Huckabee was in Wausau, Wis., where several people cheer for the Green Bay Packers. These fans apparently include a reporter for WJFW, obviously a real news professional who publicly promised Huckabee his vote if he’d don a Packers tie.

Huckabee, known more as a baseball fan (St. Louis Cardinals), said to do that would be the ultimate in pandering. And then he did it. Hey, you get votes any way you can when you’re that far behind.

Then Huckabee, along with The Times’ James Rainey, headed for....

Green Bay with the governor repeating the story of his 2004 pilgrimage to Lambeau Field there. (At least he got the name right; in 2004, Sen. John Kerry referred to the venerable football shrine as Lambert Field and convinced cheeseheads of his phoniness.)

RON PAUL UPDATE: If you look back over this long campaign, you realize that unlike most candidates, Rep. Ron Paul hardly ever mentions his wife, Carol, or his family.

But now the College Heights Herald of Bowling Green, Ky., has uncovered the lone member of the Paul family living outside Texas. He’s another R. Paul, Rand Paul, one of the 72-year-old, 10-term congressman’s five children, all of whom have been out campaigning for their father, who was very successful raising money for his run at the GOP presidential nomination but now faces a congressional primary back home on March 4.

Rand Paul is an ophthalmologist with two sons. He coaches youth basketball, has his father’s libertarian-like beliefs and just got back from campaigning in Montana. Like hundreds of commenters on this blog, Rand Paul also believes that widespread inattention to his father by U.S. media is responsible for his low vote totals. But he says his father -- and children -- will continue to campaign.

HERE’S A FUN ONE FOR POLITICAL JUNKIES: The Times’ Travel blog has a fresh, fascinating feature on hotels and their historical connections. Quick, where’d the term ‘smoke-filled room’ originate? In Chicago’s now-reopening Blackstone Hotel during the deadlocked GOP convention of 1920, when party bosses, puffing away, met to settle on Warren G. Harding. An Associated Press reporter threw the phrase into his story for a piece of color.

Or how about ‘lobbyist’? Washington’s Willard Hotel where President Ulysses S. Grant liked to hang out, fatally smoke cigars, sip some good whiskey and note all the political hangers-on loitering in the lobby. There’s more right here.

FOLO OF THE DAY: Remember the unhappy Portsmouth, N.H., landlord who finally went public last week with his complaints that Clinton campaign workers skipped on their rent and left his premises trashed? Terry Bennett, a local doctor, finally got his $500.

But apparently the Clinton campaign is better at taking in money than it is handing it out. The Portsmouth Herald reports, it’s now heard from other businesses around the country that have gone unpaid by the Clinton campaign.

Oh, and about that tardy $500 from the Clintons: Bennett decided to donate all of it to the Obama campaign.

-- Andrew Malcolm


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