Jan Schakowsky, an Illinois Congress woman, visited the White House with a congressional delegation, prior to the 2004 United States Senate primary election. Making her way out, she passed President Bush and the president literally jumped back on seeing “Obama” button pinned to her chest. Guessing what the president was thinking, she told him, “Mr. President, it is Obama with a “b”. Still, the president did not get it. The congresswoman briefly explained to Bush who Obama was. “Well, I don’t know him”, the president responded. Jan Schakowsky paused for a moment and then said to the president, “You will.”
The same conversation could have occurred with former President Bill Clinton and she could have responded the same way, “You will.”
The essential problem in this campaign for the Clintons is that they never, ever dreamed what a formidable opponent Barack Obama was going to be. They felt so entitled to recapture the “throne,” that it was not even conceivable to them that they could in any way be challenged.
And I tell you, minus Barack Obama in this race, we would be discussing Hillary Clinton’s strategy going into the General Election. I was there with Barack Obama in 2000 when he lost and deeply felt the pain of losing. I don’t ever recall taking losing so hard. I was “down in the dumps.” Yes, I was only involved with the campaign for two weeks. Two very intense weeks where we ate, drank and slept this campaign. While he lost the Congressional District, we delivered the eastern part of the 19th Ward for Obama by an overwhelming vote. Prior to March 7, 2000, nobody in the Eastern part of the 19th Ward ever heard of Obama. We spread the word quickly. The grassroots effort spread with unbelievable speed. Yet, he still lost. We could not help believing that with the right amount of time and planning, there was nothing he could not achieve.
When he ran for the United States Senate in 2004 (he actually announced in January of 2003) we believed from the beginning he would be elected the junior Senator from Illinois. We had the time and energy to spread his message of “change.” And clearly, it wasn’t just us. There were dozens of groups forming all across Chicago. Not just African-Americans, but whites, Greeks, Hispanic, Indians. It was the United Nations behind Obama. In fact, African-Americans were a little slow to get on board for a variety of reasons. Once African-Americans got on board, he had 95% support there.
The minute he won the United States Senate Democratic primary on March 16, 2004, I quickly realized that he had just catapulted onto the national stage. At his victory celebration, the national media were there in droves. CNN, MSNBC, CNBC, Fox, ABC News, CBS News, NBC News. All the print guys and gals. All the radio guys and gals. All wanting to interview Obama.
That was the day, March 16, 2004, that the Clintons should have at least begin to “See it Coming.” And now I say to them, “You will.”