John Howard


Obama Wins in Mississippi

Jeff Zelevansky/European Pressphoto Agency

Senator Barack Obama during a campaign stop at a factory in Fairless Hills, Pa., on Tuesday.

Published: March 12, 2008
Senator Barack Obama won Mississippi’s Democratic presidential primary on Tuesday, building his delegate lead over Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton in the final contest before the nominating fight heads to Pennsylvania for a six-week showdown.

 Back Story With The Times’s Jeff Zeleny (mp3)

The Crash On Obama Continues …

Mr. Obama’s victory was built on a wave of support among blacks, who made up half of those who turned out to vote, according to exit polls conducted by television networks and The Associated Press. The polls found that roughly 90 percent of black voters supported Mr. Obama, but only a third of white voters did.

With 99 percent of precincts reporting across Mississippi, Mr. Obama led Mrs. Clinton 60 percent to 37 percent.

“It’s just another win in our column, and we are getting more delegates,” Mr. Obama, of Illinois, said in declaring victory in an interview on CNN from Chicago, where he arrived Tuesday evening after spending the day in Mississippi and Pennsylvania. “I am grateful to the people of Mississippi for the wonderful support. What we’ve tried to do is steadily make sure that in each state we are making the case about the need for change in this country.”

Senator John McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee, won the primary for his party, taking him closer to the number of delegates needed to clinch the nomination, according to a count by The New York Times.

After a frenzied string of primaries and caucuses for more than two months, Mississippi was alone in holding its contest Tuesday, where 33 delegates were at stake. It was the last primary before a six-week interlude. The Pennsylvania primary on April 22 opens the final stage of the Democratic nominating fight, with eight states, Puerto Rico and Guam left to weigh in.

Mississippi offered Mr. Obama an opportunity to regain his footing after losing the popular vote to Mrs. Clinton last week in three contests, Ohio, Texas and Rhode Island. Mr. Obama had been expected to win resoundingly in Mississippi, a state where 36 percent of the population is black, the highest percentage in the nation. He has enjoyed strong support among black voters and won all the other contests in the Deep South by large margins.

While Mrs. Clinton, of New York, campaigned in Mississippi last week and former President Bill Clinton dropped in over the weekend, the Clinton campaign has mostly been looking ahead to Pennsylvania, with its 158 delegates at stake.

Mrs. Clinton was campaigning in Pennsylvania on Tuesday when Mr. Obama began the day with a final appeal for support in the Mississippi Delta. After having a scrambled-egg breakfast at Buck’s Restaurant in Greenville, he shook hands with those who had gathered outside the strip mall and urged people to vote.

“We need some jobs!” someone from the crowd called to Mr. Obama.

“I promise when I’m president of the United States, I’ll come back to the Delta,” Mr. Obama said. “You all keep me in your prayers, now.”

It is unclear how much difference the late campaigning had. The early surveys of voters, conducted by Edison Media Research and Mitofsky International, showed that 6 of 10 Democratic primary voters made up their minds more than a month ago.

In the final days of the primary race, Mrs. Clinton raised the idea that Democrats struggling to decide between the candidates could have it both ways, implying that Mr. Obama would make a suitable running mate.

Mr. Obama rejected that idea on Monday as he campaigned in Mississippi, telling voters, “With all due respect, I’ve won twice as many states as Senator Clinton.”

Still, according to preliminary exit polls, not all voters seemed eager to rule out the notion.

As voters left the polls on Tuesday, 6 in 10 Obama supporters said that he should select Mrs. Clinton for vice president if he won the nominating fight. And 4 in 10 Clinton voters said she should choose Mr. Obama if he she won.

As in many other states, an overwhelming share of voters said they were looking for change and were worried about the economy. Mr. Obama won the support of voters who listed those as their chief concerns, according to the surveys of voters.

Mississippi Democrats were twice as likely to say Mr. Obama inspired them about their future as opposed to Mrs. Clinton. Mr. Obama was more than twice as likely to be seen as honest.

Anita Nichols, who came to see Mr. Obama on the eve of the primary at Mississippi University for Women in Columbus, said she was delighted that voters in her state had an opportunity to be heard in the Democratic presidential contest. Ms. Nichols said she hoped a convincing Mississippi victory would nudge him along in the protracted fight.

“I’m praying that he wins; I really am,” Ms. Nichols said in an interview, an Obama button fastened to her lapel. “This country is ready for change, but it’s not just him. The president can only do so much. He’s got to surround himself with qualified people, and the citizens have to work, too.”

NewYork Times

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By LIZ KEENAN/SYDNEY

“Today Australia has looked to the future,” said the country’s newly elected Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, claiming victory for his Labor Party for the first time since 1996.

Poll after opinion poll had predicted a Labor triumph in national elections, but few had forecast its scale. Labor captured at least 22 seats from the ruling Liberal-National coalition — including, it appears, the northwestern Sydney seat held for the past 33 years by Prime Minister John Howard.

With 77% of votes counted in Sydney’s Bennelong district, Howard trailed by several hundred votes. In an emotional speech Nov. 24 Howard took full responsibility for the conservatives’ defeat. Then one of Australia’s most successful leaders — and one of President George W. Bush’s staunchest western allies — walked off the stage and into retirement.

A year ago, few even in his own party believed Rudd, a 50-year-old former diplomat and bureaucrat who has been in Parliament for only nine years, had a hope of overturning the P.M. Indeed, Howard had seen off four Labor opponents in a row. A prissy, bookish multimillionaire, Rudd was far from the stereotypical Aussie bloke.

But with the help of focus groups, public-relations advisers and expressions like “mate” and “fair dinkum,” he made himself over as a cooler, younger version of 68-year-old Howard: not a revolutionary, just a renovator. His slick, buzzword-driven campaign — “New leadership,” “fresh ideas,” “plans,” “the future” — took Labor’s popularity rating into the high 50s, and kept it there.

Pundits have spent much of the past year debating what the trend to Labor said about Australia.

In a country where voting is compulsory, elections turn on a dozen or so marginal seats, where small shifts in voter sentiment can make or break governments.

There was reason to think swinging voters would applaud Howard: Australia is in its 16th successive year of economic growth, and unemployment and interest rates are the lowest since the ’70s.

“This is the first defeat of a government in decades where there was no evident anger or public rage,” said Liberal Senator Michael Baume. Instead there was ennui.

Many voters were tired of Howard, and unexcited by Treasurer (now Opposition leader) Peter Costello, 50, who was due to take over from Howard in 2009.

There were also concerns about small interest-rate rises, new industrial relations laws, health care and education, and — in a period of drought — water and climate change.

Australian elections have become increasingly presidential, and Labor cast this one as a two-man race: Kevin vs John, youth vs age, the future vs the past. A vote for Rudd was a vote for someone new. But not too different. Cartoonists drew Rudd as a mini-Howard.

A satirical video on YouTube cast the Chinese-speaking Labor leader as Chairman Mao, with subtitles reading: “Rudd unnerve decrepit Howard with clever strategy of ‘similar difference.'” Rather than attacking Howard’s strengths, Rudd appropriated them. “I am not a socialist,” Rudd insisted. “I am an economic conservative.”

On issue after issue, from federal intervention in dysfunctional Aboriginal communities, to national security, to the expansion of coal and uranium mining, Rudd adopted the government’s line. The new P.M. is likely to go Howard’s way on foreign policy, too.

What he described as “fundamental differences” with Howard — his vows to ratify the Kyoto Protocol on climate change and pull troops from Iraq — are largely symbolic. Though Australia is outside the Kyoto regime, the country has met its emissions targets. And on the question of a successor treaty to Kyoto, Rudd in mid-campaign abruptly took the Howard position: a Labor government would not ratify Kyoto II unless it required China and India to limit their emissions.

On Iraq, Rudd has moderated Labor’s earlier “pull-out-now” policy. He says he will bring home the 1,400 Australian troops in Iraq and the Gulf gradually, in a “negotiated, staged withdrawal.” He is prepared to send more troops to Afghanistan. Australia under Labor will remain a “rock solid” friend of the U.S., Rudd has said, but reserve the right to act “independently.”

Rudd, who spent eight years as a diplomat in Beijing, has criticized China’s human-rights record but appears more sympathetic to the People’s Republic than Howard. Rudd rejected the Howard government support of a potential alliance between the U.S., Australia, Japan and India, saying China would feel encircled.

As exultant Labor voters — “Eleven and a half years is just too long,” many said of Howard’s long run — cheered Rudd’s victory speech, some observers wondered whether he’ll maintain his Howard-like demeanor or whether, as left-wing commentator Robert Manne said during the campaign, “When he gets into government, then we’ll begin to see the differences again.” Australians who voted Labor only when Rudd moved toward the center may be hoping those differences are not too startling.

Source: Time Magazine 

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By Michael Perry  

SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australians began voting on Saturday in national elections to decide whether to end more than 11 years of conservative rule or give Prime Minister John Howard, who trails in opinion polls, a fifth term.

“Its in the hands of the people,” Howard said as he took his morning walk from his Sydney Harbor-side residence.

Howard, 68, again warned voters that if they elected a Labor government it would threaten Australia’s economic prosperity.”

The government to be chosen today will set the direction of the country for years into the future,” Howard said on YouTube Web site, in a pitch to young voters he has struggled to woo.

“So if you think the country is heading in the right direction don’t risk that right direction by changing the government,” he said.Howard, a staunch U.S. ally, has made a commitment to keep Australian troops in Iraq if re-elected. He has offered voters A$34 billion ($29 billion) in tax cuts, but few new policies.

In contrast, opposition Labor leader Kevin Rudd has pledged to withdraw combat troops from Iraq and sign the Kyoto Protocol on global warming, further isolating Washington on both.

The Mandarin-speaking former diplomat would also be expected to forge closer ties with China and other Asian nations.

An Australian commando died fighting the Taliban on Friday, the third soldier killed in recent months in Afghanistan.

Both Howard and Rudd want to keep troops in Afghanistan, but opinion polls show Australians opposed to operations in both Iraq and Afghanistan, and are losing faith in Howard’s tough security stance, which has won him previous elections.

Howard has been written off by opinion polls throughout the six-week campaign, with some predicting a landslide win for Rudd, after only 11 months as party leader.

But a Newspoll on Saturday had Labor only slightly in front.Howard risks becoming the first prime minister to lose his own seat in an election for 78 years.

Boundary changes have turned his blue-ribbon Sydney electorate, which he has held since entering parliament in 1974, into a marginal seat.”LAZARUS”Many voters of Asian origin see Howard as anti-immigration, due to his tough stance against boat people. An anti-Muslim leaflet distributed by his party in the closing days of the campaign may reinforce their belief.

Labor needs to win an extra 16 seats to take office and both Howard and Rudd say the election will be very close, possibly decided in a handful of marginal seats.Howard once described himself as “Lazarus with a triple bypass” for his ability to be resurrected from political defeat.

Even if he wins it will be his last hurrah, as he has promised to step down mid-term for his treasurer, Peter Costello.Rudd, 50, is offering voters a generational change, saying Howard is too old and tired to lead Australia.“I offer Australia new leadership for the future, a positive plan for the future because Mr Howard’s government’s best days now lay behind it,” Rudd said on Friday. “Mr Howard has gone stale in his government’s approach to the future.”

Howard has attacked Rudd’s lack of experience, insisting that a Labor government dominated by former trade unionists would wreck an economy which has recorded 17 years of growth and record unemployment.

He says that under his tenure, dominated by security and the economy, Australia has become more secure and stable.Since the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States, Australia has been on medium security alert.

Australia’s military in 2006 was at its highest operational level since the Vietnam War, with troops in Iraq and Afghanistan and elsewhere.

(Editing by Andrew Roche)

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