Obama for Ireland?

DEMOCRATIC presidential contender Senator Barack Obama is likely to visit Ireland on an upcoming European trip, according to sources in his campaign. The news comes as details of an outreach to Irish supporters of Senator Hillary Clinton has became known.

This week a senior Obama advisor met with a major Clinton Irish supporter from Washington, D.C. in order to begin a process that the Obama campaign hopes will result in Clinton's Irish supporters lining up with their candidate.

At the meeting concern was expressed that among ethnic voters, many Irish and Italian Americans supporters of Clinton will desert the Democratic Party and vote for Senator John McCain.

"All the other ethnic groups appear to be coming in strong behind Obama but not the Irish or Italian," said the Clinton supporter who attended the get together.

With that in mind, a European trip by Obama that would take in both countries was put forward as a very likely first step in bringing Irish and Italian support behind the Obama run for president.

Obama would likely visit Dublin and possibly Belfast and Moneygall, the small Offaly town where his ancestor, Falmuth Kearney, sailed from in 1850. Among the issues that Obama would emphasize on such a trip would be to pay homage to the Celtic Tiger, lavish praise on the peace process and the role that President Bill Clinton and George Mitchell played, and announce a commitment to a special envoy such as President George W. Bush has kept in place.

In Offaly, no doubt he would speak about the importance of the Irish who emigrated to America and all that they achieved there.

Of course, the new Irish Taoiseach (Prime Minister), Brian Cowen, is also from the region, which makes for a great photo opportunity.

Biden in the Frame

THERE'S much talk of who Obama's vice president should be, but the influential EJ Dionne of The Washington Post has no doubt that it should be Senator Joe Biden of Delaware.

Dionne has few doubts that the Irish Catholic senator (his mother was a Finnegan from Derry) would be the right choice for Obama.

He writes, "Why Biden? In part because of where he took our discussion. Few Democrats know more about foreign policy, and few would so relish the fight against McCain on international affairs. Few are better placed to argue that withdrawal from Iraq will strengthen rather than weaken the United States.

"He was born in Scranton, Pennsylvania, an essential state for Democrats, and has been a regular in the Philadelphia media market. Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, himself a plausible number two, has called Biden 'a perfect fit.' The senator has been through two of his own presidential campaigns, in which he experienced what an acquaintance of his called the 'white-hot heat' of scrutiny."

Is it likely to happen? Possibly, especially if Obama decides that Clinton brings too much baggage, or that Governor Ted Strickland of Ohio is too colorless, or that Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico is so hated in the Hillary camp that he loses many of her voters.

In those circumstances Biden would certainly be a frontrunner, if not downright favorite.

Webb on the Radar

ANOTHER candidate being mentioned is Senator Jim Webb from Virginia, a key state that Obama seeks to win. Webb is Scots Irish and is the leading proponent of the need to win over Scots Irish voter in order to win the White House.

Webb did the entire Democratic field a huge favor two years ago when he defeated incumbent Senator George Allen, who was the red-hot favorite for the Republican nomination.

Webb's book about the Scots Irish, Born Fighting, is among the best ever written about the tribe.

As a Vietnam vet with a son who has served in Iraq, Webb would certainly help with the military issues that Obama will face. As against that, he is known to have a hot temper and to be frankly a little flaky at times.

But given that Virginia is a key swing state he is surely in with a shot. Indeed, Paddy Power bookmakers in Ireland rates him second favorite behind Clinton at 4/1. Clinton is 2/1 to step up to the veep slot.

Two Other Contenders

STRANGELY, Virginia has two Democratic VP possibilities, Irish American governor Tim Kaine, who came out early for Obama and helped deliver a smashing victory in the state for him, and former governor Mark Warner.

Warner, however, is down to run for the Senate seat in the state and is hardly likely to give that up at this stage.

Other Paddy Power prices include on the Democratic side Kathleen Sullivan Sebelius, governor of Kansas at 7/1, John Edwards at 16/1, and, if you really want long shots, Oprah Winfrey at 150/1 and Bill Clinton at 200/1.

On the Republican side, Mitt Romney and Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty are both 4/1, with Senator Lindsay Graham at 5/1 and Colin Powell at 50/1.