Obama enters the bubble

The presidential candidate is put under Secret Service protection.

Published May 3, 2007 9:34PM (EDT)

The Secret Service confirmed Thursday that its agents would now be protecting Barack Obama, placing the Illinois senator in the same type of security cordon that already envelops Hillary Clinton because of her status as a former first lady. Certainly, it should be no surprise that the first serious African-American presidential candidate warrants extra protection at an unprecedentedly early point on the political calendar. A spokesman for the Secret Service did say, "I'm not aware that it was based on any threat."

The political spin on all of this is that it makes John Edwards the only major Democratic candidate who boasts complete freedom of movement, a flexibility that can be a real advantage in the intimate campaign settings of Iowa and New Hampshire. Voters in these early states, while they may be understanding, do not relish shaking hands with candidates across Secret Service-imposed rope lines. Already drawing near-record crowds, Obama does not need the flashing lights and SUVs filled with muscular agents with funny earpieces to seem like a political celebrity. The other advantages of bringing in the Secret Service -- the federal government contributes to air-charter costs and campaign logistics -- also do not seem to apply to Obama, who has little problem paying travel bills after raking in a stunning $26 million in the first quarter.

Edwards may be free to move about the country at his own pace, but the 2004 veep candidate might consider being a little less heavy-handed about how he spends his time. Thursday, the Edwards campaign released an upcoming schedule that features this sequence of events:

9:00 AM
Senator Edwards to help with rebuilding efforts at a house in the 9th Ward
1824 Congress Street
New Orleans, Louisiana

9:50 PM
Senator Edwards to hold a media availability
1824 Congress Street
New Orleans, Louisiana

By Walter Shapiro

Walter Shapiro, a Fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, is an award-winning political columnist who has covered the last nine presidential campaigns. Along the way, he has worked as Salon's Washington bureau chief, as well as for The Washington Post, Newsweek, Time, Esquire, USA Today and, most recently, Yahoo News. He is also a lecturer in political science at Yale University. He can be reached by email at waltershapiro@ymail.com and followed on Twitter @MrWalterShapiro.

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