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First thoughts: A Dem house divided?

From Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, and Domenico Montanaro
LAS VEGAS -- As we have noted plenty in the past year, Democrats have enormous advantages heading into November's presidential election: They lead by a large margin in generic ballot match-ups; their candidates have raised mountains of more money than their GOP counterparts have; and they've bested the Republican Party in turnout numbers in Iowa and New Hampshire. But is the increasingly nasty Clinton-Obama race opening a wound that might not completely heal in time for the general election? The latest incident yesterday was when Clinton supporter (and BET founder) Bob Johnson unmistakably invoked Obama youthful drug use and -- if that wasn't enough -- referred to him as Sidney Poitier. Women and African Americans are the two most reliable Democratic voting blocs, and one of them will be greatly disappointed (and hurt) when we finally have a Dem nominee. How many unaffiliated Democrats are biting their nails in nervousness wondering if this developing rift between women and blacks will heal in time for the general? Most likely, this all means that whoever comes out on top -- Clinton or Obama -- is going to have a lot of work to do to reach out to the losing candidate. Will the two have no choice but to run with each other on the same ticket?

VIDEO: NBC Political Director Chuck Todd offers his first read on how both Hillary Clinton and John McCain have benefitted from their New Hampshire primary victories.

*** Let's get parochial: The bad blood isn't just relegated to race and gender. In Nevada, the state National Education Association (which hasn't endorsed, but whose top members are backing Clinton) has filed a lawsuit against the Nevada Democratic Party over some at-large caucus sites, which many believe will help the Culinary Workers Union flex its muscle for Obama. As Nevada political guru Jon Ralston wrote on Friday, "If you didn't believe me that this internecine Democratic warfare would be as nasty as any in state annals, this is more evidence. By Jan. 20, friendships, alliances and relationships will be destroyed by this high-stakes game." A question: Why are Clinton allies giving Obama an opening to court Hispanics? The lawsuit may give Obama his first real opportunity to show that he, too, can fight for Hispanic votes. Because it's predominantly Hispanics who would be kept from caucusing if these at-large precincts went away. By the way, the reason this lawsuit cropped up late? Because no one knew for sure who was going to get the Culinary nod. Had Edwards or Clinton received it, do you think this lawsuit gets filed? Actually, it probably does get filed, just a different plaintiff.

*** Lost Dem issues: Two issues that were overshadowed yesterday by the Clinton-Obama race spat were the economy and Iraq. Obama rolled out his economic plan, something that garnered very little coverage because most of the political world was fixated on this race fight (something Camp Clinton probably isn't too upset about). Also, don't overlook the hits Clinton made on Obama over Iraq. At first glance, it may seem like a bad idea for the Clinton campaign to bring back up the war, since her record isn't stellar as far as anti-war Dems are concerned. But the reasoning behind the hit appears to be an attempt by the Clinton campaign to paint Obama as someone who spouts nothing but empty rhetoric. Newsweek notes the abortion flyer attack in New Hampshire, which used the present votes to question whether Obama was really as pro-choice as he states. And now the Clinton camp is hitting Obama over voting for Iraq war funding when he promised in his Senate race he wouldn't. Look for this to be the prism the Clintons hit Obama on via a number of issues from here on out.

*** Running for president or governor? Romney appears to be having success in Michigan. Giuliani is seeing great crowds in Florida and appears to have a spring in his step. McCain just came off a tremendous victory in New Hampshire. And Huckabee and Iowa appear to go together like corn on a cob. What do all four candidates have in common? They are proving that if you run for president in one state as if you are running for governor (or mayor), you can do well. What none of these candidates has proven yet is if they can run nationally. And maybe we'll never know since it appears likely they will all win something…

*** A little bonus: Below, we have some clip-and-saves on the basic information you need to know for the upcoming contests in Michigan, Nevada, and South Carolina. Enjoy.

*** On the trail: Clinton, in New York, attends an MLK celebration with SEIU 32BJ; Edwards stumps in South Carolina; Giuliani remains in Florida, where he makes six campaigns stops; Huckabee, Kucinich, and McCain are in Michigan; Obama spends his day in Nevada, where he visits Reno, Fallon, and Carson city; Romney is in Michigan, where he makes five stops; and Thompson campaigns in South Carolina. Also, Michelle Obama and Ann Romney are in the Palmetto State, campaigning for their spouses. 

Countdown to Michigan: 1 day
Countdown to Nevada and SC GOP primary: 5 days
Countdown to SC Dem primary: 12 days
Countdown to Florida: 15 days
Countdown to Tsunami Tuesday: 22 days
Countdown to Election Day 2008: 295 days
Countdown to Inauguration Day 2009: 372 days

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