From Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, and Domenico Montanaro
*** Deadlocked: Bloomberg News has the political junkie scoop of the post-Feb. 5 news cycle: that according to an accidental Obama campaign release, the Clinton-Obama match up will end in a virtual delegate draw. "Obama's advisers are predicting victories in 19 of the remaining 27 Democratic primaries and caucuses, with Clinton winning the big states of Texas, Ohio and Pennsylvania, according to the scenario attached to a spreadsheet showing the campaign's Super Tuesday delegate breakdown. The analysis envisions an Obama winning streak over the next 12 days. It projects victories in the Louisiana primary and caucuses in Nebraska and Washington state on Feb. 9 and a narrow loss to Clinton on Feb. 10 in Maine. Obama is looking to sweep the Feb. 12 primaries in Virginia, Maryland and Washington, D.C., and get victories in Hawaii and Wisconsin a week later." Normally, we'd assume this was an expectations-setting game. And maybe it is. But their analysis seems to be based on the number of working class and/or Hispanic Democrats in various states; check out the states Obama's team believes it will lose: Maine, Texas, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, West Virginia and Kentucky. All of those states have a lot more blue-collar Democrats than white-wine drinking Democrats. So it's a very realistic assessment.
*** Body language: After Tuesday night's amazing tie between Clinton and Obama -- how else do you describe it? -- the two campaigns had divergent day-after responses. The body language of Obama's was that of a front-runner, that of a campaign that feels as if it won something Tuesday. Clinton's campaign body language was of a team not sure what to do next. The announcement of the $5 million personal loan and the lack of announcements of key endorsements in these next round of states just gives an impression of a campaign that's hunkered down. Interestingly, it took Clinton announcing the personal loan to finally convince the chattering class that Obama's got more resources. This has been true for more than a month and yet it's amazing how so few folks realized it. Then again, can you blame them? Who knew the Clintons would be out-raised? So far, by the way, it appears the Clinton announcement of the personal loan is sparking some online fundraising, something the campaign has struggled with
*** Welcome to front-runner status: Speaking of, the burden of expectations is shifting to Obama on a number of levels: money, endorsements, and the upcoming Chesapeake Tuesday contests. And then there's today's front-page New York Times piece, which wonders why Obama fell short in California and some other big states on Tuesday -- rather than asking, for example, why the biggest name in the Democratic Party lost at least 13 out of 22 contests on Super Tuesday. The bottom line is that there are a lot of folks wondering why Obama can't close the deal, which is also a sign that many folks are now convinced she can't close the deal without Obama relenting. Does Obama, though, have the same problem? Why can't he win over enough working-class Democrats to get the nomination? He will not get a delegate majority until he cracks this code. His Hispanic problem is largely out of the way. Short of Texas and Puerto Rico, just about every other competitive state will be a showdown for Obama over whether he can win over the beer-drinking Democrats.
*** McCain's big speech: Forget his September convention acceptance speech, McCain's speech today at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) -- and the reception it gets -- may be more important than any speech he gives all year. Remember that he skipped addressing the group last year, and his name got booed there. McCain is walking a fine line: He's on the verge of nabbing the GOP nomination, which is usually the time when a nominee-to-be starts shifting his rhetoric to the center. But right now, that's the last thing McCain can do. He's got to reassure folks on the right. But with Clinton and Obama still battling, McCain does have one thing going for him as he tries to placate conservatives: time.
*** What does Romney say? While most of us will be watching the audience response to McCain's CPAC speech, don't forget about Romney. What does he say/do today? Is this really the first major speech of his 2012 campaign for the GOP nod? Does the burden of running as a conservative candidate in 2012 mean he can't get out today since conservatives aren't ready to concede to McCain? This is the line Romney's walking. On one hand, he probably doesn't want to throw good money after bad. On the other, he doesn't want to disappoint anti-McCain conservatives too quickly since he may want to the GOP nominee in 2012. And clearly the party has a pattern of nominating the runner-up.
*** Just asking: Has the Clinton campaign now opened up Chelsea Clinton to more coverage? Is she no longer off-limits? The Politico's Mike Allen reports today that Chelsea will be campaigning on her mother's behalf in Nebraska in the next 24 hours. We also read she's been calling superdelegates. And she even called the members of The View!
*** Preventing a brokered convention: So what's Howard Dean up to? "I think we will have a nominee sometime in the middle of March or April," Dean told the NY1 cable news channel on Wednesday, per the New York Times. "But if we don't, then we're going to have to get the candidates together and make some kind of an arrangement. Because I don't think we can afford to have a brokered convention; that would not be good news for either party."
*** On the trail: The Republicans -- most notably McCain -- make their case to the Conservative Political Action Committee, or CPAC, in Washington, D.C. Cheney speaks at 11:00 am ET; Romney at 12:30 pm; McCain takes the stage at 3:00 pm; Paul at 4:30 pm; President Bush speaks tomorrow morning; and Huckabee goes Sunday. On the Dem side, Clinton speaks at a high school in Arlington, VA, while Obama hits Louisiana, Washington, and Nebraska -- three states that hold contests Saturday.
Countdown to Chesapeake Tuesday: 5 days
Countdown to Ohio and Texas: 26 days
Countdown to Election Day 2008: 271 days
Countdown to Inauguration Day 2009: 348 days
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