Discuss as:

First thoughts: Campaigns vs. presidents

From Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, and Domenico Montanaro
*** Judging a president by her campaign: As voters decide whom to support for president, should how the candidates actually ran their campaigns be part of the equation? What can we learn about the type of presidencies each of the three major candidates will have should they win? Clinton had a plan and stuck to it -- invest heavily in Iowa and New Hampshire and try to run up the score on Super Tuesday -- and now is having to come up with a Plan B that could be too little too late. Does this mean she won't have too many Plan Bs as president? If she's ready to be president on Day One, should she have been ready to run a primary campaign on February 6? What about all the money the Clinton campaign blew through, as well as the conflict among staffers? When the tough got going, the campaign didn't really react that well. Going into this campaign, the narrative on Clinton was that she was organized, prepared, and meticulous -- everything Bill wasn't. But her campaign right now isn't reflecting that. 

*** How about Obama and McCain? Sticking with this topic, how is Obama going to handle the first time he gets attacked relentlessly for weeks at a time, which is an inevitable thing for any president? Outside the build-up to South Carolina, he hasn't been tested on this front yet in the campaign. Should this scare voters -- that they don't how Obama will react in a crisis? And then there's McCain. Does the fact that this guy stared political death in the eye mean nothing will faze him as president? That unpopularity (i.e., the war in Iraq) won't bother him to the point that he might not be tuned into the electorate? Of course, as has been asked before, does the best campaigner necessarily make the best president?

*** Are we understanding John Lewis? The New York Times is front-paging that Rep. John Lewis, who has endorsed Clinton, will cast his superdelegate vote for Obama, since his congressional district overwhelmingly voted for the Illinois senator. However, Lewis' office is adamant that Lewis isn't endorsing Obama. So is that the distinction? That he isn't changing his endorsement, but will cast his superdelegate vote for Obama? Pardon us if we're a bit confused… And Georgia Rep. David Scott -- another Clinton backer -- has apparently endorsed Obama. Not counting Lewis (because the situation is confusing), Obama has gained 12 superdelegates since February 5, while Clinton has lost a net of three. 

VIDEO: NBC Political Director Chuck Todd offers his first read on waivering superdelegates and the latest presidential hopefuls poll.

*** Better late than never, we guess: In one of the most bizarre press conferences we've seen in months, the New Mexico Democratic Party finally declared Clinton the winner of that February 5 contest, which will most likely result in Clinton picking up an extra pledged delegate. It's certainly welcome news for Clinton, but would it have more resonance if the race had been decided before the past eight contests? From our count, Obama has won 22 states (including DC), while Clinton has won 11.

*** Delegate update: The official NBC News hard count of pledged delegates is Obama 1,116 and Clinton 985. Conservatively allocating the outstanding 44 pledged delegates, toss in an additional 24 for Obama and 20 for Clinton. Then adding our superdelegate count (257 for Clinton, 182 for Obama), the GRAND TOTAL is Obama 1322, Clinton 1,262.

*** A missed opportunity? Just asking: as superdelegates are starting to break Obama's way, is Clinton making a mistake by not campaigning in Wisconsin until Saturday, just three days before the contest there? Obama has been there since Tuesday night, although he took a break from the trail yesterday. Doesn't Clinton need to start changing the momentum right now -- not on March 4? Wisconsin has a lot of her voters in the state, older Democrats and working class Democrats; there's certainly a latte set of voters in Dane County (Madison), and the state that gives the Senate Russ Feingold and Herb Kohl probably would be comfortable with Obama. Still, this should be a VERY closely fought primary. Yet Clinton does seem to be coming to the party late.

*** The Eyes of Texas are upon you: Looking ahead to March 4… Yesterday, Quinnipiac came out with a poll that gave us a baseline for the upcoming Ohio contest (Clinton 55%, Obama 34%). Now there's a good Texas poll that shows Clinton up by eight points over Obama (49%-41%) and McCain up by just four points over Huckabee (45%-41%). More evidence that Texas is the better opportunity for Obama?  And if the GOP electorate is as conservative as these pollsters expect it to be, will McCain face a potential embarrassment on March 4?

*** On the trail: Clinton holds a rally in Lyndhurst, OH; Huckabee was in Wisconsin and then heads to Chicago; McCain stumps in Wisconsin, stopping in Oshkosh, La Crosse, and Milwaukee; and Obama, also in Wisconsin, has rallies in Milwaukee, Oshkosh, and Green Bay. Also, Bill Clinton makes five stops in East Texas, while Michelle Obama is in Ohio.

Countdown to Wisconsin and Hawaii: 4 days
Countdown to the MSNBC debate in Ohio: 11
Countdown to Ohio and Texas: 18 days
Countdown to Election Day 2008: 263 days
Countdown to Inauguration Day 2009: 340 days

Click here to sign up for First Read emails.
Text FIRST to 622639 to sign up for First Read alerts to your mobile phone.