From Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, and Domenico Montanaro
*** Here comes the general? The day after Tuesday's final debate before the March 4 contests, a funny thing happened: The post-debate spat was between Obama and McCain, not Obama and Clinton. If you think about it, it's an extraordinary development. Although Clinton is still leading on Ohio (yet that contest is narrowing every single day) and is about tied in Texas (yet Obama has the Mo here, too), everyone seems to be slowly moving on to the general election; political inertia is taking over. Of course, Clinton hopes that wins in Ohio and Texas will stop that storyline -- and they very well might. Does anyone else have a feeling that one more game-changer is coming from the Clinton campaign, that they must have one more thing up their sleeve? They must, right? Maybe it's Edwards (this poverty tour seems like a big clue). Maybe it's one more televised town hall (although its one in Texas is bizarrely being broadcast on a sports channel). Something, right?
*** Too late? Overshadowed by the McCain-vs.-Obama storyline, Clinton and her campaign spent the day blasting Obama over a point she raised at the debate: that Obama hasn't held any hearings at the subcommittee he chairs. "My opponent likes to talk about what he will do, but there was a perfect example last night about the difference between talk and action," she said yesterday, per NBC/NJ's Athena Jones. "He was given the responsibility of chairing what's called a subcommittee in the Congress responsible for the European countries and our alliance with them and as part of that responsibility was NATO… [W]hat you learned last night is he's never held a substantive hearing or meeting to look at what is going on in NATO, to take a hard look at what's happening in Europe and in fact the reason he hasn't as he said is because he got the assignment when he started running for president. Well, I don't think that's an adequate excuse." For Clinton, this is a good line of attack. But is it too late? Shouldn't she have been making this point several weeks ago? The talk-vs.-action hit needs seasoning; it takes weeks for a storyline like this to take hold. By the way, it's worth noting that the RNC used this very line of attack on Obama yesterday as well…
*** The delegate count: The NBC News Hard Count is Obama 1,192, Clinton 1,036. Obama picked up two more superdelegates last night and this morning bringing the superdelegate total to Clinton 254, Obama 203. (Since Feb. 5, Obama has picked up 33; Clinton has lost a net of six.) That's a grand total of Obama 1,395, Clinton 1,290. So when you include superdelegates into the mix, Obama has a 105-delegate lead.
*** Natural-born citizen? The New York Times today has a piece that hadn't crossed our mind: Because McCain was born in the Panama Canal Zone, does that disqualify him for being president? It doesn't look like it, but constitutional scholars say it's an interesting case. "'There are powerful arguments that Senator McCain or anyone else in this position is constitutionally qualified, but there is certainly no precedent,' said Sarah H. Duggin, an associate professor of law at Catholic University who has studied the issue extensively. 'It is not a slam-dunk situation.'" And it looks like the McCain campaign isn't taking any chances by making sure Ted Olson puts together a legal opinion. Speaking of legalities, though, this matching fund and ballot qualification issue is perhaps a bigger headache than questions about his citizenship.
*** The moment we've all been waiting for: At noon today, from the National Press Club in DC, Ralph Nader will announce his veep pick. Question: After today, will Nader -- making yet another White House bid -- be able to draw TV cameras and reporters to any other event?
*** On the trail: Clinton holds a town hall at a child development center in Hanging Rock, OH before holding two events in Houston; Huckabee is in Texas; as is McCain, who makes seven stops in the state, including two fundraisers; Obama, in Texas, stumps in Austin, Beaumont, and Fort Worth; and Bill Clinton campaigns in Rhode Island and Dayton, OH.
Countdown to Ohio and Texas: 5 days
Countdown to Election Day 2008: 250 days
Countdown to Inauguration Day 2009: 327 days
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