Discuss as:

First thoughts: The GOP's disadvantages

From Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, and Domenico Montanaro
*** The GOP's Disadvantages: The New York Times' Nagourney does a smart preview piece of how Republicans are likely to go after Obama in a general election, and are already doing so (on national security, taxes, his voting record, and even his middle name). But what the piece doesn't mention is that the Republican Party is facing HUGE problems -- bigger than any candidate they could face. Indeed, just a look at other articles out there today should have the folks at the RNC reaching for the Tums: the Dem turnout in Texas, Obama and Clinton's fundraising haul in just one month, and the youthfulness and diversity of the Dem electorate. And then there's the Iraq war, Bush's approval rating, and the fact -- as NBC political analyst Charlie Cook points out today -- that it's difficult for one political party to hold onto the White House for three-straight elections.

*** Nevada redux? The Texas papers are reporting today that the Clinton campaign is apparently raising the specter of a lawsuit to challenge the Dem-sanctioned caucuses in the state that will occur on top of the regular primary voting. The motivation here by the Clinton camp is to discount the delegates Obama potentially wins during the caucus portion. Obviously, they are worried that narrow victories in Ohio and Texas will get overshadowed if Obama ends up with more delegates for the night, which is very possible because of his likely landslide win in Vermont and the caucus portion of the Texas prima-caucus. Is the state's delegate-selection process screwy?  Definitely. But how does Team Clinton overturn a process that had been approved for quite some time? This would be the third time -- the Nevada caucus sites on the Vegas strip, and Michigan/Florida being the others -- that the campaign has questioned rules that had already been established.

*** Goin' negative: We were about to write this morning about our surprise that Clinton hasn't run a negative ad against Obama in either Ohio or Texas. But then we saw the new Clinton ad in Texas that appeared on TODAY. It goes: "It's 3am and your children are safe and asleep. But there's a phone in the White House and it's ringing. Something's happening in the world. Your vote will decide who answers that call. Whether it's someone who already knows the world's leaders…knows the military…someone tested and ready to lead in a dangerous world. It's 3am and your children are safe and asleep. Who do you want answering the phone?" Does it remind anyone of that LBJ Daisy ad? Ok, that's a little extreme… But it sure does raise the specter of fear. Of course, remember, primary voters are more likely to vote their heart than head, which may mean an ad like this won't be as effective as it would, say, in a general election. Meanwhile, Obama, who has outspent Clinton in Texas and Ohio considerably, has bought two-minute TV ad blocks in those states. No word on the content of the ads yet, but sounds like it could be another closing argument-type.

[YouTube:M70emIFxETs]

*** Blame Canada! CTV, the Canadian TV channel, isn't letting the story die that an Obama staffer warned Canadian officials to ignore the campaign's criticism of NAFTA. In fact, it even names an Obama official. (*** CORRECTION *** The man it names is an Obama adviser, not official -- Austan Goolsbee.)  The Obama camp has denied that any conversation like that occurred. Today's CTV story also repeats the charge -- largely ignored yesterday -- that the "Clinton campaign has made indirect contact with the Canadian government, trying to reassure Ottawa of their support despite Clinton's words. The Clinton camp denied the claim."

*** Delegate update: Obama leads Clinton 1,398-1,291. The NBC News Hard Count is now Obama 1,194, Clinton 1,037 (with 13 delegates still unallocated). Obama picked up another superdelegate yesterday to bring that total to: Clinton 254, Obama 204.

*** Money trouble: We've noticed today the McCain/FEC stories -- that McCain very well might have to abide by spending limits before the GOP convention -- are starting to roll in. But why is this only now starting to get more traction, compared with all the stories about Obama waffling on his pledge to accept public funds in the general? For one thing, the McCain story is much more complicated; certainly the Obama pledge hedge was an easier one to tell. But is this starting to become a problem for McCain? At the very least, it makes it MUCH more difficult to criticize Obama for waffling on public funds…
 
*** On the trail: Clinton, in Texas, holds rallies in Waco and San Antonio; Huckabee has five events across the Lone Star State; McCain tours Dell in Round Rock, TX and then raises money at the Four Seasons in Austin before heading to Arizona; and Obama, also in Texas, stumps in Houston, Brownsville, and Selma.

Countdown to Ohio and Texas: 4 days
Countdown to Election Day 2008: 249 days
Countdown to Inauguration Day 2009: 326 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.