NBC political analyst Charlie Cook writes in his latest National Journal column about the advantages the Democrats have going into the general election -- once their nominee becomes obvious. "My hunch is that the general election will be a very competitive race. However, it's important not to minimize the Democrats' inherent advantages. First, it's extremely difficult for a party to win the White House three elections in a row. Indeed, consider the past 60 years: In four of the five elections in which one party had held the White House for two consecutive terms, that party failed to win a third one. This 'time for a change' dynamic has predominated each time. The only exception was in 1988, when Vice President George H.W. Bush was elected at the end of President Reagan's eight years in office."
More: "Going into 2008, George W. Bush's approval ratings hover around 30 percent, 25 percentage points below Reagan's 20 years ago. Bush's presidency has been marred by scandals, an unpopular war, and an economy that is just barely skating above recession—hardly ideal for any party wanting to hold onto the White House."
Also, National Journal's Ron Brownstein looks inside the exit poll numbers and finds, "From New Hampshire to California, and from Arizona to Wisconsin, exit polls from this year's contests show the Democratic coalition evolving in clear and consistent ways since the 2004 primaries that nominated John Kerry. The party is growing younger, more affluent, more liberal, and more heavily tilted toward women, Latinos, and African-Americans. In the 18 states for which exit polls are available from both 2004 and 2008, the share of the Democratic vote cast by young people has risen, often by substantial margins."
Former Bush '04 adviser Matthew Dowd is particularly concerned about the growing youth vote for the Dems. "Dowd says that even if McCain wins, Republicans should still worry about these trends, especially among young people… In 2000, under-30 voters split about evenly between Bush and Gore, according to exit polls. In 2004, they preferred Kerry over Bush by 54 percent to 45 percent. In the 2006 House elections, they backed Democrats by 60 percent to 38 percent. In a race between Obama, 46, and McCain, 71, even many Republicans wouldn't be surprised to see that wide a gap among the young. 'If you look at Ronald Reagan and how he performed among youth, he created a generation of Republicans that was able to sustain itself,' Dowd says. 'Well, what Bush has done in his presidency is almost the opposite: He has won elections and lost a generation. Now this generation is emerging, and if Democrats end up winning this election, and then govern in a way that gives people a sense that it is a new politics, they will have a generation. It will be the reverse of Reagan.'"
CLINTON: The Boston Globe's Helman writes that Clinton "misstated [Obama's] healthcare views before an audience yesterday in rural Ohio" yesterday. "I want . . . each and every member of the family to have health insurance. My opponent only wants your children to have health insurance," she said. "I don't think that's smart." Clinton has a mandate to require everyone to purchase healthcare. Obama has a mandate for parents to purchase health care for children. Clinton defended her characterization of Obama's plan, saying, Obama "he was not willing to go the distance with a universal healthcare plan. ... I was drawing that distinction, and I think it's a fair one."
The New York Daily News writes, "While Hillary Clinton wages the fight of her political life, her campaign architects are at war trying to save their reputations. The blame game between chief strategist Mark Penn and her top political svengali, Harold Ickes, has burst into the open as Clinton's poll numbers plunge."
OBAMA: The New York Times: "For much of this year, Mr. Obama has been handled with relative care by Mrs. Clinton and, before they dropped out, the other Democratic candidates. They generally do not have huge policy differences with him, and they have been wary of making a particularly harsh attack that winds up in a Republican television advertisement this fall. Yet the shifting tone offers a glimpse of the Republican playbook as the party adapts to the prospect that it will be running against Mr. Obama rather than Mrs. Clinton."
More: "Mr. Obama's record is not as long as Mrs. Clinton's, or as potentially rich, for an opponent looking for damaging votes or quotes. But there is still plenty to work with. Some cases are simple let's-go-to-the-video moments, like Mr. Obama's statements that he would support giving drivers' licenses to illegal aliens or would support raising taxes to shore up Social Security, lines of attacks that Republicans are already employing. Others — like a suggestion that Mr. Obama opposed the USA Patriot Act or supported a ban on handguns — might be subject to dispute by Mr. Obama, who would argue they were yanked out of context or did not take into account the subtleties of shaping legislation. (Nuance is usually a weak defense in political campaigns.)"
The Dallas Morning News notes Obama spent yesterday focused on McCain. "Throughout the day, the Illinois senator pursued a double-barreled attack on Mr. Bush and John McCain, marking an effort to let Democratic voters try him on for size ahead of Tuesday's primary. He spent the day mocking the current and would-be Republican president as oblivious to the inequities of the tax cuts they espouse, and slow to remedy or even notice joblessness, stagnant wages and spiraling health care costs."
And in front of a mostly black audience last night, Obama did his best Bill Cosby impersonation, saying "that parents need to shape up, turn off the TV, help their kids with their homework and stop letting them grow fat eating Popeyes chicken for breakfast."
Time's Thornburgh asks, "So who gets to say Hussein? At the Oscars, host Jon Stewart took innuendo about as far as it can go, saying that Barack Hussein Obama running today is like a 1940's candidate named Gaydolph Titler. But that reference, served up to a crowd that presumably swoons for Obama, got laughs. So maybe the H-word is more like the N-word: you can say it, but only if you are an initiate. Blacks can use the N-word; Obama supporters can use the H-word."
The Financial Times notes that Obama's economic rhetoric has shifted left ever since John Edwards left the race.
NBC's Andy Merten, writing on MSNBC.com, notes that although both Clinton and McCain have blasted Obama on the issue of Pakistan, "there's some recent evidence that suggests Obama's idea of unilateral strikes within Pakistan's borders may not be that different from current U.S. actions. Last week, The Washington Post reported that in late January, a CIA aircraft fired on several buildings in the Pakistani town of Mir Ali, killing a senior al-Qaida commander and several others." More: "'The reality is that any president, Republican or Democrat, will unilaterally go after a target when the intelligence is good,' he said, adding, 'You're not attacking an ally; you're attacking a de facto sanctuary.'"