From Chuck Todd, Mark Murray and Domenico Montanaro
*** A more aggressive Obama: Yesterday, we asked how Obama would respond to his losses in Ohio and Texas. Well, he and his campaign came out swinging. Obama demanded to know what kind of commander-in-chief credentials Clinton actually has -- a question that might come up today when Clinton holds a press conference in DC with military officers. He also asked if Clinton is so fully vetted, why she hasn't released her tax returns so voters know how the Clintons have made their money since Bill left the White House. And with Clinton arriving in Mississippi later tonight, the Obama campaign held a press conference to draw attention to some unflattering comments Clinton made about the state last fall while campaigning in Iowa. The Obama camp is showing some fight it didn't always exhibit leading up to Junior Super Tuesday. The tightrope they have to walk is proving their mettle and drawing contrasts, but not doing so to the point where it makes Obama seem like every other politician. It isn't an easy task. But there does seem to be a pattern in this primary season: When the negative spotlight is on one candidate, that candidate loses. The question is, when will a candidate WIN when the spotlight's on them?
*** Do-overs? So is Howard Dean deciding NOT to take a leadership role in this Michigan-Florida issue? It sure sounded like it this morning as he made the TV rounds. He punted the issue back to the states by not endorsing new contests. He chose not to use his bully pulpit and position to make any public suggestions. The DNC has said it is open to new contests, but that the ball is in Florida's and Michigan's court. Does this mean a Super-Duper-delegate may now have to step in since Dean won't? How about Al Gore calling for a new Florida election? Imagine what sway Gore would have on the Florida issue? Both the Michigan and Florida Dem leadership teams huddled last night to try and figure out their next step. FWIW, it appears Michigan seems a lot closer to agreeing to some sort of re-vote than Florida, which seems more content on going to the credentials committee. Perhaps Florida feels like it is better positioned since Obama's name was on the ballot there (unlike in Michigan). In Michigan, there's probably a lot of pressure being put on key Clinton-supporting Dems in the state by African-American leaders who aren't happy about having Michigan seated without Obama getting a chance to earn votes.
*** Turmoil in Arlington: Despite what happened on Tuesday, don't forget that the Clinton inner circle hasn't been getting along. What does victory do to those disputes? The Washington Post runs yet another account of how Mark Penn isn't making everyone happy inside the Arlington headquarters. We particularly enjoyed this line from the piece: "Clinton's advisers turned to their other goal: denying Mark Penn credit" for Ohio and Texas. Apparently, Penn still has the support of two very important people -- Bill and Hillary -- but outside of those two is there ANYONE else in Clinton land who even wants to tolerate Penn? This Post piece was some read; we're guessing getting the hating Mark Penn stuff back in the toothpaste tube is too late.
*** Previewing Pennsylvania: The big papers are out with their previews of Pennsylvania, a contest that is still a whopping seven weeks away. The state, as everyone points out, looks a lot like Ohio. Of course, we also though Ohio looked a lot like Wisconsin. One thing is for sure: Seven weeks is a long, long time away. In fact, the New York Daily News has dubbed the contest the "Seven-Week War." The quick analysis from the analysis this morning: Obama's stronghold will be the Philly media market; Clinton's stronghold will be the "T" and possibly Pittsburgh. The question will be: Can Obama make some inroads in Pittsburgh? And can Hillary make some inroads in the Philly suburbs?
*** The delegate count: Obama leads Clinton 1,568-1,467. This includes the NBC News Hard Count of Obama 1,355, Clinton 1,213 in pledged delegates. The superdelegate count stands at Clinton 254, Obama 213. One thing to keep in mind is that 76 of the 795 superdelegates are still not known; they will be appointed at various state conventions beginning in April. Also, when we finally get the Texas caucus results, it likely that Clinton's net delegate haul from the Junior Super Tuesday contests will be less than 10. There are still 46 overall unallocated pledged delegates, 33 of which are from Texas.
*** On the trail: Clinton attends a press conference in DC with military officers and then travels to Canton, MS to speak at the Jefferson-Jackson dinner there; McCain campaigns in Florida before heading to a finance event in Atlanta, GA; and Obama is down in Chicago. Also today, Bill Clinton stumps on his wife's behalf in Wyoming.
Countdown to Wyoming: 2 days
Countdown to Mississippi: 5 days
Countdown to Pennsylvania: 47 days
Countdown to Election Day 2008: 243 days
Countdown to Inauguration Day 2009: 320 days
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