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First thoughts: Obama's step forward

From Chuck Todd and Domenico Montanaro
*** Obama's Step Forward? Taking the week cumulatively, is there any other way to look at it other than a big step forward for Obama? Every piece of initial evidence from last week showing potential trouble for Obama faded, particularly on the polling front, whether nationally or in key states. Toss in the frustration the Clinton campaign is showing (why are they letting us see them sweat so much, particularly over Pelosi and Florida/Michigan?). And end it with serious flirtation with a potential running mate that could solve many of Obama's problems in fell swoop when it comes to Jewish voters and voters worried about his lack of executive experience (Michael Bloomberg), and it's been a very good week for Obama. That said, did Obama miss an opportunity this week? The media, once again, seems ready to write Clinton's campaign obit and had Obama unveiled, say, 20 to 25 superdelegate endorsements in a 24-to-48-hour period, that would have fed a Clinton obit wildfire. The fact that the Obama campaign hasn't done this means they either are being overly cautious or they just don't have as many superdelegate endorsements in their back pocket.

VIDEO: NBC Political Director Chuck Todd discusses Obama's endorsement by Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey. 
*** Being John McCain: One of the toughest things for a presidential candidate that is supposedly so well-known is having the discipline to re-introduce yourself to voters. McCain is doing that next week and begins, in fact, today with the unveiling of a new TV ad which emphasizes what folks probably know a little bit about, his heroism in Vietnam. The tag line in the ad -- "John McCain The American president Americans have been waiting for" -- makes it clear that the campaign plans to use the hero card a lot. And it's also a subtle reminder that if McCain is elected, he too could be a historic figure, which is something the campaign might be worried is getting lost in the Obama-Clinton euphoria in the media and the electorate. Elevating McCain on a pedestal and creating this sense of destiny appears to be part of what the campaign is hoping to create next week. More importantly, what the campaign needs to have happen following next week is a mini-surge in the polls. There's something about his small lead nationally that doesn't seem to be big enough right now. Once Democrats settle on a nominee, that candidate will see a poll surge of sorts, and McCain isn't going to want that surge to move his numbers from dead heat to 10 points down. Better that the surge goes from 10 points up to dead heat. So measure the success of next week by what kind of lead McCain starts building (if any) in the national polls.

*** Veepstakes: Who knew Mitt Romney was going to work so hard to get on the ticket. It's one thing to endorse McCain, he HAD to do that. But helping him raise money in multiple states and doing a mini-fly around is clearly above and beyond. While on paper it seems unlikely that McCain-Romney is a winning ticket, think about where the battleground will be in a match up with Obama: it'll be in the Midwest and West, two places where Romney could help. Obama's electoral map is much more heavy on western states and will be much more precarious in the rust belt, particularly Michigan (a Romney home state). In addition, a surge in Mormon support in places like Colorado and Nevada could help a McCain-Romney ticket hold off a surprisingly popular Obama in those states. Many a state poll has shown that Obama, more so than Clinton, has a better shot at putting three of the four corner states in play (Colorado, Nevada and New Mexico). Toss in Montana, and it's clear that McCain may indeed need to find someone who can help him in his home region.
*** Back to MI/FL: Need more evidence this Democratic fight could be headed to Denver? Clinton yesterday was asked on FOX how she could get the Michigan/Florida delegates seated. "We can always go to the convention -- that's what credentials fights are for," she said, assertively. And check this, a new online petition urging Howard Dean to count the votes from Florida and Michigan, which was, per Hotline, "launched by HRC bundlers." Once again, this could be Clinton supporters who think they are helping but in fact are hurting. But because there is such a level of strategic distrust between the Clinton money folks and the team running the campaign, there's a lot of freelancing going on and as much as we may know it's not something the actual Clinton campaign is pushing, that isn't the perception being left to those undecided superdelegates.   
*** The delegate count: With Sen. Bob Casey's (D-PA) endorsement of Obama (and joining of his bus tour), Obama has now picked up three superdelegates since Wednesday (Don Williams of CT and Dan Lipinski of IL are the other two). By the way, Rahm "I'm staying neutral" Emanuel is now the ONLY remaining elected superdelegate from Illinois NOT to endorse. Here's the count: Obama leads among pledged delegates 1408-1251; Clinton leads now among superdelegates, 255-221. Added together, Obama's overall delegate lead is 123: 1629-1506. BTW, on the Casey front, it actually shouldn't be that surprising. Casey and Rendell are usually on opposite sides. What's ironic about the endorsement is that Casey actually needs to emulate the electoral victory of Rendell in that contentious Rendell-Casey '02 Dem GOV race more so than Casey, whose voters are probably leaning more Clinton. 
*** On the trail: Clinton makes four stops in Indiana with three town halls and one roundtable, all focused on the economy; McCain raises money in Las Vegas, then spends the weekend down in Phoenix; Obama appears on The View and campaigns in Pittsburgh and holds a town hall in Greensburg; and Bill Clinton is in North Carolina.
Greensburg; and Bill Clinton is in North Carolina.
Countdown to Pennsylvania: 25 days
Countdown to North Carolina, Indiana: 39 days
Countdown to Election Day 2008: 221 days
Countdown to Inauguration Day 2009: 298 days
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