From Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, and Domenico Montanaro
*** You're so vain, you probably think this campaign is about you: After addressing the NAACP yesterday in Detroit, Jeremiah Wright travels to the heart of the media beast -- the National Press Club in DC -- where he has been speaking this morning. At this point, no matter one's political inexperience, Wright has to know he's not helping his friend; his decision to go public and defend his reputation at this point in the campaign is doing nothing to help Obama, if anything, it's leading some to believe he's actually trying to sabotage him. He's hurting him and hurting him very badly. Frankly, it's as selfish of a move as we've seen in some time. Imagine, for example, if Norman Hsu or Vicki Iseman were doing publicity tours right now. Maybe, if there's a silver lining for Obama, he's giving Obama a very easy chance to simply walk away. Remember, Obama didn't toss Wright under the bus, but Wright appears to be doing that to Obama's candidacy. Still, if Wright Vol. 1, "bitter," and Pennsylvania didn't move superdelegates, what will? Nevertheless, Obama seems to be starting off this week in about as bad of shape as we've seen in him in some time.
*** McCain on the offensive: One of the more interesting political developments over the past few days has been McCain's harsh tone toward Obama -- on Jeremiah Wright, Bill Ayers, and even Hamas (noting that the terrorist organization prefers Obama to win the presidency). A few things seem to be going on here. One, it looks like McCain is using this to define Obama on these matters. Two, the Arizona senator seems to be trying to draw a line in the sand now that he's going to be tough on Obama -- unlike how Obama's Democratic rivals treated him early on. (If they set the ground rules this far out, they can draw him into a fight early and potentially hurt him on his greatest strength: that he's above the fray.) And three, it seems McCain is trying to shore up his base and placate the GOP's amplifiers on these issues. (check out the 90%+ he's already getting from Republicans in nat'l polls; who woulda thunk he would have 90% of the GOP at all, let alone in late April). The downside to McCain's tough tone, of course, is that it's very un-McCain. This isn't the same guy we saw in 2000 or even in the GOP primaries until he began whacking Romney in Florida. Indeed, this tack can turn off folks (especially those coveted independents) as much as it might hurt Obama.
*** Obama's re-launch: One story the New York Times, Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal all seem to agree on today: Obama's recasting his stump speech as he talks more about the economy. Obama is trying to address an economic weakness the same way a professional basketball player approaches his craft -- by working on the weak parts of your game. Yet expect the Clinton campaign to jump on something in particular that was in the New York Times, the implication that Obama's "bored" with the primary. We can almost hear the Clinton hit on this now: "So, apparently, my opponent is bored debating the issues with me; he's bored, folks." Now, the New York Times never quoted Obama as saying he was "bored"; it's a characterization based on interviews with aides. But the comment is one that can easily be used for some stump lines today. Yet let's take this "bored" sentiment a step further -- it's clearly a reflection of a candidate who seems to be struggling with what to say next and how to refine his pitch just enough to finish the job. The campaign seems to be shying away from the big rally approach. Here's our question: Why aren't they simply re-running their Iowa/New Hampshire strategy where he did a little of both, big rallies in small towns?
*** I challenge you to a duel: Clinton has not let a day go by without bringing up her debate challenge. What's been interesting is that Clinton keeps changing the offer; it started with simply accepting another media organized debate; then it shifted to Lincoln-Douglas-style debates (i.e. no moderator) and finally, yesterday, she offered to debate him on a flatbed truck. Maybe tomorrow she'll call for debates in the back of an astro-turf-lined El Camino. Still, the doggedness of the debate challenge may start to get under Obama's skin -- and given Wright's decision to not get out of the news -- maybe a debate will be what Obama wants in order to change the focus of the last week of this campaign.
*** Hillary Strangelove? Because of Jeremiah Wright remaining in the news, not that much attention has been paid to Clinton's recent comments regarding Iran and the Middle East. But Sunday's Boston Globe weighed in -- harshly. It dubbed her "Hillary Strangelove," because of her umbrella Iran-Mideast ally retaliation policy. And the paper called that "Rambo rhetoric" that "plays into the hands of Iranian hard-liners who want to plow ahead with efforts to attain a nuclear weapons capability." More: "[T]here are some red lines that should never be crossed," it said. "Clinton did so Tuesday morning, the day of the Pennsylvania primary, when she told ABC's 'Good Morning America' that, if she were president, she would 'totally obliterate' Iran if Iran attacked Israel. This foolish and dangerous threat was muted in domestic media coverage. But it reverberated in headlines around the world."
*** What say you, superdelegates? By the end of June, Howard Dean says (and said again on Meet the Press) he wants superdelegates to come out to say which Democratic candidate they are backing. Just asking… After 15 months, do they really need more than two more months? For those keeping score at home, Clinton and Obama each picked up a superdelegate over the weekend. Clinton got the backing of New Hampshire add-on Kathy Sullivan, the state's former party chair. Obama picked up Charlene Fernandez (AZ), who filled a vacancy. Here's where the counts stand: SUPERDELEGATES: Clinton 264-241 (290 still undecided); PLEDGED: Obama 1,491-1,334; OVERALL: Obama 1,732-1,598.
*** On the trail: Clinton spends her day in North Carolina, stumping in Graham, Salisbury, Concord, and finally with a rally in Charlotte; McCain is in Miami, where he holds a health-care roundtable; and Obama campaigns in North Carolina, hitting Wilmington, Wilson, and ending with a rally in Chapel Hill. Also, Bill and Chelsea Clinton are both in North Carolina.
Countdown to North Carolina, Indiana: 8 days
Countdown to West Virginia: 15 days
Countdown to Kentucky and Oregon: 22 days
Countdown to Election Day 2008: 190 days
Countdown to Inauguration Day 2009: 267 days
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