From Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, and Domenico Montanaro
*** Everyone's a winner: Much like a children's soccer or Tee Ball game, tonight's contests in Kentucky (which Clinton is expected to win big) and Oregon (ditto for Obama) are going to allow everyone to walk out a winner. And that's especially good news for Obama, because the party's presumptive nominee is going to lose a race by 20-plus points for a second-straight week. But the bigger prize for Obama tonight is what he's claiming at an event in Iowa -- where it all began for him -- that he has earned a majority of the pledged delegates won in the Democratic contests. Per NBC's delegate count, he needs to pick up just 25 to achieve this (not counting some Edwards delegates, which the Obama campaign has already added in to their totals). Yet as the Clinton campaign has pointed out, the milestone is only a symbolic one, but it's still likely to be the dominant storyline tonight. By the way, if Obama picks up approximately 50 delegates tonight, then he'll clinch a majority of the pledged delegates even if you add in Michigan and Florida as they originally voted.
*** The basics: There are a combined 103 pledged delegates at stake in the two contests (51 for Kentucky, 52 for Oregon); to put that into perspective, North Carolina alone awarded 115 delegates. Most polls in Kentucky open at 6:00 am ET and close at 6:00 pm ET, although in the part of the state in the Central Time Zone, polls close at 7:00 pm ET. Oregon, meanwhile, conducts its contests by mail. In most parts of the state, ballots must be received by 11:00 pm ET, and they can be mailed in or dropped off. Per the Oregon Secretary of State Elections Division, nearly 728,000 ballots (about 36% of the vote) have been received by May 18.
*** Where we stand: Obama leads in pledged delegates per the NBC hard count (1,602 to 1,444), superdelegates (303.5 to 279.5), overall delegates (1905.5 to 1723.5), the popular vote (16,157,639 to 15,583,020), and the total number of contests won (31 to 17). Note: We're not including Texas in this contest count, given that Clinton won the primary but Obama won the caucus and netted the most total Texas delegates. A bit more on the popular vote... Without adding Florida and Michigan, as noted above, Obama leads by 574,619 votes. Adding Florida to the mix, he leads by 279,847 (16,733,853 to 16,454,006). And adding Michigan but not "uncommitted," Clinton leads by 48,462 (16,782,315 to 16,733,853). But do note that the "uncommitted" vote was 238,168.
*** It's the demographics, stupid: Besides the public polls, how do we know that Clinton is poised for victory in Kentucky, while Obama is sitting pretty in Oregon? According to Democratic politico Mike Berman, Obama has dominated the states with the largest or smallest black populations, while Clinton fares MUCH better in the states in between. Berman writes in his Washington Political Watch that Obama "has won 12 of the 15 contests in which the African-American population is less than 4%, and 10 of the 11 contests in which the African-American population is greater than 16%. In those 18 states where the population ranges from 4%-16%, Obama won 8, while Clinton won 11." The African-American population for Kentucky? 7.3% For Oregon? 1.6%. As one Republican politico told us, these aren't primaries anymore; they're census surveys.
*** Florida, Florida, Florida: In Miami today, McCain gives a speech marking Cuba independence day, and he'll use it to hit Obama on his Cuba policy. That will play well to older Cubans, but Obama's Cuba stance does play better with younger Cubans, who don't have the negative memories of their parents and grandparents. Obama heads to the state tomorrow with -- of all people -- Clinton in tow. She seemed to add her own Florida trip at the last minute. To some, it looks like an attempt to follow Obama so she can stay in the news. The big hurdle Clinton faces after tonight: There will be nearly two weeks without a primary and with an opponent not paying attention to her anymore. It's going to get harder and harder to stay relevant in the daily news cycles, particularly as Obama and McCain take dead aim at each other.
*** What have you missed… : We continue our series this week on important political moments you may have missed while knee-deep in the presidential contest. Today, we have one word for you: retirements. In both the House and Senate, Democrats are virtually assured of making gains even if McCain wins the presidency because so many House and Senate Republicans have chosen retirement. This fall, according to the Cook Political Report, Senate Republicans are going to have to defend at least five open Senate seats (in Colorado, Idaho, Nebraska, New Mexico, and Virginia), compared with zero for the Democrats. In the House, there have been 25 GOP retirements versus seven for the Democrats. And you can now add one more retirement to the House GOP list. The AP is reporting that embattled New York Rep. Vito Fossella won't seek reelection. "This choice," he said in a statement, "was an extremely difficult one, balanced between my dedication to service to our great nation and the need to concentrate on healing the wounds that I have caused to my wife and family."
*** Don't forget: By midnight tonight, the campaigns are supposed to file their April fundraising numbers with the FEC. Clinton campaign co-chair Terry McAuliffe told MSNBC's Norah O'Donnell that Clinton's haul would be more than $10 million -- in fact, he said it would be the Clinton campaign's third-biggest month. According to that hint, that would place her haul somewhere between the $14 million she raised in January and the $20 million she secured in March; her biggest haul was $35 million in February. Remember, by the way, this is the fundraising report that will include the $10 million the campaign claims to have raised in the initial 24 hours after the Pennsylvania victory.
*** Down the ballot: There are some interesting House and Senate primaries in Kentucky and Oregon today. The DSCC has a little something on the line, as both of its preferred candidates in Kentucky (Lunsford) and Oregon (Merkley) are struggling to win their nominations. Lunsford should hang on, but Merkley's another story. His foe, Steve Novick, seems to be benefiting from the increased turnout of new voters created by Obama's candidacy. Does anything north of 12 points for Obama mean a Novick victory? Astoundingly, the DSCC has spent some $300,000 on Merkley's behalf, so losing would be a real embarrassment to Chuck Schumer. It's going to be a nail-biter.
*** On the trail: Clinton, along with her husband, holds her election night event in Louisville, KY former president Bill Clinton joins her; McCain, in Florida, speaks in Miami and then raises money in Ft. Lauderdale; and Obama has his election night event in Des Moines, IA.
Countdown to Puerto Rico: 12 days
Countdown to Montana, South Dakota: 14 days
Countdown to Election Day 2008: 168 days
Countdown to Inauguration Day 2009: 245 days
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