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First thoughts: Et tu, Scott?

From Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, and Domenico Montanaro
*** Et tu, Scott? The news of Scott McClellan's new book on President Bush -- first reported by the Politico's Mike Allen -- guarantees one thing: There is NO CHANCE Bush fixes his perception problems in the public and the media anytime soon. He's a political pariah, pure and simple. In the book, according to reports, McClellan says that Bush "was not open and forthright on Iraq"; that the president sold the war through a "political propaganda campaign"; that he took a permanent campaign approach to governing; and that the White House mishandled Hurricane Katrina, both governmentally and politically. For McCain, the timing of the news of this book couldn't have been worse. On the very day that the Arizona senator broke with Bush on nuclear proliferation, he not only held a closed-press fundraiser with the president (that produced just one photo-op), but also came news of the McClellan book. Now will come constant cable news chatter about the book, an interview with McClellan himself tomorrow on TODAY, as well as the inevitable questions from the traveling press corps following McCain… Meanwhile, Bush today hits two more fundraisers (in Salt Lake City and Park City, UT) for McCain and the RNC; Romney joins the president at these events.

VIDEO: NBC Political Director Chuck Todd gives his first read on how former White House press secretary Scott McClellan's new book may affect McCain's campaign and previews this weekend's DNC Michigan and Florida compromise.

*** Over the top: As NBC's Tim Russert reported on Nightly News last night, the Obama campaign will claim a majority of all delegates -- whether it's 2,026, 2,210, or a number in between -- next Tuesday night or Wednesday morning. According to our sources, Obama's been making calls on the Hill this week (the place where more undeclared superdelegates live than any other in the country) in an attempt to gather the number he needs, probably around 45 supers in order to declare Tuesday night or Wednesday morning. The campaign is hoarding commitments from undeclared superdelegates to hit these magic numbers once the nominating contests come to a close on June 3. The actual choreography, however, hasn't been agreed to yet; it depends on what happens at Saturday's DNC meeting. Here's one scenario: Obama announces enough supers on Monday June 2 to bring him within 10 delegates of the new magic number. Then on Tuesday evening, just as the polls close in Montana, Obama thanks that state for putting him over the top as the small state is one the Obama camp is hoping to put in play for the fall. Sure, it's three electoral votes but every EV may matter if he's got to make up for not winning Florida and (maybe) Ohio.

VIDEO: NBC's Tim Russert offers his analysis on where things stand heading into the June 3 primaries.

*** A blueprint for Saturday? Speaking of Saturday's DNC meeting… A packet sent around to members of the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee has some neutral opinions about the various challenges. One thing folks ought to not miss is the fact that the DNC rules had called for an automatic 50% delegate cut for states that violate the window. The Rules committee went beyond that -- which was within its rights -- and took away ALL of the delegates. Doesn't this provide the blueprint for what's likely to happen on Saturday -- a reinstatement of 50% of the delegates in both states? In fact, if we're interpreting this right, and if the Rules committee follows the letter of the law on this issue, they can't reinstate 100% of the delegates because of the initial violation. For those following the FL/MI fight closely, realize that a Florida compromise seems to be fairly easy to come to; frameworks are being developed as you read. But Michigan is the real riddle. The biggest impediment there are those "uncommitted" delegates; If the Rules committee decides to accept the January primary results then it's not clear, via the DNC charter, that it's within the party's rules to assign uncommitted delegates to Obama. Of course, as multiple members of the Rules committee told NBC News, there's such a thing as "political will," which could trump the DNC charter. Oh, the joys of what we'll be watching on Saturday. 

*** Obama's Auschwitz gaffe: For the first time of this budding general election, the GOP blogosphere was running on all cylinders -- er, microprocessors -- when news began to circulate that Obama's claim that his uncle had helped liberate Auschwitz. The rub: The Soviets, not the Americans, liberated the concentration camp. The Obama camp eventually corrected the misstatement -- the candidate's great uncle helped liberate Buchenwald, not Auschwitz. All in all, it wasn't a big story and wasn't near the gaffe that McCain's earlier Sunni-Shiite one was. If you're going to make a gaffe, you better make sure it's more truth than lie. And in this case it was. Yet when you consider Obama's other misstatements or exaggerations (JFK helping to bring his father to the US, Sioux City instead of Sioux Falls, Sunshine, FL instead of Sunrise, FL, 57 states), his campaign has to be careful to remember that these types of stories/narratives can often take lives of their own.

*** Veepstakes watch: Not much movement on the veepstakes front today. Charlie Crist was the first of the McCain BBQ guests to break his silence, but he ducked the question shadowing his potential candidacy when asked about social conservative angst over him. Crist ignored the question on Morning Joe and instead touted his Florida record. Meanwhile, Maureen Dowd does a fictional "vetting Bill Clinton" column that includes a script of Obama and Bill Clinton chatting about his business issues and Bill Clinton eventually relenting on the idea of putting HRC on the ticket. Speaking of veepstakes, turnout for the GOP tournament on MSNBC.com is already higher than in many of those caucus states won by Obama. The closest match-ups so far: Powell v. Crist; Barbour vs. Cox; Thompson v. Petraues; Jeb v. Pence; Romney, Thune, Huckabee, Rice and Sanford are the only candidates garnering 70%+.

*** A super flip: In one of the more bizarre superdelegate moves, a super from the Virgin Islands has switched from Obama to Clinton -- after having originally supported Clinton and then switching to Obama. Kevin Rodriguez had been for Clinton early on, then switched to Obama on May 10 and even put out a statement through the Obama camp lauding the Illinois senator's ability to "connect with Democrats, Republicans and independents." The Clinton campaign put out just a one-line statement yesterday afternoon; it didn't tout him as a switch or provide a statement. First Read was unable to reach Rodriguez last night for comment. With 797 superdelegates, none of whom are bound to anything, this is bound to happen. It's also a reminder that even if a superdelegate puts out a statement in support of one candidate or another, it doesn't mean they have to stay put. Obama this morning did pick up two more superdelegates: Colorado party chair Patricia Waak and Guam add-on Vicente "Ben" Pangelinan. The counts: PLEDGED: Obama 1649 to 1500; SUPERDELEGATES: Obama 317.5 to 283.5; EDWARDS PLEDGED: Obama 12 to 0; TOTAL: Obama 1,978.5 to 1,783.5. Obama is now 47.5 delegates away from 2,026.

*** On the trail: Clinton is in South Dakota visiting Mount Rushmore and campaigning in Kyle and Rapid City; McCain holds a town hall in Reno, NV and raises money there before heading to Los Angeles for another fundraiser; and Obama has a town hall at an elementary school in Thornton, CO.

Countdown to Puerto Rico: 4 days
Countdown to Montana, South Dakota: 6 days
Countdown to Election Day 2008: 160 days
Countdown to Inauguration Day 2009: 237 days
 
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