From Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, and Domenico Montanaro
*** The Gore-acle finally speaketh: For months, the question wasn't if Al Gore was going to endorse Obama, but when. And would he do it at a time that was pivotal in the primary? Well, he chose not to poke the Clintons in the eye, waiting until last night to finally endorse Obama. But why was the event in Michigan? It presents risks and rewards for the Obama campaign. On the plus side, it's obvious that Michigan has become a HUGE priority for Team Obama. After all, it has now unveiled two of its biggest endorsements in the state -- Edwards (on May 14) and Gore (last night). And those kind of big rallies enable a campaign to build up its field program. And where is Obama today? For a second day in a row, he's in Michigan…On the other hand, Gore's stances on auto emissions are NOT popular with the auto industry. Having Gore endorse Obama in Michigan, of all places, might have been a risk for the campaign. But it was a risk it thought was worth taking.
VIDEO: NBC Deputy Political Director Mark Murray gives his first read on the political headlines of the day and takes a look back at a 2005 prediction by Tim Russert, saying that this year's electoral map may take on a different look.
*** Off-shore gambling? One day after Mr. Environment endorsed Obama in Michigan, McCain today gives a speech in Houston in which he will call for lifting the moratorium on off-shore drilling. It's a move that's already generating plenty of criticism from environmental groups and Democrats, and it provides opponents with another example of McCain pursuing policies similar to Bush's -- in this case, increased oil production (although McCain opposes drilling in ANWR). But McCain's call for lifting the ban could also be seen as a pragmatic, short-term solution to high energy costs that could play well in places like Michigan, even if it's loathed on the coasts. In fact, McCain may be gambling three things about Florida with this decision to back a lifting in the ban on offshore oil drilling: 1) the price of gas is high enough that voters are going to be more open to finding new energy sources; 2) his lead is big enough in Florida than he can afford to alienate some voters on this specific issue; and 3) forcing Obama to defend not drilling for oil on the coasts of Florida and California might give McCain a way to make Obama not look like he's trying to find a solutions to the nation's energy needs. One other thing to keep in mind: No Republicans in Florida have gotten elected statewide without endorsing the moratorium on off-shore oil drilling, so McCain's decision is going to get its share of criticism even from VP wannabe Charlie Crist. And if Crist tries to rationalize the McCain decision then we'll really find out just how much he wants on the ticket.
*** But still playing up those environmental credentials: To make sure that voters don't see McCain's call for lifting the off-shore drilling ban as another way in which the Arizona senator seems similar to Bush, McCain is unveiling a new TV ad that will run in battleground states and on national cable. It goes: "John McCain stood up to the president and sounded the alarm on global warming -- five years ago. Today, he has a realistic plan that will curb greenhouse gas emissions. A plan that will help grow our economy and protect our environment."
*** Title obsessions: We're amused by all the chatter, either pro or con, regarding Team Obama's appointment of ex-Clinton manager Patti Solis Doyle as the chief of staff for the eventual VP nominee. First, it's not uncommon for a nominee to control the staffing of a running mate -- you don't want a competing group of folks staffing a VP candidate who ends up more loyal to the veep than to the nominee. Two, they had to put her somewhere. A chief of staff on a campaign sometimes isn't as powerful as a chief of staff for elected officials in office. This isn't to assume PSD is being given an inflated title with no power; it's just a reminder that it could be that. Bottom line: Too much is being made out of this decision. It signals nothing other than getting the chattering class to attempt to read in between the lines on something that is just not there. A blind man could see that.
*** When CW is wrong: There was a growing consensus during the Democratic primary season that Obama was going to struggle with Latino voters -- due to the exit polls, his race, and McCain's immigration stance. In fact, in that now-famous conference call in which Hillary Clinton indicated that she would be open to serving as Obama's running mate, that response was spurred by concern by New York Rep. Nydia Velasquez (D) that Obama was going to have trouble with Latinos. But it looks like that CW -- at least right now -- was wrong. In addition to our recent NBC/WSJ poll, which showed Hispanics breaking for Obama 62%-28%, a new survey of 800 Latino voters from 21 states finds that 60% of them plan to vote for Obama versus 23% for McCain. That is down considerably from the 40%-plus Bush received in 2004. It's no longer fair to say that Obama has a problem with Latino voters; McCain does. This was a case of conventional wisdom that was never based on fact, just semi-informed speculation based on primary exit polling and bad stereotypes of Latinos.
*** On the trail: McCain is in Texas, raising money in San Antonio and giving a speech and hitting another fundraiser in Houston. Obama spends another day in Michigan -- this time meeting with students at Wayne County Community College in Taylor.
*** Bill Clinton watch: The former president, in New York City, gives a speech tonight for the Radio City Music Hall Speakers Series. Per a spokesman, Clinton will talk about how corporate philanthropy and individual action can help find solutions to global challenges.
Countdown to Dem convention: 69 days
Countdown to GOP convention: 76 days
Countdown to Election Day 2008: 140 days
Countdown to Inauguration Day 2009: 217 days
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