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First thoughts: Analyze this

From Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, and Domenico Montanaro
*** Analyze this: We've now crossed the 100-day mark before Election Day, and the chattering class is going to obsessed with two things this week: 1) over-analyzing the veepstakes and 2) over-analyzing any overseas bounce for Obama. So here's your handy-dandy pundits question prep guide for both topics, especially for the many of you going online or on the air to talk about both.
-- Veep Timing: The CW was that neither candidate could name their running mate during the Olympics. But with Obama planning a week vacation sometime in August, now the betting is he'll either name his running mate just before he leaves for vacation (sort of odd, but it would allow a week's worth of attention ONLY on the running mate) or he'll announce just after (meaning, second week of Olympics?). It may be tough to break through the Olympics (especially if something unexpected happens), but if there is one political story that could break through, it would be a VP pick. As for McCain, the backseat driving advisers -- those who don't work for McCain but send him advice through the media -- are saying that waiting is still the best bet for the candidate who holds so few timing cards.
-- The Bounce: Sunday's daily Gallup poll had Obama up nine points over McCain (49%-40%), which is Obama's biggest general-election lead in that tracking. Of course, beware of placing too much stock into any one poll, particularly this tracking poll, which has shown a pattern of being better for Obama on certain days of the week than others. So let's wait a bit until the next few national polls are released before declaring whether Obama got a bounce from his overseas trip. But do consider this question: Which candidate has the bigger problem in the polls -- Obama (who seems to have hit a ceiling in the high 40s) or the better-known McCain (who's stuck in the low 40s in many national or state polls)? It's a problem for both, but the fact that McCain can't get past 45% in so many polls could be the bigger problem. 

*** The big hint? Speaking of veepstakes, did Obama during his Meet the Press interview give a hint whom he WOULDN'T pick? Check out this line: "I'm going to want somebody with integrity; I'm going to want somebody with independence, who's willing to tell me where he thinks or she thinks I'm wrong; and I'm, I'm going to want somebody who shares a vision of the country where we need to go, that we've got to fundamentally change not only our policies, but how our politics works, how business is done in Washington." Did he just rule out that he would pick a sitting Democratic US senator? Try and use that description Obama gave with Bayh, Biden, Clinton, or Reed? Now, try using it with Kaine, Sebelius, Nunn, or Hagel? Just sayin'… If Obama picks someone from the first group, he's going to have a tough time making the case that this person has shown a history of changing the way business is done in Washington. Frankly, it's tough naming any Washington player using that standard. As for McCain, it's amazing how convinced so many are in the media and in the GOP chattering class that the candidate has whittled his list down to two: Romney and Pawlenty.

VIDEO: Announcing a meeting on Monday between himself and his "core economic advisors," with the intention of examining fiscal policies they've put forward, Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama discusses the state of the economy and his economic policies with NBC's Tom Brokaw of "Meet the Press."

*** Pivoting to the economy: Barack Obama, you've returned from a successful trip overseas. What are you going to do next? I'm going to talk about the economy… Today, in DC, Obama will meet with some of his top economic advisers -- including investor Warren Buffett, former Fed chairman Paul Volcker, former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, AFL-CIO President John Sweeney, SEIU Secretary-Treasurer Anna Burger, and Google chairman and CEO Eric Schmidt. There will be a photo spray of the meeting.

*** You've gotta believe: McCain's latest TV ad hit on Obama blasts the Illinois senator for canceling a visit to meet with wounded US troops at the Landstuhl military base. Like other McCain attack ads on the air, it's a bit over the top; it asks the voter to believe something that seems hard to believe -- that Obama doesn't care about US troops. (In fact, in the advertisement, the McCain campaign contradicts its message by using footage of Obama actually playing basketball with US troops in Kuwait.) This McCain ad follows another one blaming Obama for high gas prices -- once again, an attack that doesn't seem believable. (Will voters actually believe Obama's to blame for high gas prices?) A negative ad is always more effective when the attack is believable, when it speaks to a question the voter has already pondered in his own head. And just asking: If the McCain campaign is airing TV ads that voters don't find believable, what does that do to McCain's straight-talk image? McCain seems off message. The good news for some conservatives is that McCain is disproving the prediction that he wouldn't be personally tough on Obama. But how long will McCain be comfortable in this role? Can't you picture McCain deciding he doesn't want to be the attacker anymore and suddenly decides he wants to go a different route? 

*** Is it personal? One more thought about the Landstuhl TV ad: Obama cancelling his meeting with US troops really seems to have bothered McCain and his campaign -- personally. Do read this quote in the Washington Post from a GOP strategist: "'They couldn't help themselves,' the strategist said, adding that the ad over the hospital visit is 'churlish and unlike McCain, and hardly will resonate with the swing voters who are going to decide this election.' The strategist continued: 'They're doing it because the candidate, and the campaign, is not happy with where they are and they're lashing out.'" Also, is this the beginning of wave of blind GOP quotes we're going to start to see from Republicans complaining about McCain's campaign… again?

VIDEO: NBC Political Director Chuck Todd talks about Sen. Barack Obama's trip abroad, Sen. John McCain's reaction to it, and how soon we can expect to see vice president picks.

*** A little sensitive, are we? By the way, seeing the Obama campaign's cancellation of the troop turn into a controversy is a reminder of just how sensitive Democrats are regarding the troops. They made the decision that they'd get more criticism for politicizing a visit with wounded troops than not going at all. Our question: Why not dare your opponents for criticizing you for visiting troops if you really thought that? It seems like a decision made due to lack of sleep… For what it's worth -- and this will be the thing the McCain campaign takes away from this weekend back-and-forth -- McCain does seem to have gotten some traction on this attack, even if the facts aren't clearly on his side. But in order to win this back-and-forth, the campaign had to put up an attack ad doing and use the candidate to attack Obama personally as well. Was it worth the news cycle win?

*** On the trail: McCain is in Bakersfield, CA, where he raises money. Obama is in DC, where he meets with members of his economic team and later heads to a fundraiser in Arlington, VA. And Michelle Obama is in Chicago, where she hosts a "Women for Obama" luncheon.
Countdown to Dem convention: 28 days
Countdown to GOP convention: 35 days
Countdown to Election Day 2008: 99 days
Countdown to Inauguration Day 2009: 176 days
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