From Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, and Domenico Montanaro
*** Problems in HillaryLand: Summer doldrums? Then spend the day clicking and reading Josh Green's Atlantic Monthly piece on the Clinton campaign, as well as all the campaign memos and emails he obtained. It's not a pretty picture of Team Clinton. The memos paint a picture of Mark Penn as someone who just doesn't seem human. They also show Hillary Clinton as shockingly paralyzed; the person who ran on her experience to do the job couldn't make an executive decision in a timely fashion -- or if she did, she wasn't listened to. Bill Clinton was one of the powers behind the scenes, providing the backbone Mark Penn was looking for inside the campaign. The article, as well the memos and emails, is a severe blow to the Clinton Restoration Project -- just as her supporters are trying to get her name onto the convention ballot.
*** It's the management, stupid: With the news about Edwards' affair, there has been a lot of revisionist history coming from Clinton circles that, with Edwards out of the race, Clinton would have won the Iowa caucuses and the Dem nomination. Maybe, maybe not. (The Iowa entrance polls showed that Obama beat Clinton 2-to-1 as the second choice among Edwards' backers.) But as Green's piece makes clear, Clinton's management problems would have become an issue -- either in the primary season (sans Edwards) or the general election. "Clinton ran on the basis of managerial competence… In fact, she never behaved like a chief executive, and her own staff proved to be her Achilles' heel," Green writes. "What is clear from the internal documents is that Clinton's loss derived not from any specific decision she made but rather from the preponderance of the many she did not make. Her hesitancy and habit of avoiding hard choices exacted a price that eventually sank her chances at the presidency." As one prominent Clinton supporter is arguing about the release of these memos, the one person they're going to damage the most is Clinton herself.
*** Bushwhacked? Yesterday, we mentioned that President Bush's relatively passive approach to the conflict in Georgia wasn't doing McCain any favors, because Bush -- attending swimming events at the Olympics, playing beach volleyball -- seemed more disengaged than Obama was in Hawaii. In fact, every time McCain has appeared to have traction on an issue, Bush hasn't helped. As one Republican reader recalls, the president totally stepped on McCain's "I will end the Iraq war by 2013" message when he gave his Nazi appeasers speech at the Israeli Knesset. Moreover, when McCain was calling Congress to come back to work on the energy bill, Bush didn't bother to use his bully pulpit to reiterate that call. And the White House's support for a general "time horizon" for withdrawal from Iraq -- combined with Maliki's endorsement of Obama's 16-month timeline -- seemed to leave McCain all by himself on the withdrawal issue. It's hard enough for McCain to lug around the baggage that is Bush's job rating. But does he actually pro-actively have to find ways to hurt him too?
*** Time for another sit-down interview? WashingtonPost.com reports that Rielle Hunter was WITH Edwards on his presidential announcement tour in late December 2006 -- and it has photos to prove it -- even though Edwards said the affair had ended before he made his presidential announced. Are we really expected to believe that if Elizabeth Edwards knew about her husband's affair in 2006, she'd allow Hunter to be on the campaign trail?
*** Big think time: There are a few interesting macro-political stories out today. The http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/08/11/AR2008081102203.html ">Los Angeles Times looks at McCain's potential problem with exurban voters, a demographic Bush won big in 2004. The Washington Post writes about Obama's troubles with voters 65 and older. And the Wall Street Journal reports on how Republicans -- concerned about all the new voter registration -- are contemplating playing the fraud card. The premise of that WSJ piece, in fact, is going to make Dems nuts and make Republicans very happy. Democrats believe Republicans are cynical about any new voter registrations, and GOPers believe Dems overlook the rules to register voters. The bottom line: The GOP looks like it's on the side of keeping voter rolls down, which isn't always the best place to be.
*** The one-term pledge: One topic we didn't get to yesterday was the news that McCain either had -- or has -- been thinking about making a one-term pledge. The two biggest issues McCain has to deal with among swing voters are his age and the (R) next to his name. In addition, the one thing that's holding back a slice of voters from going to Obama is his inexperience. Well, there's a school of thought that McCain could offer voters the best of both worlds if he somehow convinces them that he'll be a one-term president, while allowing Obama to season himself up for another four years. There are some Republican strategists who we've talked to who believe that if voters thought they could get Obama as president EVENTUALLY, they'd pick McCain for four years and take Obama after that. The problem is -- How do you sell this now. Will enough voters buy into the idea that a politician will keep his word on a one-term pledge? There's a lot of cynicism about politicians these days (thank you, John Edwards). Also, a one-term pledge certainly raises the stakes for McCain VP pick -- then again, it might give McCain leeway to pick someone he believes needs a little seasoning. The political reality of a one-term pledge is that it could make a President McCain an immediate lame-duck; of course, if he argues he'll take the politics out of the presidency it might allow him to govern as he wants and not feel the need to answer to any one constituency group. And that fact could actually scare conservatives who would worry what havoc a one-term McCain presidency could create on the conservative movement. It's a gamble. But what we know about McCain, he loves to gamble.
*** Downballot spotlight: NBC/NJ's Carrie Dann notes that Democrats are looking for a hat trick this November in Colorado, aiming to make a Senate win for Rep. Mark Udall their third statewide victory in as many election cycles -- after sending Ken Salazar to the Senate in '04 and Bill Ritter to the governor's mansion in '06. Udall's campaign has given them a lot to smile about. He's got a substantial advantage in fundraising and polling over GOP opponent Bob Schaffer. His reputation as a champion of the environment is worth substantial traction in the Rocky Mountain state, and his high-profile family name doesn't hurt, either. But Schaffer, Dann adds, continues to hold his own, most recently hammering Udall for reneging on his promise to support a measure that would have kept the US House in session to address offshore drilling. (Udall was fundraising and didn't make it back to DC in time for the vote.) "Schaffer hasn't really gotten many breaks in this race," says Jennifer Duffy of the Cook Political Report. "And yet he's still in the game." Duffy points out that Schaffer has also been working to paint his opponent as an out-of-touch "Boulder liberal" -- not exactly the kind of centrist Dem that usually does well in the state. If Udall can win despite being tagged as a "Boulder liberal," it will be a reminder of the sea change that could be taking place in this state politically.
*** On the trail: McCain remains in Pennsylvania, holding a town hall in York and conducting interviews in Lancaster. He later heads to a fundraiser in Teaneck, NJ. Obama is still in Hawaii, but his campaign will launch its "Republicans for Obama" effort with a conference call by former US Rep. Jim Leach (R).
Countdown to Dem convention: 13 days
Countdown to GOP convention: 20 days
Countdown to Election Day 2008: 84 days
Countdown to Inauguration Day 2009: 161 days
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