From Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, and Domenico Montanaro
*** Biden walks it back: Yesterday, all the signs pointed to the fact that Biden was emerging Obama's likely VP pick -- until the Delaware senator quickly seemed to dash that speculation yesterday. "You guys have better things to do," Biden told the reporters staking him out, as he was leaving his home in Delaware to play golf. "I'm not the guy." But upon his return, he appeared to walk back that denial. "I promise, I don't know anything, have no idea, have spoken to no one," Biden said. Then asked whether he thinks he's still being considered, he answered: "I have no idea. You guys know as well as I do. See ya, fellas." A Biden source told us not to read too much into his "I'm-not-the-guy" statement, saying he was pretending not to be Biden -- rather than stating he wasn't going to be Obama's VP. Also, does anyone think Biden would have been out golfing and smiling had he found out he wasn't the guy?
*** McCain's pro-choice head fake? The McCain campaign has very adroit of late of inserting itself into the media narrative at times when the assumption that Obama was going to own a week. And with Obama's VP selection coming up, this is one of those weeks. The focus is supposed to be ALL on Obama. Yet instead, it's become a true split-screen story now that McCain's camp is purportedly considering Lieberman or Ridge for the No. 2 slot. Could it be that McCain has no interest in picking Ridge or Lieberman, but wants the country and swing voters to think they might? Nothing like having Limbaugh and other conservatives issuing warning shots in public on this to bolster McCain's independent status. Then again, the risk of playing this game is that if McCain ends up picking Pawlenty or Romney, the spin could be he blinked in the face of conservative attacks. Still, this week, McCain's camp has once again showed how effective it is in creating just as much buzz on a story that many thought Obama would dominate by himself.
*** Just askin': Considering how important Virginia is to Obama and his electoral strategy, does anyone think he'll step on his bus tour in the state by announcing his running mate while he's there today and tomorrow? Wouldn't that create havoc with his trip and allowing the VP craziness to step on his appearances with Warner (today's companion) and Kaine (tomorrow's)?
*** The narrowing race: Yesterday morning, Quinnipiac came out with a poll showing that McCain had cut Obama's lead from nine points (50%-41%) to five (47%-42%). And that was followed by an LA Times/Bloomberg survey showing that Obama's advantage had been reduced from 12 points (49% to 37%) to just two (45%-43%). There are a couple of ways to look at these numbers. The obvious one is that McCain's negative onslaught, combined with the Russia-Georgia conflict, as well as Obama's weeklong vacation, has narrowed this race considerably. In short, McCain has had a very good last two weeks. On the other hand, despite it all, McCain's still behind and unable to get out of the low 40s; Obama's numbers have gone down, but McCain's really haven't gone up. Nevertheless, there is no longer this widespread belief among the wise guys and gals of both parties that we're all just sitting around waiting for this race to break in Obama's direction. The polls -- as well as the money race -- suggest otherwise. The political fundamentals (the mood of the country, the enthusiasm gap, Bush's approval rating) still favor Obama. But something has changed where (1) Obama can't make many more mistakes and expect to win and (2) the McCain camp thinks it can win. That wasn't the case a few months ago.
*** Poll tease time: And by the way, the national poll of record -- the NBC/Wall Street Journal poll -- comes out tonight at 6:30 pm ET. Will the numbers show a similar tightening? Something different? And just how important will Hillary Clinton's supporters be to Obama's success in the fall? Tune into NBC Nightly News or log on to MSNBC.com.
*** On the trail: McCain holds a town hall in Las Cruces, NM before leaving for his vacation in Sedona, AZ. Obama, in Virginia, holds economic town hall meetings in Martinsville and Lynchburg.
Countdown to Dem convention: 5 days
Countdown to GOP convention: 12 days
Countdown to Election Day 2008: 76 days
Countdown to Inauguration Day 2009: 153 days
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