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First thoughts: The Barack-block

From Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, Domenico Montanaro, and Carrie Dann
*** The Barack-umentary
: Last night's Obama infomercial seemed to pull out all the stops. Details for his plans? Check. Profiles of families from key battleground states? Check. Testimonials from popular politicians from battleground states? Check. Climax at the end with a jam-packed rally? Check. Still, it was pretty clear the Obama camp took to heart the potential criticism of the infomercial being over-the-top. Large parts of it were pretty subdued. It was interesting how it was focused on voters -- and not himself. One might have expected a little more biography. Then again, if he felt the need to fix his bio with voters at this late date, he'd be in trouble. The end was impressive. Not since Reagan have we seen a candidate so adept at hitting his time cues. Even if you didn't like the 30-minute spot -- and even if it didn't win over a single undecided voter -- this much is true: It gobbled up a day's worth of attention. And we now have just five days left…

Video: NBC Deputy Director Mark Murray offers his first read on the impact of Barack Obama's 30-minute infomercial and the latest NBC electoral map snapshot.

*** Al Gore returns to Florida: Tomorrow, according to sources, Al and Tipper Gore will be stumping for Obama in West Palm Beach and Fort. Lauderdale. It's the first time he's campaigned in Florida for president since 2000. While he's campaigned in the Sunshine State since 2000, he's not done so for a presidential candidate since he himself was running. It's more evidence that the Obama campaign believes Florida -- more so than Ohio, Missouri, Indiana or even North Carolina -- is the back-breaker. From last night's infomercial to the first Bill Clinton event with Obama, every little thing appears to be geared toward winning Florida.  

*** Sitting down with Brian Williams: As we mentioned yesterday, Obama had a busy day Wednesday (the rally with Bill Clinton, interviews with Jon Stewart and ABC's Charlie Gibson, and the infomercial). Today, Obama sits down with NBC's Brian Williams. Be sure to tune into Nightly News at 6:30 pm ET for the interview.

Video: Following Barack Obama's half-hour prime-time ad, former President Bill Clinton offered a ringing endorsement at a late-night rally in Florida. NBC's Andrea Mitchell reports.

*** The feeding frenzy: A senior Palin aide yesterday lambasted news organizations for confusing the answers to two questions in ABC's interview with the Alaska governor, and for suggesting Palin was reflecting on presidential ambitions for 2012. However, this is more evidence of how Palin -- the GOP ticket's No.2 -- is still taking up too much oxygen, and that's the real problem with her candidacy. She's become the focal point of every process story in America. Now, the 2012 speculation yesterday was a product more of media hype than anything she actually said. But it's turned her political future into another feeding frenzy.

*** Another day, another round of polls: New NBC/Mason-Dixon polls show the race in Pennsylvania to be a bit closer than other polls have suggested. Also, they have McCain ahead by just four points in his home state of Arizona. In Pennsylvania, Obama's up 47%-43%; in Minnesota, he's up 48%-40%; and in Arizona, it's McCain 48%, Obama 44%. Meanwhile, here are some new CNN/Time polls: Obama's up eight points in Colorado among likely voters (53%-45%); up four in Florida (51%-47%); and up nine points in Virginia (53%-44%). McCain, meanwhile, leads in Georgia (52%-47%) and Missouri (50%-48%). And a second batch of CNN/Time polls have McCain up eight points in Arizona (53%-46%), but Obama leading in Nevada (52%-45%), North Carolina (52%-46%), Ohio (51%-47%), and Pennsylvania (55%-43%).

*** Flashback time: By the way, today just happens to be the one-year anniversary of the MSNBC debate in Philadelphia that tripped up Hillary Clinton on the question of drivers' licenses for illegal immigrants. It seems longer than a year, right?

*** The politics of the bailout: Forty-one out of the 51 senators in the Democratic caucus voted for the $700 billion financial rescue package earlier this month, reports MSNBC.com's Tom Curry. But two Democratic Senate candidates are now using the bailout as weapon to assail Republican incumbents who voted for it. In Minnesota yesterday, Democratic challenger Al Franken slammed the bailout as "an outrage," waging a populist appeal against opponent Norm Coleman, whom he hopes to paint as a Washington insider. In Georgia, Democrat Jim Martin has slammed Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R) for voting for the bill, and his campaign said yesterday that, "Saxby isn't telling the truth about the bailout." Chambliss hopes that his "yea" vote for the measure will not peel supporters away in the tough Georgia Senate race, acknowledging that there has been some grassroots Republican indignation about the bill but that more and more Georgians were seeing that it was needed. (Democrats in two of the country's other tight races have no such ammunition -- Sens. Elizabeth Dole of North Carolina and Roger Wicker of Mississippi voted "no" on the $700 billion package.)

*** Fun fact of the day: There's been a lot of talk of Obama's expanded map. One place that's probably too much of a reach for Obama is West Virginia -- though it is Lean McCain. But do you know that no Democrat has won the White House without winning West Virginia since 1916, when it went for former Republican New York Gov. Charles Evans Hughes, U.S. Supreme Court Justice, over Woodrow Wilson. The Teddy Roosevelt-backed Hughes actually almost won that election. The result hung in the balance for three days because of a close vote in California, which ultimately went for Wilson by just 3,773 votes. By the way, Republicans haven't won a Senate race in West Virginia since 1956, and that losing streak will continue with this year's election.

*** On the trail: McCain spends his day in Ohio, stopping in Defiance, Sandusky, Elyria, and Mentor. Obama holds three rallies in three different states: Sarasota, FL, Virginia Beach, VA, and Columbia, MO. Biden stumps in Arnold, MO before heading to Pennsylvania, where he visits Williamsport and Allentown. And Palin campaigns has rallies in Cape Girardeau, MO, Erie, PA, and Williamsport, PA.

Countdown to Election Day 2008: 5 days
Countdown to Electoral Vote Count: 70 days
Countdown to Inauguration Day 2009: 82 days
 
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