Pure Horserace: Spoiling For A Fight?

Democratic Presidential hopefuls Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., left and Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., during the televised Democratic presidential candidates debate at Howard University in Washington Thursday, June 28, 2007. AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais

It's hard to tell who's more anxious for some elbows to be thrown in the Democratic primary, the candidates themselves or those who cover and comment on the process. Actually, it's a sign both of the excitement about this historic election and simmering tensions underneath which have led to a somewhat exaggerated flare-up between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

The source of the flap came in Monday night's YouTube debate where Obama said he would personally meet with leaders of nations adversarial to the U.S. — specifically leaders of North Korea, Iran, Cuba and Venezuela. Clinton maintained that she would consider meeting with such leaders, but would not commit herself to doing so during a campaign and not before other diplomatic maneuvers would assure it would not be a mere "propaganda" posture for a rogue nation.

To listen to Clinton supporters, you would think Obama's approach would be to pick up the phone in the Oval Office and invite Fidel Castro to go out clubbing with him. Obama supporters sought to portray Clinton as essentially a clone of President Bush, who famously dubbed North Korea, Iran and Iraq as an "Axis of Evil" and has thus far refused to deal one-on-one with leaders of adversarial nations.

The candidates themselves got into the act yesterday, essentially reinforcing those images. "The idea that you would promise to meet in your first year with the leaders of those nations, when for the previous eight years there had been no diplomatic efforts that we could look to, to determine what the options were, I think was naive," Clinton said. Obama fired back: "The question I have for the senator is, is she intending to simply continue the Bush-Cheney policies that have resulted in so much damage around the world, or are we going to have a change?"

Here, finally, is the clash that we've been anticipating. Tensions between the Clinton and Obama camps have been boiling since the beginning of the race. Clinton has accumulated an enormous amount of institutional support and leads in most every poll, but Obama's fundraising prowess and the excitement his candidacy has generated has been hard to shake for the former First Lady. Clinton's campaign wants voters to see Obama as a risky, inexperienced candidate who's not yet ready for prime time, while the Obama folks want them to see the New York senator as a status-quo choice.

This latest sniping between the camps is a manifestation of that larger battle, but it seems a minor one at best. What is said in the midst of a debate 16 months prior to an election is not often reflective of what's done once a president takes office — look at Mr. Bush's promises to stay out of the nation-building business during the 2000 campaign. But that won't stop everyone, the candidates included, from making the most out of even the most minor of incidents, so prepare yourselves for the long, hard slog to come. — Vaughn Ververs


An Early Bloomer? While there has been a lot of talk about a potential third-party bid by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, there's little reason to think we'll know if he's running anytime soon. The mayor, who recently left the Republican Party, has nothing to lose by sitting on the sidelines until early next spring, when he will have the most advantage. He will by then almost certainly know who the nominees of both major parties are, will have plenty of time to start the process of getting on the ballot in states across the nation and would be a relatively fresh face to enter the process after a year of primary squabbling.

But Bloomberg, or someone close to him, may be tipping the hand. A new Web site, Mike2008, has been purchased by the campaign. The link, as of now, goes directly to his personal Web site mikebloomberg.com — but the New York Daily News reports that other Bloomberg-associated sites have also been claimed by the mayor's people. "The Web administrators control a number of Bloomberg-specific [addresses] to prevent cyber-squatters and redirect users to mikebloomberg.com," spokesman Robert Lawson told the Daily News.

Meanwhile, a new poll shows some chinks in Bloomberg's New York armor. The Quinnipiac University survey shows that while 73 percent of New York City voters approve of the job he is doing as mayor, 57 percent said they probably or definitely would not support him should he run for president. New Yorkers, apparently, like Bloomberg just where he is. — Vaughn Ververs


Political Football: All the presidential debates and forums are starting to blur together at this point, but an Aug. 7 Democratic event in Chicago may demand some attention — not because of the people on stage, but because of the venue: Soldier Field, home of the Chicago Bears.

The forum, being held by the AFL-CIO, was originally slated to be held at an indoor convention center. But according to The Associated Press, interest from union members ran so high that organizers opted for the outdoor venue instead — even though it introduces the possibility of seeing the Democratic hopefuls duke it out in the rain.

Look for the candidates to go for applause lines — drawing a big response from an auditorium crowd is going to pale in comparison to having perhaps tens of thousands of people roaring from the stands of one of football's most historic stadiums. As if there wasn't enough pressure on Barack Obama to do well, the Chicago resident will now have the added expectation of performing well with a literal home-field advantage. — David Miller


Random Samples: In 2004, exit polls predicted a presidential win for John Kerry. In 1948, polls predicted a loss by Harry Truman. These famous flubs by pollsters may have been nearly 60 years apart, but both had the same root cause: samples that were unrepresentative of the voting population. In this week's Poll Positions column, CBS News director of surveys Kathy Frankovic looks at the fine art of ensuring an accurate sample, including the evolving techniques polling firms have employed since the embarrassment of "Dewey Defeats Truman." To find out more, read this week's column.


Editor's note: Pure Horserace is a daily update of political news as interpreted by the political observers at CBSNews.com. Click here to sign up for the e-mail version.

By Vaughn Ververs and David Miller
  • David Miller

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