Starting Gate: Expectations Weekend

A week's worth of drama and polling leads into a weekend of expectations-setting for the political pros. That might have more impact on how the results in Indiana and North Carolina primaries are judged than anything else. And strangely at this juncture, it's Barack Obama who may have the biggest opportunity.

Suddenly, the hopes are high in the Hillary Clinton camp. Polls throughout the week, both nationally and at the state level, give her reason for hope – in Indiana, among superdelegates and even in North Carolina, where Obama should be a prohibitive favorite. What better time for a comeback?

Despite a week of Rev. Wright talk and polls indicating that Clinton may be the stronger candidate for the general election (at the moment), Obama remains in a very strong position to win the nomination and a sweep of Tuesday's primaries could seal it. Can it happen? You bet.

While Clinton has shown a slight lead in Indiana, the state appears to be ultra competitive. It's a neighboring state to Obama's Illinois and he's demonstrated strength in such situations throughout the campaign. A week ago, a win in Indiana for Obama would have gone a long way towards putting to rest concerns about his ability to win over blue-collar voters. Now a win there would say so much more – it would soothe Democratic worries about Wright and electability issues.

Should Clinton manage a sweep, it would be a heavy blow to the Obama campaign but not a fatal one. He would still almost certainly finish the primary season ahead in elected delegates. An Obama sweep, even by the slimmest of margins, would pretty much wrap the race up. In keeping with this primary contest, the most likely outcome is a split, with Obama carrying North Carolina and Clinton winning Indiana. But since when has this race played to type?

Don't Forget Guam: The territory of Guam, which sends delegates to the Democratic convention but has no vote for the general election, holds caucuses tomorrow. And the campaigns haven't been ignoring it. According to the Wall Street Journal, the campaigns have been running TV and radio ads and pressing their personal connections to the island. Clinton has been reminding voters there of her stops on the island during her travels as first lady and Obama has been stressing his connections to Indonesia. There are four delegates at stake.

Top Ten Reasons Pols Give Top Ten Lists: Because it's become a rite of passage for presidential candidates to show their "fun" side ever since Bill Clinton played the saxophone on the Arsenio Hall show (or maybe it was Nixon's appearance on "Laugh In" that began the trend). Obama appeared on the "Late Show" with David Letterman last night to deliver the "top ten surprising facts about Barack Obama."

10. My first act as President will be to stop the fighting between Lauren and Heidi on "The Hills."

9. In the Illinois primary, I accidentally voted for Kucinich.

8. When I tell my kids to clean their room, I finish with, "I'm Barack Obama and I approved this message."

7. Throughout high school, I was consistently voted "Barackiest."

6. Earlier today I bowled a 39.

5. I have cancelled all my appearances the day the "Sex and the City" movie opens.

4. It's the birthplace of Fred Astaire. (Sorry, that's a surprising fact about Omaha)

3. We are tirelessly working to get the endorsement of Kentucky Derby favorite Colonel John.

2. This has nothing to do with the Top Ten, but what the heck is up with Paula Abdul?

1. I have not slept since October.

Around The Track

  • The Indianapolis Star endorses Clinton in an editorial today. "As impressive as Obama appears, he is still in his first term in the U.S. Senate, and only four years ago was serving as an Illinois state senator. His inexperience in high office is a liability. Clinton, in contrast, is well prepared for the rigors of the White House. She is tough, experienced and realistic about what can and cannot be accomplished on the world stage."
  • Black voters in North Carolina are making it clear that they may sit out the general election if Clinton ends up capturing the nomination by virtue of superdelegate support, according to the Charlotte Observer.
  • According to the North Carolina Board of Elections, over 45,000 voters have switched their party registration this year. Forty two percent switched to the Democratic Party, 42 percent to unaffiliated and just 15 percent to the Republican Party.
  • After weeks of courting independent voters, John McCain will deliver a series of speeches aimed at courting the GOP's conservative base.