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Starting Gate: Is It His Party?

When then-Vice President Al Gore stood on a Los Angeles stage late in the summer of 2000, it's doubtful that he was very familiar with a young Illinois state senator by the name of Barack Obama. It was Gore's moment to take the reins of the Democratic Party and make it his own.

His eventual loss and subsequent decision to recede from active politics left the party without a truly dominant leader and, by default, largely in the hands of the Clintons. Gore's endorsement of Obama in Michigan last night put an exclamation point on a dynamic that has gradually been taking shape over recent weeks – it's Obama's party now.

The presumptive nominee has already seized control of much of the Democratic National Committee and has instituted rules banning the DNC from accepting money from lobbyists and political action committees in order to bring its fundraising guidelines into line with his own. Democratic leaders, including many who were strong supporters of Hillary Clinton in the primaries, have rallied to his side. And now, Al Gore has stepped in to provide his seal of approval.

But for all that Obama has done to coalesce the party in the wake of the long process, there are signs that he's got a ways to go, particularly to woo over those Clinton voters who told exit pollsters they'd rather support John McCain in November.

In the latest Washington Post/ABC News poll, nearly a quarter of Democrats said they remained dissatisfied or angry with the outcome of the nomination battle. McCain does better among Republicans than Obama does among Democrats while independent voters lean slightly toward Obama at this point.

When it comes to picking a vice presidential running mate for Obama, 46 percent of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents favor Clinton. That's a topic that has a lot of people buzzing today after the Obama campaign yesterday announced the hiring of former Clinton campaign manager Patti Solis Doyle.

It's not that Solis Doyle joined the campaign but in what capacity that raised eyebrows. She will be the chief of staff for the vice presidential nominee, a strong signal of some sort. A longtime confidante of Clinton's, Solis Doyle was dumped in the wake of a string of primary losses in February and blamed by many on the campaign for it failings. Would Solis Doyle be put in that position if Obama wants Clinton on the ticket?

Gore's endorsement demonstrates the strong desire among Democrats to move forward but those pesky primary wounds linger. Is Obama's campaign risking inflaming them further with the Solis Doyle hire?

Around The Track

  • McCain yesterday called for lifting the moratorium on offshore drilling, saying that such a move would be "be very helpful in the short term resolving our energy crisis."
  • The McCain campaign is also up with a new ad on global warming, running in battleground states. The ad stresses McCain's difference with President Bush on the issue: "John McCain stood up to the President and sounded the alarm on global warming ... five years ago. Today, he has a realistic plan that will curb greenhouse gas emissions. A plan that will help grow our economy and protect our environment. Reform. Prosperity. Peace. John McCain."
  • The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and is launching a new ad hitting McCain on Iraq in select markets. The ad features a mom holding her infant child and addressing McCain directly: "Hi John McCain. This is Alex. And he's my first. So far his talents include trying any new food and chasing after our dog. That, and making my heart pound every time I look at him. And so, John McCain, when you say you would stay in Iraq for 100 years, were you counting on Alex? Because if you were, you can't have him."
  • The Politico looks at whether Democrats are using "code" words to make an issue our of John McCain's age.
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