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Starting Gate: Killer Instinct

The dramatic rollout of the endorsement of John Edwards by Barack Obama's campaign should help put to rest one lingering question about his campaign (no, not his ability to win over those white, blue-collar voters – that one's still lingering). For weeks, even Obama supporters have mumbled and grumbled about his inability to "finish" Hillary Clinton off, to strike a fatal blow in this seemingly endless primary season.

The manner in which the campaign rolled out Edwards yesterday showed not only that the candidate is willing to strike such a blow but revealed a calculating, killer instinct more associated with Clinton herself.

There was Clinton, basking in her 41-point thrashing of Obama in West Virginia, conducting rounds of television interviews making her case for sticking in the race and insisting that party leaders might still rally her to victory. Reduced to making an argument directly to those superdelegates who are, under Democratic Party rules, the ultimate, final deciders, Clinton's media blitz was being prepared for the network evening newscasts, 24-hour cable channels and the endless online news cycle.

That's when Obama's camp made its move – rearranging their schedule to unveil the tightly-kept secret of Edwards' endorsement right in time for the evening news. It ensured not only that Obama would stomp all over Clinton's message but erased the lingering hangover brought on by his debacle in West Virginia.

It was a maneuver Karl Rove and James Carville must surely admire and it demonstrated that perhaps Obama may be getting a little tired of waiting for Clinton to get out of this race on her own terms. Both candidates have gone to great lengths in the past weeks to avoid the kind of direct fisticuffs which earlier defined the race. And Obama, with an eye on the legion of Clinton supporters (especially women), has been careful to avoid the appearance that he's bullying her out of the race.

In fact, Clinton herself hinted that even the suggestion of her being somehow forced out of the campaign could harm the party's chances to unify. "I believe it would hurt our eventual nominee if it is not me, if I were to get out of this race before everyone's had a chance to vote because it would appear as though I had been somehow pushed out," Clinton told CBS News' Katie Couric.

Yesterday's theatrics might not rise to the level of "pushing" her out, but it's a sign that Obama's not going to sit around and watch her try to claw her way back into the race somehow. And it shows he does have the kind of raw political killer instinct that he has not displayed previously.

Bush Backhands Barack: In his speech to the Israeli Knesset this morning, President Bush appeared to take a barely veiled shot at Obama and his oft-repeated insistence that as president, he would personally conduct talks with leaders like Iranian president Ahmadinejad.

"Some seem to believe we should negotiate with terrorists and radicals, as if some ingenious argument will persuade them they have been wrong all along," Bush said in his address. "We have heard this foolish delusion before. As Nazi tanks crossed into Poland in 1939, an American senator declared: 'Lord, if only I could have talked to Hitler, all of this might have been avoided.' We have an obligation to call this what it is – the false comfort of appeasement, which has been repeatedly discredited by history."

Bush made no direct reference to Obama but the connection appeared clear. The Obama campaign responded with the following statement: "It is sad that President Bush would use a speech to the Knesset on the 6Oth anniversary of Israel's independence to launch a false political attack. It is time to turn the page on eight years of policies that have strengthened Iran and failed to secure America or our ally Israel. Instead of tough talk and no action, we need to do what Kennedy, Nixon and Reagan did and use all elements of American power - including tough, principled, and direct diplomacy - to pressure countries like Iran and Syria. George Bush knows that I have never supported engagement with terrorists, and the President's extraordinary politicization of foreign policy and the politics of fear do nothing to secure the American people or our stalwart ally Israel."

McCain's World: John McCain is in Ohio today where he will lay out, in detail, the major goals he wants to achieve as president. "What I want to do today is take a little time to describe what I would hope to have achieved at the end of my first term as President," McCain will say according to prepared remarks. "I cannot guarantee I will have achieved these things. I am presumptuous enough to think I would be a good President, but not so much that I believe I can govern by command. … The following are conditions I intend to achieve. And toward that end, I will focus all the powers of the office; every skill and strength I possess; and seize every opportunity to work with members of Congress who put the national interest ahead of partisanship, and any country in the world that shares our hopes for a more peaceful and prosperous world."

And what are those goals? They're laid out in a new Web ad by the campaign accompanying the speech. Text: "The year, 2013. The Middle East stabilized. Nuclear terror threat reduced. Border security strengthened. Energy independence advanced. Wasteful spending reformed. Health care choice delivered. Economic confidence restored. The year, 2013 -- the President, John McCain."

Around The Track:

  • Karl Rove writes that the recent string of losses for GOP House candidates holds some lessons: "The string of defeats should cure Republicans of the habit of simply shouting 'liberal! liberal! liberal!' in hopes of winning an election. They need to press a reform agenda full of sharp contrasts with the Democrats.
  • Bill Clinton will camp out in Kentucky over the next two days in advance of that state's primary Tuesday.
  • Obama apologized to a TV reporter in Michigan for calling her "sweetie." In a message Obama left for the reporter he said he has a "bad habit" of using that term, according to the AP. "I mean no disrespect," Obama said on the message, "so I am duly
    chastened on that front."
  • The New York Times reports that Edwards has "privately" told associates he would consider an offer to be on the Democratic ticket for the second straight election.