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Starting Gate: Limping Along

"Gender Issue Live On as Clinton's Hopes Dim," reads the above-the-fold headline in this morning's New York Times. "With each passing day, it seems a little less likely that the next president of the United States will wear a skirt – or a no-nonsense pantsuit," the story begins.

"Clinton-Obama Grudges Linger For Some Voters," reads the front-page of the Washington Post. That sums up the feeling of the Democratic race as it heads into yet one more primary day tomorrow: This race is over, it's just a matter of some people realizing it.

One of those, of course, would be Hillary Clinton who insists that she will stay in the race until the bitter end on June 3rd if not beyond. Should Barack Obama wind up winning enough delegates in Kentucky and Oregon to claim the majority of pledged delegates (a near certainty), Clinton's hopes to win the nomination would be nearly eliminated.

She will be reduced further to procedural arguments about how the popular vote can be broken down, the seating of delegates from Michigan and Florida and, eventually, raising the threshold of delegates needed to clinch the nomination. But even if she manages all that, it almost certainly won't change the ultimate outcome.

Clinton is in danger of becoming the Mike Huckabee of the Democratic campaign. Huckabee took his win in Iowa and turned himself into a regional candidate, winning enough Southern states to remain in the race despite having no real shot at capturing the nomination. Despite having fought the campaign to a near-draw, Clinton cannot overtake Obama without the help of a lot of party leaders who would have to decide that Obama is in some way unelectable.

The extent to which Clinton is being sidelined was evident in last week's foreign policy dust-up pitting Obama against President Bush and John McCain in a war of words over the policy of engagement. Missing from the debate was Clinton, who has jousted with Obama during the course of the campaign over the same issue. Being in no position to attack Obama, lest that hasten the stampede of superdelegates toward Obama, Clinton was reduced to watching the exchange.

Clinton's campaign says the race will continue after tomorrow, with three contests remaining on the calendar and the Florida/Michigan issue still to be resolved. But attention has already shifted toward the general election and the primary is heading toward an anticlimactic ending that probably helps neither Democrat.

McCain's Cleanup Continues: McCain's national finance co-chair, former Rep. Tom Loeffler, became the fifth person to depart the campaign because of lobbying ties, something that new disclosure rules instituted by the campaign are designed to prevent. "The campaign over the last week or so obviously had a perception problem with regards with this whole business of lobbyists and their work," spokesman Brian Rogers tells the Washington Post. "This is really all about setting a policy so that we can just get through that perception problem and the issues that come up with regards to lobbyists affiliated with the campaign and move on."

Huckabee Apologizes: Mike Huckabee has apologized for his off-the-cuff attempt at a joke during his appearance at the NRA convention last week. While delivering his remarks to the convention, Huckabee responded to a loud banging noise in the background by saying, "that was Barack Obama. He just tripped off a chair. He's getting ready to speak and somebody aimed a gun at him and he - he dove for the floor." Huckabee later issues a statement apologizing for the remark: "During my speech at the NRA a loud noise backstage, that sounded like a chair falling, distracted the crowd and interrupted my speech. I made an offhand remark that was in no way intended to offend or disparage Sen. Obama. I apologize that my comments were offensive, that was
never my intention."

Around The Track

  • Elizabeth Edwards tells the Politico that she will not be endorsing anyone in the Democratic primary despite speculation that she might break from her husband to back Clinton. "If you listened to what I said and not to what pundits said I was thinking, you would know that I was never inclined to endorse," she e-mailed the Politico.
  • Obama is telling Republicans to "lay off my wife" after Tennessee Republican produced a YouTube video raising questions about Michelle Obama's patriotism. "Whoever is in charge of the Tennessee GOP needs to think long and hard about the kind of campaign that they want to run," Obama said during an appearance on "Good Morning America" this morning.
  • An estimated 75,000 people turned out to listen to Obama in Portland, Oregon.
  • Departures and resignations threaten to cost the GOP millions in this election cycle, reports USA Today.