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Starting Gate: Okey Doke

Barack Obama says Hillary Clinton's campaign is trying to "hoodwink" Democratic voters by floating the idea of a "dream ticket" – with the New York Senator at the top of it, of course.

"You all know the okey-doke," Obama told voters in Mississippi, "when someone's trying to bamboozle you, when they're trying to hoodwink you." Obama ripped the silliness of such an idea coming from the candidate who is struggling to find a path to the nomination. "I don't know how somebody who is in second place is offering the vice presidency to the person who is first place," he mockingly said. But what Obama did not say is that he would never take it.

Obama may have batted away the idea but it's one now firmly planted in the minds of those Democratic voters yet to weigh in on the process (including potentially in Florida and Michigan) and, just as importantly among the superdelegates who look likely to play a decisive role in settling the nomination.

Obama is the heavy favorite to win today's primary in Mississippi and then comes a six-week break in the action. If a week is an eternity in politics, six is forever. Obama will hold a 100-plus lead in delegates, will have won far more states and will maintain an edge in the overall popular vote, but perhaps not large enough of a lead to make his eventual victory a certainty.

Six weeks ago today, Clinton was declaring what appeared to be a meaningless victory in Florida and both campaigns were preparing for the monumental Super Tuesday, which was thought to be the decisive moment in the campaign. Now the maneuvering of Florida and Michigan is threatening to extend the playing field and injecting more uncertainty into the campaign. Throw in the idea of a "dream ticket" and the next six weeks won't be boring on the presidential front. Okey-dokey?

Dream Ticket, Version 2:Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, Clinton's biggest asset in the April 22nd primary, told reporters yesterday that the idea of a joint ticket isn't necessarily a one-way deal. "That would be great either way," Rendell told reporters after a Clinton event in the state. "I'd be happier if she were the presidential candidate, but I think that would be a good thing. We need to come together." Of course, Rendell noted that Obama would have a problem similar to the one he described yesterday, namely how could Clinton make such a pick after attacking him as unprepared to be president. "You would have some inevitable questions," Rendell said. "They'll say 'Senator Obama, you said Senator Clinton wasn't trustworthy; how can you make her vice-president?'"

Veepstakes, GOP Style: Are we witnessing the first "boomlet" of the GOP's "veepstakes?" In the Weekly Standard, Fred Barnes argues the case for Mitt Romney. "He's acceptable to conservatives and especially to social conservatives, who disproportionately volunteer as ground troops in Republican presidential campaigns," Barnes writes. "He's unflappable in debates. With the downturn worsening, the economy may surpass national security as the top issue of the campaign. And after years of success as a big time player in the global economy, Romney understands how markets work. He could shore up McCain's admitted weakness on economic issues." Rendell also predicts McCain will pick Romney.

Around The Track

  • The AP reports on the involvement of two McCain aides who lobbied on behalf of Airbus, the European airplane maker which beat out Boeing for a lucrative Pentagon contract to build a new refueling tanker for the Air Force. McCain was a key player in the process but told reporters yesterday, "I never weighed in for or against anybody that competed for the contract. All I asked for was a fair process. And the facts are that I never showed any bias in any way against anybody - except for the taxpayer."
  • Clinton and Rendell will march in the St. Patrick's Day parade in Scranton, PA. "I love the Irish," Clinton told voters there yesterday,
  • After visiting the doctor for screening, McCain yesterday said he remains cancer-free 7 ½ years after undergoing treatment for skin cancer. "Everything's fine," McCain said. "Like most Americans, I go see my doctor fairly frequently."
  • Minnesota attorney Mike Ciresi has dropped his bid for the Democratic Senate nomination in Minnesota, giving a boost to comedian-turned-activist Al Franken to take on incumbent Norm Coleman in November. Franken faces peace activist Jack Nelson-Pallmeye for the nomination.