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Starting Gate: Primary Bracketology

"Experience" and "change" may be number one seeds in the Democratic primary but they're increasingly being overshadowed by some Cinderella stories.

In dueling conference calls throughout the weekend the campaigns provided a glimpse of the kinds of matchups we're likely to see in the near future – tax returns taking on indicted developers being one prime-time example.

Barack Obama spent some time over the weekend trying to get out in front of some growing problem spots for his campaign, giving extended interviews to reporters in Chicago and addressing his relationships with his former pastor and indicted developer Tony Rezko. He strongly backed away from Jeremiah Wright, who was not only the pastor of his church but also someone he has described as an important spiritual advisor. And he called his dealings with Rezko a "mistake" once again.

With more and more attention being paid to those two topics by the media, Obama's campaign sought to remind reporters of the fact that Hillary Clinton has yet to release her tax returns for the years since she and her husband have been out of the White House and signaled a renewed push on the issue of "transparency."

It's an area the Obama campaign has sought to dive into at many points this year – not only over the tax returns but also about papers and documents related to Hillary Clinton's years in the White House that remain unreleased from Clinton's presidential library and the very funding of that library itself. In a recent interview, Obama supporter Bill Bradley questioned how that money had been raised. "Are there favors attached to $500,000 or $1 million contributions?," Bradley asked. "And what do I mean by favors? I mean, pardons that are granted; investigations that are squelched; contracts that are awarded; regulations that are delayed."

This, of course, is the kind of game the Clinton campaigners have some experience in and they were quick to jump on the headline in the Chicago Tribune over the weekend previewing Obama's "full assault" on Clinton as something less than the politics of hope. In this game, even calls to release tax returns are a personal attack. "When you accuse somebody of being disingenuous and question their integrity and their honesty, as they are doing, that constitutes a personal attack," said Clinton spokesman Howard Wolfson.

Despite Obama's attempts to put questions about Wright and Rezko to rest, the stories (and the videos and trial) aren't going to drop off the radar screen. Nor are questions about Clinton's tax returns, library papers, etc. By the time we get to Pennsylvania, experience and change may well be back at center court. But it appears they're going to get a run for their money along the road.

Obama Nets Ten More Delegates: Obama increased his overall delegate lead by ten after Iowa's county conventions. Going into the conventions, Obama had 16 delegates to Clinton's 15 while John Edwards had 14. After Saturday's meetings in the state's 99 counties, Obama had 25, Clinton 14 and Edwards 6, according to the CBS News estimate.

The latest CBS News estimate overall:

Total Delegates
Obama -- 1,611
Clinton -- 1,476
Edwards -- 18

Elected/Pledged
Obama -- 1,401
Clinton -- 1,229
Edwards -- 18

Superdelegates(those party leaders, members of congress, etc. who are not bound by primary/caucus results)
Obama -- 210
Clinton -- 247

Michigan Muddled Over Re-Vote: Clinton's campaign is doing everything it can to get a new primary in Michigan, according to one Obama supporter there who says he's doing what he can to prevent it. The "Clinton folks will do anything to open Michigan back up," State Sen. Tupac Hunter, Obama's state co-chair, told the Detroit News yesterday. "She is in a hunt for delegates. Why this sudden pull out all the stops to give Hillary Clinton every opportunity to try to catch up," Hunter asked. "Guess what? It's not going to happen. This legislator is not going to facilitate it," he continued. Hunter said he's not totally opposed to the idea of a re-vote but wants to see the money up-front first. The state legislature is expected to discuss a plan for a party-financed primary this week.

Around The Track

  • John McCain began his eighth trip to Iraq yesterday where he was to meet Iraqi and military leaders. Meanwhile, Clinton is slated to deliver a major address on Iraq this morning in Washington,
  • In his interview with the Chicago Tribune Saturday, Obama answered questions about his relationship and dealings with Rezko. Obama revealed that further investigation had found Rezko was responsible for raising more money for his past campaigns than he first knew, acknowledged now to be as much as $250,000. Obama also called his real estate transactions with Rezko a "mistake." Obama: "The mistake, by the way, was not just engaging in a transaction with Tony because he was having legal problems. The mistake was because he was a contributor and somebody who was involved in politics."
  • Is the "Limbaugh effect" helping decide primary contests? The radio host has been urging listeners to vote in Democratic primaries in order to prolong the race and increase tensions within the party and the Boston Globe reports that it may be having some impact.
  • John McIntyre of Real Clear Politics gives three bog reasons why now is a good time to buy stock in Clinton's campaign – the Wright controversy, economic instability and Puerto Rico's switch from caucuses to a primary.