Starting Gate: Something In The Air?

Hillary Clinton sought to put to rest any thoughts about exiting the race in her weekend interview with the Washington Post. "I have no intention of stopping until we finish what we started and until we see what happens in the next 10 contests and until we resolve Florida and Michigan," she told the paper. "And if we don't resolve it, we'll resolve it at the convention -- that's what credentials committees are for."

Bill Clinton is doing his all to keep the ball in play, urging those still-uncommitted superdelegates to "chill out." Speaking at California's Democratic state convention, the former president asked for patience. "Don't let anybody tell you that somehow we are weakening the Democratic Party. Chill out and let everybody have their say. We are going to win this election."

Is there a hint of desperation in the air? More than halfway through the seven-week gap leading up to the Pennsylvania primary, the pause has not worked out as Clinton's campaign might have hoped. Rather than a contemplative period for the party to re-think the idea of nominating Barack Obama, it's been a lull in which his support appears to have solidified, if not grown. And the road ahead appears daunting for Clinton.

While she continues to hold a wide lead in Pennsylvania, her supporters are now trying to tamp down the expectations that she might run up the score there. Governor Ed Rendell, an early Clinton supporter, told ABC News this morning that he expected that lead to shrink before the April 22nd primary. And Obama is just getting started with his push in the state. Yesterday he drew an estimated crowd of 22,000 in an appearance at Penn State.

Clinton could still win there but if Obama can come within five points or so it may be a pyrrhic victory for her campaign. Then, pressure will mount for her to sweep the next two states of North Carolina and Indiana. Losses in both would almost certainly spell the end to her campaign. Even one loss would prove hard to overcome. Clinton needs to pile up some victories to claim the momentum at the close of this race and prove something to those superdelegates. A smaller-than-expected margin of victory in Pennsylvania and possible losses two weeks later does not equate with that need. She needs to run up the score on April 22nd and shock Obama in North Carolina. Until then, she's still in it, whether she can win it or not.

Biography Tour, Day One: John McCain kicks off his week-long bid to reintroduce himself in Meridian, Mississippi, home of an airfield is named after his grandfather who was a Navy Admiral. In his speech, McCain will talk about his family's history of service – stretching back the beginning of the country's history.

"We trace my family's martial heritage back to the Revolution," McCain will say according to prepared remarks. " A distant ancestor served on General Washington's staff, and it seems my ancestors fought in most wars in our nation's history. All were soldiers – both Henry and Bill McCain were West Pointers – until my grandfather broke family tradition and entered the Naval Academy in 1902. He was succeeded there by my father, then me, and then my son. The family I was born to, and the family I am blessed with now, made me the man I am, and instilled in me a deep and abiding respect for the social institution that wields the greatest influence in the formation of our individual character and the character of our society."

Pulling Away? Gallup's daily tracking poll shows that Obama is putting some distance between himself and Clinton nationally. The latest numbers show Obama with a ten point lead over Clinton, 52 percent to 42 percent – up from a virtual tie in the poll just a week ago. And, it's the first time in the poll either candidate has held a double-digit lead. The last time was in February when Clinton led by 11 points.

Around The Track

  • Obama is getting another superdelegate in his column this morning with the endorsement of Sen. Amy Klobuchar from Minnesota. "My endorsement reflects both Barack's strong support in my state and my own independent judgment about his abilities," Klobuchar said in a statement. And the Wall Street Journal is reporting that North Carolina's seven Democratic members of Congress are preparing to announce their support of Obama in advance of that state's primary in May.
  • "I'm not applying for the job of broker." – Al Gore, responding to CBS News' Lesley Stahl on suggestions that he might play a role in ending the Democratic primary.
  • Appearing on Face the Nation, Bill Richardson responded to James Carville's repeated insistence that the New Mexico Governor's endorsement of Obama was an act of betrayal. "I haven't gotten into the gutter on this and, you know, I'm not going to stoop to Carville's level," Richardson said. "I barely know the guy in the first place. But I think loyalty to the nation, loyalty to the party is a lot more important than personal loyalty. I owe the Clintons a lot. I served in the president's Cabinet. But that loyalty's to President Clinton. That doesn't mean that I am going to, for the rest of my life, be in lockstep with whatever they do."
  • Clinton's campaign has put off paying some bills owed to companies it has done business with on the campaign trail, reports the Politico.