Starting Gate: Spring Breaks

The breaks in this presidential campaign come infrequently and in extremely small doses. Easter Sunday was no exception, leaving plenty of news and developments to catch up on:
  • The Democratic candidates may have taken some downtime over the weekend but their surrogates and campaigns hashed it out in controversial style. The latest brouhaha began when Barack Obama's campaign reacted fiercely to a comment by Bill Clinton, who said, "I think it would be a great thing if we had an election year where you had two people who loved this country and were devoted to the interest of this country. And people could actually ask themselves who is right on these issues, instead of all this other stuff that always seems to intrude itself on our politics."

    Retired Gen. Merrill "Tony" McPeak, co-chair of Obama's
    campaign, suggested that Clinton was questioning Obama's patriotism with the comment. "As one who for 37 years proudly wore the uniform of our country, I'm saddened to see a president employ these tactics," McPeak said. "He of all people should know better because he was the target of exactly the same kind of tactics."

    New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson told "Fox News Sunday" that he doesn't agree. "I don't believe President Clinton was implying that," Richardson said. "But the point here ... is that the campaign has gotten too negative - too many personal attacks, too much negativity that is not resounding with the public." Richardson knows what he's speaking of after receiving some blunt attacks over his endorsement of Obama last week. James Carville called the endorsement "an act of betrayal" for someone who was twice appointed to cabinet-level posts in the Clinton administration. "Mr. Richardson's endorsement came right around the anniversary of the day when Judas sold out for 30 pieces of silver, so I think the timing is appropriate, if ironic," Carville said.

    Responding yesterday, Richardson told Fox, "I'm not going to get in the gutter like that. … That's typical of many of the people around Senator Clinton. They think they have a sense of entitlement to the presidency."

    And that was a holiday weekend.

  • John McCain's reported flirtation with joining the 2004 Democratic ticket is getting renewed attention courtesy of the New York Times. While the accounts differ widely, there is no doubt that some conversations tool place between McCain and John Kerry. Likewise, there appears to have been at least some willingness on McCain's part, or those around him, to explore the possibility of switching parties in the U.S. Senate.

    Key graph from the Times: "the episodes shed light on a bitter period in Mr. McCain's life after the 2000 presidential election, when he was, at least in policy terms, drifting away from his own party. They also offer a glimpse into his psychological makeup and the difficulties in putting a label on his political ideology over many years in the Senate.

  • Rev. Otis Moss III, who has succeeded Rev. Jeremiah Wright as the pastor of the Trinity United Church of Christ, did not shy away from the controversy caused by Wright's past statements and relationship with Obama. "Any time you go through a crucifixion experience," Moss said during Easter services, eventually they have to lift you up." Meanwhile, Obama tells Philadelphia radio host Michael Smerconish that Trinity is "not a crackpot church," reports Politico. "Understand this," Obama says, "something else that has not been reported on enough is despite these very offensive views, this guy has built one of the finest churches in Chicago. This is not a crackpot church."
  • McCain tells the AP his experience as a member of the Keating Five was more trying in at least one since than his years spent as a POW in Vietnam. "I faced in Vietnam, at times, very real threats to life and limb," McCain said. "But while my sense of honor was tested in prison, it was not questioned. During the Keating inquiry, it was, and I regretted that very much.
  • Newsweek looks at what Obama's decision to go by his given name "Barack" rather than his nickname, "Barry" says about the Democratic front-runner: "The choice is part of his almost lifelong quest for identity and belonging—to figure out who he is, and how he fits into the larger American tapestry."
  • A Pew study finds that voters are increasingly more likely to declare themselves to be Democrats or independents than Republicans in 2008. In polls taken over the first two months of the year, 36 percent of voters called themselves Democrats while just 27 percent identified themselves as Republicans. And, of the 37 percent who declared no party affiliation, 15 percent said they leaned Democratic while 10 percent said they leaned Republican.
  • John McCain took in just $11 million in February, compared to the $55 million raised by Obama and $34 million taken in by Clinton.
  • McCain will embark on a campaign to reintroduce himself to voters as he returns from a trip overseas, according to a memo by adviser Rick Davis. McCain will spend time talking about how his formative experiences at the Naval Academy and in Vietnam have shaped his values.