Starting Gate: The Center Holds

"Something is happening in America," is how Rep. John Lewis explained his decision to cast his super delegate vote for Barack Obama over the candidate he had previously endorsed, Hillary Clinton.

Whatever is happening, New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg is hearing it too. Rather than spend up to $1 billion of his own money on an independent presidential bid, Bloomberg tells the world in a New York Times op-ed today that he will not be a candidate. "I have watched this campaign unfold, and I am hopeful that the current campaigns can rise to the challenge by offering truly independent leadership," he writes.

The Bloom boom is bust. Not for a lack of ambition, to be sure. Bloomberg has spent the past year largely denying any aspirations while his aides and advisers were busy preparing the strategic groundwork for a run. Had there been an opening, the mayor could have launched a full-fledged campaign with the snap of his fingers and a stroke of his pen on a check.

In citing the "current campaigns," Bloomberg is acknowledging there is no opening for a candidate who would seek a plurality of voters in the broad middle of the political spectrum. His bid hinged on the parties nominating candidates from their left and right bases, not those who attracted the support of moderates, independents and cross-over voters from the opposing party.

With presumptive GOP nominee John McCain and Democratic front-runner Barack Obama, there is no void in the center for him to fill. If this is the matchup we'll see in the fall, those independents and moderates will likely be the swing voters who will decide the race and both candidates have an established track record of attracting their support. Moreover, those voters are likely to be more openly courted than in past elections.

McCain has a problem with his base. Conservatives are slowly warming to him but the uneasiness remains. Obama would have the seeming luxury of a united Democratic party behind him, a party hungry and optimistic about their chances in November. But both will face pressures to stiff-arm the more vocal and extreme figures in their party if they want the center. McCain has a head start on that. It may not be the worst thing for him to face the opposition of the Ann Coulters of the GOP. After some prodding, Obama both rejected and denounced Louis Farrakhan's support. He may need more "Sister Souljah" moments in the future.

Having had "lesser of two evils" choices in recent elections that revolved around the polarization of the two parties, independents may get their moment in the spotlight this time around. It may be a campaign that's just as close, but it may also be one that isn't dominated by issues important to the wings of the parties. As Lewis and Bloomberg acknowledge, something is happening.

Reject And Denounce: Hillary Clinton made it clear that she expected Obama to reject the support of Farrakhan during Tuesday's debate but she wasn't so quick to distance herself from one of her own supporters, reports the AP. During an interview with a local Texas television station, Clinton was asked about comments by activist Adelfa Callejo, who is supporting her. Callejo was quoted saying," Obama's problem is he happens to be black."

"I want people though to look beyond, look beyond race and gender, look at our records, look at what we stand for, look at what we've done and I think that's what most voters are looking for," Clinton responded. Asked whether she rejected or denounced the comment, Clinton said, "People have every reason to express their opinions, I just don't agree with that. You know, this is a free country. People get to express their opinions."

Clinton senior spokesman Doug Hattaway told the AP that Clinton "was taken aback" by the question. "She had never heard of this before. If it was actually said, of course she denounces and rejects that kind of politics in any way, shape or form."

Could The Supreme Court Decide Another Election? The New York Times reports on questions about John McCain's Constitutional eligibility to serve as President of the United States. The son of a U.S. Naval officer, McCain was actually born on a military base in the Panama Canal Zone where his father was stationed at the time. And the Constitution is not entirely clear on what constitutes a "natural-born citizen" – one of the few requirements needed to be met to be president.

It's a question that could conceivably end up in before the Supreme Court. And you thought counting chads was a circus.

Around The Track

  • Mike Huckabee has a new ad in Texas. "Being independent is being Texas. Not going along just to 'get along,'" Huckabee says in the ad. "It means standing for something so you don't fall for just anything. This election is about principled convictions – not political correctness. I'm the only candidate supporting the Human Life Amendment, stopping illegal immigration with a real border security plan, and the Fair Tax, which kills the IRS before it kills even more American businesses."
  • Obama wouldn't answer the boxers-or-briefs question when asked by US Magazine but displayed a high level of self-image, saying, "I don't answer those humiliating questions. But whichever one it is, I look good in 'em!"
  • Clinton will unveil a plan to decrease the number of children living in poverty by half over the next 12 years. A nod to John Edwards, whose endorsement she could certainly use at the moment?
  • Bill Clinton warned voters in Texas that Hillary could win the primary on Tuesday, only to have a clear victory taken away with a win by Obama in the state's caucuses later that night. "A lot of people think Hillary will win in the day time and her opponent will come in the night and take back the votes she won," he said.