Starting Gate: Twelve Days In Spring

The Pennsylvania results have gone through a mostly thorough digestion within the political community and attention is rapidly shifting toward the end-game of the Democratic primary and on into the general election. Regardless of the drama of the week, nothing has fundamentally changed for Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton as we head toward Indiana and North Carolina on May 6th.

For Obama, it's a matter of running out the clock without any missteps along the way – a task made none the easier with Rev. Jeremiah Wright's current media tour (his interview with PBS' Bill Moyers airs tonight). The Illinois Democrat is almost assured to finish the race with a pledged delegate lead, something that the superdelegates would likely find hard to overrule unless something occurs to severely damage his candidacy. The groundwork for that something exists, but much more fuel is required to disqualify him in the eyes of party leaders.

Clinton's is a much harder row to hoe. She must find a way to narrow the delegate gap and, more attainable perhaps, the popular vote margin. Even if she does manage to bring the Florida and Michigan results back into the equation, it may not be enough to put her ahead when all is said and done. And, she must make the case to the superdelegates that she is not only more electable in November but that Obama is somehow unelectable. That's not going to be easy when Bill Clinton continues to be a part of the conversation (witness Rep. James Clyburn's interview in the New York Times today calling the former president's behavior during the campaign "bizarre").

Yet in the end, Obama will need Clinton's supporters – those lower-to-middle class blue collar workers and white women in particular – as much as she would need his black supporters and young legions of activists for the fall campaign. In spite of all the seemingly insurmountable obstacles and psychological drama involved, the dream ticket may still in the cards after all.

Around The Track

  • John McCain surely wanted headlines like this ("McCain Faults Bush Response to Gulf Storm") to dominate coverage of his tour of New Orleans yesterday. But it was a different comment that caught the attention of Hillary Clinton. Touring the city yesterday, McCain said he was unsure what should be done with the devastated 9th Ward of the city, reports CBS News' Andante Higgins. "That is why we need to go back is to have a conversation about what to do -rebuild it, tear it down, you know, whatever it is," McCain said.

    Clinton seized on the comment, attacking McCain for, in her view, wanting to tear down that part of the city. "Sen. McCain said he might want to tear down the Ninth Ward instead of rebuilding it," she said. "But I went to the Ninth Ward after Katrina and met with people there and saw the destruction and I saw the resilience in their eyes and they deserve our help to rebuild and regain their lives and their homes." McCain responded, saying his remarks were being twisted out of context. "I made it clear — and the governor (of Louisiana Bobby Jindal) has too, who was with me — that that's a decision that individuals make. And our job is to create the environment that if they wish to come back to the Ninth Ward that they have the proper healthcare, the proper education and facilities, etcetera, etcetera. I said that many times."

  • Clinton campaign manager Geoff Garin takes to the op-ed page of the Washington Post today to question the coverage of the campaign: "On the one hand, it's perfectly decent for Obama to argue that only he has the virtue to bring change to Washington and that Clinton lacks the character and the commitment to do so. On the other hand, we are somehow hitting below the belt when we say that Clinton is the candidate best able to withstand the pressures of the presidency and do what's right for the American people, while leaving the decisions about Obama's preparedness to the voters. Who made up those rules? And who would ever think they are fair?"
  • Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid told reporters yesterday that he may send a letter to Democratic superdelegates urging them to make up their minds about which candidate they will support by July 1st.
  • In an interview with CNN last night, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the idea of a joint Obama-Clinton ticket is not a good one. "I think first of all the candidate, whoever he or she may be, should choose his or her own vice presidential candidate. … I think that's appropriate. That's where you would see the comfort level on not only how to run, but how to govern the country. And there's plenty of talent to go around to draw upon for a good, strong ticket. I'm not one of those who thinks that's a good ticket."
  •'s Brian Montopoli examines what level of control candidates have – or don't have – when it comes to third-party advertising expenditures.
  • And the Los Angeles Times reports those anti-Obama ads are making some Democrats nervous.
  • Hillary Clinton spent some time yesterday at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee talking to superdelegates.
  • A WSTB/South Bend Tribune poll shows the Democratic race a dead heat in Indiana, with Obama at 48 percent and Clinton at 47 percent.