Starting Gate: Was Ferraro (Sort Of) Right?

Nobody watching the events of the past week could possibly come to the conclusion that Barack Obama is "lucky" to be a black man running for president. He is getting mostly glowing reviews for his speech addressing race in America but the very tangle of attitudes he described in Philadelphia yesterday only serve to underscore the challenge he faces in winning the White House.

But underneath Geraldine Ferraro's insistence that Obama was getting something of a free ride because of his historic candidacy was equal frustration at how the woman she supports has struggled with her own barrier-breaking campaign.

And she appears to have company in that view. According to a new CBS News poll, voters see gender as more of a barrier in presidential politics than race. Thirty nine percent of registered voters said a woman faces more obstacles in a presidential race while 33 percent said a black candidate does. More to the point, 42 percent of voters said they felt Hillary Clinton has been treated more harshly because of her gender while just 27 percent felt Obama has been treated more harshly because of his race.

When it comes to judging perceptions of attitudes, voters say more people they know would be likely to vote for a black candidate than a woman. Fifty six percent said that "most people" they know would vote for a black candidate for president while just 46 percent said the same of a woman candidate. A full 45 percent said "most people" they know would not vote for a woman. Yet the poll also shows that racism (42 percent) is considered a "more serious" problem in the nation than sexism (10 percent).

The poll was conducted before Obama's speech yesterday, but it was not conducted in a vacuum. Clinton is a singularly unique candidate for reasons beyond gender and carries the kind of baggage that no presidential candidate ever has. A former First Lady whose public image was forged in the crucible of the modern 24/7 media spotlight has been lightening rod for criticism since bursting onto the public stage.

The first glimpse many Americans got was of her defending her husband's infidelities on national television and saying, "you know, I'm not sitting here like some little woman standing by my man, like Tammy Wynette." Clinton has established her own legacy in the 16 years since but the partisan and scandal-filled 1990s produced hardened attitudes toward her. And the poll may reflect some of those, even while displaying some sympathy for the obstacles she faces. Perhaps she can take some solice in opening line of the Wynette song she once ridiculed. "Sometimes it's hard to be a woman."

Clinton Heads To Michigan: Clinton will travel to Detroit today for one of her "solutions for America" events, a late-addition to her schedule designed perhaps to put a little pressure on her primary opponent. Yesterday her campaign called on Obama to come out in support of a re-vote in Michigan, which appears stalled in the state legislature due to opposition from Obama supporters – and his campaign. Obama aides have said the proposed re-vote is too complicated and may be disadvantageous for their candidate because it bars independents who may have voted in the Republican primary from participating. Those are likely Obama voters.

Clinton, of course, would like to lengthen the primary season with re-votes in both Michigan and Florida while doing so would seem to hold little upside for Obama and may only serve to reduce his lead in delegates and the total popular vote. But failure to count the delegates in both states may come back to haunt the eventual nominee – particularly one seen as having opposed the inclusion of the two states.

A new St. Petersburg Times poll highlights the risk. The poll shows that "more than three out of four Florida Democrats say it's 'very important' that Florida's delegates count toward the nomination, and one in four said they would be less likely to support the ultimate Democratic nominee if Florida's delegates don't count." The polls also showed Clinton with a 46 percent to 37 percent lead over Obama if the primary were held today.

Clinton Gets Anti-War Boost? Rep. John Murtha's endorsement of Clinton yesterday may carry beyond his home state of Pennsylvania, where the establishment continues to line up behind her campaign. As one of the leading proponents of ending the war in Iraq, Murtha has become a major figure in a movement that has been suspicious of Clinton and at times downright hostile. "I've known Sen. Clinton for 15 years," Murtha said in a statement yesterday. "I know that she continually reaches out for opinions and ideas, not just from our nation's leaders, but from all Americans."

Around The Track

  • The National Archives will release over 11,000 pages of Hillary Clinton's daily schedules this morning at the Clinton presidential library and online, it was announced yesterday. The schedules cover the former First Lady's schedules for some 2,888 of her days in the White House.
  • The majority of Supreme Court justices appeared to be skeptical of Washington DC's handgun ban. Should the court rule the ban unconstitutional, would the GOP benefit in the fall?
  • Calling himself the campaign's "rural hitman," Bill Clinton kicked off a tour of Indiana in Lawrenceburg yesterday, touting his wife's record and accomplishments. Clinton has been used in rural and smaller venues in recent contests and Indiana will be a prime target for Clinton should she win Pennsylvania on April 22nd.
  • Obama is turning quickly from the topic of race as he heads to North Carolina to discuss national security issues and the war in Iraq with military families in the upcoming primary state.