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Clinton Rallies, But Does It Matter?

Clinton
Hit with phone attack ads, scrambling to explain mysterious NAFTA meetings with Canadians, and pelted by a suddenly awakened press corps, Barack Obama is on the defensive for the first time since the days after the New Hampshire primary. Polls show Hillary Clinton widening her lead in Ohio and reclaiming enough lost territory to make Texas a dead heat. But this late in the ball game, math is at least as important as momentum. And the latest delegate numbers show Obama, despite all the recent headlines, heading for a tipping point in securing the Democratic nomination.

Obama’s Troubles Mount — Just in Time for the Latest Primaries!

Obama

Barack Obama must be wondering how the worst press he’s received practically all campaign season came down just before today’s primaries — his chance to close the deal. He can look inward for answers. The big story, of course, is the meeting an Obama advisor, Austin Goolsbee, had with a Canadian official about NAFTA. After Canadian TV reported that Goolsbee had assured the Canadian official that basically all Obama’s tough talk on NAFTA was political maneuvering, the Obama campaign denied the meeting ever took place. Then, on cue, a Canadian memo surfaced confirming that the meeting did take place. The Obama campaign’s evasive answers and qualified denials have failed to placate a press corps determined to prove they’re holding Obama accountable. At the same time, a former Obama supporter, Antoin Rezko, begins his trial in Chicago for influence peddling. While nothing unethical or illegal has been proven about Obama’s relationship with Rezko, the fact that new details are still emerging raises doubts about Obama’s previous claims that he has divulged everything about their association. None of this meshes well with Obama’s claim to be running on a new kind of politics, and, from looking at the polls showing a Clinton rebound, voters are taking notice.

Clinton: Should She Stay or Should She Go?

Hillary Clinton
A day before the latest all-important primaries, in Ohio and Texas (and oh, Vermont and Rhode Island), the expectation game has taken on even more significance than usual. Weeks ago, the pundits were saying Clinton needed a blowout win; Bill Clinton admitted they needed to take both Ohio and Texas. With the polls showing a tightening race, people are beginning to wonder what Clinton will do if tomorrow's results are muddled — which, given Texas' ridiculously complex primary-caucus hybrid, is a very real possibility.

Obama’s Sly, New — Liberal — Strategy to Undermine Clinton

Obama, the Clintons

Yesterday, Barack Obama released an open letter about gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender equality, stating that “it’s wrong to have millions of Americans living as second-class citizens in this nation.” Obama is broadly committed to issues of special importance to gays, from advocating benefits for domestic partners of federal employees to supporting equal treatment for same-sex couples under immigration law to fighting HIV infection in prisons. But there’s also a larger context to his opposition to the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy and his desire to completely repeal the Defense of Marriage Act. Obama’s doing a little coming out of his own — as an anti-Clintonian liberal.

General-Election Complications Already Emerging for McCain

McCain
Just because McCain is the Republican nominee (shh, don't tell Mike Huckabee!) doesn't mean he can kick up his feet and wait until the Democratic primary blows over. Every day brings new complications for McCain, whether within his own base or with the Democratic candidates. So many are already looking ahead to the general election, where McCain faces questions about his history with lobbyists, how to attack his opponents, and how to appeal to both moderates and conservatives. If his small trip-ups yesterday — not to mention what the pundits have been saying — are any indication, this campaign season could be a long one for McCain.

Hillary Clinton Is Not Alone on Her Difficult Playing Field

Barack and Hillary
In an interview on Nightline that aired last night, Hillary Clinton discussed the unique challenges she faced as woman running for president. “No woman has ever won a presidential primary before I won New Hampshire. This is hard. And I don't expect any sympathy,” she told ABC’s Cynthia McFadden. Still, she wouldn’t mind it if everyone let go of their personal biases against a female leader. “Every so often I just wish that it were a little more of an even playing field, but, you know, I play on whatever field is out there," she said. There’s no doubt Clinton has been forced to perform a sort of ridiculous high-wire act this campaign, trying to find the perfect balance between attracting women voters without scaring away men, seeming human without seeming too much of a female human. Too much either way, and she falls into the safety net below (the Senate). But it's also true that as a black guy with a problematic middle name, Barack H. Obama is competing on an uneven field as well (just ask Gaydolph Titler).

Bloomberg Is Out of Race for Good, Except That He Still Plans to Be in It

Mayor Bloomberg
After months of teasing, innuendo, and downright madness, Bloomberg has put our stress over the possibility of his presidential candidacy to rest. In an editorial in the New York Times that went online last night, the mayor explained:
I listened carefully to those who encouraged me to run, but I am not — and will not be — a candidate for president. 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 railed against the candidates for not fully comprehending the challenges facing our economy, the environment, and our schools. He also encouraged an independent approach to these solutions, rather than a partisan one, and emphasized the importance of encouraging growth in America's cities. He says he'll still use his vast means to advocate for these issues during the race. The Daily News applauded the move, immediately nominating Bloomberg as a vice-presidential candidate to run on Obama's ticket. The Post, meanwhile, called his prior flirtation with a run "shameful" and "infuriating." We're frankly a little past caring — we'd already pulled out all of our eyebrows by last summer anyway. I'm Not Running For President, But… [NYT]

Texas Primary: Four Trends, All to Obama's Advantage

Clinton, Obama, and Texas

With less than a week to go before the next round of Democratic primaries, Texas is the state to watch. It’s big, it’s critically important, it’s a dead heat (Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are separated by an average of 1.2 points in the most recent polls). And, because its delegate-selection process is governed by wacky, convoluted rules that hardly anybody fully understands, it’s ripe for projections based on our special insights. Here, then, are four trends to watch — and what they mean for your favorite candidate.

Who Took the Democratic Debate? It’s a Matter for … Debate

Democratic debate
Watching the twentieth Democratic debate last night was kind of like watching a rerun of Seinfeld for the twentieth time: There were some entertaining moments, but for the most part, you knew exactly what to expect. Moderator Tim Russert gave us a couple of fresh angles asking about Louis Farrakhan’s endorsement of Barack Obama and the candidates’ familiarity with Russia’s “successor” to Vladimir Putin. Clinton and Obama are supposedly all about “change,” but in terms of the dynamics of the race, little of it seems to have come about in Cleveland last night. Not that there’s anything wrong with that: It made for another one of those close contests the experts make so much hay out of.

Spitzer to (Potentially) Stump for Hillary in Ohio

Eliot Spitzer
In a conference call with reporters today, Eliot Spitzer said that he would be heading to Ohio to rally voters on behalf of New York's junior senator, just as she is posting a dip in the polls there. Spitzer was on the line with New Jersey governor Jon Corzine and Ohio governor Ted Strickland to discuss economic development, in a call that was arranged by Hillary's people. The first question from reporters was about Spitzer's plan to issue driver's licenses for illegal immigrants. According to the Observer, Spitzer batted away the idea that Hillary Clinton's hedgy attempts to support him cost her political capital. "The answer is no," said Spitzer. "I have not had any conversations with her about it. I'd just point out that Barack Obama is for my policy on driver's licenses, so I don't see that that's been an issue." When he heads to Ohio, he'll join Corzine, who's also headed there to help out Hillary. Since she's in fighting mode lately, it makes sense to bring out the steamroller. But he's kept himself pretty distant from her over the past few months. Will he still be as effective if he's not revved up? Spitzer Sells Clinton, Says Driver's License Mess Didn't Hurt Her [NYO] Update: According to the Sun, Spitzer stopped short of saying that he would stump for Clinton, but left open the possibility "if this continues."

Clinton Might Have the Edge in Tonight’s Super-Important Debate

Clinton and Obama
“Meet me in Ohio” was Hillary Clinton’s challenge to Barack Obama over the weekend. Never mind that the two were already scheduled to debate there tonight (“See you Tuesday!” would have been less dramatic). Their last debate before the mini–Super Tuesday primaries on March 4 — and, perhaps, their last ever — promises an airing of issues connected to health care and NAFTA, both of which Clinton and Obama have been recently feuding over. In mailers and speeches, Obama has claimed that Clinton supports NAFTA and sending working families into poverty with her health-care mandates. Clinton disagrees. And the popular opinion actually seems to favor her position — take that, SNL!

Clinton's Barbs Condoned by the Patron Saint of Bitchy Sarcasm, Tina Fey

Hillary Sarcasm Video
Above is the terrifyingly shrill clip of Hillary Clinton's sarcastic comedy routine about Barack Obama that's been making the rounds today. Some people seem to think the crack, which she delivered at a rally yesterday, is good for her, because it shows her funny side. Other people found it "unattractive." We kind of found it to be both riveting and appalling at the same time. Also, we can't help but suspect that Hillary felt empowered to pull the stunt because of Tina Fey's rather surprising, rabble-rousing Clinton endorsement on Saturday Night Live the day before. We have that video after the jump. Watching both these videos, you kind of have to admit that Tina's on to something. Bitch may be, in fact, the new black.

Republicans, Democrats, and Now Ralph Nader: The Race Stays Interesting

McCain and Huckabee

Over the weekend Hillary Clinton dispelled any notions that she was ready to concede defeat and slink away into the night by lambasting Barack Obama for his allegedly dishonest critiques of her positions on health care and NAFTA. Mike Huckabee isn’t done either — he skewered his own reluctance to leave the race on Saturday Night Live. Plus, Ralph Nader somehow thinks it’s a good idea to run again. And while the primary landscape is still shifting, many people are already strategizing about the general election.

Cindy McCain, Meet Everyone. Everyone, Meet Cindy McCain.

Cindy McCain

John McCain’s presidential campaign is rather desperately lacking for youth and glamour. It badly needs to soften the affect of the Senator’s grim hawkishness without soft-pedaling his national-security credentials. And in the last 48 hours, it has had to find a defense against the New York Times’ semi-allegations that McCain had an affair with a lobbyist who had business before his Senate Commerce Committee. Almost by accident, one answer has emerged to all these conundrums: Cindy McCain.

Hillary or Obama Getting the Nomination Would Be ‘Like A Rat Running a French Restaurant’

Rats
"There is something relatable about someone following a dream when he doesn't have a chance, an outsider who knows he is talented and is just looking for a way in," "Maxim film critic" Pete Hammond told Reuters of Ratatouille, the Pixar movie in which a sophisticated rat called Remy fulfills his dream of becoming a French chef. Heartwarming stuff, right? It gets better. "Even in our presidential race, where either a woman or an African American is about to win a major party nomination — just like a rat running a French restaurant — who would ever have thought that would happen?" Hammond added. Right? And who would have ever thought that a news service would refer to a freeloading sexist-racist blurb whore who actually recently managed to get himself fired from Maxim as a "film critic"? Even in a land where impossible dreams come true, that's a bit much. This Year Oscar is in Love—With a Rat [Yahoo!] Related: Fearless Couch Potato: Pearl Should Have Stayed Home

The ‘Times’ McCain Debacle: Just What Huckabee Has Been Waiting For?

McCain Huckabee

Hooo boy! The Times really opened up a box of bees when they published their insinuating John McCain story late last night. If you haven't seen it, it concerns McCain's high-horse attitude toward ethics, which may have been compromised in part by a close, perhaps romantic relationship with attractive lobbyist Vicki Iseman during McCain's first run for president eight years ago. The paper (using a half-dozen reporters and thousands of words) described confrontations that staffers had with both McCain and Iseman to stop what appeared to be an inappropriate intimacy. By late last evening, political blogs and news programs were exploding with reactions. McCain's camp was outraged at what they called a "smear." It quickly surfaced that there had been a long period of debate inside the Times as to when to publish the piece, and whether to do it at all. The McCain camp claimed that the paper ran with it after hearing that The New Republic was going to publish a story about the infighting at the paper over its inflammatory contents. Some critics even went so far as to speculate that the liberal Times wanted to wait until the Republicans had a presumptive nominee before blowing a hole in his candidacy. Woweee. Whether any of this affects McCain remains to be seen (we cannot wait for the smackdown that Cindy McCain is bound to lay down today). But the scandal addresses something that's been itching us in the back of our heads for a long time: Why the heck is Mike Huckabee still in this race?

McCain Anoints Obama As His Rival, Obama Accepts

John McCain
On the back of their respective strong wins in Wisconsin, John McCain has trained his sights on Barack Obama. He called the Illinois senator "naïve" for his position on bombing Al Qaeda targets in Pakistan and labeled his position on whether he would accept public campaign financing as "Washington double-talk." Obama lashed back through a spokesman, who said, "John McCain is in no place to question anyone on pledges when he abandoned the latest campaign-finance-reform efforts in order to run for the Republican nomination and went back on his commitment to take public financing for the primary." Obama also had an editorial this morning in USA Today about working toward a compromise on financing with McCain. "I am committed to seeking such an agreement if that commitment is matched by Senator McCain," Obama wrote. "When the time comes, we will talk and our commitment will be tested." Wait, wait, wait. What started off as a bunch of bickering this morning suddenly morphed into what we've been expecting for a few weeks now: Obama is using the old Hillary tactic of running as the de facto nominee. He's already fighting McCain directly and treating the primary competition as though it's over. And McCain's helping him do it. Now, this doesn't mean anything, really; we saw how it didn't quite work for Hillary. But it does mean it's about time to add a new candidate to our trademarked New York Electopedia! Everyone welcome John McCain! How much money is he worth? How did he do in high school? What does he eat? The Electopedia has all of your answers. The 2008 Electopedia [NYM]

Pundits on Obama’s New Wins and the Tricks Up Clinton’s Sleeve

Obama in Texas
Barack Obama bested Hillary Clinton again last night by very wide margins (seventeen points in Wisconsin, 52 points in Hawaii), cutting into her core constituencies. (John Heilemann broke it all down.) Basically, Obama captured every demographic: men, women, whites, blacks, the educated, not as educated, dog people, cat people, children, mannequins, ghosts, etc. So, once again, the pundits are left pondering whether the Clinton campaign can pull a McCain-esque resurrection and overcome the ever-expanding Obama juggernaut or whether this primary campaign will at some point in the near future finally, mercifully, come to an end.

Heilemann: Clinton to Bring the Hammer Down After Her Wisconsin Drubbing

Wisconsin

The cheeseheads have spoken. And the message they delivered in the Democratic primary in Wisconsin was loud and unequivocal. There are fancier (or gentler) ways of interpreting it, but what the hearty souls who braved the subfreezing temperatures to cast their votes from Milwaukee to Menomonie announced was this: Virginia and Maryland weren’t anomalies; Barack Obama has the Big Mo; and Hillary Clinton is close to being forced from the stage by another lady — the fat one who likes to sing.

Discerning or Desperate? Clinton Accuses Obama of ‘Plagiarism’

Patrick and Obama

Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama spent Presidents' Day weekend bickering. Clinton's campaign called out Obama for “plagiarizing” Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick in one of his recent speeches; Obama admits he should have credited Patrick but says that the two are good friends who often discuss speech-making ideas (Patrick has come out in Obama’s defense). The accusation either marks a new level of pettiness for Clinton (whose campaign, by the way, now admits they will probably go after Obama's pledged delegates) or a valid critique of Obama’s honesty. Whether the issue will be on primary voters' minds today remains to be seen, but as always, the pundits have plenty to say about it.