Yesterday and today, Republicans John McCain and Mike Huckabee both stood up for Barack Obama concerning his relationship with controversial Reverend Jeremiah Wright. On Morning Joe today, Huckabee candidly said, "Obama handled this about as well as anybody could." He laid out his argument pretty simply:
"You can't hold the candidate responsible for everything that people around him may say or do," Huckabee says. "It's interesting to me that there are some people on the left who are having to be very uncomfortable with what ... Wright said, when they all were all over a Jerry Falwell, or anyone on the right who said things that they found very awkward and uncomfortable, years ago. Many times those were statements lifted out of the context of a larger sermon. Sermons, after all, are rarely written word for word by pastors like Rev. Wright, who are delivering them extemporaneously, and caught up in the emotion of the moment. There are things that sometimes get said, that if you put them on paper and looked at them in print, you'd say 'Well, I didn't mean to say it quite like that.'"
Whoa, that sounds like a pretty firm defense.
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As you probably already know, but perhaps haven't been much thinking about, Barack Obama won the Mississippi primary last night. It was a big win, something like 60 percent to 37 percent. Clinton didn't make much of an effort in the state, so she probably didn't take the loss too hard — for a woman who claims to want to seat the Michigan and Florida delegations so that every Democratic voter can feel like he's been listened to, she's certainly been ignoring a large amount of them. But the exit-poll numbers indicate a few surprises. For one thing, Hillary Clinton received the lion's share of crossover votes (Republican voters who vote in the Democratic primary), which is a first — every other time crossover voting has been included, Obama has trumped her with this group. But this time, Hillary took them 3 to 1. Obama took 90 percent of the black vote, and Hillary did better than usual with the white vote, which Politico's Ben Smith chalks up to the attitudes of southern white voters. And finally, Obama won either five or seven delegates more than Hillary did last night, depending on who is counting. This effectively erases any ground she may have gained after her big wins last Tuesday.
We will now return to our round-the-clock Eliot Spitzer hookapalooza coverage.
Mississippi Crossovers [Talking Points Memo]
Mississippi Delegates [Politico]
The Magnolia State Stats [Stumper/Newsweek]
Obama Wins In Mississippi [NYT]
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Eliot Spitzer is still holed up in his apartment in New York, where he and his wife, Silda, have been conferring with advisers since last night. He's weighing his options, and deciding whether to resign. Meanwhile, on the outside, the politicians and the media have descended into exactly the kind of feeding frenzy you would expect:
• The Post reports that State Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno held back from reveling in his great rival's fall: "I feel very badly for the governor's wife, for his children," he said. "The important thing for the people of New York State is that people in office do the right thing."
• According to CNN, Republican state senators and assemblymen (and some Democrats) are aggressively calling for his resignation. So is the Republican Governors Association.
• If Spitzer doesn't resign before a deadline set by state Republicans, they've vowed to begin impeachment proceedings, reports WCBS.
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John McCain is coming to New York next Tuesday for a giant fund-raiser to power his national campaign, reports Elizabeth Benjamin at the Daily News. It sounds like it's going to be a doozy — the host committee includes Henry Kissinger, Alfonse D'Amato, Woody Johnson, Georgette Mosbacher, and Merrill Lynch CEO John Thain. Tickets are either $1,000 or $2,300 per person (get it? The most you can donate to one candidate?), and it will take place at the Plaza. So glamorous. But let's get down to business (literally). How many billionaires will be in attendance? And how many billions do they represent? From Forbes.com's most recent list, we count five: Henry Kravis (the world's 178th-richest man, worth $5.5 billion), Ray Dalio (worth $4 billion), Louis Bacon (worth $1.7 billion), Marc Rowan (worth $1.5 billion), and Robert Fisher ($1.4 billion). That's a total of over $14 billion in the room with the Republican presidential nominee. There are several dozen other multimillionaires on the list, plus Lord knows how many buying tickets — so we'll conservatively push that number over the $15 billion barrier. At first, we wondered how on earth any of the Democrats could get that much money into one room. And then we remembered that all Hillary needs to do is have Warren Buffet hold another fund-raiser, and she'd be in the company of quadruple that amount. Nobody else would even need to show up.
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After the election of Democrat Darrel Aubertine to the State Senate on Wednesday, lines are already being drawn for a battle royal for control of the body in November. Aubertine won in the 48th District, a territory that has been represented by Republicans for the past 100 years. This reduces the GOP stranglehold on Albany to just one seat, which Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno proclaims the party will maintain. "We lost that battle, but we are going to win the war," Bruno said, according to the Post. The way the Albany Times-Unionsees it, the extremely contentious State Senate race this fall will come down to two tactics: fear and frustration.
Democrats will remind voters decades of Republican rule in the Senate have done little to avert the state's rising taxes and sluggish economy. That's the frustration part.
Republicans who backed Barclay have already started warning that, should they lose their majority, New York would be under the control of just one political party, the Democrats. That's the fear part.
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]
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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]
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Governor Jon Corzine of New Jersey is frustrating gay activists because he is hesitant to get moving on a bill to change the state's civil-unions policy to one of flat-out marriage equality. After a report was released yesterday that says civil unions in the state are not equal to marriages, the state legislature is under pressure to change the law. Civil unions have been allowed since 2006 in New Jersey after the State Supreme Court ruled that gay couples should receive the same legal rights and protections as married straight couples. Legislators quickly created a law that was designed to give equality to all parties. In order to comply with the decree of the Supreme Court, adjustments have to be made to the current policy, but Corzine says he wants to wait until after November to do so. "He will sign a bill, but doesn't want to make it a presidential-election-year issue," Corzine spokeswoman Lilo Stainton said. This is a shrewd move, both for Democrats and gays alike. A Republican nominee will be sure to use the specter of gay marriage to scare their base to the voting booths in November, as George Bush did so effectively in 2004. The last thing that gays hoping to wed (and Democrats hoping to win) need are endless high-profile speeches about the sanctity of marriage. It's the one issue that could bring evangelicals like James Dobson together with front-runner John McCain, whom they currently mistrust.
N.J. governor concerned civil unions don't bring equal rights [Newsday]
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As we type, Mitt Romney is giving a live speech to the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington. GOP sources say that, during this rally, he will announce the suspension of his campaign. According to Time.com, he will say the following: "If I fight on in my campaign, all the way to the convention, I would forestall the launch of a national campaign and make it more likely that Senator Clinton or [Barack] Obama would win."
Romney to Quit Race [Time]
Update: Snippets from his speech just now, in which he said he was stepping aside so that McCain could begin a national campaign:
"Today, we are a nation at war. And Barack and Hillary have made their intentions clear regarding Iraq and the war on terror. They would retreat and declare defeat. The consequences of that would be devastating. Frankly, in this time of war I simply cannot let my campaign be a part of aiding a surrender to terror. This isn't an easy decision; I hate to lose. If this were only about me, I'd go on. But it's never been only about me. I entered this race because I love America. And because I love America, in this time of war, I feel I now have to stand aside for our party and our country."
• High fuel prices and a soft economy have sent Delta and Northwest Airlines running into each other's arms. The two could announce a definitive plan to merge as early as next week. [NYT]
• Senate Republicans have axed a proposed economic-stimulus bill. The Dem-proposed $158 billion package, which sought to avert a full-fledged recession, came up one short of the required 60 votes. [FT]
• But, no worries. Economists put odds of a U.S. recession at 49 percent, which means we're not technically there yet. Also, for what it's worth, this video is funny. [WSJ]
In honor of the orgy of voting that is going on all over the country today, Daily Intel is staying up late tonight. Really late. Starting at 8:30 p.m., New York columnist Kurt Andersen is going to be live-blogging the primary results. Then, later in the evening, Chris Smith will take a look at voting in our home state and what it means, and John Heilemann will analyze the national results on both the Democratic and Republican sides of the table. So tonight, when you get home from the gym, after your friends have arrived to watch the results and you've ordered pizza and uncorked that magnum of Cavit Pinot Grigio that someone random dragged over, go ahead and log on to Nymag.com. After all, as the hours go on, even Lou Dobbs's voice starts to pound against your eardrums like a Q-tip during a hangover (you know, like Chris Matthews's voice does every day). We'll be quietly examining what today's voting means for the candidates and, more importantly, what it means for you.
P.S.: Last night, we were at the Met watching Carmen, and we totally spotted MSNBC's Chuck Todd out of the office, on a date. Slacker!
Of course, tomorrow morning we're probably not going to have learned anything definitive about this year's presidential primary. But that doesn't mean that each major candidate isn't treating Super Tuesday as a do-or-die moment. Late last night and early this morning, each took the opportunity to make a final statement that would be circulated through the press throughout today as people gear up to head to the polls. Here's what they've been saying:
• "In my White House, we will know who wears the pantsuits," Hillary Clinton cracked on Letterman's show last night. Sure, it was a joke response to a question from the host about whether husband Bill Clinton would be "going through stuff" while she was busy governing the nation, but it's an important point. Since Bill got a little out-of-control campaigning on her behalf, and since she cried again yesterday, it was important for her to reiterate that she is tough and in charge. [Reuters]
• John McCain, meanwhile, stayed on message, saying that both Democratic candidates are clueless on Iraq. He also indicated that he'd set up "arrangements" to leave U.S. troops there permanently. "We've been in Kuwait right next door [to Iraq] for many years," he pointed out. [NYDN]
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