With one more day left in the interminable slog toward the Pennsylvania primary, the candidates are making their closing statements. The jury: the voters who have somehow not figured out whom to support despite six straight weeks of campaigning in their state. Barack Obama has taken a negative turn, criticizing Hillary Clinton for her negativity, among other things, and both candidates are debating just how bad John McCain is.
• Jeff Zeleney and Katherine Q. Seelye say Obama has been casting Clinton in a more negative light than ever before in an effort to keep the race close and possibly force Clinton to drop out. [NYT]
• Jason Horowitz writes that the Obama campaign’s “trappings of cheeriness” belie the negativity he’s turning to as he seeks to sow doubts about Clinton among undecideds. [NYO]
• John Dickerson breaks down Obama’s final speech, one that’s similar to what he’s been delivering for months except that it now contains a passage that “cuts Clinton down to size” on NAFTA, Columbia, Mark Penn, and Iraq. [Slate]
• Dan Balz and Shailagh Murray believe Obama’s sharper rhetoric demonstrates that he’s learned his lessons from earlier primaries in which he “appeared to coast toward the finish” and failed to deliver a knockout blow that could have forced Clinton from the race. [WP]
• Joe Klein thinks it’s “pretty depressing” that both candidates’ messages have “collapsed into blatant pandering.” Obama eschews his talk of hope, instead making promises that he surely can’t deliver. Clinton, for her part, apparently has a solution for everything, pandering on gas prices, free trade, and No Child Left Behind. [Swampland/Time]
• Jonathan Cohn responds to Klein, explaining the both candidates are so desperate: Clinton, because winning big is the only thing that could keep her campaign going, and Obama, because he needs to avoid the big loss that would allow Clinton to keep campaigning in North Carolina and Indiana. [Stump/New Republic]
• Both candidates are arguing about how bad a McCain presidency would really be. Obama told an audience that though “either Democrat would be better than John McCain,” all three remaining candidates would be “better than George Bush.” Clinton said that “we need a nominee who will take on John McCain, not cheer on John McCain.” Ben Smith calls Obama’s McCain comment “strategically puzzling,” but possibly just an honest opinion . [Politico]
• John Nichols says Clinton is right in the “How bad is McCain?” argument: Not only does McCain promote one hundred years in Iraq, but he sings “Bomb Iran” and in general has a “more troubling” approach to foreign policy. At the same time, he believes Clinton has once again overplayed her hand by claiming Obama was cheering on McCain. [Campaign Matters/Nation]
• Mark Ambinder swelled with pride upon hearing Obama’s remarks because they demonstrated a rare nuance, even though politically they were “a gift” to the Republicans. [Atlantic] —Dan Amira
For a complete and regularly updated guide to presidential candidates Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and John McCain — from First Love to Most Embarrassing Gaffe — read the 2008 Electopedia.