THE NOTE: Race in the Race

Five (plus one) questions to ponder in this vitally important, jam-packed week that will shape the 2008 race more than any other six-day span to date:

1. How far can Camp Clinton bend the politics of race without seeing the race snap back?

2. Will the new Mitt Romney remind Michigan voters of old George Romney? (Or will old John McCain get credit for being, well, old John McCain?)

3. Who will be less Christian in his attacks -- Mike Huckabee or Fred Thompson? (And who benefits most if they push each other toward the gates of campaign hell with Metamucil prescriptions and "potty humor"?)

4. Who is happier that John Edwards is taking Barack Obama's side in taking on Hillary Clinton -- Obama or Clinton? (And does Edwards siphon more votes from Obama or Clinton -- or does it depend on the state of the week?)


5. Who benefits from the fact that Democratic race is again plowing through old history on the Iraq war? (Hint: It helps to know who's bringing it up.)

Bonus: What does it mean that two new national polls have Clinton and McCain as frontrunners? (And how do those trend lines look now that African-American voters now seem convinced that Obama can win?)

With the first two contests already distant memories (with their very different outcomes), the Democratic race from here out is all about who can repeat the magic. And it's not at all clear that either Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., or Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., is precisely sure why the last tricks worked.

That's one reason that the race got so ugly over the weekend: Supporters of both candidates now realize that their candidate can win this thing -- and, even more easily, could lose it.

The New York Times' Adam Nagourney sees the fierce weekend battle exposing sentiments that have been there all along, in a must-read snapshot of the campaign: "race and to a lesser extent gender have burst into the forefront of the Democratic presidential contest, thrusting Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton into the middle of a sharp-edged social and political debate that transcends their candidacies."

"Democrats now increasingly view both Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton as credible and electable candidates, given their victories," Nagourney writes. "In addition, Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama are now moving into a series of contests, particularly in South Carolina but also in California, where black voters could play a pivotal role."

Cast against that backdrop is the raging battle of "who said what and what they meant by it" regarding Clinton's MLK-LBJ remarks last week, ABC's Kate Snow and Sunlen Miller report. Said Clinton, in a "Meet the Press" interview she was clearly prepped (and well-armed) for: "Clearly we know from media reports that the Obama campaign is deliberately distorting this."

Countered Obama: "She, I think, offended some folks who felt that [she] somehow diminished King's role in bringing about the Civil Rights Act. She is free to explain that. But the notion that somehow this is our doing is ludicrous."

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