Everything you need to know about the presidential race this Monday in four simple sentences:
Plenty of Democrats want Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton to be president (and, about a month after we thought it would happen, she has a new campaign manager to help find more people like that).
Plenty of Democrats (just possibly quite a few more) want Sen. Barack Obama to be president. (And in the precious visual department: Monday brings the unveiling of "a new figure of Sen. Barack Obama seated in a replica of the Oval Office with Bill and Hillary Clinton standing by" at Madame Tussauds wax museum in Washington, per the AP's daybook.)
Plenty of Republicans (including President Bush) want Sen. John McCain to be president.
Plenty of Republicans still DON'T want McCain to be president (and are showing about as much interest as the Democrats in a tidy end to the nominating process).
Victory in Maine on Sunday made it a clean sweep of a weekend for Obama, D-Ill. -- five-for-five, counting the Virgin Islands though not counting the Grammy, where his competition actually was Bill Clinton (and where he picked up as many delegates as Sen. Clinton did in Florida and Michigan combined).
So THIS is what momentum looks like: Now the candidate with the deeper pockets and the palpable edge in enthusiasm is on the brink of obtaining what could be delegate edge of significance -- making for dark days at Camp Clinton.
The campaign will try to turn the lights back on with a new chief at the helm, and while Patti Solis Doyle leaves on good terms, the timing tells the story. "The switch occurred at a time when Mrs. Clinton has found her campaign in a slump, coming off a split victory in a multistate round of nominating contests on Feb. 5 and losing badly in a string of state caucuses that relied on a high level of on-the-ground organizational skills at which the Obama campaign excelled," Katharine Q. Seelye writes in The New York Times.
"At the same time, she suffered a setback over money, and though in recent days the campaign has boasted of a $10 million month and many new donors, it never built the online donor base that Ms. Doyle had promised," Seelye writes. "Nor did it adapt to Mr. Obama's message of inspiration as his campaign grew in strength, prolonging the battle long past the point when Mrs. Clinton was expected by her strategists to have clinched the nomination."
Ask John Kerry how changing campaign managers works out in terms of perceptions and expectations about a candidacy. (But THEN ask John Kerry how it worked out in terms of actually winning the nomination.)
"The statement offered no real explanation for the shakeup, but none was needed," per the New York Daily News. "Clinton's campaign has sunk into a post-Super Tuesday funk, with little to crow about except a spike in fund-raising."
The move is "the first step in what could be a broader shakeup in her campaign, after Sen. Barack Obama won four weekend contests, turning up the pressure on the one-time Democratic front-runner," Amy Chozick and Monica Langley write in The Wall Street Journal.
"Some Clinton aides said that, as part of the changes, Mark Penn, Mrs. Clinton's chief strategist and pollster, could play a diminished role. But both Mr. Penn and Ms. Williams denied that."
The decision to install Maggie Williams over Patti Solis Doyle "gave credence to what some supporters have said for many weeks -- that the campaign had spent too much money yielding too few results and that fresh management and advice are needed for what could be a long battle against Obama," Anne Kornblut and Dan Balz write in The Washington Post.
So maybe the parting wasn't entirely friendly . . . "Doyle did not tell Clinton how rapidly the campaign was burning through money, according to one campaign official, who said Clinton learned about her financial constraints only after the New Hampshire primary on Jan. 8," Kornbut and Balz report.
A Clinton campaign source is more frank with the Chicago Tribune's Mark Silva: ""We were lying about money," the source said. "The cash on hand was nothing." Silva writes: "In turn, Clinton didn't tell Solis Doyle that she was lending her own money to keep the campaign afloat. Solis Doyle found out third-hand. And when she asked Clinton about it, the senator told her she couldn't understand how the campaign had gotten to such a point."
In a statement about Doyle's departure, Clinton said she was "enormously grateful for her friendship and her outstanding work" and said she "has done an extraordinary job in getting us to this point -- within reach of the nomination."
ABC's Jake Tapper: "Of course, by now Clinton had expected to have secured the nomination."
"A sudden switching of quarterbacks in the middle of the playoffs is not what any campaign needs; there's no question that Patti Solis Doyle's resignation will produce a spate of negative stories that no campaign likes to handle," writes The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder.
Says one adviser: "In part, this was Patti's choice." (In part, indeed.)
To strain the sports metaphors . . . Clinton is changing coaches as her team starts a tough road trip: The truth is there is probably nothing Williams can do to avoid seeing Clinton go a four-week stretch without a single win -- something that could severely test the continued prospects of a momentum-free campaign.
All that stands between now and March 4 is Tuesday's Potomac Primary -- Virginia, Maryland, and the District of Columbia -- plus Wisconsin (Clinton's best shot at a win this month) and Obama's native Hawaii.
That's a recipe for a slow Clinton bleed (10 consecutive losses?) coming into Ohio and Texas, while Obama can continue to depend on quick infusions of cash. It's enough to make any campaign feel woozy.
The New York Sun's Josh Gerstein recycles this quote from Clinton communications director Howard Wolfson, from last Wednesday: "Senator Obama does enjoy some advantages in the contests in the rest of February but not in a way that should permit [hin] to him to overcome our lead in delegates."
ABC's delegate scorecard has Clinton's edge down to a measly 17 -- the result solely of her advantage in superdelegates, and a margin that could disappear by the end of Tuesday's voting, if not by the time all of last week's votes are tabulated.
And the confidence among denizens of Hillaryland just isn't there anymore. "Some of Clinton's supporters have been unnerved as they watch her fortunes take a turn for the worse," Peter Nicholas writes in the Los Angeles Times.
"They've expressed discomfort over what they see as a pattern of reinvention: First Clinton was tough and seasoned, then she tried out a softer persona. She announced in Iowa she would start attacking Obama; then she drew back. After repeatedly touting her experience, she repackaged herself as the candidate best able to bring about change."
We know Williams is loyal -- but the last thing the Clinton campaign needs now is a Vince Foster reference. "Williams, 53, was a central player in the Clinton damage-control machine during the White House years," Thomas M. DeFrank writes in the New York Daily News.
"In 1995, a uniformed Secret Service officer swore under oath he saw her leave White House lawyer and Hillary confidant Vince Foster's office carrying documents after Foster committed suicide. Williams denied it."
You know it's a close race when . . . former senator John Edwards' 40 delegates looks like a huge, monstrous load. Though they may not be his to swing, Edwards may see Joe Trippi's kingmaking dream come true yet: Obama plans to meet with Edwards on Monday, in North Carolina if the campaign can swing it, after a Thursday meeting between Edwards and Clinton managed to slip under the public radar screen (though now we now know why she was two hours late to her campaign event in Virginia).
"Pundits have speculated that Edwards' populist message is more closely aligned with Obama," ABC's Eloise Harper and Sunlen Miller report. But then there's experience and policy matters -- two checks in Clinton's column, if you're Edwards.
Say this for Clinton -- she has no interest in looking back. Per ABC's Jake Tapper and Eloise Harper, Clinton "has not made one mention of her losses Saturday in Nebraska, Louisiana, and Washington. Campaigning on Sunday [in] Manassas, Va., Clinton didn't congratulate Sen Barack Obama, or acknowledge that there is a race in play in the state of Maine."
Add Tapper and Harper: "Clinton's campaign is setting expectations low for the upcoming 'Potomac Primaries' that take place on Tuesday."
As for Maine, it was record turnout and a convincing, 59-40 victory for Obama in the weekend contest that held Clinton's best chance of a win. "Both camps squabbled about whether to debate, and Obama hammered Clinton for her votes on coastal drilling and her plan to provide home oil heating subsidies to poor households," Jonathan E. Kaplan writes in the Portland Press Herald.
"It was an 'upset' victory, said Obama campaign manager David Plouffe, adding that internal polling showed Clinton in the lead days before the caucus."
Before this one heads to the smoke-(free-)filled rooms, the voters get another few chances to sort out this race. "The candidates are set to keep up an intense campaigning pace in the region right through tomorrow's voting," David Nakamura, John Wagner, and Amy Gardner write in The Washington Post.
"Clinton can stay even with Obama in the overall race even if she loses in all three jurisdictions. The battle for the Democratic nomination is expected to extend long beyond tomorrow."
"Tuesday's 'Potomac primary,' with large pockets of black and highly educated voters who have thus far favored Barack Obama in the Democratic race, looks like inhospitable territory for Hillary Rodham Clinton. But she's not conceding the region," USA Today's Jill Lawrence and Fredreka Schouten report.
Clinton is at least trying to keep it close in Tuesday's contests: "Sen. Hillary Clinton unleashed powerful allies in Maryland yesterday for a strategic push aimed at traditional Democratic groups who have helped her in other states," David Nitkin writes in the Baltimore Sun.
"Former President Bill Clinton crisscrossed Maryland, calling his wife 'the best change-maker I ever saw' during a speech at the Charlestown Retirement Community in Catonsville. Daughter Chelsea Clinton made appearances in Baltimore's Belvedere Square shopping district and later went to the University of Maryland, College Park."
As for the Republicans -- again, it was no formal endorsement, but President Bush is repaying that famous McCain loyalty. "There's no doubt in my mind that he is a true conservative," Bush said on Fox News Sunday.
"I think that if John's the nominee, he's got some convincing to do to convince people's he's a solid conservative and I'm glad to help him."
The president then took it right to Obama: "I certainly don't know what he believes in," Bush said. "He said he would attack Pakistan and endorse [Iranian President Mahmoud] Ahmadinezhad." (We look forward to the White House providing some backup for that last characterization.)
And Karl Rove brought his analytical skills to bear on why he's supporting McCain (at least financially): "completely implausible" is how Rove described Mike Huckabee's shot at overcoming McCain's advantage.
But somebody forgot to tell Huckabee (and his supporters) that he's out of the race (and it's not that Rick Perry wasn't trying). A squeaker in Washington state (where Huck is calling the results "dubious") is the only thing that kept the weekend from being a McCain washout.
Romney won the Conservative Political Action Conference straw poll despite the inconvenient fact that he's no longer a candidate for president.
"Mr. McCain, who won enough delegates in the coast-to-coast nominating contests on Tuesday to place him mathematically beyond the reach of his Republican rivals, suffered embarrassing losses in the Louisiana primary and the Kansas caucuses on Saturday to former Gov. Mike Huckabee of Arkansas," Paul Vitello and Michael Cooper write in The New York Times.
"Results of the weekend contests do not affect Mr. McCain's solid lead, or change the likelihood of his winning the nomination," they add. "But they underlined the thinness of support for him among religious and social conservatives, who make up the bulk of Mr. Huckabee's voters, and the problem that has dogged Mr. McCain's presidential aspirations since 2000: how to overcome the distrust he elicits from that core constituency in his party while maintaining credibility as the unorthodox Republican whom moderates, independents and many Democrats like so much."
Said Huckabee (and this is no mere rhetorical flourish): "Folks, I didn't major in math. I majored in miracles."
Time's Michael Scherer: "The Huckabee campaign says it has its eye fixed firmly on the March 4 primary in Texas, where Huckabee could benefit from his southern appeal, and lingering conservative skepticism on McCain's positions on campaign finance reform and immigration. Whatever happens, Huckabee's strategists maintain Republican candidate's without fail that the candidate will not be swayed by pressure from fellow Republicans to bow out before one candidate reaches 1,191 delegates."
Says Huckabee adviser Ed Rollins: "We don't care. We're not about the party. We never have been."
Just one of many reasons why Huckabee is always a threat: "There's more than one Mike to like," Tom Pelton writes in the Baltimore Sun.
"Speaking to the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, . . . he quoted from the Bible, boasted of hard-core conservative values, touted 'law and order' and the need to close U.S. borders to illegal immigrants. But he sounded like a more liberal stand-up comedian to hundreds of cheering students at the University of Maryland, College Park. He never mentioned the war or immigration, instead talking about the need for creativity and the arts, environmental protections and health care reform."
It's only been four days since former governor Mitt Romney, R-Mass., left the race and seemed to seal the nomination for McCain, but the just-about-presumptive nominee isn't getting much help in healing the party's rifts -- and he doesn't seem all that eager to help himself.
McCain and his aides tell Newsweek that they have no interest in reaching out to Limbaugh/Coulter/James Dobson; says McCain, "I know what it takes to unite the party" -- and that, apparently, does not include going hat-in-hand to conservative yackers and pooh-bahs.
Write Newsweek's Eve Conant, Holly Bailey and Michael Hirsh: "He needs to put that knowledge into action, and fairly soon. It seems possible that the conservative movement -- the dominant force in American politics since the Reagan Revolution -- has become so dogmatic that it might choose purity over victory."
It's a home game for Washington-based staffers and reporters, with the candidates concentrating on D.C., Maryland, and Virginia. One highlight: Clinton and Obama will sit down for back-to-back interviews at 7 pm ET and 7:30 pm ET on ABC's Washington affiliate, WJLA-Channel 7, with Leon Harris and Politico's John F. Harris doing the questioning.
Also in the news:
A new poll in Virginia suggests another good night for Obama on Tuesday. Per the Mason-Dizon poll, Obama leads Clinton 53-37. "The poll also showed Obama with high support from African-American voters with 82 percent compared to 9 percent for Clinton," Austin Bogues writes in The Daily Press.
"Clinton won the support of white voters 49 percent to 41 percent. Obama also led Clinton in the female vote, which her campaign has strongly courted, 49 percent to 41 percent."
The Boston Globe's Michael Kranish previews the Virginia races: "The key to both Virginia contests could be the perception that the Republican race is all but over. The state does not require party registration, meaning that voters can opt to vote in either primary. For the voters who describe themselves as independents, that could mean there is less incentive to participate in the GOP contest, although Huckabee is pinning his hopes on their support."
Bloomberg's Kim Chipman profiles Obama's late mother, Ann Dunham. "Her son, who may become the first black U.S. president, displays a penchant for defying convention and forging his own path that those who knew Dunham well trace back to her arrival with her family in Hawaii after high school," Chipman writes.
"Although the son has channeled the rebelliousness of his early years, he remains impatient with customs, such as the political dictate that he should wait his turn for national office."
New York Times columnist William Kristol sees the Obama wave just beginning to crest, and offers up an intriguing scenario for settling the race: "There are, as a final resort, two super-superdelegates (so to speak) who would have the clout to help Democrats achieve closure: Al Gore and Nancy Pelosi. If they stepped forward at the right time, they would earn the gratitude of their party. And they might also enjoy contemplating a derivative effect of their good deed -- the fall of the house of Clinton."
Bloomberg columnist Al Hunt weighs in on how the polls have gotten it so wrong. "This is a commentary on the state of polling in America today. Even more, it reflects a dynamic Democratic Party electorate," Hunt writes.
"A much more important story than flawed polls or methodologies . . . is the tremendous turnout in Democratic primaries. This makes obsolete most of the pollsters' models -- in which previous voting behavior is considered a predictive measure of likely voters."
The Washington Post's Howard Kurtz takes an early crack at all of the things the media's gotten wrong, starting with the premature burials of the two remaining leading GOP candidates, Huckabee and McCain: "Time and again, the media's preferred narratives for this campaign have collided with reality. Remember when journalists repeatedly declared that both nominations would be settled by Feb. 5? Scratch that. How about the blowout television and print coverage of Ted Kennedy anointing Barack Obama as the crown prince of Camelot? Hillary Clinton showed how little it mattered in the heart of Kennedy country, taking Massachusetts by 15 percentage points."
"The only thing that would work is if he put a gun to my head, but since McCain is also against gun rights, that's out." -- Ann Coulter, on how John McCain can win her vote.
"I live in New York now -- man, you know how long it's been since I hung my underwear out on the clothesline to dry? Oh, yeah, I hang 'em high, too, so the whole neighborhood can get a good look." -- Former President Bill Clinton, explaining why he loves Virginia.
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