The Note: Dems Face Civil War in Bitter Clinton-Obama Battle

While we figure how to cope with life with one less revolution, six questions that could determine the Democratic nomination:

1. Which insult hurts more in a Democratic primary -- "Ken Starr," or "monster"? (And are these better labels to give or to receive?)


2. Which two words sting more -- "Tony Rezko," or "Clinton library"?

3. Which number matters more -- $55 million, or $4 million?

4. Which Barack Obama will we see -- tough guy, or nice guy?

5. Which Hillary Clinton answers the phone (at 3 am, of course) -- re-do Hillary, or voters-have-spoken Hillary?

6. Who can do something about any or all of this, before the Democratic Party eats itself alive? (Hint: The answer is probably not Howard Dean.)

Amid the fratricidal atmosphere enveloping the campaign right now, all that stands between the Democratic National Convention and peace from those scofflaws in Michigan in Florida (and maybe to avoid a brokered convention altogether) is $30 million, give or take. (Sorry, but isn't that just a good two weeks online for Obama?)

This is not how Dr. Dean wants to be spending his money (as if the DNC could afford it anyway).

But you sort of have to feel bad for those rogue states that just happen to matter a great deal in general elections -- all they really did was buy into the storyline of the earliest nomination fight ever.

Yet this would border on unforgivable: After starting us off earlier than we expected, now they could keep the contest going longer than ever.

While second bites at the apple may keep the spin doctors away, do the math -- the answer to polishing off an election that primaries and caucuses haven't settled probably isn't another round or primaries or caucuses.

That's if something can come together at all.

"There may be only three ways to end the impasse over the fate of Michigan and Florida's delegates, Democratic activists say -- with the Clinton campaign furious, the Obama campaign mad or the voters angriest of all," June Kronholz writes in The Wall Street Journal. "The Michigan-and-Florida issue remains almost intractable."

"The stakes are huge," Dan Balz writes in The Washington Post. "Florida and Michigan would have had 366 delegates between them. If Clinton or Obama were to score sizable wins in revotes, the states could have a major impact on the delegate margin between the candidates."

The money is the stumbling block.

Per the Detroit Free Press: "Despite growing enthusiasm and encouragement in some quarters for new Democratic nominating contests in Michigan and Florida, officials raised concerns Thursday about the cost, who would pay and whether there's time to put them together."

In Michigan, the solution may be a "firehouse primary."

Gov. Jennifer Granholm, D-Mich., tells the Detroit News' Mark Hornbeck: "It would be on a Saturday and accessible to average citizens because turnout would be huge. It would also cost a significant amount of money."

Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., says his state can run a new primary for $18 million -- but that Florida shouldn't have to come up with the cash to re-do an election the state still stands by. "So the question is, will the Democratic committee, will they pay for a re-do of a full-up election?" Nelson said on ABC NewsNow's "Politics Live."

Florida can do it on the cheap: "If Florida Democrats take one more shot at making their voices heard in this tick-tight race for the Democratic presidential nomination, the most likely scenario will be balloting by mail," Wes Allison writes in the St. Petersburg Times. "If state Democratic leaders now choose that route, the party would likely set an election date in May or June and send ballots to each of the state's 4-million registered Democrats at least 10 to 14 days beforehand."

Yet here's the biggest reason why the DNC won't be funding it: "The Democratic National Committee ended 2007 nearly flat broke, with cash of $2.9 million and debts of $2.2 million," Leslie Wayne writes in The New York Times. "Since then it has raised some money, paid down debt and managed to put $3.7 million in its piggy bank. This compares, however, with $25 million that the Republican National Committee has in cash on hand, after having raised $97 million since the beginning of 2007."

As Camp Clinton looks for a way to make up the delegate gap (now 114, per ABC's delegate scorecard), "Senator Clinton is offering the first signals that she would be open to new elections in Michigan and Florida, a move that would erase her earlier victories there but would give her two more opportunities to cut into Senator Obama's delegates lead," per the New York Sun's Russell Berman.

But don't think the campaign will accept just any solution.

Clinton herself told US News & World Report that she doesn't think there "should be any do-over or any kind of a second run in Florida" -- where both she and Obama were on the ballot -- and that she can't support a caucus in Michigan. "I think that would be a great disservice to the 2 million people who turned out and voted," Clinton, D-N.Y., tells Kenneth T. Walsh.

Chairman Dean will be George Stephanopoulos' guest Sunday on ABC's "This Week."

Back on the real-life campaign trail, there are plenty of other nuggets out there to keep us occupied.

Among the many remarkable things about this unprecedented Democratic race is that we have gotten to this incredibly late stage of this bizarrely prolonged nomination fight without Clinton having to answer one serious question that included the words "Monica Lewinsky."

Then, on Thursday, the Clinton campaign pushed back at the threat of an Obama attack by -- invoking Ken Starr? We're back to Clinton as victim -- it's worked before -- but is this really the imagery that Camp Clinton wants voters to have on their minds?

"I for one do not find that imitating Ken Starr is a way to win a Democratic primary election for president," said Clinton communications director Howard Wolfson, per ABC's Jake Tapper, who reports on the back-up for the claim from the Clinton campaign.

Newsday's Craig Gordon: "It's hard to think of a worse put-down from Hillary Clinton's camp than comparing someone to Ken Starr." Gordon adds this reminder: "Clinton is the one who turned up the temperature first in attacking Obama, accusing him of plagiarizing speeches, having ties to a 'slumlord' in indicted Chicago developer Tony Rezko and being ill-prepared to be president."

Now we'll learn how committed Obama, D-Ill., is to ridding campaigns of personal attacks: An unguarded interview with Obama foreign-policy adviser Samantha Power earns her a place alongside Austan Goolsbee in the category of really smart advisers who are really naïve about politics and journalism.

The commentary on Sen. Clinton that earned Power the Drudge treatment: "She is a monster, too -- that is off the record -- she is stooping to anything," Power told The Scotsman (except, no, it wasn't).

She continued: "There is this middle circle -- they are really on the warpath. But the truth is she has proved herself really willing to stoop. . . . Here, it looks like desperation. I hope it looks like desperation there too."

Power apologized, and this from Obama spokesman Bill Burton: "Senator Obama decries such characterizations which have no place in this campaign."

(Does that mean she's gone? Flashback to December: "I do not want to see research that is involved in trying to tear people down personally," Obama said, per The New York Times' Jeff Zeleny. "If I find out that somebody is doing that, they will be fired. And I have been absolutely crystal clear about this, and I have been clear about this for a very long time.")

And now we learn how nimble the (supposedly) more aggressive Obama operation can be.

USA Today's Peter Eisler provides fresh fodder to the debate over documents: "Federal archivists at the Clinton Presidential Library are blocking the release of hundreds of pages of White House papers on pardons that the former president approved, including clemency for fugitive commodities trader Marc Rich," Eisler writes. "That archivists' decision, based on guidance provided by Bill Clinton that restricts the disclosure of advice he received from aides, prevents public scrutiny of documents that would shed light on how he decided which pardons to approve from among hundreds of requests."

Add this to the question pile: "The spring before his wife began her White House campaign, former President Bill Clinton earned $700,000 for his foundation by selling stock that he had been given from an Internet search company that was co-founded by a convicted felon and backed by the Chinese government, public records show," Jim McElhatton writes in the Washington Times.

As the campaign moves on to Pennsylvania, Obama tells ABC's Charles Gibson that he thinks he knows why he lost the last round: "I think people started saying, 'well, maybe we want this to continue a little bit further.' They want me to earn this thing and not feel as if I'm just sliding into it. And, you know, I think we made some mistakes, as well, which is inevitable during the course of a long campaign."

Then he dropped an intriguing hint of what's to come: "On the other hand, all her experience is relevant, work at the Rose Law Firm or her work as first lady. So that's something, obviously, that we're going to contest."

But careful now: "As the Democratic primary race enters a new, critical phase, Senator Barack Obama's campaign is wrestling with how to respond forcefully to Hillary Clinton's recent attacks on his record without violating the positive, uplifting spirit at the core of his message," Scott Helman writes in The Boston Globe. "Obama's arsenal is limited by his insistence that his campaign not engage in below-the-belt attacks."

New York Times columnist David Brooks wants Obama not to meet Clinton out by the flagpole: "Unless they consciously reject conventional politics, the accusations will build on each other," Brooks writes. "And the Clinton people will draw them every step of the way. Clinton can't compete on personality, but a knife fight is her only real hope of victory. She has nothing to lose because she never promised to purify America."

Both sides are crossing lines: "The bottom line is that it's time for a timeout," ABC's George Stephanopoulos said on "Good Morning America." "Nerves are frayed, they're exhausted -- and they're making mistakes. . . . There's going to have to be a pulling back from this kind of rhetoric."

It's "a war that, at least theoretically, threatens to open wounds that could be tough to heal," McClatchy's David Lightman writes. "Concerns are starting to grow that this year's Clinton-Obama contest could fracture the Democratic Party."

There are still two candidates who enjoy wide support.

Obama's February fundraising: $55 million (putting Clinton's $35 million haul into perspective). Clinton's post-March 4 tally: $4 million.

Among the Obama campaign's mistakes: Managing expectations (there's confidence, and then there's something more than that).

"Senior Obama advisers said they learned a hard lesson about managing expectations ahead of their defeat in Texas, where they had anticipated doing better," Anne Kornblut and Krissah Williams write in The Washington Post. "Rather than accepting the notion that Pennsylvania will be decisive, they plan to play down their chances in the Keystone State and keep their focus on states such as North Carolina, where they expect to win."

As for the Clinton campaign, doesn't the phone ever ring at, say, 3:30, or maybe 4 am, or even 2 pm on a Tuesday?

"It may be time to put the phone references on hold," The Washington Post's Dana Milbank writes. "Sorry to break in on this party line, but here's an important announcement for Democrats: You are doing John McCain's work for him. While the presumptive Republican nominee rests, the two remaining Democratic candidates are working as hard as they can to make each other appear unfit to lead."

"Some Democratic officials fear that Clinton now seems willing to do whatever it takes to defeat Obama, regardless of the risk that she may be irreparably harming him if he is the eventual Democratic nominee," ABC's Jake Tapper reports.

The Chicago Tribune's Mike Dorning and Christi Parsons go a little deeper on the question of Clinton's experience: "While Hillary Clinton represented the U.S. on the world stage at important moments while she was first lady, there is scant evidence that she played a pivotal role in major foreign policy decisions or in managing global crises," they write.

Politico's Kenneth P. Vogel keeps us updated on the Tony Rezko trial -- and Obama's name came up, briefly, during opening arguments. (Here's guessing Obama would not be running for president if he had accepted that job with Rezko's company way back when.)

On the Republican side, Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, is just about dropping out of the presidential race. In a Web video, "Paul indicated that the 2008 presidential campaign portion of his revolution is over," ABC's Z. Byron Wolf reports. Said Paul: "Elections are short-term efforts. . . . Revolutions are long-term projects."

What fun would this be without a final taste of conspiracy theories? Wolf reports: "The video was briefly available on Paul's Web site and YouTube before being pulled for what the campaign termed 'technical difficulties.' " And the Web army has noticed that Paul does not use words like "dropping out."

(RONPAUL 2012, anyone?)

There's a Republican nominee, remember, and he's using his time well: "The Republican National Committee [Friday] will announce the appointment of three top John McCain loyalists to help coordinate the party's effort with McCain's campaign and to lead the joint voter contact program," Politico's Jonathan Martin reports. "Also involved in the effort will be Rudy Giuliani's former campaign manager."

The new faces: Frank Donatelli, Carly Fiorina, Lew Eisenberg, and Mike DuHaime

Bad job numbers out Friday -- think the economy may come up on the trail? Get all the candidates' schedules in The Note's "Sneak Peek."

Also in the news:

With caucuses on Saturday, the battle is joined in Wyoming -- both Obama and Clinton hit the state on Friday, and Bill and Chelsea Clinton were both there Thursday.

And in Mississippi: "Some people have said Mississippi will most likely be in favor of Obama. I said, well that's fine, but I want people in Mississippi to know I want to be there for you," Clinton said Thursday night in Canton, Miss., amid a decent collection of Obama signs, per Natalie Chandler of the Clarion Ledger.

Obama broke the negative seal with a radio ad highlighting Clinton's derogatory Iowa-Mississippi comparison.

Keeping an eye on Pennsylvania. . . . "Near the end of his term as president, Bill Clinton orchestrated marathon peace talks between Israeli and Palestinian leaders at Camp David," Thomas Fitzgerald writes in the Philadelphia Inquirer. "Today he will negotiate with another tough audience: the ward leaders of Philadelphia's Democratic City Committee."

Nobody's leaving out independents, per Karamagi Rujumba of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: "With Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama headed for a Pennsylvania showdown, their operatives are scrambling to get supporters who are independents and Republicans to register as Democrats so they can vote in the April 22 primary."

They are still counting votes in Texas, believe it or not, but The Dallas Morning News' Karen Brooks has some (partial) answers: "Hillary Rodham Clinton won the popular vote in the state's Democratic primary, but Barack Obama is poised to walk away from the Texas two-step with more delegates, if his current lead in delegates from the precinct conventions holds through June." l

The Los Angeles Times' Maeve Reston writes up the five McCain loyalists who pulled his campaign from the ashes. "With headlines predicting the end, a small band of loyalists coalesced around McCain," she writes.

"The new campaign manager, Rick Davis, was on the phone with donors in every state, asking them to hang on. Mark Salter, McCain's aide of nearly two decades, walked from desk to desk at headquarters persuading core staffers not to bolt. Strategist Charles Black, McCain's longtime friend and a veteran of every Republican presidentialcampaign since Ronald Reagan's 1976 bid, dropped in to remind the staff that Reagan had survived a similar implosion."

"From California, consultant Steve Schmidt was on the phone with McCain, getting him focused on the path ahead. Media advisor Mark McKinnon, watching from Austin, Texas, as the team he'd assembled collapsed, called in to say, 'I'm still here.' "

Bloomberg's Edwin Chen seeks out the kinder, gentler, John McCain: "Little known beyond his family and small circle of friends, McCain has a softer, compassionate side that co-exists with his temper. Those who have seen him in private moments and in personal relationships say the Arizona senator has demonstrated extraordinary kindness, bringing to the political realm a human dimension often obscured by the heat of the moment."

The Boeing deal continues to bubble up as a campaign issue: "Sen. John McCain's (Ariz.) allies are defending the presumptive GOP presidential nominee from Democratic attacks stating that he single-handedly helped doom Boeing's bid for a multibillion-dollar defense contract, which instead went to a U.S.-European team that included rival Airbus," The Hill's Roxana Tiron reports.

"McCain's Hill supporters, along with independent watchdog organizations, warn that Democrats could be playing a dangerous game in criticizing McCain. They note his probe of the Air Force's leasing deal with Boeing unearthed corrupt procurement practices that led to prison terms for a former top Air Force official and a Boeing executive."

Saturday brings a special election in former House speaker Dennis Hastert's district, and it could lose the GOP another seat: "Some flavors of ice cream are just a bit too tangy for conservative palates," Dan Rozek and Abdon M. Pallasch write in the Chicago Sun-Times. "Maybe that's why Republican dairy magnate Jim Oberweis is having trouble selling himself to mostly Republican voters in this far west suburban congressional seat Denny Hastert held for 21 years."

"Should [Democrat Bill] Foster win on Saturday, Republicans will face renewed skepticism of their ability to take back congressional seats this year," Reid Wilson writes for Real Clear Politics. "If Democrats win a seat long dominated by Republicans, it will suggest that Democrats have yet to reach their ceiling."

Don't leave out the Senate: "For Democrats hoping the November elections set off a seismic shift in Washington, the dream scenario is not just capturing the White House, but also winning a filibuster-proof majority of 60 seats in the Senate -- a luxury no president has enjoyed since Jimmy Carter 30 years ago," David M. Herszenhorn writes in The New York Times. "As far-fetched as that might seem -- Democrats now control the Senate by a razor-thin 51 to 49, thanks only to two independents who vote with them -- some Democrats have started thinking aloud that such a scenario is within reach."

The kicker:

"" -- One of at least 25 domain names related to Hillary Clinton with "links to the Republican National Committee, per The New York Times. (The running-mate guesses:,,,,,

"Right now, he's in a place he's very comfortable with. But I'm sure he's biting his tongue a lot." -- Former Clinton White House press secretary Mike McCurry, speaking about his former boss.

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