The Note: 'Closer to 'Not' Than Yes'?

As you get ready for ABC's upcoming Democratic debate in Pennsylvania, there are six balls worth watching this Friday: Michigan, Florida, the McCain campaign's first engagement with Barack Obama's controversial former pastor, James Carville's op-ed in the Financial Times, charges that Hillary Clinton has overstated her work on S-CHIP, and the (new) fight for delegates in Iowa.

1. Michigan: 'A Compromise May Be Announced as Early as Today' (Detroit News):

The Detroit News reports that a Michigan compromise may be announced as early as today after a "blue-ribbon group" of four top Michigan Democrats met in Washington on Thursday with top officials in Clinton's campaign and by conference call, separately, with Obama's camp.


"Sources close to the negotiations said the talks were centering on a state-run, privately financed June primary of voters who would be willing to declare themselves Democrats."

"A compromise may be announced as early as today, the sources said, but they added that details must be negotiated, including figuring out how the party declaration would work, nailing down $10 million or more in private financial backing and securing legislative and gubernatorial approval to call the election."

Members of the blue-ribbon group are Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick, D-Mich., DNC member Debbie Dingell, and UAW President Ron Gettelfinger.

The Detroit Free Press notes that "time is running short."

"Legislation allowing for a second presidential primary would have to be written and considered by the state Legislature before the House of Representatives goes on two-week spring break on Thursday. If the bills don't pass before then, they get put on hold until April 15 when the Senate returns from its two-week spring break. According to Democratic party rules, an election would have to be held before June 10."

2. Florida: 'Closer to 'Not' Than Yes':

The Florida Democratic Party promoted a plan Thursday for a new, mail-in presidential primary.

But Karen Thurman, the party chairwoman who offered the proposal, is sounding gloomy about its chances of winning acceptance: "I have a feeling that this is probably closer to 'not' than yes."

The Florida Democratic Party will continue to seek responses over the weekend from Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, the DNC, and others, but the New York Times reports that "if no consensus was reached by Monday the plan would most likely die."

Under the proposal, Florida Democrats would receive mail-in ballots in April and May. The vote would then be counted in early June after voter signatures were verified. The Florida Democratic Party would run the contest and pay the state to authenticate ballot signatures. The party would then pay a private firm to count the results.

The state party estimates that the cost would be somewhere between $10 million and $12 million. However, according to the Times, "the Florida Democratic Party raised only $5 million in all of 2007, and many Democratic lawmakers" in Florida "doubt that the money would materialize."

"There was one big problem" with the plan, per the Los Angeles Times. "Hardly anyone who mattered liked the idea."

The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder writes that at this point the biggest hurdle to a new primary in Florida is "the lack of a non-biased sponsor."

"Clinton allies have promised to put up their share of the money, but Obama allies in Florida, including his Florida finance chair, Kirk Wagar, are keeping their wallets closed."

3. Carville unloads:

In a must-read op-ed for the Financial Times, James Carville writes that "calls for resignation are becoming cries of 'wolf' in US politics."

He urges Samantha Power, the Obama adviser who was forced to resign after calling Hillary Clinton "a monster," to "come back to work."

He opines that Geraldine Ferraro should have been "dispatched to a cruise ship for a few weeks of sightseeing and spa treatments" rather than being forced off of Clinton's finance committee for suggesting that Obama would not be where he is if he were not African American.

And he defends the invocation of Obama's teen drug use by Clinton supporter Bill Shaheen.

"Was that a suggestive statement? Sure," writes Carville of Shaheen's Washington Post interview. "Was it out of bounds? Not egregiously. Are Republicans going to raise this issue should Mr. Obama become the Democratic nominee? You bet."

4. McCain Camp Circulates WSJ Clip on Obama's Controversial Pastor:

In its morning email to reporters, the McCain campaign is circulating a Wall Street Journal op-ed by Ronald Kessler in which he writes that Obama's association with controversial pastor Jeremiah Wright raises "legitimate questions" about Obama's fundamental beliefs about his country.

The New York Post's Geoff Earle writes up Obama's controversial pastor under a "9/11 Slur by Obama Rev." header.

Over at, Kathryn Jean Lopez writes that the more Americans hear about Obama's pastor, "the more they're going to have the audacity to look beyond Obama's inspirational milquetoast speeches, probing what makes him tick, what influences him, who advises him, what he believes."

Keying off the Ferraro dust-up, Jennifer Rubin writes for Human Events that it would have been "unimaginable" for McCain to raise the question of whether Obama would have gotten where he is if he were a white male and that the media would have "vilified him had he tried."

"Now he need not do it," she writes. "The issue is out there and will either serve to torpedo Obama's prospects for the nomination or perhaps slowly simmer, possibly creating a backlash against Obama among key swing voters in the general election." 5. Clinton accused of exaggerating role on S-CHIP

The Boston Globe reports that some lawmakers and staff members are fuming in private over what they see as Clinton's exaggeration of her role in developing SCHIP, including her campaign ads claiming she "helped create" the program.

". . . does she deserve credit for SCHIP? No. Teddy does, but she doesn't," said Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, referring to Obama supporter Ted Kennedy.

"Asked" by The Globe "whether Clinton was exaggerating her role in creating SCHIP, Kennedy, stopped in the hallway as he was entering the chamber to vote, half-shrugged."

"'Facts are stubborn things,'" Kennedy told The Globe, "declining to criticize Clinton directly. 'I think we ought to stay with the facts.'"

6. Dems re-fight Iowa:

With county conventions set to get underway Saturday in Iowa, the New York Daily News reports that 14 delegates won by since-departed John Edwards are up for grabs as are those who supported Clinton and Obama in January.

"'No one's ever paid attention to us before for the second go-round,' said Norm Sterzenbach, the state party's political director. 'I've never seen one of these where we didn't have a nominee by now. I really don't know what's going to happen.'"

Obama and Clinton Agree to ABC Pennsylvania Debate:

The Obama and Clinton campaigns agreed Thursday to participate in an ABC News debate in Pennsylvania prior to the state's crucial April 22nd primary.

Information about time place and location will be announced in the coming days.

Obama has also agreed to a participate in an April 19 debate hosted by CBS News in North Carolina. CBS is still waiting to hear if Clinton will participate.

In other news:

Bush talks about the economy in New York:

President Bush travels to New York on Friday to make 11:20 am ET remarks to the Economic Club of New York. He'll say that the benefits of the tax relief and economic-stimulus package should be felt soon, and the Federal Reserve is taking steps to encourage economic growth.

The President, who is expected to take a couple of questions following his speech, then travels to Camp David where he will spend the weekend.

Clinton questioned in Kalorama:

Clinton hosted several dozen members of Congress at her D.C. home on Wednesday and came under some sharp questioning by Rep. Jason Altmire, D-Pa., an uncommitted superdelegate.

"Officially undecided on which candidate to back, Altmire said he asked Clinton what she expects superdelegates to do if" Obama "winds up winning the popular vote and more state delegates."

"Clinton replied that superdelegates exist for a reason and should use their own judgment about which candidate would be best in the general election. But Altmire said he is not so sure."

"'If Senator Obama is in that position, it's going to be very hard to overturn that,' Altmire, a freshman lawmaker from the western part of Pennsylvania, said yesterday. But he added: 'She's likely to do really well in my district and in Pennsylvania, so that's another consideration.'"

Obama releases earmarks, challenges Clinton to do the same:

After refusing since June to make public earmark requests from 2005 and 2006, Obama released all of his earmark requests on Thursday and challenged Hillary Clinton to do the same.

(Clinton's Senate office released a statement saying: "She has made public the funding she has helped to secure and will make public the requests she submits this year.").

Lynn Sweet of the Chicago Sun-Times highlights that Obama sought money for the University of Chicago Hospitals where wife Michelle worked before going on leave to campaign for her husband.

Obama forced to vote against version of his own spending plans:

Per the Washington Times' Stephen Dinan, Republicans forced Obama to vote on Thursday against "what they labeled his own $1.4 trillion spending plan, cobbled together from his presidential campaign promises."

"The Illinois senator looked over the chamber and demanded to know who orchestrated the stunt. Spotting [Colorado Republican Sen. Wayne] Allard, "[Obama] yelled to him, 'You working this hard?'"

Asked to explain what was going on in the Senate, Obama spokesman Bill Burton tells ABC News: "Allard introduced an amendment that mischaracterized Obama's proposals.  They're more interested in stunts than progress over there."

Obama's Iraq stance criticized by Bush veterans:

Former Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson reminds readers of his Washington Post column that Obama was touting a plan to bring US combat troops home by March of 2008 when he announced his presidential bid on Feb. 10, 2007.

"His March 2008 withdrawal deadline -- which is up now -- would have undone the Anbar Awakening, massively strengthened al-Qaeda and increased civilian carnage," writes Gerson.

Gerson also promotes an article by former Bush adviser Peter Wehner on Commentary magazine's website which concludes that Obama is guilty of "problematically ad-hoc judgments at best, calculatingly cynical judgments at worst." Obama's mother gets New York Times write-up

The New York Times' Janny Scott profiles Obama's "idealistic and exacting" mother who believed, according to a friend, that marriage as an institution was not as important as having loved deeply.

MoveOn stirs free-media buzz for Obama:

In a move that is sure to generate lots of free media pick-up, announced Thursday that it is holding a pro-Obama ad contest which will be judged by the likes of Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, and Oliver Stone.

Clinton wins backers in Pennsylvania:

Clinton will collect the endorsements of Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato and Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl on Friday, per the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Dick Polman of the Philadelphia Inquirer looks at the Clinton campaign's claim that Obama cannot win the general election: "They're conveniently forgetting something: The state's primary electorate differs greatly from the state's general electorate. The primary is closed to independents - one of Obama's strongest constituencies. Which means that Hillary has a structural advantage on April 22. It's a different deal in November . . ."

McCain plots November strategy:

Politico's Jonathan Martin looks at McCain plans to redraw the political map.

"Though still very early in the planning stages, McCain aides have begun eyeing between 20 and 25 states that could be competitive, a list that includes some places that are anything but rock-ribbed conservative. Next month, they'll make this case symbolically by sending the candidate on a different-kind-of-Republican tour into places where party members typically don't tread."

Next step for Romney:

The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder reports that Mitt Romney intends to establish a new political action committee in the next few weeks to help elect Republican candidates.

House holds secret session:

The House of Representatives met in secret session Thursday night to consider changes to the nation's surveillance laws, closing off the chamber for the first time since 1983 at the request of the Republican minority.


"The director of an embattled federal immigration agency will step down from his position, leaving the agency in limbo as it struggles to wade through a flood of citizenship applications before the presidential election," reports the New York Sun. The kicker:

"Their job is to execute." --Barack Obama explaining during a Thursday press conference that while he will listen to the advice of the military, he – and not the generals -- will be making policy

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