"How Not to Win Pennsylvania," by Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton:
1. Let staff turmoil subsume your efforts to maintain a narrative that focuses on your opponent.
2. Allow a controversial aide to stay close enough to your inner circle so your opponents can keep that story alive.
3. Permit questions to swirl about your position on trade issues that are more serious than those you're trying to raise about your opponent.
If Mark Penn is right and his semi-departure is a three-day story at most, it expired last night. Mark Penn is not right. (And he has his former boss -- in part -- to blame. Did he poll on this one?)
Such is the state of the Democratic race that Clinton, D-N.Y., needs to be driving a consistent message -- at least implicitly arguing that Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., isn't up to the job -- while all Obama has to do is run out the clock and not make news.
(And no, Elton John won't get that job done Wednesday evening. Nominees for least likely song to be played at Clinton's New York fundraiser with Sir Elton: "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me"? "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road"? "Candle in the Wind"? "The Bitch is Back"?)
The candidates each got their handful of minutes in the Senate spotlight Tuesday without breaking much new ground -- good news for Obama, who mostly needed not to stumble.
That leaves the focus on Penn and the Colombia trade deal -- and Obama's union allies aren't likely to let up, at least not as long as Penn remains in the campaign orbit.
"Mark Penn continues to roil Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign," Bloomberg's Lorraine Woellert reports. "Pennsylvania is a must-win state for her, and the Penn controversy, if it lingers, may damage her courtship of blue-collar workers." (This from James Carville, on new strategist Geoff Garin: "If they think they're going to let him be used in some bait-and-switch campaign, they're mistaken.")
If only Penn were the end of the story. Guess who else supports the Colombia pact? Politico's Ben Smith scares up the quote (translated from Spanish) from June 2005: "I am in favor of the free trade agreement," said former President Bill Clinton (the one strategist who cannot be demoted).
This is where the (thick) rubber of the Clintons' financial entanglements hits the (icy) road of presidential politics. Huffington Post reports that Bill Clinton was paid $800,000 in 2005 by a group "tasked with bringing investment to the country and educating world leaders about the Colombia's business opportunities."
The Clinton campaign confirms the former president's support for the trade deal. "The acknowledgment adds new hurdles to the New York senator's bid to woo Democratic voters in Pennsylvania and elsewhere who believe free trade agreements have eliminated thousands of U.S. jobs," the AP's Charles Babington writes.
"Many Democrats oppose the deal, amid mounting concerns about free trade as well as the murders of trade unionists in Colombia by right-wing paramilitaries," John R. Emshwiller and Bob Davis write in The Wall Street Journal.
"More broadly, economic concerns have made trade pacts -- such as the North American Free Trade Agreement pushed through Congress in the early 1990s by President Clinton -- a hot issue in the Democratic presidential race."