The Note: Philadelphia Freedom


"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."

ABC's George Stephanopoulos, on "Good Morning America" Wednesday: "It comes at the worst possible time. . . . It's going to be hard for Sen. Clinton to shake this issue, and it's an important one to a lot of labor unions in Pennsylvania."

Husbands and wives can disagree, and only one of them is on the ballot. But: "Not sure about you, but I'm wide awake," Slate's Christopher Beam writes.

"Given the degree to which Hillary participated in her husband's administration, shouldn't we expect Bill to be as (if not more) influential in hers? Also, there's a difference between a wanton adviser and a contradictory spouse."

It leaves Sen. Clinton on the defensive, again. "As I have said for months, I oppose the deal. I have spoken out against the deal, I will vote against the deal, and I will do everything I can to urge the Congress to reject the Colombia Free Trade Agreement," she told the Communications Workers of America union in Washington Tuesday.

Obama supporters James Hoffa Jr. didn't do the Obama campaign any favors in equating Austan Goolsbee with Penn, but the fact is there's no real comparison.

And it's not the only area where Bill Clinton, again, has his wife's campaign off-message. ABC's Jake Tapper reports that Clinton last year advised Steven Spielberg not to sever ties with the Beijing Olympics; Sen. Clinton this week made headlines by calling on President Bush to boycott the opening ceremonies.

The campaign missteps have a cumulative effect. The Philadelphia Inquirer's Dick Polman: "I am less interested in Penn than in what Penn's rise and fall tell us about Clinton herself, and about the boneheaded fundamentals of her campaign. Penn has not been the source of her woes, only a symptom."

"It would be easy to dismiss all of this as fairly conventional political stumbling -- if she hadn't made her supreme readiness and managerial competence the central issue of her presidential campaign," Politico's David Paul Kuhn and Jim VandeHei report.

"But since she has, a growing number of Democrats are comparing the Clinton and Obama campaigns -- their first real exercise in executive leadership -- and rendering harsh assessments of her stewardship."

Clinton can argue that there's "something of a double standard" in her being asked whether she would drop out of the race -- as she said Tuesday on NPR's "All Things Considered."

But she's right only in this sense: There's one standard for the candidate who's winning, and another for the candidate who's losing.

The Quinnipiac Poll, showing a tighter race in Pennsylvania, is making its way into the news coverage. Headline in the Harrisburg Patriot-News: "Clinton dips in state polls, threatening her viability."

And as the ad wars rage -- five new Clinton ads are up, jostling for position with four new Obama spots -- Obama is set to break all spending records in Pennsylvania. "Nobody has ever spent 2.2 million in this state: not Rendell, not Specter, not Casey, not Santorum, not Bush, not Kerry," Democratic media consultant Neil Oxman tells The Boston Globe's Sasha Issenberg.

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