The Note: Genuine Draft


What do you say we settle this thing with a friendly game of beer pong?

History will record that the Democratic primary campaign descended into full pander-a-thon mode somewhere in Pennsylvania, around the time that one millionaire senator took a shot of Crown Royal and another (having polished off a Yuengling and gone gutter surfing at a bowling alley) made fun of her for it.

It's silly season, but behind this fight over who's the real man (or woman) is a battle for an authenticity that has -- for various reasons -- eluded both Democrats to this point in the race.

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton -- trailing in the race -- needed a game-changer, and her campaign (rightly) thinks that every day consumed by the "bitter" remarks is a day where Sen. Barack Obama is on the defensive.

Clinton, D-N.Y., is pushing for another such day now, with a TV ad that quotes "real" Pennsylvanians in specific denunciations of Obama. This is piling on: "I was very insulted by Barack Obama. . . . It just shows how out of touch Barack Obama is. . . . The good people of Pennsylvania deserve a lot better than what Barack Obama said."

(Remember the quaint old days where they dared not speak each other's names in advertisements? Neither do we.)

If Clinton is overplaying her hand, it's probably because it's the first time she's gotten decent cards in a while. It just might be that a line has been crossed, signaling a free-for-all that will make a drinking contest look tame.

"The Democratic campaign was awash in booze -- and boos -- Monday as Barack Obama fought to get past his clumsy remarks about small-town America -- and polling suggested he was," Michael Saul and Michael McAuliff write in the New York Daily News.

Indeed, the first polling glimpse suggests that the storyline hasn't taken hold. The Quinnipiac University poll out Tuesday morning has the race at 50-44 Clinton over Obama -- just where it was a week ago (and with essentially no change in Obama's favorability rating, despite the saturation coverage).

Per the poll, "26 percent of Clinton supporters would switch to Arizona Sen. John McCain, the Republican, in November if Obama were the Democratic nominee. Nineteen percent of Obama backers would switch to McCain if Clinton were the Democratic nominee."

Still, the race has moved since last week -- just maybe in Clinton's direction (though this whole exercise is still likely to be too little too late).

"The dust-up over Sen. Barack Obama's remarks about rural America is forcing both Democratic candidates to talk about guns, abortion and family values -- issues that don't win them many votes among the social conservatives they are trying hard to court in the Rust Belt, South and West," Nick Timiraos and Amy Chozick write in The Wall Street Journal.

"Sen. Obama has tried to reframe the conversation by defending his claim that Americans are bitter and frustrated, but Sen. Clinton has used his assertion that Americans 'cling to guns or religion' to trumpet her own credentials as a friend of hunters and sportsmen."

ABC's Jake Tapper found Pennsylvania voters who are definitely thinking anew about Obama. Some quotes: "I think it sounded like he was up here and everybody else -- the working class, the lower class people -- were down here." "If faith is so important to him, why is it negative for small-town Americans or small-town Pennsylvanians to cling to their religion?" "Now I'll go with Hillary Clinton."

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