The Note: Wrighting the Ship

"What the past two months have shown beyond doubt is that Obama's campaign is in desperate need of a serious midcourse retooling -- in particular, a sharper economic message, delivered from a brawler's stance, in order to give those blue-collar voters who've sided with Clinton a bedrock reason to stay in the Democratic column," New York's John Heilemann writes.

"And winning will require him to channel the very partisan furies—the anger at Bush, the ire toward the Republicans, the palpable yearning for a fight -- that he eventually hopes to tame."

He's already battling a powerful GOP stereotype -- one that Wright has done nothing to help him dispel. "Republicans plan to paint Obama as a liberal who is out of step with mainstream Americans on abortion, crime and health care, the same label used against failed Democratic candidates George McGovern and John Kerry," Bloomberg's Indira Lakshmanan writes.

Said Chris LaCivita, a Republican media adviser to the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth: "The guy has a record that defines the word liberal."

It's Clinton who's on offense in this weary post-Wright period, with an aggressive new ad in Indiana "that tries to cast Barack Obama as a foot-dragger on the economy," The Boston Globe's Scott Helman reports.

From the ad's script: "When the housing crisis broke, Hillary Clinton called for action: a freeze on foreclosures. Barack Obama said no. Now, gas prices are skyrocketing, and she's ready to act again. . . . Barack Obama says no, again."

Obama has two new ads up in North Carolina, and two in Indiana as well, including one that takes on gas prices, lost jobs, and healthcare woes by targeting special interests: "The truth is, to fix these things, we've got to do more than change parties in the White House, we've got to change Washington -- stop the bickering, take on the lobbyists and finally start solving problems instead of just talking about them," Obama says.

Obama's not on the popular side of gas-tax proposals -- but he's trying to claim higher ground. "This isn't an idea designed to get you through the summer, it's designed to get them through an election," Obama said of Clinton and Sen. John McCain's support for a temporary lifting of the federal gas tax, ABC's Sunlen Miller and Eloise Harper report.

New York Times columnist Paul Krugman takes Obama's side: "if the supply of a good is more or less unresponsive to the price, the price to consumers will always rise until the quantity demanded falls to match the quantity supplied. Cut taxes, and all that happens is that the pretax price rises by the same amount."

The Obamas do some joint events and press (local and national) in Indiana this afternoon. But no appearance is likely to get as much attention as Sen. Clinton's maiden appearance on "The O'Reilly Factor," with the first part of the interview to air Wednesday night.

McCain's healthcare proposal gets wide media coverage, considering the competition. A dream sentence, from the front page of The Washington Post: "McCain's belief in the power of the free market to meet the nation's health-care needs sets up a stark choice for voters this fall in terms of the care they could receive, the role the government would play and the importance they place on the issue," Michael D. Shear writes.

"Mr. McCain's speech here implicitly acknowledged some of the shortcomings of his free-market approach," Michael Cooper and Kevin Sack write in The New York Times.

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