While Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton makes us sit through math class (and threatens to keep us after school to finish our social studies homework), Sen. Barack Obama would rather be at football practice, getting ready for the big game. (Sen. John McCain, facing a new pastor problem, is trying to get out of detention.)
On just one day on the trail, Clinton, your champion of democracy . . . accused the Democratic National Committee of a policy that violates "our most fundamental values as Democrats and Americans"; placed a disagreement over convention delegates alongside battles over slavery and women's suffrage; and equated the spat over Florida and Michigan with disputed elections in brutal Zimbabwe.
(Quick -- let's make sure Camp Clinton was OK with the voting on "American Idol." If you live in Florida or Michigan, and you picked David Archuleta, you might have a champion for your cause.)
It all points to one ugly endgame to the Democratic nomination. Clinton, D-N.Y., doesn't have to directly attack Obama for her message to be heard: These same crowds will soon be told that it's time to support Obama (presumably by Clinton, among many others) are now hearing (essentially) that the candidate is standing in the way of their constitutional rights.
"On the trail and in interviews, she raised a new battle cry of determination, likening her struggle for these delegates to the nation's historic struggles to free the slaves and grant women the right to vote," Katharine Q. Seelye and Jeff Zeleny write in The New York Times.
It's Clinton's "most emphatic argument yet for counting the votes in Michigan and Florida," per ABC's Eloise Harper, made in a place that knows a thing or two about disputed elections: Palm Beach County, Fla.
(OK -- so we can agree that Denver is not Seneca Falls. But how long before Obama, D-Ill., just lets Clinton have her delegates? Even the best-case scenario for Clinton erases barely a roughly a quarter of her 194-delegate deficit.)
Obama tells the St. Petersburg Times' Adam C. Smith that giving Florida half of its allotted delegates would be "a very reasonable solution," but said the primary shouldn't be allowed to count fully: "It's pretty hard to make an argument that somehow you winning what is essentially a name recognition contest in Florida was a good measure of electoral strength there," Obama said.
Responded Clinton: "I think that is disingenuous but it's also insulting to the 1.7-million Floridians who actually turned out to vote," she said, per Smith, "recounting a South Florida canasta club that fervently followed the primary."
Obama strategist David Axelrod also offers an olive branch -- with perhaps slightly longer reach than Obama's: "We are open to compromise. We're willing to go more than halfway," he tells NPR's Michele Norris. "I guess the question is: Is Senator Clinton's campaign willing to do the same?"
Axelrod tells the Times: "If that means we have to make some sacrifices . . . we are open to do so, within reason."
But if you were looking for a conciliatory tone, you came to the wrong candidate: "Her tone was a departure from the fiery populist rhetoric of recent days, in which she has cast herself as an underdog," Perry Bacon Jr. writes in The Washington Post. "Instead, in a soft, almost pleading voice, she said she believed that 'whether you voted for me or Senator Obama or Senator Edwards, each vote is a prayer for our nation.' "
This isn't the talk of someone who wants a compromise: "I'm told that more people have voted for me than for anyone who has ever run for the Democratic nomination."
In addition to being irrelevant (the team with the most points, not the most rushing yards, wins), it is almost certainly inaccurate in fact as well as in spirit for Clinton to claim to be winning the popular vote, as ABC Polling Director Gary Langer points out. (Unless you believe that only 1,677 Iowans showed up at the caucuses -- yes, statewide.)
"It's a race for delegates," ABC's Jake Tapper reminds us. "If Clinton gets the nomination and then goes on to win the popular vote but lose the electoral college, there won't be any super-electors to appeal to. You run the race according to the rules. And according to the rules, Obama leads in delegates overall, pledged delegates, superdelegates, and the popular vote. Neither candidate has yet secured the proper number of delegates to win the nomination."
"For a party scarred by the experience of 2000, when Al Gore received 500,000 more popular votes than George W. Bush but lost the presidency, this argument is sure to make it harder to unite and put bitter feelings aside," Newsweek's Jonathan Alter writes. "Oh, and it's not true. . . . If the Obama people have any sense, they will demand in their negotiations with the Clintonites that Hillary cease and desist in her specious claim to have won the most popular votes."
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., remembers her rules: "The person who has the most delegates becomes the nominee of the party," Pelosi told PBS's Judy Woodruff on Wednesday. "It's not been about the popular vote." (But she won't follow the delegate leaders just yet: "I will endorse when we have a nominee," she said.)
In the delegate race, the continued trickle of supers leaves Obama just 61 delegates away from securing the nomination, per ABC's delegate scorecard.
Clinton has earned the right to set some terms for her exit -- but it's hard to divine exactly what she wants.
What HE wants: "In Bill Clinton's view, she has earned nothing short of an offer to be Obama's running mate, according to some who are close to the former President," Time's Karen Tumulty reports. "Even if Clinton is not on the ticket, the list of things she might want could range from a tangible move like help in paying off some of her campaign debt to a symbolic gesture of homage at the Democratic National Convention."
And wouldn't this be fun? "Several party officials believe she is likely to insist that her name be placed in nomination on the first ballot [at the convention], opening up all the divisions once again," Tumulty writes.
How ugly will this get? "It is possible to muscle your way into a vice presidential nod: You have something the nominee wants, and he has to give it to you," Politico's Roger Simon writes. "The question is: Does Hillary Clinton have that kind of muscle?" Said a senior Obama adviser, wary of the Clinton push: "You don't want your vice president taking away anything from the ticket, and she does."
May 31 is your next big day -- and it will be a show. "Busloads of Hillary Clinton supporters will swarm a meeting next week at a D.C. Marriott, where Democratic Party elders hope to forge a compromise over Florida and Michigan's now-voided convention delegates," Michael Saul and Ken Bazinet write in the New York Daily News. "Hoping to avoid a free-for-all at the powwow, the party laid down tough ground rules on Wednesday for its May 31 meeting: 'In order to maintain the decorum of the meeting, banners, posters, signs, handouts and noisemakers of any kind are strictly prohibited.' "
"For Clinton, it is crucial to turn the issue of seating the Florida and Michigan delegations into a matter of moral and civic principle if she is to gain traction among the members of the Rules Committee," Huffington Post's Tom Edsall writes.
Maybe a resolution to Florida and Michigan is all it will take to heal the party: "For all the talk that Clinton would rather blow up the party than see Obama chosen as the Democratic nominee, there seems to be little evidence that Clinton or her campaign are planning to push this fight to the convention," Washingtonpost.com's Chris Cillizza writes. "If [Obama reaches the magic number] by June 15 or June 30 -- and if some sort of accommodation has been made that satisfies Florida and Michigan -- it's hard to imagine Clinton staying in."
If it doesn't work out -- there's always Chelsea. Bill Clinton tells People magazine that his daughter's "emergence" as a campaigner has been the "second best thing" about this race. "If you asked me [if Chelsea would run for office] before Iowa, I would have said, 'No way. She is too allergic to anything we do.' But she is really good at it," he said.
This, we presume, serves as a blanket apology: "When I was so tired, I either was not as precise as I should have been or I seemed angrier than I would have been. That's always my mistake. If I am to have any blame, that's it," the former president said.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., is set to dominate a news cycle or two -- starting with a new pastor problem.
Meet Pastor Rod Parsley, whom the McCain campaign was more than happy to trot out as an endorser in February: "As the senior pastor of the World Harvest Church in Columbus, Ohio, Parsley has made no secret of his feelings that Islam is the enemy," ABC's Brian Ross reported on "Good Morning America" Thursday.
Two choice Parsley quotes: "Islam is an anti-Christ religion that intends through violence to conquer the world." And: "America was founded in part with the intention of seeing this false religion destroyed and I believe September 11th, 2001 was a generational call to arms that we can no longer ignore."
Contrast that with McCain on the trail: "Our goal must be to win the hearts and minds of the vast majority of moderate Muslims who do not want their future controlled by a minority of violent extremists."
Per the campaign, McCain "obviously strongly rejects" those statements -- but Ross reported that aides won't say whether McCain knew of Parsley's views before he sought the endorsement, and praised him as a "spiritual guide."
Then there's more from the Hagee files. As reported by Huffington Post's Sam Stein, Rev. John Hagee thinks Hitler was fulfilling God's will.
Friday brings the release of McCain's medical records, and this weekend brings an unusual gathering to his Arizona ranch -- one that just happens to include three names that rest high on the veepstakes short list.
Gov. Charlie Crist, R-Fla., Gov. Bobby Jindal, R-La., and former governor Mitt Romney, R-Mass., are spending part of their Memorial Day weekend in Sedona, "suggesting that [McCain] is stepping up his search for a vice-presidential candidate as the Democratic contest heads toward a conclusion," Adam Nagourney reports in The New York Times.
"Some of Mr. McCain's associates said on Wednesday that while these would not be formal interviews, the weekend would provide Mr. McCain a chance to know some of his potential running mates in a social context," Nagourney writes.
For those imagining a high-stakes version of "The Bachelor," McCain adviser Charlie Black changes the channel. "It has nothing whatsoever to do with the vice presidential selection process," Black tells ABC's Ron Claiborne. (Anyone believe he's spending a weekend with Romney purely by choice, because he likes his company?)
Romney, he of the new "Free and Strong America PAC" (to contrast with the weak-and-enslaved America lobby), says he's not too hopeful that he'll win the rose: "I think my run at public office is over," he tells Elizabeth Holmes of The Wall Street Journal. But he added: "Time will tell." (The lede captures it: "In the three months since Mitt Romney suspended his presidential campaign, the former Republican candidate has reshaped himself again [!], this time into a fervent supporter of former rival John McCain," Holmes writes.)
Other McCain weekend guests may be on the long list (as opposed to the short list): Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., former EBay Chief Executive Meg Whitman, and FedEx Corp. Chief Executive Frederick W. Smith, per the Los Angeles Times' Maeve Reston.
The weekend will be smashing success if we spend more time talking about the menu choices in Sedona than we do those medical records -- set for release "to a tightly controlled group of reporters on the Friday before Memorial Day weekend," Elisabeth Bumiller and Lawrence K. Altman write in The New York Times. Your poolers: ABC News, The Arizona Republic, The Associated Press, Bloomberg, CBS News, CNN, Fox News, NBC News, Reuters, The Washington Post and maybe a newsmagazine. (Not The New York Times.)
The McCain campaign would also happily see this storyline buried: Charlie Black's "lobbying firm received millions from the brutal Angolan guerrilla leader and took advantage of Black's contacts in Congress and the White House," Michael Shear and Jeffrey Birnbaum write in The Washington Post. "Justice Department records that Black's firm submitted under the Foreign Agents Registration Act detail frequent meetings with lawmakers and their staffs and lavish spending by Black and his partners as they attempted to ensure support for Savimbi, whose UNITA movement was fighting the Marxist Angolan government."
The Obama Pivot:
Clinton was in Florida Wednesday to talk delegates; Obama was there to talk John McCain. "Obama focused on McCain rather than Clinton and intraparty squabbles," Nicholas Riccardi writes in the Los Angeles Times. "Before a crowd of about 15,000 in Tampa, Obama criticized McCain over the role of lobbyists in the Republican's campaign after several staff members were cut because of their lobbying ties."
On the kick-off event in Tampa, per ABC's Sunlen Miller: "In a speech that lasted seven minutes, Obama praised his party rival Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., for an 'admirable campaign,' quickly changing focus to the presumptive Republican nominee John McCain, targeting him on foreign policy and lobbying."
The day's events in Florida are "evidence that the two rivals are operating on separate calendars based on their divergent positions in the nominating race," Sasha Issenberg writes in The Boston Globe.
"Neither candidate came to grovel," The Miami Herald reports. "Obama, closing in on the nomination, aimed to jump-start his long-dormant campaign in the nation's largest swing state with a three-day tour. Clinton, trying to stay afloat for three more contests, swooped in for a quick booster shot of cash and righteous indignation over her uncounted votes in Florida."
"Though the contest for the Democratic presidential nomination continues, Obama spoke as if he were already the winner," per the St. Petersburg Times.
It's a tough state for Obama: "To succeed, he will need to put together a field organization of his own, in a state that hasn't had a Democratic ground operation of any note in a decade or longer," Christopher Cooper writes in The Wall Street Journal. "Moreover, the Illinois senator will need to overcome the resentment of some party leaders and voters who look at him as an obstacle to seating their convention delegation."
With Obama visiting a synagogue Thursday, the Jews are not convinced -- somewhere between Jeremiah Wright, old comments on Palestinians, and scurrilous e-mails, there's a perception of a potential threat.
"In recent presidential elections, Jews have drifted somewhat to the right," Jodi Kantor writes in The New York Times (worth reading simply as a catalog of innuendo). "Because Mr. Obama is relatively new on the national stage, his résumé of Senate votes in support of Israel is short, as is his list of high-profile visits to synagogues and delis. So far, his overtures to Jews have been limited; aside from a few speeches and interviews, he has left most of it to surrogates."
Obama "will discuss Middle East issues at a synagogue in Boca Raton, Florida, to defuse the criticism, which his campaign said ignores a consistent pro-Israel record," per Bloomberg's Heidi Przybyla and Julianna Goldman.
The GOP knows this is a problem for him: "The Republican Jewish Coalition purchased newspaper ads in three southern Florida cities for the same day the likely Democratic presidential nominee will address the B'nai Torah Congregation in Boca Raton, Fla.," Eli Lake reports in The New York Sun. The latest debate between Obama and McCain over meetings with leaders of rogue nations continues to be problematic for Obama -- and not just in Florida.
Another day, another Wall Street Journal column taking Obama to task. "What might work on the primary campaign trail doesn't work nearly as well in Tehran," Karl Rove writes. "What, for example, does Mr. Obama think he can offer the Iranians to get them to become a less pernicious and destabilizing force? One of Iran's top foreign policy goals is a precipitous U.S. withdrawal from Iraq. This happens to be Mr. Obama's top foreign policy goal, too. Why should Iran or other rogue states alter their behavior if Mr. Obama gives them what they want, without preconditions?" (That word again!)
And yet: "In the six days since Bush delivered his speech [calling some Democrats would-be appeasers], negotiations with such radicals and terrorists have become the order of the day," Farah Stockman reports in The Boston Globe. "Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert announced today that he has restarted peace negotiations with Syria -- a key backer of Hamas and Hezbollah, two militant groups that the United States considers terrorist organizations -- for the first time in eight years."
The big(ger) picture: "Barack Obama may be on his way to the Democratic presidential nomination, but if so, he's walking rather than racing across the finish line in a lukewarm close that could signal challenges heading into the general election," McClatchy's Steven Thomma and Margaret Talev report.
Obama gets some communications help: Linda Douglass, formerly of ABC News and most recently of National Journal, will serve as an Obama "senior strategist and as a senior campaign spokesperson on the roadshow," The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder writes. Says Douglass: "I see this as a moment of transformational change in the country and I have spent my lifetime sitting on the sidelines watching people attempt to make change. I just decided that I can't sit on the sidelines anymore."
Among her first tasks: Do something to answer the "unprecedented, subterranean e-mail campaign" that seeks to tar Obama by questioning his patriotism, per Politico's Ben Smith and Jonathan Martin. "What began as a demonstrably false attempt to cast Obama as a Muslim has now metastasized into something far more threatening to the likely Democratic nominee," they write. "The spurious claims about his faith have spiraled into a broader assault that questions his patriotism and citizenship and generally portrays him as a threat to mainstream, white America."
Is affirmative action somehow behind Obama's troubles with white working-class voters? "We shouldn't be surprised at the way they are voting right now," Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va., said on MSNBC Wednesday, per ABC's Teddy Davis. "This is the result of how affirmative action, which was basically a justifiable concept when it applied to African-Americans, expanded to every single ethnic group in America that was not white. And these were the people who had not received benefits and were not getting anything out of it."
Democratic consultant Dan Payne sees "this so-called dream ticket [as] a nightmare for both." He's got plenty of reasons listed in his Boston Globe op-ed, but this may be the most salient: "Obama's appeal to independent voters and disgruntled Republicans rests on the promise of a nonpartisan approach. Hillary Clinton is a super-partisan figure. Putting her on the ticket would be like John McCain picking Newt Gingrich as his running mate."
What can we learn from the candidates' travel schedules? The Christian Science Monitor's Dante Chinni takes a crack, in his "Patchwork Nation" series.
Obama does Boca, while Clinton is off the trail for the first time in approximately forever. McCain campaigns in California.
Get all the candidates' schedules in The Note's "Sneak Peek."
On the Hill:
Good luck sorting this out: "House leaders pulled the fiscal 2009 budget resolution conference report from the floor schedule Wednesday following a snag in consideration of the farm bill," CQ's David Clarke reports. "Barring a change of plans, Congress will not adopt a final budget until June."
The Senate will vote on war funding Thursday morning -- and among the candidates, Obama, at least, will make the vote.
Sunny and Splash were there to meet Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., as he left Mass. General to ponder his treatment options. But first, he was on a sailboat again
"Smiling, waving, and flashing a thumbs-up, US Senator Edward M. Kennedy walked out of Massachusetts General Hospital days earlier than scheduled, greeted well-wishers outside his family compound on Cape Cod, and immediately departed shore for a familiar refuge: the waters of Nantucket Sound," Michael Levenson and David Abel write in The Boston Globe.
"It was wonderful to be on the water," Kennedy said, shuffling off a dock after his return. "It's all it takes."
The New York Daily News' Ian Bishop: "Ted Kennedy has made clear to confidants that when his time is up, he wants his Senate seat to stay in the family -- with his wife, Vicki. Multiple sources in Massachusetts with close ties to the liberal lion say his wife of 16 years has long been his choice to continue carrying the family flame in the Senate."
"Oh my God! Do I have to? I'd have to go with . . . Barack Obama. And I'm a straight man!" -- Actor Denis Leary, asked by People magazine who's "sexier" -- Hillary Clinton or Condoleezza Rice. Leary plays Michael Whouley in the upcoming HBO movie "Recount."
"Stop showing her backside all the time!" -- Myrna Davis, a 72-year-old Clinton supporter, chastising TV cameramen at a campaign event at a retirement community in Sunshine, Fla.
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