The Note: Politics of Okey-Doke

This is fertile McCain ground: "Speaking with evident condescension, Arizona Sen. John McCain needled Barack Obama on Wednesday by offering to travel to Iraq with the Illinois senator to help him gain a better understanding of the war and the consequences of withdrawing troops," Maeve Reston and Scott Martelle write in the Los Angeles Times.

To the news of a possible trip, McCain responded: "It's long overdue. . . . And I'm confident that when he goes he will then change his position on the conflict in Iraq."

McCain is leading with foreign policy -- any question as to why?

"With his experience and leadership credentials under sharp criticism, Senator Barack Obama and his advisers are trying to clarify what has emerged as a central tenet of his proposed foreign policy: a willingness to meet leaders of enemy nations," Jim Rutenberg and Jeff Zeleny write in The New York Times. "In an interview on Wednesday, Mr. Obama, of Illinois, sought to emphasize, as he and his aides have done continually over the last few days, the difference between avoiding preconditions for talks with nations like Iran and Syria, and granting them automatic discussions at the presidential level."

Obama now: "I didn't say that I would meet unconditionally as John McCain maintained, because that would suggest whether it was useful or not, whether it was advancing our interests or not, I would just do it for the sake of doing it."

McCain is still looking for ways to break with the president -- but it isn't always easy. "John McCain's nuclear proposals are largely in line with those of the unpopular President Bush, and even where the two disagree, the Republican presidential candidate has waffled," AP's Robert Burns writes, in a day-after analysis of McCain's nonproliferation speech.

The Lobbyist Dance:

First, Obama: "The co-director of Barack Obama's presidential campaign in Puerto Rico is a Washington-based federal lobbyist for the government of Puerto Rico," Jeffrey Birnbaum writes in The Washington Post. "Ethics watchdogs said that the high-profile role of Francisco J. Pavía appears to contradict the Obama campaign's ethics guidelines, which forbid federal lobbyists from working on staff. But Obama spokesman Bill Burton said Pavía is an 'active volunteer' -- not a paid staffer -- and can hold the job without running afoul of the campaign's rules."

Then, Clinton: "Harold Ickes, a longtime Clinton family confidante and member of the Democratic National Committee, is a registered lobbyist with the Ickes and Enright Group," Newsweek's Jake Sherman reports. "Lobbying disclosure forms show that in 2007, when the Senate was preparing a bill called the Labor, (Health and Human Services) and Education Appropriations Act 2008, Ickes lobbied Congress on behalf of the Brooklyn Public Library and the New York Hall of Science. Records show Clinton and fellow New YorkDemocratic Sen. Chuck Schumer earmarked $500,000 for the Brooklyn Public Library and $600,000 for the New York Hall of Science."

Finally, McCain, grappling with that new 527 policy: "Senators Joseph I. Lieberman and Lindsey Graham, prominent surrogates for Senator John McCain's presidential campaign, stepped down Wednesday from their positions with an independent group that released a pair of Internet advertisements attacking Senator Barack Obama on Iraq," Michael Luo writes in The New York Times.

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