The Note: House Edge

An entirely fictitious memo that will be read some time before Sen. Barack Obama arrives in Springfield, Ill., on Saturday:

To: Number Two From: Barack Obama

Congratulations. You have agreed to be part of a historic campaign to save the country from more of the same with a vision to take us to a better place, via a new course for America. Enclosed you will find your poncho for Thursday night.

Yes. We. Can. To make sure that we do, I thought I might provide a few pointers:

New kinds of leaders provide new kinds of leadership. Think of that before you hit the stump.

Remember how many houses you have. Also remember how many houses John McCain has.

Pay attention to how few leaks sprung while your name and a few others were in the mix. Before you decide to leak something, call or Berry me -- or get in touch with David Plouffe, and he can tell you why it's a bad idea.

Once a week, John Kerry will call. Be polite.

Twice a week, Howard Dean will call. Let it go to voicemail.

Every day, Rahm Emanuel will call. Write down everything he says.

You will be asked about Hillary Clinton. Smile -- but you're on your own on this one.

PS: You will not influence me by trying to influence Michelle.

Obama's running mate arrives -- soon (promise! with only a full week wasted on silly speculation!) -- to a lovely big gift from McCain.

Forgetting how many houses you have is a maybe-three-times-an-election-cycle gaffe that breaks through and has a life of its own. (Yes, that WAS Mike Allen's voice on the morning shows Friday . . . )

It provides a handy new storyline for a campaign that needed one -- perfect defense for the elitism charge, and also a line that buttresses the charge that McCain is out of touch on the economy.

"ABC News, working with the McCain campaign, counted nine houses on seven properties," ABC's Jake Tapper reported on "Good Morning America" Friday. "But then it turns out there's another Phoenix condo they own that the McCain campaign did not tell us about. So, 10 houses on eight properties."

It also changes the tenor of the race: Welcome, Bill Ayers and Tony Rezko, to the general election.

But even ad wars about houses and felons won't push the veepstakes from the top of your attention grid.

"Wouldn't you like to know?" Obama said, teasing reporters (and his party) on Thursday.

Yes, we would.

So we care that, after spending some quality time with Obama Thursday, Gov. Tim Kaine, D-Va., switched to the past tense: "I've always thought it seemed a bit unlikely but I'm not going to tell you it hadn't been fun," said Kaine, per ABC's Jennifer Duck. "It's been nice to be mentioned but I'm going to let them do the heavy lifting at this point."

We care that, for the second time this week, Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., got a favorable mention on the stump from Obama.

We care that, despite nothing real happening in his life other than shuttling the kids around and going for neighborhood, the people around Sen. Evan Bayh, D-Ind., are quietly optimistic. (And nine new campaign offices in Indiana opening Saturday -- what ever could the campaign have in mind?)

We might even care that he says the election is likely to turn on the economy: His running mate "will be a partner with me in strengthening this economy for the middle class and working families," Obama told USA Today's Kathy Kiely. "I want somebody who's independent, somebody who can push against my preconceived notions and challenge me."

On timing: "You have real high usage [of mobile devices] between 8 and 10 on weeknights, so it could come [Friday] night during the Olympics," George Stephanopoulos reported Thursday on ABC's "World News with Charles Gibson." (Two other possible windows: lunch time Friday, or early Saturday.)

The short list: "If you listen to Barack Obama and the people around him, they certainly seem to be signaling that the choice will be someone who has instantly recognizable national security experience," Stephanopoulos said. "That means Joe Biden. Maybe Evan Bayh. Not Tim Kaine of Virginia. And maybe even the big surprise, you know, someone like Hillary Clinton or Al Gore."

Obama still likes Kaine: "I think the world of Tim Kaine," Obama told the Richmond Times-Dispatch's Olympia Meola. "He's one of my earliest supporters, he was my earliest gubernatorial endorser outside of my home state, and he is a great friend of mine. . . . He's going to help me win Virginia -- period."

There's always this rumor -- persistent and intriguing even if it's going nowhere: "One big move to win voters who backed Sen. Clinton in the primaries would be for Sen. Obama to announce he is naming her as his running mate. The prospect, long dismissed even by her die-hard fans, has gained new currency among some of them in recent days," Amy Chozick and Monica Langley write in The Wall Street Journal. ("Them" don't get to decide.)

"Former Clinton aides and confidants expect their pleas to be turned down. Many said it was time for the holdouts to give up the lobbying effort," Ken Bazinet and Michael McAuliff write in the New York Daily News.

Nothing -- apparently -- for Nunn. "Former Georgia Sen. Sam Nunn appears to have dropped from the running to be Barack Obama's vice presidential choice," per the AP write-up. "The Georgia Democrat will be traveling out of the country until Monday, his spokeswoman said Thursday. Obama is scheduled to appear with his running mate on Saturday in Springfield, Ill."

On the GOP side, Mark Halperin's "The Page" sent reporters into a tizzy late Thursday/early Friday with a report that "McCain has settled" of former governor Mitt Romney, R-Mass.

That report later became "apparently settled," plus a new caveat: "Two additional GOP sources say McCain had not offered the slot to anyone as of Thursday night, and that he could still change his mind."

"He has not made a decision, according to my sources in the McCain campaign," Stephanopoulos said on "GMA" Friday.

The New York Times' Elisabeth Bumiller writes that it's basically between Romney and Gov. Tim Pawlenty, R-Minn., and that (listen up, base!) he now "appears unlikely to select anyone who supports abortion rights."

Plus: "People close to the campaign also floated a wild-card choice, Gen. David H. Petraeus," Bumiller reports. "One adviser . . . said the campaign was putting forth his name in part in a bid for attention at a time when Senator Barack Obama's choice of running mate, which is to be announced in the next few days, was dominating the media."

The Wall Street Journal is the latest to notice that choosing a running mate who supports abortion rights may not sit well with many in the GOP. "Although he has a sizable list of apparent safe picks, including former opponent Mitt Romney, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and former Rep. Rob Portman from Ohio, Sen. McCain's recent praise has been directed at people whom conservatives balk at for their pro-abortion-rights records: Tom Ridge, a former governor of Pennsylvania and past secretary of Homeland Security, and Sen. Joe Lieberman, an independent from Connecticut who was the Democratic vice-presidential nominee in 2000," Elizabeth Holmes writes in The Wall Street Journal.

Which short-lister owns the fewest number of houses? (Hint: It's not Romney.)

McCain's gaffe cut deep into his own message: "Sen. John McCain's inability to recall the number of homes he owns during an interview yesterday jeopardized his campaign's carefully constructed strategy to frame Democratic rival Barack Obama as an out-of-touch elitist and inspired a round of attacks that once again ratcheted up the negative tone of the race for the White House," Jonathan Weisman and Robert Barnes write for The Washington Post.

It sparked a round of ads, and could bring more: "They go Rezko, we go Keating," said a Democratic strategist.

This from a McCain aide, to The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder: Obama's charges "attack Cindy. She owns the homes. I thought he said the wives were off-limits."

Was this language accidental? "When asked how many houses he owns, he lost track, he couldn't remember," Obama's quick cable ad says.

It's about the economy: "Obama, whom McCain has tried to portray as an arugula-nibbling, fancy-berry-tea-quaffing elitist, used the gaffe to further his argument that McCain is out of touch with average Americans," ABC's Jake Tapper reports.

"The Obama campaign thinks the gaffe may mark a 'metaphorical moment' in the campaign -- on par with notorious presidential election gaffes like in 1992 when it was widely reported, perhaps unfairly, that President George H.W. Bush didn't know what a grocery scanner was or in this past year when former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards was busted for getting a pair of $400 haircuts," he writes.

"Thursday was the first day in a week that his vice presidential selection was overshadowed on the campaign trail," Carrie Budoff Brown and Lisa Lerer report for Politico. "The heightened scrutiny on the candidates' personal wealth reflects voter anxiety over the still-struggling economy. The issue has particular resonance as the subprime crisis continues to move through the market, forcing a growing number of homeowners into foreclosure."

Notice that details like this suddenly matter: "McCain, who huddled with advisors at his desert compound in Sedona, Ariz., said nothing in public. A nine-car motorcade took him to a nearby Starbucks early in the morning, where he ordered a large cappuccino," Bob Drogin and Maeve Reston write in the Los Angeles Times.

The Washington Post's Paul Schwartzman takes us on a guided tour: "John McCain isn't just a presidential candidate. He's a veritable bling-master, worthy of an 'MTV Cribs' episode, those televised tours of brazenly gilded homes led by celebrity owners like 50 Cent, Hulk Hogan and Bow Wow."

Obama aides were incredibly quick to pounce (the cheer was audible from Chicago to New Mexico), but Republicans want to make that a decision they regret.

"Barack Obama and John McCain ripped into each other on Thursday over how many houses, fireplaces and even wine cellars they own," Patrick Healy and Katharine Q. Seelye write in The New York Times.

"Now the gloves come off," the Chicago Tribune's Mark Silva writes.

McCain did go Rezko. "Now, he's a convicted felon, facing jail," the ad says. "That's a housing problem."

And a 527 goes Ayers: "Why would Barack Obama be friends with someone who bombed the Capitol and is proud of it? Do you know enough to elect Barack Obama?" the new ad from the "American Issues Project" says.

Politico's Ben Smith: "The group says it will spend $2.8 million airing the ad in Ohio and Michigan -- which would be the largest single third-party expenditure this cycle."

Admonishes Slate's John Dickerson: "So much for Obama's aspirations about lifting our politics out of the gutter. Those promises are easier to keep when you're ahead in the polls, and Obama's double-digit lead has disappeared."

Don't count on enforcement: "Obama's aides denounced the spot, calling it illegal," Dan Morain reports in the Los Angeles Times. "Edward Failor Jr., a member of the American Issues board, is an Iowa political operative who worked for McCain's presidential campaign in the state."

Then -- as always -- there's Hillary. On the stump for Obama in Florida: "Clinton spent much more time talking about issues dear to Democrats than she did talking about Obama, though she commended his 'passion and determination, his grace and his grit,' " per the Miami Herald's Beth Reinhard.

"In all, Mrs. Clinton mentioned Mr. Obama's name about 10 times. But at some points she sounded wistful," Damien Cave writes in The New York Times. "She pointed out, for example, that it was her third time at Florida Atlantic University as a proxy for a presidential candidate. 'I've been here three times,' she said. 'In 1992, for my husband. In 1996, for my husband' -- the audience laughed -- 'and in 2008, for Barack Obama, the next president of the United States.' "

No sked on Friday -- the candidates are at home, and reporters are staring at their cell phones and Blackberries.

Also in the news:

Look for Republicans to push (and unpack): The Washington Post draws connections between Obama, his strategist David Axelrod, and the medical center where Michelle Obama worked: "Center executives said the initiative, on which they spent $2 million last year, could be a national model. Critics, however, describe the program as an attempt to ensure that the hospital retains only affluent patients with insurance," Joe Stephens writes.

Stephens continues: "Edward Novak, president of Chicago's Sacred Heart Hospital, declined to discuss the center's initiative in particular but dismissed as 'bull' attempts to justify such programs as good for patients. 'What they're really saying is, "Don't use our emergency room because it will cost us money, and we don't want the public-aid population," ' Novak said."

The AP's Darlene Superville isn't afraid of Michelle Obama -- and think you shouldn't be, either: "It is said that people are most afraid of what they are least familiar with. And most people don't really know Michelle Obama. Like most politicians -- and politicians' spouses -- we know only what we read about her or see on TV. But to be frightened by her, by the idea of her as first lady? That's just downright silly."

Politico's Ben Smith and Jeffrey Ressner unearth an actual piece of Obama writing from the Harvard Law Review: "The six-page summary, tucked into the third volume of the year's Harvard Law Review, considers the charged, if peripheral, question of whether fetuses should be able to file lawsuits against their mothers. Obama's answer, like most courts': No. He wrote approvingly of an Illinois Supreme Court ruling that the unborn cannot sue their mothers for negligence, and he suggested that allowing fetuses to sue would violate the mother's rights and could, perversely, cause her to take more risks with her pregnancy."

Peggy Noonan sees McCain hitting a homerun at Saddleback -- but wants him to reconsider the one-term pledge: "Mr. McCain would still have what he always wanted, the presidency, perhaps a serious and respectable one that accrued special respect because it involved some sacrifice on his part," she writes in her Wall Street Journal column. "A move that would help him win doubtful voters, win disaffected Democrats, allow some Republicans to not have to get drunk to vote for him, and that could possibly yield real results for his country. This seems to me such a potentially electrifying idea that he'd likely walk out of his convention as the future president."

But another no-way answer: "I haven't even considered such a thing," McCain tells USA Today's David Jackson. Another tidbit: Age "is a consideration that the voters have." "I was able in the primary to show that I have the necessary experience and talents to lead the country," McCain said. "All is fair in political campaigns, apparently."

Where's Jesse? (Not on stage in Denver.) "The largest challenge facing Jesse [Jackson] is, in a day when you have a Barack in government and there are players like Sharpton in civil rights, are you still relevant?" the Rev. Al Sharpton tells the Chicago Tribune's David Greising writes, with all modesty. "Part of his relevance is that some of the new players out there, people like me, he helped mentor. The question now is, does he play the elder statesman in terms of living through them?"

What of the bounce? "If the compressed schedule potentially could suppress bounces, other factors could boost them," ABC Polling Director Gary Langer writes. "It's an opportunity for Barack Obama to define the 'change' at the heart of his candidacy and to answer questions about his experience and readiness. John McCain needs to answer questions about his age, vitality and readiness to make a break from the Bush years. Each wants to offer a more persuasive prescription for the economic woes at the heart of voters' concerns in this election, as well as addressing the war in Iraq and the uncertain nature of international dynamics."

The Rocky Mountain News' M.E. Sprengelmeyer catches up with a footnote from '04: Seamus Ahern, who got a brief mention in Obama's 2004 convention speech (and whom the senator stayed in touch with).

New state polls: In Minnesota . . . "Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama has rebuilt his lead over Republican John McCain in Minnesota and now has a margin of 10 percentage points, according to a poll released Thursday," per the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

In Michigan: "Independents, women and Wayne County voters helped boost Democrat Barack Obama to a 7-point lead over Republican John McCain in the presidential race in Michigan, according to a Detroit Free Press-Local 4 Michigan Poll conducted this week."

Is this why Mayor Michael Bloomberg, I-N.Y., didn't run? "Mayor Bloomberg says he is open to extending the city's term limits law to give himself and the City Council a chance at another four years in office," the New York Daily News reports.

The Kicker:

"Who brought the potato salad?" -- Barack Obama, visiting some picnickers on a day for the everyman.

"You know, Joe, I can't stand John McCain." -- Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., recounting his conversation with Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., when Lieberman told him he would be speaking at the Republican National Convention.

Denver Bound:

Look for The Note from Denver starting with a special edition Sunday -- and we'll be on Mountain Time, so that means posting around 10 am ET. Look for live-blogging and video dispatches -- all available at

Bookmark The Note at