Sunday Political Outlook

SUNDAY SHOW RECAP:

As rhetoric over foreign policy, electability and a gas tax holiday intensifies less than 48 hours before another defining moment in the epic 2008 election, the Democratic presidential contenders stepped off the trial Sunday in Indiana for separate Sunday show interviews on dueling television networks.

On ABC's "This Week with George Stephanopoulos," Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., was asked repeated to name an economist who supports her plan to suspend the 18.4 cent federal gas tax. Either she could not or chose not to. "I'm not going to put my lot in with economists," she said, presenting her tax hike plan as a way to life the burden of soaring gas prices off middle class Americans.

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Rival Barack Obama has called the plan, which is also backed by Republican presidential nominee-in-waiting, Sen. John McCain , "a pander" that won't solve the high cost of gas. Asked about the gas plan in his interview with Tim Russert on NBC's "Meet the Press", Sen. Obama, D-Ill., framed the proposal as a "classic Washington gimmick." "You're looking at suspending a gas tax for three months. The average driver would save 30 cents per day for a grand total of $28," claimed Obama.

Although Clinton did not offer her own estimate as to how much relief the holiday would provide, she did try to distinguish her plan from McCain's. "Senator McCain has said take off the gas tax, don't pay for it, throw us further into deficit and debt. That is not what I've proposed. What I've proposed is that the oil companies pay the gas tax instead of consumers and drivers this summer."

Obama's most aggressive shot at Clinton came when asked for comment about her recent remarks that she would "obliterate" Iran if they launched a nuclear attack on Israel. "It's not the language that we need right now, and I think it's language that's reflective of George Bush," said Obama.

Later in the interview, Obama suggested Clinton was playing politics with the Iran topic. "Senator Clinton during the course of the campaign has said we shouldn't speculate about Iran, we've got to be cautious when we're running for president, she scolded me on a couple of occasions on this issue, yet a few days before an election, she's willing to use that language." Moments later, on "This Week" Stephanopoulos told Clinton what Obama said on "Meet" and asked if she had any regret about her comment.

"Why would I have any regrets? I'm asked a question about what I would do if Iran attacked our ally, a country that many of us have a great deal of, you know, connection with and feeling for, for all kinds of reasons. And, yes, we would have massive retaliation against Iran," the former first lady said.

The first half hour of Obama's interview was filled with questions about his controversial former pastor Rev. Jeremiah Wright, whose reemergence this week knocked the Obama campaign of its message. The senator shared that he was troubled that Wright, appearing at the National Press Club, repeated many of his high publicized incendiary comments. "That indicated to me that he did not share my fundamental belief and my fundamental values in terms of bringing the country together, moving forward and the pride that I've got for this country," said Obama.

Over on CBS's "Face the Nation", South Carolina Rep. James Clyburn was asked if he belies the Rev. Wright controversy is being used by white people as a reason not to vote for Obama. Well, we all mask our intentions sometimes. I don't think it's just white people," he said. I think there are some black people, I've heard them in my conversations. I notice who were around Reverend Wright at the National Press Club. All of those -- none of those that I saw were white people. And so I do believe that these kinds of issues are sometimes used to mask people's other intentions. And so I wouldn't limit it to just white people. I think people look for cover in these kinds of issues."

IN THE PAPERS:

Democratic officials in Guam say they will examine more than 500 spoiled ballots at caucus locations across the island, raising the possibility that a recount may be conducted in the near future. For now, Obama appeared to be the winner of the Guam Democratic caucuses held Saturday by seven votes (that's right seven votes). The four delegates up for grabs, for now, will split even among the dueling Democrats. LINK

Back on the mainland, at Churchill Downs, where a tragedy on the track probably left some political observers fighting the temptation to make crude jokes about the irony that Clinton picked to win, place and show a horse that had to be euthanized after breaking both front ankles.

Eight Belles, the only filly in the race and Clinton's choice because she was a female, finished second in the Kentucky Derby before collapsing on the track. Big Brown, the winner, was picked by Obama to show. Goodness. LINK

As both Democrats continue to trade barbs over a summer suspension of the gas tax (Clinton and McCain support the idea, Obama is opposed), New York Times reporter David Leonhardt sees a "thematic difference" on economic principals between the candidates.

From Leonhardt in Saturday's paper, "Mrs. Clinton tends to favor narrowly focused programs, like the gas-tax holiday, that speak to specific voter concerns. ... Mr. Obama, on the other hand, leans toward broader programs meant to help nearly all middle- and low-income families."

Also from Saturday's NY Times, a fascinating Robin Toner article on "the race that haunts Democrats of a certain generation."

There are some important lessons Democrats should have learned from Michael Dukakis' 40-state loss 20 years ago when Republicans waged a subliminal campaign focused on symbols. Even as the Democrats work to settle on a nominee, conservatives have attacked Obama and his wife, Michelle, charging, in so many words, that they are not sufficiently patriotic. Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., endured the next generation of the GOP strategy in 2004. Have the Democrats truly learned from '88?

On Saturday, Democrat Don Cazayoux won a closely contested special election in Louisiana's 6th Congressional District. The seat had been held by Republicans for more than 30 years. The National Republican Congressional Committee and Democratic Congressional Campaign committee spent millions competing for the spot. Conservative groups ran a number of ads linking Cazayoux to Sens. Obama and Clinton.

Republicans held onto the 1st Congressional District with a victory by State Sen. Steve Scalise. That seat had previously been held by now-Gov. Bobby Jindal.

In a solid piece of video posted yesterday on his MySpace page, Tom Hanks announced his endorsement of Sen. Obama.

WEEK AHEAD:

On Sunday, Obama and Clinton make their closing arguments in the Hoosier State at the Indiana Democratic Party's Jefferson-Jackson Day Dinner held at the Indianapolis Westin.

On Tuesday, Indiana and North Carolina vote.

Indiana:

Polls open: 6:00 a.m. ET

Polls close: 7:00 p.m. ET

North Carolina:

Polls open: 6:00 a.m. ET

Polls close: 7:30 p.m. ET

Both states hold gubernatorial primaries as well.

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