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« Candidates Hit By Bad Weather | Blog Home Page | What's Wrong With WA? »

Morning Thoughts: Bring Out The Brooms!

Good Monday morning. The wind has died down in Washington, making travel much easier for candidates scurrying around the Chesapeake area a day before three states hold primaries. In their place, campaign ads have picked up, and noticeably. Now we know what it's like to be from Iowa. Here's what Washington's checking out this morning:

-- The Senate returns to Washington today to resume debating amendments to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, a measure on which Democrats and the White House seemed destined to fail to reach compromise. No roll call votes are scheduled today. The House is out of session, though the Financial Services Committee will look at housing insurance in disaster-prone areas, in Palm Beach, and the mortgage crisis, at New York City Hall.

-- Barack Obama went five for five this weekend, sweeping to big wins in Washington State, Louisiana, Nebraska and Maine, as well as getting a victory in the U.S. Virgin Islands (we refuse to count the Grammys). Polls in Maryland and Virginia don't look good for Hillary Clinton, either, making it possible, if not likely, that she will have to wait a full two weeks from February 5 to find her next win, in Wisconsin. But given Obama's win streak and support he has from Badger State Governor Jim Doyle, what happens if Clinton goes the remainder of February without a win? The race has reset, and every day Clinton doesn't win the news cycle is a day that makes wins in Texas and Ohio, on March 4, more difficult.

-- On the Republican side, Mike Huckabee had a good weekend, pulling in victories in Nebraska and Louisiana and narrowly losing the Washington State caucuses -- a result he's challenging, accusing state Republican Party chairman Luke Esser of making a premature call. John McCain still picked up delegates, inching toward the magic 1,191 needed to secure the GOP nomination, but a front-runner only barely surviving is certainly terrible for the storyline. Don't expect that pesky "conservatives hate McCain" narrative to go away any time soon. Still, Huckabee has trailed in a recent plethora of Potomac primary polls, and if he's going to deny McCain the number of delegates needed to win, Huckabee pretty much has to run the table.

-- But the biggest story has become the Clinton campaign, which, much like the post-Iowa atmosphere, again seems headed for or already in a deep tailspin. The campaign replaced manager Patti Solis Doyle with longtime Clinton loyalist Maggie Williams, a move that brings both benefits and drawbacks. It gives the press the opportunity to write stories about a Clinton comeback, once again, aided by a new team. John Kerry benefited from stories like that in 2004, when he switched campaign managers late in the game and came back to win a surprise upset in Iowa. The switch also allows Clinton to call the Potomac primaries a mulligan, given that her new manager was on the job for just two days before she faces voters here.

-- The drawbacks: A few days of negative stories at a time Clinton really can't afford them. All the signs of impending doom are there, and whether or not they continue, they send a consistent message to the press -- staffers who aren't getting paid, an emergency loan from the candidate and a new campaign team so late in the game. Marc Ambinder reports that the transition was always supposed to happen in the Spring, campaign advisers declared, and Clinton raised more than $10 million last week after the Super Tuesday results came in. Switching managers may have been necessary, and it offers a potential upside, but it's not what Clinton wants to talk about.

-- Meanwhile, Mike Huckaee is most certainly not going away, CBS's Joy Lin reports. And why should he? The Huckster's got more than 200 delegates and retains the ability to leave the GOP convention in the same amount of chaos that the Democratic side seems headed towards. Huckabee likes to say he majored in miracles, not math, but he knows this much: After becoming the overwhelming front-runner with Mitt Romney's departure last week, McCain has won exactly one of three contests, and even that's in dispute. McCain has the best chance to win the nomination, but if he can't seal the deal on the first ballot, Republican delegates are free to vote for whomever they like. Just wondering: Is that when Romney signs mysteriously appear on the floor of the convention hall in St. Paul?

-- To parallel that idea, Al Gore made a comment when accepting his Nobel prize that, were he to get back into politics, it would only be presidential politics. So a deadlocked Democratic convention, Gore might hope, would choose a consensus candidate, perhaps even the former veep. But at a time when two key factions of the Democratic Party -- African-Americans and women -- are battling to get their candidate on the ballot for an historical first, what message would it send to both groups to replace their favorites with ... another white male? Gore is an emerging hero to the Democratic base, but if smoke-filled rooms making the decision would incite riots and anger among half of the party's base, choosing Gore might be enough to set off joint riots.

-- John Edwards (remember him?) looks more likely to play an important role in making sure Gore doesn't get to be the consensus candidate. Edwards held a secret meeting with Clinton last Thursday -- she cleverly snuck away from Washington for a meeting at Edwards' Chapel Hill home -- and will meet with Obama today, also at his house, according to CNN. Despite months of hammering Clinton in debates and on the campaign trail, the Edwards team is said to believe Clinton's policies would actually be best for working-class Americans, Edwards' top priority. Obama's anti-Washington stands tug at the former candidates' heart strings as well.

-- Vaguely Insulting Metaphor Of The Day: Huckabee wants to make sure the Republican Party doesn't make the same mistake it made in 1976, when the party picked incumbent President Gerald Ford over upstart Ronald Reagan, per NBC/NJ's Matt Berger. That is, Huckabee says, when the party picked a moderate as opposed to a conservative who fires up the base. Reagan, as everyone knows, is the gold standard among Republicans. But comparing McCain to Ford, as Huckabee implicitly did, makes one just feel bad for a former president.

-- Today On The Trail: Obama will hold mega-rallies in College Park and Baltimore. Clinton hits a GM plant in White Mash, Maryland before heading to Charlottesville, Virginia. McCain is in Annapolis before rallying and meeting the media in Richmond, and Huckabee holds rallies in Richmond, Virginia Beach, Weyers Cave and Roanoke.