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« Dems Win LA, GOP Sees An Opening | Blog Home Page | Warner Declares For Sen »

Strategy Memo: Everybody GOTV

Good Monday morning. It's the Fifth of May, a day when some regions in Mexico celebrate their victory over French forces at the Battle of Puebla in 1862. It's also the day makers of Corona celebrate by selling half their yearly stock to Americans. In Washington, here's what folks are watching this morning:

-- With two weeks to go until recess, the House today will take up bills to amend the Foreign Service Act and a series of resolutions, including one that favors Mother's Day and one that chastises the military junta that controls Burma, despite a typhoon that slammed the impoverished and autocratic Southeast Asian nation this weekend, killing hundreds. Most importantly today, the House takes up a Senate-passed measure to extend some programs under the Higher Education Act, which expired last week. The Senate is out of session today, though the Senate Appropriations Committee will be in Eagle, Colorado, to hear testimony about the national bark beetle epidemic. President Bush holds a Cinco de Mayo dinner in the Rose Garden.

-- Indiana and North Carolina voters head to the polls on Tuesday after a whirlwind campaign that has given them the opportunity to see each of the candidates once and Bill Clinton, given his schedule lately, two or three times each. The poll momentum heading into Tuesday's vote is hardly with either candidate: Barack Obama has closed the gap to just 4.6 points in Indiana, per the latest RCP Indiana Average, while Hillary Clinton has narrowed the gap by half a point, to 6.5 points, in the Tar Heel State, per the latest RCP North Carolina Average. The geography in both states is complex, but Obama needs good performances in Clinton's territory -- western North Carolina and southeastern Indiana -- while Clinton needs to close the gap in Indianapolis and the Research Triangle if she's going to have anything like a good day.

-- Then again, what do polls know? "In Poll, Obama Survives Furor," the New York Times writes, displaying numbers that have Obama leading Clinton nationally by a 50%-38% margin. Or, if you believe USA Today, "Flap over pastor hurts Obama." Their numbers have Clinton ahead, 51%-44%, after Obama led by ten points in the last survey. The dates conducted are identical, meaning one is likely an outlier (the latest RCP National Average shows Obama leading by just over a single point, suggesting that perhaps both are outliers). So the test on whether Jeremiah Wright and the fallout from Obama's public divorce from the pastor will have an impact will, once again, wait until tomorrow.

-- Both candidates are doing their star turns this morning, appearing on local and national morning shows to reach as many listeners as possible, and yesterday both appeared on Sunday shows -- Clinton on ABC's "This Week" and Obama on NBC's "Meet the Press." No major gaffes, yet Clinton sure made George Stephanopoulos uncomfortable by standing up a few times. Each had their moments: Obama, speaking directly to super delegates on the topic of Rev. Wright: "When you're in national politics, it's always good to pull the Band-Aid off quick." If he can convince supers that the lesson has stuck, and that he really won't be swift-boated, their steady trickle toward his campaign last week could become a rush. More transcript highlights at MSNBC's First Read, and video here at RCP.

-- Clinton's moment came when Stephanopoulos asked her to name an economist who thought her gas tax idea was a good one. "I'm not going to put my lot in with economists," she said, later calling it part of "elite opinion." ("Off with her head!" wrote one former Fed and IMF employee with an economics Ph.D. Politics Nation happens to know, and Robert Reich wasn't too happy either) It's part of Clinton's recent anti-elitism kick, in which she implicitly tells voters she understands them in a way Obama does not. But Clinton, like Obama, went to an Ivy League school, and she's demonstrating one problem that Democrats like John Kerry, Al Gore and others have struggled with for a generation: "Elitism" isn't about intelligence, it's about smugness. People don't mind if a candidate is smarter than they are -- in fact, they probably prefer it that way. People mind when the candidate thinks he or she is smarter than they are. The New York Times found an audience member who agrees with Clinton's new anti-expert populism, and they wonder, just how far will all this anti-elitism go?

-- Clinton's team, no group of neophytes they, is looking beyond Indiana and North Carolina, given that neither candidate is likely to achieve the delegates necessary to win the convention outright without the intervention of a serious number of the remaining uncommitted super delegates. Obama needs somewhere around 271 delegates to secure the magic 2,024 number, while Clinton has 418 left to go. The eight remaining primaries put a total of 404 delegates up for grabs. Of course, both numbers change if someone is able to manipulate a late-May meeting of the DNC's Rules and Bylaws Committee, a course of action HuffPo's Tom Edsall calls "the nuclear option." But the May meeting is unlikely to solve crises in Florida and Michigan -- of the body's thirty members, twelve back Clinton and eight back Obama, while the remaining ten are uncommitted. It is likely that the uncommitteds, led by co-chairs James Roosevelt and Alexis Herman and by committee members David McDonald and Donna Brazile, will stay out of such a potentially explosive topic.

-- On the Republican side, John McCain is set to make speeches in recent weeks that focus more closely on his own conservative base. But once he gets to the general, McCain will have openings to exploit in the middle, especially if he's to face Obama. McCain questioned his potential rival's foreign policy credentials in lieu of Obama's promise to meet with foreign dictators, McClatchy writes today. That's something swing Jewish and Cuban voters, two huge voting blocs in Florida, may not be terribly comfortable with, giving McCain a leg up in a key swing state. McCain already leads the latest RCP Florida Average over Obama by nine points. State-level politics play a key role in any presidential race, and McCain's team is demonstrating an early flare.

-- Sad Realization Of The Day: The honeymoon is over, Mr. Obama. That's the conclusion Washington Post's Howard Kurtz comes to this morning as he takes a look at Obama's increasingly uneasy relationship with the media. Compare that to John McCain's friendly, boisterous and always available reputation and the natural media bias towards Obama -- at least as the Clinton camp sees it -- could evaporate before our very eyes. One thing to consider: Kurtz points out that the Wright controversy erupted immediately after skits on "Saturday Night Live" lampooned the media for their excessive kindness to Obama. Does SNL remain the only outlet able to shame reporters? Does that mean someone actually watches SNL?

-- Today On The Trail: McCain, who caught the Arizona Diamondbacks game yesterday in Phoenix, holds a media availability in his home town this morning before zipping off to a town hall meeting with the Charlotte, North Carolina, Chamber of Commerce. Obama hits a campaign event in Evansville, meets workers in Durham, North Carolina, then holds a get out the vote rally in Indianapolis. Clinton has get out the vote events in Greenville and High Point, North Carolina, before heading to similar rallies in Merrillville, New Albany and Evansville, Indiana.