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« GOP Looks To Hispanics | Blog Home Page | Losing Candidates Under The Bus »

Strategy Memo: Little Help From His Friends

Good Friday morning. If we brawled half as well as the Seattle Mariners, we'd have already taken out a few fellow political blogs here in Washington. JMart, watch your back. Here's what Washington is watching this morning:

-- The House and Senate are not in session, and the President is in Crawford, Texas, where daughter Jenna will be married this weekend. Looking out the window, we understand that this is just one of those days when no one wants to be in Washington. After next week, Congress takes a Memorial Day recess.

-- Before the sun even rose, Barack Obama's campaign had sent out two emails pointing to new support from super delegates Donald Payne, a member of Congress from New Jersey, and Peter DeFazio, who represents southwest Oregon. That puts Obama at just six super delegates shy of a majority of those votes, according to the latest RCP Delegate Count, and today could very well be the day he finally surpasses what had once looked like an insurmountable lead for Hillary Clinton -- in fact, a lead so big she had hoped it would propel her to the nomination. Her advantage now gone, it's another sign that Democrats have effectively, if not quite actually, chosen their nominee.

-- The super delegates in the bag, the pledged delegates in the bag, the popular vote in hand and the momentum on his side, Obama plans to declare victory after polls close in Kentucky and Oregon on May 20, Politico's Washington Times article yesterday on documents from the Whitewater case came from seemingly nowhere, and last night NBC's David Shuster reported that RNC opposition researchers had 1,200 pages of documents on Clinton, should she have won the nomination. Even though she's not going to be their opponent in November, the RNC can still have a little fun with the notion that the then-First Lady was nearly indicted. Obama's oppo file, by the way, is a pretty hefty 1,000 pages on its own.

-- Out on the trail on his own, John McCain's chances at the electorate uninhibited by an actual Democratic nominee could be coming to an end. He's taking the chance now to shore up that conservative base, aiming a speech yesterday squarely at social conservatives. The address, in Rochester, Michigan, focused on sex trafficking, freedom of religion and child pornography, all battles he said would be a priority in his White House, the New York Times' Elisabeth Bumiller. Those are all issues Southern Baptist Convention head Richard Land had urged McCain to speak out on, and later yesterday the religious conservative icon told Bumiller he was "delighted" with the speech.

-- Meanwhile, it's good to have friends in high places, especially when you can exert a little pressure on them. McCain, some Democrats close to negotiations over the Federal Election Commission believe, has been pressuring the White House to get something done, and in recent days President Bush offered three new commission appointees and backed away from demands that one specific Republican be approved, the New York Times' Michael Luo writes. That's because, without a functioning commission, John McCain can't get his publicly financed $84 million for the general election. One Republican who already serves on the panel, David Mason, has been withdrawn, and it's probably just coincidence that Mason has raised questions about McCain's withdrawal from public financing in the primary (Top McCain lawyer Trevor Potter says that's not the case).

-- A spat is brewing between Obama and McCain, and it could provide a serious preview of the larger battles and wars heading into November. In the back and forth over a Hamas spokesman's comments on Obama, McCain has said the group's position is fair game. Obama called that "disappointing" before going a step farther: "For him to toss out comments like that I think is an example of him losing his bearings as he pursues this nomination," Obama said of his future rival on CNN yesterday. A biting memo from McCain Consigliari Mark Salter accused Obama of an intentional but "not particularly clever way of raising John McCain's age as an issue." Ben Smith has the whole memo.

-- A theory about why McCain wins arguments in the mud: Obama the Outsider comes to the general election seeking high-minded discourse and putting himself on a higher plane than those around him. McCain the Reformer comes to the debate not because he's naturally better than all of Washington, but because he's been tarnished by the Keating Five scandal and he not only bounced back but showed he learned something, hence the drive toward the McCain-Feingold campaign finance bill. McCain is human; Obama is set up as something more. Bring Obama down, and the fall is all that much harder. McCain, in truth, is harder to bring down because he's been down before.

-- Bad News Of The Day: Thanks to a little-understood provision in the McCain-Feingold bill, Hillary Clinton has just about three months to repay the $11.4 million she has loaned her campaign. After an "election day," as the nominating convention would be, Clinton would be able to recoup just $250,000 from contributors, US News' Bret Schutle writes. That means a loss of about $11.15 million for the Clintons, and that's a tough pill to swallow. And don't forget the millions in debt to vendors, including a plurality of it to Penn, Schoen & Berland. Will conservatives change their minds on McCain-Feingold now that, in the end, it's come around to cause the Clintons some serious headaches?

-- Today On The Trail: Clinton starts her day in Portland with a discussion on health care before flying back to a fundraising dinner for the Kentucky Democratic Party in Louisville. Obama makes stops in Beaverton, where he will talk about the economy, before heading to Albany for a town hall meeting and to Eugene for a rally. Tomorrow morning, Obama will stop in increasingly Democratic Bend, in the center of the state, before heading back to Chicago. McCain spends today in South Carolina raising money; he will talk to the media in Columbia.