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« No GOP Shakeup Imminent | Blog Home Page | Fossella Drops Bid »

Strategy Memo: The Rove Primary

Good Tuesday morning. Giving hope to Washington State natives everywhere, Jon Lester of the Boston Red Sox, born in Tacoma, overcame a battle with lymphoma to pitch a two-walk no hitter against the Kansas City Royals last night. Some of us couldn't believe we were actually rooting for the Sox as Lester struck out the final batter. Here's what the rest of Washington is watching this morning:

-- The Senate meets today to consider the nomination of Steven Agee to the Fourth Circuit, the first of three judicial nominations Majority Leader Harry Reid says he hopes to deal with before the chamber heads off on Memorial Day recess. Later, the Senate will consider the Iraq and Afghanistan supplemental appropriations bill. The House is back in session today to take on a number of bills dealing with veterans' concerns. President Bush is at the White House where he will deliver remarks on World Trade Week, and Veterans' Affairs Secretary James Peake makes his first stop at the National Press Club since being confirmed just months ago.

-- On the campaign trail, today is Oregon and Kentucky's day to shine. A total of 103 delegates are at stake -- 52 in Oregon, 51 in Kentucky -- as the last two states with more than one member of Congress get to vote. The last polls in Kentucky close at 7 p.m. Eastern, and the final drop-boxes close in Oregon's all-mail-in election at 11 p.m. Eastern. In both states, there is a clear leader -- Barack Obama is up 12 points in the latest RCP Oregon Average, while Hillary Clinton leads the final RCP Kentucky Average by a whopping 29 points. Expect a quick call out of the Bluegrass State early in the evening and no news out of Oregon until tomorrow morning -- mail-in voting means there will be no exit polling as there was in other states.

-- With a shrinking number of delegates needed to clinch the nomination, Obama will earn the last he needs to reach a majority of the pledged delegates when voters are done today. He needs just 17 more delegates to hit the halfway point, and he is likely to secure that number from Kentucky, even without a win in Oregon. Obama has been careful of late not to declare victory, but once his campaign reaches the milestone, he'll be pointing it out every chance he gets, the Washington Times' Christina Bellantoni writes. For its part, the Clinton campaign says Obama will not have actually earned a majority of delegates, given that he is not counting contests in Florida and Michigan. Both candidates will be in Florida tomorrow.

-- Clinton says she has a majority as well, but in the popular vote. She is using parts of her rallies to explain in detail that she has earned more votes than "anybody ever running for president before" (a slight exaggeration, and we're sure she meant "in the primary"), and by her campaign's calculations, they do indeed lead Obama, but by 26,000 votes out of 33 million cast, the New York Times writes. Those calculations include Florida and Michigan and do not include four caucus states that have not reported official numbers. Like the electoral college, DNC rules care nothing for the popular vote, but it's one of the last arguments Clinton has in her arsenal.

-- Another that still has some Democrats concerned: According to analyses by several organizations, Clinton is running better, on a state-by-state basis, than Obama is against John McCain. The last organization to reach that conclusion: Karl Rove & Co., as ABC's Jake Tapper reports. Charts Rove's new consulting office has compiled show McCain leading Obama, based on polling averages, with 238 electoral votes to Obama's 221, while the Republican trails Clinton by a 259-206 margin. The difference: Clinton makes states like Missouri, New Hampshire, Ohio and West Virginia competitive, not to mention Florida and Arkansas. That's something we've witnessed in RCP Averages for a number of states; Clinton just outpolls Obama against McCain in a number of key states.

-- While Clinton will get a win tonight -- and she's likely to net what could be a dozen delegates or more -- and while she might be looking better against McCain come November, the simple fact is that the nominating contest is close to finished, and both Obama and McCain have turned to each other. Their first feud that will continue through November will be over lobbyists and their connections to each campaign. Several of McCain's top officials, including senior adviser Charlie Black and campaign manager Rick Davis, are or were lobbyists, and Obama says they've bought and paid for McCain's campaign, as the Post's Mosk and Shear write today. McCain has, and will, hit back hard and fast. Every time Obama's camp accuses McCain of ties to lobbyists, the Republican shoots back with assertions about William Ayers, the Weather Underground activist in whose home Obama held a fundraiser a decade ago.

-- But we could be witnessing round one of the mistakes that change the campaign. McCain is in the midst of implementing new policies that would prevent conflicts of interest, requiring employees to disclose past lobbying clients and associations with other countries. Some advisers, though, worry they're shooting themselves in the foot; five aides, including a national finance co-chairman, a deputy campaign manager and others have left in the past week alone. Why fire good people, the skeptical advisers ask, especially over this issue? "When asked to name the 10,000 things people think are the most important issue, this doesn't make the list," one anonymous adviser told the Post.

-- Disappointment Of The Day: Turnout so far this primary season has been high, with more than 35 million Democratic and 19 million Republican votes cast so far. In 23 of 34 states, according to an analysis [pdf] by the Center for the Study of the American Electorate at American University, turnout has reached new record highs (USA Today's highlights here). But, as director Curtis Gans predicts, turnout is going to fall just short of the 1972 primary season, when 30.9% of eligible voters went to the polls, barely above this year's 30.2%. And while some argue that high turnout in the primary is indicative of high turnout in the general, be skeptical: Gans points out that the 1972 election -- that is, after the record-setting primary season -- showed the largest decline in turnout of any presidential contest since World War II.

-- Today On The Trail: It's a slow day on the campaign trail. McCain is in Miami, where he will give a speech, hold a town hall meeting and tour La Casa Del Preso, the House of Prisoners, dedicated to former political prisoners in Cuba, in the city's Little Havana neighborhood. Obama returns to where it all started with a rally in Des Moines this evening, while Clinton is in Louisville for an election night party right after Oregon polls close.