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Running On Empty

Why Here? Why Now?

DNC Chair Howard Dean was also on "Fox News Sunday."

Chris Wallace: "Not to say that we've been counting, but it has been almost 19 months since you've appeared here or on any Fox program. How do you explain the fact that in less than a week -- and we're very happy to have you -- that Governor Dean and Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have all shown up on Fox?"


Dean: "Well, first of all, your audience is important to us. A lot of your audience are working-class Democrats, the kind of people who will vote either way, and we'd like them to vote Democrat. And second of all, you gave us a fair opportunity to talk about Senator McCain's record."

Dean, on left wingers criticizing the WH '08 Dems for appearing on Fox: "We stayed off Fox for a long time because your news department is, in fact, biased. But, Chris, you haven't been. ... You've always been tough but I always thought fair, and I still think that's true. And we need to communicate with people who are going to vote in the Democratic Party. ... This is not about Fox News. That's not why I'm here today. I'm out because I want to talk to your viewers directly about why this election is important and what we can offer the American people."

Dean, asked if it was a mistake for the Dems to boycott Fox debates and the other programs: "No, I think it was the right thing to do, because there are some things in the news department that have really been shockingly biased, and I think that's wrong. And I'll just say so right up front. ... We shouldn't punish the viewers of Fox by staying away. Now the viewers have had an opportunity to look at the debates on other channels. Now they're going to have an opportunity viewing on this channel, and I think that's fair" (5/4).


Dean also talked about Rev. Wright. See today's OBAMA story for more.

End Of Days

Obama has gone back to "presenting himself as an outsider and an agent of change." In the final days of the campaign, he did not "seem prepared to end the campaign with harsh attacks" on Clinton. However, he did try to portray her during his speeches and TV commercials "as being politically calculating and cynical." And before the NC and IN primaries 5/7, it's the gas-tax holiday that "has emerged as one of the most contentious issues in the race" (Zeleny/Kantor, New York Times, 5/4).

The Tank Is Half Full

Both Dem camps "have tried to use the gas tax issue to exploit their opponent's vulnerabilities." Clinton spokesperson Howard Wolfson "suggested to reporters on a conference call" 5/4 that Obama: "just doesn't seem to understand that middle-class families are hurting." Meanwhile, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) responded that Clinton's proposal was "pandering at its purest form." McCaskill: "Real people understand what this is. They smell it" (Berman, New York Sun, 5/5).

The gas tax holiday dispute has highlighted "the fundamental differences in the broader messages that each is driving home to voters" before the 5/6 primaries. Obama "portrays the proposal" as a "meaningless gimmick that embodies the worst of the old politics and his opposition as evidence that he will change the system." Meanwhile, Clinton sees the proposal "as proof of her willingness to stand with hard-pressed families against the power of corporate interests" (Balz/Slevin, Washington Post, 5/3).


On 5/3 in Indianapolis, IN, Obama called Clinton's proposal the latest in a long line of "phony ideas, calculated to win elections instead of actaully solving problems." Clinton "fired back from the back of a pickup truck" in Gastonia, NC, Clinton said: "I'll tell you what. I'd rather the oil companies pay the gas taxes than you pay the taxes this summer" (Murray/Balz, Washington Post, 5/4).

Speaking in Fort Wayne, IN, 5/4, Clinton said: "There's a big difference between us, and the question is: Who understands what you're going through, and who do you count on being on your side?" More: "I believe I have what it takes to stand up and fight for you when you need a president on your side." Obama, meanwhile, "acknowledged that Clinton's populist message is finding a receptive audience" in IN and he "called for a second round of government tax rebates." Also speaking in Fort Wayne, Obama said: "Let me tell you something, people are really hurting. I am here to tell you, you're not on your own. We're in this together" (Bacon/Murray, Washington Post, 5/5).

Frankly, It's A Bad Idea

Clinton supporter/Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) has called Clinton's gas-tax holiday a "bad idea." Frank: "I think it would be counterproductive. I don't think it would be a significant savings for the individual. It would be more of a cost." More Frank: "We have a terrible problem in this country with bridges and highways. We need to do even more than we are doing to build up our infrastructure, not less.

On Wright, Frank said: "I wish that Senator Obama didn't have that past relationship with Reverend Wright, but I don't think it's going to be fatal by any means" (Salant, Bloomberg, 5/2).

Add Frank "to the growing list of pols who have rejected the idea," including Clinton supporter/Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), House Maj. Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD), NY Gov. David Paterson (D) and NY Mayor Michael Bloomberg (I) (Timiraos, "Washington Wire," Wall Street Journal, 5/2).

Senate candidate/Rep. Mark Udall (D-CO) also "ripped" the gas tax holiday proposal. Udall: "Sen. Clinton claimed that I either stand with her on this proposal or stand with the oil companies. To that, I say i stand with the families of Colorado, who aren't looking for bumper-sticker fixes that don't fix anything, but for meaningful change that brings real relief and a new direction for our energy policy" (Bartels, Rocky Mountain News, 5/2).


•Philadelphia Inquirer's ed. board writes, the gas-tax holiday "is a bad idea that would save drivers a few bucks at the expense of needed road repairs." Suspending the tax would divert about $8.5B from the Highway Trust Fund, "which pays for road and bridge repairs nationwide" and which already "faced a deficit" of $3.2B (5/4).

•Waco Tribune-Herald's Nethaway writes, McCain and Clinton "chose to treat voters like children on the issue of gasoline prices." Whereas Obama "decided to treat voters like adults" (5/5).

•New York Post's Golding reports, Clinton's proposal to "tax oil companies" to pay for the gax tax holiday "would wind up hurting" blue-collar voters. That's because about 54% of the outstanding shares of ExxonMobil "are held by institutional investors like TIAA-CREF, which provides retirement planning for more than 3 million people." Other big Exxon investors include the pension funds of NY's and CA's state employees. Holland & Co. Chair Michael Holland: "The people that work at Exxon and the people who invest in Exxon are real people. There's not some John D. Rockefeller in some sky-high tower" (5/4).

•CNN's Bash: "That's why this is so fascinating, this debate over the gas tax holiday, because it really does illustrate the kind of voters that each is trying to go after and really has had success with. On the one hand, you have Hillary Clinton, who has been ... successfully going after the so-called lunch-bucket Democrats, more of the blue-collar voters. And you have Barack Obama going after the more traditionally, maybe, from his perspective, maybe some of the more sophisticated, some of the wealthier Democrats. And that fits -- this whole debate over the gas tax really does illustrate and exemplify the two different approaches, in terms of the Democrats they're going after" ("Late Edition," 5/4).

•Clinton economic adviser Gene Sperling: "I think a lot of the criticism has been as if this was her long-term agenda, which it is not" ("Late Edition," CNN, 5/4).

•Obama supporter/ex-Labor Sec. Robert Reich: "The gas tax, is, you know, granted, it's stupid and it's dumb and I don't know why Hillary Clinton kind of proposed it" ("Late Edition," CNN, 5/4).

•Obama supporter/ex-VA Gov./Richmond Mayor Doug Wilder and Clinton supporter/Sen. Evan Bayh (D-IN) appeared together on "Face the Nation," where the two debated the gas tax suspension.

•Bayh: "Senator Obama has called the gas tax moratorium phony. He voted for it three times in the Illinois state legislature. ... Three times. ... He understood then what middle America and middle-class families know now, and that is that if the choice is between $10 billion more for the big oil companies or money in their pockets, more money in their pockets during these tight times, that's the right thing to do. And that's what Hillary Clinton wants to do."

•Wilder: "Obama voted for this gimmick, this gas tax. Yes, when he was in the Indiana (sic) state legislature. And he is the first to admit that he learned from this mistake because it was wrong. That's why he knows that this is a gimmick that can't work" (CBS, 5/4).

Who Lives Down There?

Bayh, asked if INans will listen to superdelegate/ex-DNC Chair Joe Andrew: "I don't. You know, it's a free world. People are allowed to make up their own minds. I respect that, you know, his decision. But look, I don't think we should cut the process off. I think it's kind of a strange thing to come to Indiana and say, we ought to stop the process so you can't vote. ... Let's total up the votes at the end of this and let's see who actually won. That's No. 1. ... No. 2, in our state, for 40 years we haven't mattered. People fly over, they kind of look out their airplane window and wonder who those folks are down there, but they never stop unless they want to raise money. Now they're coming to us. They are listening to us. They care about our concerns."

Wilder, on the right-wing effort to drive voters to Clinton because she is the weaker candidate: "Why are the poll numbers showing a certain element of the voter being unreachable as far as Barack is concerned? Let's get real. Who is running all of the ads on a regular basis -- the bloggers, the right-wing commentators on the radio. Who are they supporting? Not Barack Obama. They are literally begging people -- and these are Republicans -- literally begging people, please vote for Hillary Clinton. They have no intention of supporting Hillary Clinton in November. And why are they doing that? Why is it Barack Obama can reach what some call the elite voter but he can't reach the others? That's poppycock. There is a concentrated effort to derive those voters away from him and to drive them to Hillary Clinton, because many of them think that Hillary will be the weaker" (CBS, 5/4).

He's Won Guam!

Obama supporter Bill Richardson and Clinton supporter/NC Gov. Mike Easley (D) were on "Late Edition" together.

Richardson, on Clinton's strong language warning the Iranians: "I just don't think you have to saber rattle. This is President Bush talking about what he's going to do in Iraq and Iran with North Korea. That hasn't worked. You know, I remember Yitzhak Rabin, what he said is you don't make peace with your friends. You make peace with your enemies. And it's important that we be very firm with Iran, that they cannot have nuclear weapons. They cannot attack Israel. But it's how you get there and what has incited a very bad relationship is Iran today is this saber-rattling of the Bush administration that we have the secret military plans to attack them, that we're hostile, that we're negative."

Richardson, on NC: "Senator Obama has continued to move forward. He's won Guam, it's now 31 states to 15 in caucuses. And I know Governor Easley is very popular in his state. I'm sure that's what's bringing more votes to Senator Clinton. But I believe that in North Carolina that Senator Obama will prevail."

Easley: "Well, we're not going to win White House by winning Guam. We know that. And it's not by popularity that is doing anything. I can tell you, I probably hurt her more than I help her, Bill, but I appreciate you offering that" (CNN, 5/4).

Clintonistas And Ex-Clintonistas

Clinton chair Terry McAuliffe and superdelegate/ex-DNC Chair Joe Andrew appeared together on "Fox News Sunday."

Andrew, asked if the Clinton camp has tried to smear him: "The fact of the matter is that there are thousands of e-mails, thousands of telephone calls, fortunately, most of them that are positive. And there's a lot of people who like to think of themselves as surrogates for these campaigns that may well not be. Look, I've been questioned whether I'm a Hoosier. I've been questioned whether I'm an American simply for trying to state my opinion as well."

McAuliffe, asked why so many people who know and have worked with the Clintons are supporting Obama: "Now, in fairness,I could give you a list of thousands upon thousands of people who worked in the Clinton administration who are out there every single day strongly supporting Hillary Clinton. You're never going to get 100 percent of everybody. ... So you don't get everybody, but I feel very comfortable about where we are" (5/4).

More On The Dream Team

House Maj. Whip James Clyburn (D-SC) was on "Face the Nation" 5/4, where he talked about African-American voters and a Clinton/Obama ticket.

CBS' Schieffer: "What do you think will happen to those black voters? Are they going to turn out for Hillary Rodham Clinton? Let's say she does get the nomination. What will she have to do to get a large African-American turnout? Will she have to, for example, put Senator Obama on the ticket with her or are there other things she can do?"

Clyburn: "Oh, I don't think so. I don't think it's all on Senator Clinton's plate if she were to get the nomination. I think the most important person in this process going forward will not be the person who is number one but the person who is number two. The person who finishes second in this will be very, very important for all of our constituents to come together" (CBS, 5/4).

The Road Is Too Long, Too Winding

The Dem primary: "It's expensive. It's frustrating. And, some Democrats worry, it's politically dangerous." Dem consultant Marc Farinella: "It's gone on too long. I think it's getting too destructive for the party." McCaskill: "There are millions of Americans getting tired of it, and they're beginging to tune out" (Helling, Kansas City Star, 5/3).

You've Got Mail

Redeem the Vote -- the evangelicals' version of MTV's "Rock the Vote" -- will send 1.5M e-mails to NC and IN voters today. "In the e-mails, the group will publish facts and opinions it has gathered about the religious and socials views" of Obama and Clinton (Hallow, Washington Times, 5/5).

What's The Bottom Line?

"Barring the unexpected -- a blowout in either state, or twin victories by either Obama or Clinton -- the probable outcome is a continued stalemate." That would give each candidate an incentive "to keep running" at least until 6/3, "the last day of the primary season." For Obama, it's because of his "seemingly insurmountable lead in nominating delegates and the popular vote," and for Clinton, it's because "of doubts sown in recent weeks about Obama's general election viability" (Barabak/Decker, Los Angeles Times, 5/4).

Rocky Mountain News' Littman writes, at a campaign stop in Southern IN, "Clinton comes bounding onto stage." "Lover her or hate her -- and what's changed from the early part of the campaign is that there's far more love from the crowd now -- you'd never guess she had arrived here nearly an hour late of that this was the fourth of five stops." You'd think: "Clinton was on the verge of pulling this race out. And yet, the delegate math shows it's nearly impossible for her to win. The score is not tied. Time is running out" (5/3).

This article appears in the May 5, 2008 edition of Latest Edition.

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