"The day after" losing PA, Barack Obama "set high expectations for himself" in the 5/6 primaries in IN and NC. At "his first full-blown news conference in 12 days" in New Albany, Obama "predicted victory" in IN, "despite an electorate that closely mirrors states where he has recently suffered sizable losses" (McCormick, Chicago Tribune, 4/23). Obama: "The way we're going to close the deal is by winning ... People are a little more familiar with me here in Indiana" (Schneider, Indianapolis Star, 4/24).
Obama: "Our problem has less to do with white, working class voters. In fact the problem is that -- to the extent that there is a problem -- is that older voters are very loyal to Sen. Clinton."
Obama also "said he is losing time" that could be spent fighting John McCain as the Dem race drags on. Obama: "There's no doubt that if we have additional time to bring the Democratic Party together and to focus" on McCain, "then we'll be stronger for it in the fall. And that's why we'd like to wrap up this campaign as quickly as possible. And so, yes, there's been some time lost."
Obama also "suggested that he has been less of a complainer" than Clinton. Obama: "Nobody has complained more about the press, about questions at debates, about being mistreated, than Sen. Clinton has or President Clinton. We have been pretty tame in terms of taking our shots and just rolling with them ... I've always believed that if you're tough, you don't have to talk about it."
At his event in New Albany, speaking to a crowd of 2.5K, Obama "continued the triangulation that has become the presidential race, first focusing on" McCain "before turning his attention" to Clinton. He told one voter "concerned about the power of superdelegates," "I do think that these elections that we're doing should count for something. So, if we've won the most delegates from the voters, seems to me that it might be a good idea to make me the nominee" (McCormick, Chicago Tribune, 4/23).
We're Still Winning, We Report
The Obama camp's post-PA delegate projections show Obama leading by 161 delegates, 1,494 to 1,333 (release, 4/23).
Obama mgr. David Plouffe said on a 4/23 conf. call that even factoring in the PA loss, "The structure of the race remains the same." Obama is "less than 300 delegates away from securing" the Dem nod. Plouffe also said the camp is "organizing heavily in Guam," which holds its primary 5/3 (Sweet, Chicago Sun-Times, 4/23).
Peer Pressure! Peer Pressure!
NE superdelegate/NE Dem Assoc. Chair Audra Ostergard endorsed Obama, saying her decision "comes down to what's best for our country and best for Nebraska." Ostergard: "The gravity of this decision has weighed on me heavily. I don't want to use my position to influence the process, but at the same time I agree with Howard Dean that our party needs a nominee. Senator Obama's prohibitive lead in pledged delegates was a major factor in my decision." All six of NE's superdelegates have now endorsed Obama (release, 4/23).
Meanwhile, OK Gov. Brad Henry (D), who endorsed Obama earlier this week, "said he made his support public in order to encourage uncommitted superdelegates" to announce their choices. Henry: "It's critical that we resolve this Democratic nomination before the convention" (McNutt, Oklahoma City Daily Oklahoman, 4/24).
Edwards' Posse Loves Obama
Obama's camp announced endorsements 4/23 from "49 prominent supporters" of John Edwards, including ex-Edwards nat'l general chair Ed Turlington. Turlington said Obama "and John Edwards share a commitment to taking on special interests and standing up for regular Americans" (release, 4/23).
Turlington "said that he had not expected to endorse" after Edwards dropped out, but said he decided to endorse Obama about 10 days ago after speaking with him. Turlington said he has "no idea" if Edwards agrees that Obama is the better choice, saying, "He'll make up his own mind" (Bosman, "The Caucus," New York Times, 4/23). (For more on this, see yesterday's Hotline).
Gutter Sniping, The Pros And Cons
CNN contributor Roland Martin was in the "Situation Room" last night to talk about his 4/23 radio interview with Obama. First, here are some of the highlights of Martin's interview with Obama:
Martin: "The Washington Post had a story today talking about there's a debate going on in your campaign about you growing more negative as we go to North Carolina and Indiana. Is that the case or not or are you going to stay focused on the positive message, one that is about hope and change as you compete against Senator Clinton? "
Obama: "Yes, whoever the Washington Post was quoting isn't part of my campaign because we have not had any discussions about going negative the way that that story referred to. You know, we have been consistent in this campaign in talking about the issues and trying to have a different kind of politics and so you might as well the Washington Post needs to take that source out of their Rolodex. That's not somebody who was representative of any conversations we've had."
Obama, asked about debating Clinton: "I know you want a scoop. But, you know, we'll take each request as they come. Obviously, we've had 21 debates at this point. I think the people have a pretty good sense of where Senator Clinton and I stand and, you know, what we're talking about during the course of these debates. At this point what's most important to me is making sure I'm talking directly to people, doing as many town halls as possible, letting them ask questions of me directly, me hearing from them and finding out what they think and what they care about. And with only two weeks and two big states to cover, you know, it's not clear that another debate is going to be the best use of our time."
And here is what Martin's reaction to the interview:
Martin, asked if thinks Obama will allow his surrogates to go negative: "No, I think he understands that because, look, it didn't work. Normally in the last couple of months, the last 72 hours, she's done a very effective job. Remember Texas and Ohio, the 3:00 a.m. ad? His campaign was rapid fire response in the last 72 hours. The ads were coming fast and furious. It didn't work. It doesn't work for him. You can't build as the foundation of your campaign one that is positive and then all of a sudden revert to what people call old politics, which goes against what you say you're all about. And so I think he has to go back to the basics. What got me to the lead? What got me here? That was not negative, it was positive."
On whether he thinks Obama will be open to another debate: "There is some wiggle room there. And I think the most important thing is that Indiana's going to be a different kind of state. It is so close, they're pretty much even. I think he should take the debate. You don't want the last debate to leave an after taste. ... Sure, it's 20 and 21, but you have a chance to be able to further define your issues. That's what's most important" (CNN, 4/23).
Others also weighed in on going negative:
• Huffington Post's Sekoff: "He doesn't have to go negative, but he has to go stronger and smarter. Just think about it, Hillary's message is: Vote for me or Osama bin Laden, I will protect you from Osama bin Laden, right? His message is: Vote for me and I'll protect you from the special interests in Washington. Osama bin Laden, special interests -- I don't think that's a strong enough argument that he needs to make" ("Verdict," MSNBC, 4/23).
• Time's Klein: "The nomination is, obviously, his to lose. But the presidency will not be won if he doesn't learn that the only way to reach the high-minded conversation he wants, and the country badly needs, is to figure out how to maneuver his way through the gutter" (Time.com, 4/24).
• New London Day editorializes, Obama "needs to get back on message." When the paper endorsed Obama, "we applauded his call for a new kind of politics that would focus on the issues and not seek to gain advantage by destroying opponents." Going negative in PA "was a major blunder" (4/24).
• Providence Journal's Harrop writes, "Liberals who blast allusions to terrorism" like the ones in Clinton's last PA ad "as scaredy-cat politics aren't really listening," and they're "certainly not helping Obama's prospects." Bin Laden "and friends remain on the loose, and the public has a right to fear them" (4/24).
• Time's Carney: "Barack Obama will return to the high road. ... What we saw in the exit polls was that the late breakers in the Pennsylvania primary broke towards Hillary. ... The lesson learned from that by the Obama campaign was that going negative, especially by the candidate himself, undermines his very brand. Obama is supposed to be selling himself as someone who can transcend politics as usual, who wants to get away from the gutter sniping of the past. So I think we'll see him do that" ("Race for the WH," MSNBC, 4/23).
A Wilder And Crazy Guy
Obama supporter/ex-VA Gov. Doug Wilder (D) "has both encouragement and a warning" for Obama. Wilder: "Let's not kid ourselves again, the issue of race will not disappear; but I don't think it will predominate." But, Wilder said, if Obama is the nominee and "heads into the fall with an apparent lead," the election "wil be closer than any polls will suggest." Wilder: "He never should have believed those New Hampshire polls, and I think now he recognizes that."
Wilder said he's told Obama "to keep the high ground. Let the rest of us do what needed to be done." More: "I told him it's going to be very difficult, particularly running against a woman. And racially it's going to be even more difficult."
Wilder "said he isn't surprised that Obama has run behind" Clinton among white voters in some states, saying Obama has faced more "ingrained difficulty" due to race than Clinton has due to gender. Bias against Clinton "may have more to do with specific incidents that have reinforced stereotypes, he said." Wilder: "Hillary's reactions to things conjure up images that are not necessarily the healthiest in terms of hissy fits or reactions because of emotions, like the crying and the weeping and then forgetting somewhat that she did that."
Wilder said Obama has "been hurt" by the controversy surrounding his ex-pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, but said, "if that's all they got in the tank, we'll be going up for Obama's inauguration" (Przybyla, Bloomberg, 4/24).
Abercrombie Boys, Who Needs 'Em?
Talk continued about Obama's PA performance among working-class white voters:
• Obama strategist David Axelrod told NPR 4/23, "The white working class has gone to the Republican nominee for many elections, going back even to the Clinton years. This is not new that Democratic candidates don't rely solely on these votes" (Saul, New York Daily News, 4/24).
• Dem strategist Joe Trippi: "He's got to start getting blue-collar, white men to vote for him in Indiana and North Carolina. If he can do that, it would take all the doubt that Clinton's made on him" ("Early Show," CBS, 4/24).
• According to OH political consultant Jerry Austin, to "close the gap" with white working-class voters in IN, Obama should "grab a basketball, head to the local Y for a pickup game and start throwing some elbows." Austin said it would show a more "human, relaxed," Obama, noting, "Even when he wants to look relaxed, you don't see him in a golf shirt. You see him in a dress shirt" (4/24).
• WashingtonPost.com's MacGillis notes in the last two election cycles, the Dem WH candidates "have dramatically underperformed with members of their own party in blue-collar and rural areas" of PA, "with many older, more conservative" Dems voting for Pres. Bush "or staying home" ("The Trail," 4/23).
• Chicago Tribune's James writes, Dems "clearly have a problem attracting white working-class voters, period. If Obama's the nominee, that historic difficulty could be magnified, at least that's what history suggests" ("The Swamp," 4/23).
• Washington Post's Capehart, asked why Obama can't close the deal with white, blue-collar workers: "If I had the real answer to that, I wouldn't be sitting here right now. I'd be on a beach somewhere. ... As much as I wouldn't want to admit it, I do think that race could possibly be a part of this" ("American Morning," CNN, 4/24).
• New York Sun's McWhorter writes, Obama's race gave him a "boost" among "educated, collegetown sorts" in PA who were "stimulated by the idea of voting for a black candidate for president, as a gesture toward getting past America's racist past." PA's other white voters were evaluating Obama "in a neutral way," and found Clinton "more experienced, better prepared" and "perhaps even having paid her dues in a way" Obama has not (4/24).
Charging ... Clear!
Some more PA post-mortems were written, with an eye toward adjusting for IN and beyond:
• CNBC's Harwood: "Indianapolis will become the new Des Moines. ... Barack Obama has a real chance to end it by beating Hillary Clinton there. He's going to out-spend her badly, just as he did in Pennsylvania. But unlike Pennsylvania, he starts out slightly ahead. ... This is not as demographically daunting a state for Barack Obama. He does have that nearby his home state advantage there" ("Race for the WH," MSNBC, 4/23).
• Chicago Sun-Times' Sweet notes Obama will be using the Chicago media market to reach IN, and he also "has an army" of IL volunteers to send to IN -- "now seasoned by election work in nearby" IA, WI and OH (4/23).
• Philadelphia Daily News' Davies notes Obama himself "campaigned far less" in PA than Clinton, holding "only one big rally." If the camp was "concentrating on areas where he was less known," that "apparently yielded precious little" (4/24).
• Robert Novak writes, not all the "unhappy" Clinton supporters will return to the party "after Obama is nominated," and that's PA's "warning" (Chicago Sun-Times, 4/24).
Also in the post-PA coverage:
• The "Abercrombie boys" standing behind Obama during his election night speech from IN "have yet to surface publicly, so it's not clear if they were just Obama fans who happened to have dressed alike or whether they coordinated heir outfits and tried a deliberate product placement." A spokesperson for Abercrombie & Fitch "said that the company had absolutely nothing to do with the stunt, if that's what it was." Obama spokesperson Tommy Vietor: "I assume this was three guys who had been shopping together" (Seelye, "The Caucus," New York Times, 4/23).
• In the days before the PA primary, "a simple flaw in the coding" of Obama's website "led to a hacking switcheroo," with visitors to the community blogs section of Obama's site being "redirected" to Clinton's site. The hack "appears to have been a prank" (Robertson, 4/23).
• Northampton Co. exec. John Stoffa "blasted" Obama 4/23, saying he "gave up" on PA. Stoffa: "I think Obama figured he couldn't win and decided not to try. ... If he gets the nomination, he's going to have to come back here and make amends" (Cassi, Lehigh Valley Express-Times, 4/24).
Bill Richardson And James Carville Can Agree On Something
Talk also persisted about what Obama needs to do to win the Dem nod:
• Karl Rove writes, with $42M in the bank, "money is the least of Sen. Obama's worries. He needs a credible message that convinces Democrats he should be president." In continually "proclaiming his inevitable nomination," his words "wear especially thin when he was dealt a defeat" like PA. It's time to "say something new" -- "his conduct in the last several weeks raises questions about whether, for all his talents, he is ready" to be POTUS (Wall Street Journal, 4/24).
• Obama supporter Bill Richardson, asked if IN is a must win for Obama: "Well, it's important. But look, he's got a strategy, continues to talk positive. But also continue to win, not just states and votes and voters, but also he's doing well with superdelegates. ... The trend is still in his favor despite Senator Clinton's very, very credible victory in Pennsylvania" ("Election Center," CNN, 4/23).
• Dem strategist James Carville: "Senator Obama calls it the tie breaker and I agree with Senator Obama on that. I believe it's very critical that who wins Indiana. It's going to be very critical in this process" ("Situation Room," CNN, 4/23).
• Air America's Maddow: "Just as much as Pennsylvania was designed for Hillary Clinton to win it, North Carolina is designed for Barack Obama to win it. So we're going to be back in the same situation in more ways than one two weeks from now talking about how big a margin he has to win by in order for that to be seen as decisive" ("Race for the WH," MSNBC, 4/23).
• Ex-DNC exec. dir. Mark Siegel: "Obama is depending on arithmetic and Clinton is banking on psychology." To convince superdelegates Obama is unelectable, "she needs solid empirical evidence that he'd take the party over a cliff." And there are polls that show "Clinton does better than Obama in crucial swing states" against McCain (Kondracke, Roll Call, 4/24).
All's Fair In Ad Wars?
Politico's Simon, on the NC GOP's Wright ad: "It is certainly nasty. I'm not sure it is unfair though. The media having run that clip about a million times more than the North Carolina party ever could run that clip. Who is more guilty? What is unfair about the ad is the implication that Barack Obama sat in that pew and heard Jeremiah Wright say those statements. Barack Obama says he never heard it, blah blah blah. But ... Barack Obama is not past this incident. And Jeremiah Wright is going to come up in the general election. It just is, just like people clinging to their guns and religion. He better get used to it" ("Hardball," MSNBC, 4/23).
Salon's Walsh: "This definitely proves ... that nothing Hillary has done to date is really even a tenth of what will happen to him in the general election" ("Hardball," MSNBC, 4/23).
Newt Gingrich, on Floyd Brown's "Willie Horton" ad on Obama's IL Senate record on the death penalty: "If you're talking about something which is public record, you are not attacking him personally in terms of his character, you are saying these things are facts. I don't see why that's not a legitimate strategy. And one of the key questions in this campaign is going to be how radically left is Barack Obama and how many of the things that other people near him said does he agree with" ("Hannity & Colmes," FNC, 4/23).
Clinton chair Terry McAuliffe: "I agree with Speaker Gingrich. Anything that's been out in the public is fair game" ("Hannity & Colmes," FNC, 4/23).
Wright "risks giving Obama's critics more fodder" when he speaks 4/28 at the Nat'l Press Club "as part of a divinity conference of black church leaders." The event is open media. PBS is also "touting" its interview with Wright to air 4/25 (Sweet, Chicago Sun-Times, 4/24).
Ex-Weather Underground member Bill Ayers, meanwhile, has made no public response "since his ties" to Obama were brought up during last week's debate because "he doesn't want to feed the flawed 'narrative' out in the press and blogosphere." Ayers said "it's a cartoon" people are reacting to. He also "took exception to the notion that he's been muzzled." Ayers: "I'm still outspoken. I'm still out speaking at college campuses. You can follow me if you want" (Schmadeke, Chicago Tribune, 4/23).
Rebels With A Cause
"In several cases, the Obama campaign has been directly responsible" for the "pro-Obama street art" that has "popped up all over the country." The camp "has very carefully kept plausible distance, for the purposes of 'street cred' and obeying the law," as graffiti is illegal (Callahan, New York Post, 4/24).
So Many Questions
A Jonesville, SC, church "has removed a sign" reading, "Obama, Osama, hmm, are they brothers?" As of 4/22, the sign had been changed to, "How will you spend eternity, smoking or no smoking?" (AP, 4/23).
This article appears in the April 24, 2008 edition of Latest Edition.