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Magazine / POLITICS

Inside Washington

May 3, 2008

Free-Ride Express

This week couldn't have been easier for John McCain. He unveiled a health care plan, meandered to Pennsylvania, and was all but eclipsed in the national media by Barack Obama's epic breakup with father-figure-non-grata Jeremiah Wright.

The relative invisibility is no doubt delicious for the presumptive GOP presidential nominee--as long as coverage of Obama stays rotten. The Wright controversy is "something we don't have an official comment on," said a McCain campaign spokesman. Surely not. Why mess with a good thing?

"He's got a great opportunity to define his message and reach out to people who aren't typical primary voters," Republican strategist and pollster Whit Ayres said of McCain. The Wright/Obama debacle has turned off blue-collar white voters, he added. "There's no way they're going to vote for Barack Obama now."


Meanwhile, Obama is 3 points down in Indiana, according to's polling average, and Hillary Rodham Clinton is pummeling him in advance of Tuesday's Democratic primary there. McCain just might want to park the bus for a while and enjoy the show. --Randy Barrett


Psst! What's the topic of conversation among female House lawmakers when they are in the ladies' room? Not congressional gentlemen. Rather, the women kvetch about how much their feet hurt, confided Rep. Nancy Boyda, D-Kan. The members agree not to talk business when they are in the House washroom, which is known as the Congressional Women's Reading Room, or, officially, the Lindy Claiborne Boggs Room, named after the former Democratic representative from Louisiana ... Never say that Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean isn't a good sport. At the White House Correspondents' Association Dinner last weekend he clapped loudly when President Bush was introduced. "It's for the office, my friend, not the man," he told a nearby NJ editor ... A prominent evangelical knows who should not be on the GOP presidential ticket. "If he picks [Texas Sen.] Kay Bailey Hutchison, he's dead, because when [the Senate] voted to ban 'partial-birth' abortions, the Democrats had a resolution that Roe v. Wade had been a good decision for the country," the evangelical said. "Senator Hutchison was one of five Republicans who voted for it. I can assure you, every pro-life activist in the country knows which five Republicans supported it" ...

Vital Statistics

46, 47

Party identification among 18-to-29-year-olds in 1992, Democratic and Republican, respectively --Pew Research Center

58, 33

Party identification among 18-to-29-year-olds in 2008, Democratic and Republican, respectively --Pew Research Center

Trigger Happy

Look, Ma! On May 2, hundreds of congressional staffers bore arms on the Marine Corps base in Quantico, Va. Friday was Marine Day, an annual event hosted by the Corps that allows House and Senate aides to ride in combat helicopters and amphibious assault vehicles, test-fire weapons, and sample some fine military cuisine. "Congressional staff often have the desire to observe training exercises and learn more about current and future equipment, but often cannot travel to the exercises due to their congressional schedule," Maj. Eric Dent, a spokesman for the Corps, wrote in an e-mail. The congressional travel section of the Navy Department picks up the tab for transportation and lunch--which consists of Meals Ready to Eat costing $3.85 a pop. Hoo-ah! --Kellie Lunney

All Ruffed Up

Hollywood's four-legged crime-fighting duo might want to invest in body armor the next time they visit Southeast Asia, an international hotbed of piracy and counterfeiting. Lucky and Flo, a pair of Labrador retrievers trained by the Motion Picture Association of America to sniff out digital videodiscs hidden in storage containers, have been so successful in aiding global law enforcement activities that Malaysian bootleggers publicized a $30,000 prize for the dogs' heads, MPAA chief Dan Glickman told the National Press Club on Monday. "That's a higher bounty than on any other [MPAA] employee," he joked. As part of the sting, dubbed Operation Double Trouble, the dogs worked with Malaysian and Filipino officers on a series of raids that seized more than 1.88 million pirated discs with an estimated street value of $3.5 million. The dogs, who were in Washington for the week, demonstrated their DVD-sniffing skills for staffers on Capitol Hill and elementary school students in Alexandria, Va. --Andrew Noyes

Just One Question

How many delegate votes does it take to win the Democratic presidential nomination?

2,025. For the time being. There are two special elections in Louisiana for the House of Representatives on May 3, and a runoff House race in Mississippi on May 13. If the Democrats pick up one seat, the magic number for the nomination won't change, but should they somehow manage to net two seats, the number would increase to 2,026. And on May 31, the Democratic National Committee's Rules and Bylaws panel will deal with seating the Florida (211 delegates) and Michigan (155 delegates) delegations. If the committee seats some or all of those two states' delegates, the magic number will rise.

SOURCE: DNC Office of Party Affairs and Delegate Selection

Reality Check

"Shell's profits rose by 25 percent, and BP's by 63 percent. So the oil companies are doing very well, and it's high time that they helped to relieve the burden of high gas prices on our families and our businesses." --Hillary Rodham Clinton

Clinton's proposal to suspend the federal tax on gasoline but recoup some of the lost revenue by imposing a "windfall profits" tax on oil companies may sound nice, but it's DOA in Congress. "This is the same general concept as repealing the tax credits for oil companies which the Senate considered a few times last year but rejected.... It is very unlikely to pass the Senate, because it doesn't bring down gas prices," said Matt Letourneau, Republican communications director for the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. A similar law enacted in 1980 "reduced domestic oil production from between 3 and 6 percent and increased oil imports from between 8 and 16 percent," according to a Congressional Research Service report. --Winter Casey

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