• "The California Supreme Court's decision allowing same-sex marriage probably throws the politically volatile issue into November, when a proposed state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage could spill into the presidential campaign and contests for Congress and the state Legislature," the Los Angeles Times reports. "The court's Thursday ruling was not necessarily good news for the presidential candidates, on whom it could exert problematic pressure."
• The New York Times finds that "the three major presidential candidates... are pretty much in agreement" on gay marriage. "All oppose it, while saying at the same time that same-sex couples should generally be entitled to the legal protections afforded married couples. All think the decision should be left to the states."
• "After launching their candidacies with opposite positions on the Iraq war, Republican John McCain and Democrat Barack Obama seem to be edging toward a middle ground between them," the Los Angeles Times reports. "McCain has bowed to the political reality that American impatience with the war is growing, and Obama to the fact that a poorly executed exit would risk damage to other vital U.S. interests."
• McCain and Obama "are both darlings of the campaign finance reform community. But this year's intense money race -- and the corners candidates typically cut to stay competitive -- have ratcheted up scrutiny of those relationships and exposed both the candidates and the groups to occasional charges of hypocrisy," the Politico reports.
• "House Republicans shifted Thursday to talk publicly about policy initiatives in the wake of their disastrous special election loss in Mississippi," The Hill reports. "But behind the scenes, GOP officials were discussing politics -- specifically whether to make changes at their campaign committee."
• "The Senate Rules and Administration Committee is confirming that" on Wednesday "it will take up three recent Federal Election Commission nominations, clearing the first major hurdle for the White House-backed plan to put the agency back in business by Memorial Day," Roll Call (subscription) reports.
Dems 2008: Obama Could See Success In South
• "President Bush" on Thursday "used a high-profile speech in Israel to attack the idea of pursuing diplomatic talks with renegade countries such as Iran, a key element of" Obama's "agenda, likening it to the failed appeasement of Germany prior to World War II," the Boston Globe reports. Although "Bush did not mention Obama by name," some "White House officials indicated that the criticism applied to Obama," who "responded immediately and angrily."
• "With his perceived criticism of" Obama's "push for diplomacy from the floor of the Knesset, Israel's parliament, Bush managed to unite Democrats behind the man who is the party’s likely next standard-bearer,"The Hill reports.
• "The sharp surge in black turnout that" Obama "has helped to generate in recent primaries and Congressional races could signal a threat this fall to the longtime Republican dominance of the South, according to politicians and voting experts," the New York Times reports.
• But "perhaps no one took greater comfort in the Republican Party's third straight loss of a long-held House seat this week than" Obama, "who says the results point to clear limits in the effectiveness of attack ads he expects this fall," AP reports. Obama "played a prominent role in all three special elections to fill vacant GOP seats, and he landed on the winning side each time."
• "In the last two months, it's been" Obama "who has maximized his superdelegate moments," the Politico reports. "It is unclear whether the timing of" his "show-stopping endorsements is the product of luck or design. Both the candidates and the superdelegates are on virgin turf, feeling their way through a primary phase that has never been tested since the nominating rules were written in the late 1980s."
• "Obama plans to roll out a new nationwide faith effort to make it clear to voters that the presidential candidate is a Christian who reflects the values of the electorate," the Wall Street Journal (subscription) reports. "The initiative represents a direct challenge to Republicans, who successfully wooed conservative evangelical votes that in turn fueled" Bush's "re-election in 2004."
• "The union tide is turning toward" Obama, "but cracks are showing inside the labor movement as its leaders grapple with internal and external strife as the nomination race drags on," AP reports. "More and more labor unions are lining up behind the Illinois senator, who on Thursday picked up the 600,000-member United Steelworkers union and the personal endorsement of Larry Cohen, president of the Communication Workers of America."
• "At some point along the way, Hillary Clinton became 'poor Hillary' and it stuck," the Washington Post reports.
• "Sorry, Sen. Clinton. Michigan and Florida can't save your campaign," AP reports. "Interviews with those considering how to handle the two states' banished convention delegates found little interest in the former first lady's best-case scenario."
• "Crowds are shrinking, media attention is waning, supporters are jumping ship and calls are growing for her to drop out and help unite the Democrats behind" Obama, Reuters reports. "Her voice hoarse and less forceful than it has been in more impassioned speeches, Clinton still seemed inscrutable and upbeat campaigning this week in South Dakota."
• "Clinton scolded" McCain "Thursday for opposing the farm bill, attempting to maintain the sense that she is already competing against the certain Republican presidential nominee even as her chances of winning the Democratic nomination dim," AP reports.
• USA Today previews the remaining Democratic primary contests.
GOP 2008: McCain Vows Transparency In His Administration
• "McCain declared on Thursday that most American troops would be home from Iraq by 2013 and that the nation would be a functioning democracy with only 'spasmodic' episodes of violence," the New York Times reports. "The comments were a striking departure from his usual refusal to set a date for American withdrawal."
• The Politico reports that "McCain's campaign asked a prominent Republican consultant, Craig Shirley, to leave his official campaign role Thursday after a Politico inquiry about Shirley's dual role consulting for the campaign and for an independent '527' group opposing the Democratic presidential candidates. The campaign also released a new conflict of interest policy barring such arrangements."
• McCain "promised Thursday that his administration 'will set a new standard for transparency and accountability,' and vowed to keep Congress and the public apprised of his actions," The Hill reports.
• "McCain's presidential campaign is trying to tap a new audience of potential voters by taking his campaign message straight to liberal and nonpolitical issues-based blogs, which reach millions of readers but don't often delve into conservative politics," the Washington Times reports. "The strategy was in full swing" Thursday "when Mr. McCain invited non-conservative bloggers to join his regular blogger conference call."
• "McCain secured millions in federal funds for a land acquisition program that provided a windfall for an Arizona developer whose executives were major campaign donors," USA Today reports. McCain "inserted $14.3 million in a 2003 defense bill to buy land around Luke Air Force Base in a provision sought by SunCor Development, the largest of about 50 landowners near the base."
• McCain "accuses Saudi Arabia of sponsoring insurgents in Iraq and condemns it for human-rights violations, including imprisoning people whose 'only crime is to worship God in their own way,' " Bloomberg News reports. "That should make the prospect of a McCain presidency a nightmare for the Saudi rulers, who have enjoyed close ties to the Bush family. Instead, Saudis are privately rooting for the presumptive Republican nominee, discounting some of his rhetoric because he's the only candidate to promise to keep U.S. troops in Iraq and to deter Iran."