Saturday, February 23, 2008

Nomination Countdown- 2/23/08

The rhythm of the political universe appear more likely by the week to point to a John McCain-Barack Obama general election for the honor of being the 44th President of the United States. Such a contest would be a contrast in ideology, generation, and style, but it would also involve one in which both candidates demonstrated an ability to appeal to Independents and members of the opposition party during the primary season.

But first, there is a matter of officially clinching the nominations of their respective parties, and while nothing seems to be standing in the way of McCain, Obama's front-runner status is still challenged by a candidate and her husband, who certainly have to feel that both of their legacies are on the line and will perhaps meet their ultimate test on March 4th in the states of Ohio, Texas, Rhode Island, and Vermont.

Obama beat Hillary Clinton in both Wisconsin and Hawai'i last Tuesday, which did not come as any sort of huge surprise but the margin of his large victory in the Badger State have certainly led many to reach the conclusion that Obama is the sort of political juggernaut that will be impossible for Clinton to stop in time.

The past week has seen some interesting back and forth between the candidates with Clinton all but accusing Obama of plagarism over some unaccredited passages in the Illinois Senator's stump speech that were taken from one of his supporters, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick. The Obama camp fired back accusing the Clinton campaign of acting silly and desperate. While there was a bit of a brouhaha over the issue in Thursday night's Texas debate, many were suprised that Senator Clinton did not take a more negative approach toward her intraparty rival. Instead, many felt her closing statement, which Democrats and many in the media considered to be very effective and powerful, was seen by a lot of people as somewhat validvictory in nature and perhaps even with a hint of resignation to her fate in it, as she went out of her way to say how honored she was to be appearing with Obama. The Clinton campaign insists that they still plan to win the nomination and perhaps the new tone in her debate close was a planned out effort to once again show Hillary's softer and more altruistic side.

So, Hillary Clinton will continue to attempt to make the case over whether words alone are enough for Obama to be ready to lead the country, or if her solutions and experience make her more ready for a general election or to serve as President. Among the two major contests on March 4, Clinton still appears to be ahead, but the margins have continued to shrink and if nothing changes, Obama might be expected to overtake her. Still, expectations have been lowered for Clinton to an extent that any sort of victory in Ohio and Texas might be able to keep her in the game.

As for Republicans, John McCain remains the de facto Republican nominee, despite the unwillingness thus far of Mike Huckabee to exit the campaign, despite his plans to give paid speeches in various parts of the country and beyond over weekends. McCain has been using this time to shore up his campaign apparatus and to bring some fundraisers on to his team.

Perhaps nothing has been more profitable for the once depleted McCain campaign coiffers than a story that suddenly appeared in the New York Times on Wednesday evening, which for a short time, had the entire political world rocked.

The piece had been rumored to have been in the works since last December, but when it finally appeared, there seems to be a general consensus that it was a mistake for the New York Times. Anonymous sources were cited to claim that back in John McCain's Presidential campaign eight years ago, there was much concern over his relationship with a much younger female lobbyist, that some unnamed McCain staffers believed had become romantic, and which may have involved some shady business involving the Senator's then position as Chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee.

If there was a way for those allegations to be proven or seriously backed it, that is the sort of thing that could have very serious ramifications for the McCain campaign and for a few brief hours perhaps, some started to wonder if Mike Huckabee might wind up as the GOP nominee after all, or if perhaps Mitt Romney could find his way unexpectedly back in the race, but based on the developments since, this story might have done more good than harm for McCain.

He was quick to denounce the story and deny any wrongdoing, with his wife by his side. There seems to have also been a backlash against the New York Times, particularly among the type of conservatives who have been suspect about the McCain candidacy for some time, as the left-leaning newspaper (which had endorsed McCain while working on this story alleging wrongdoing) was engaged in a thinly veiled partisan hit job to derail the inevitable nominee once he had earned that distinction.

As long as McCain is telling the truth about both the extra-marital and official government aspects of his relationship with Vicki Iserman, he should have nothing to worry about and in fact, the sort of "breaking news" that found its way into the headlines this week might have been quite a stroke of luck.


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