Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Obama and McCain

February 13, 2008

The Note: Barack's Big Roll

Obama Looks to Pull Ahead, While McCain Can't Quite Nail It Down

Feb. 11, 2008

Everything you need to know about the presidential race this Monday in four simple sentences:

Plenty of Democrats want Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton to be president (and, about a month after we thought it would happen, she has a new campaign manager to help find more people like that).

Plenty of Democrats (just possibly quite a few more) want Sen. Barack Obama to be president. (And in the precious visual department: Monday brings the unveiling of "a new figure of Sen. Barack Obama seated in a replica of the Oval Office with Bill and Hillary Clinton standing by" at Madame Tussauds wax museum in Washington, per the AP's daybook.)

'The Note' Rewinds the Week's Best Moments

Plenty of Republicans (including President Bush) want Sen. John McCain to be president.

Plenty of Republicans still DON'T want McCain to be president (and are showing about as much interest as the Democrats in a tidy end to the nominating process).

Victory in Maine on Sunday made it a clean sweep of a weekend for Obama, D-Ill. -- five-for-five, counting the Virgin Islands though not counting the Grammy, where his competition actually was Bill Clinton (and where he picked up as many delegates as Sen. Clinton did in Florida and Michigan combined).

So THIS is what momentum looks like: Now the candidate with the deeper pockets and the palpable edge in enthusiasm is on the brink of obtaining what could be delegate edge of significance -- making for dark days at Camp Clinton.

The campaign will try to turn the lights back on with a new chief at the helm, and while Patti Solis Doyle leaves on good terms, the timing tells the story. "The switch occurred at a time when Mrs. Clinton has found her campaign in a slump, coming off a split victory in a multistate round of nominating contests on Feb. 5 and losing badly in a string of state caucuses that relied on a high level of on-the-ground organizational skills at which the Obama campaign excelled," Katharine Q. Seelye writes in The New York Times.

"At the same time, she suffered a setback over money, and though in recent days the campaign has boasted of a $10 million month and many new donors, it never built the online donor base that Ms. Doyle had promised," Seelye writes. "Nor did it adapt to Mr. Obama's message of inspiration as his campaign grew in strength, prolonging the battle long past the point when Mrs. Clinton was expected by her strategists to have clinched the nomination."

Ask John Kerry how changing campaign managers works out in terms of perceptions and expectations about a candidacy. (But THEN ask John Kerry how it worked out in terms of actually winning the nomination.)
"The statement offered no real explanation for the shakeup, but none was needed," per the New York Daily News. "Clinton's campaign has sunk into a post-Super Tuesday funk, with little to crow about except a spike in fund-raising."

The move is "the first step in what could be a broader shakeup in her campaign, after Sen. Barack Obama won four weekend contests, turning up the pressure on the one-time Democratic front-runner," Amy Chozick and Monica Langley write in The Wall Street Journal.

"Some Clinton aides said that, as part of the changes, Mark Penn, Mrs. Clinton's chief strategist and pollster, could play a diminished role. But both Mr. Penn and Ms. Williams denied that."

The decision to install Maggie Williams over Patti Solis Doyle "gave credence to what some supporters have said for many weeks -- that the campaign had spent too much money yielding too few results and that fresh management and advice are needed for what could be a long battle against Obama," Anne Kornblut and Dan Balz write in The Washington Post.

So maybe the parting wasn't entirely friendly . . . "Doyle did not tell Clinton how rapidly the campaign was burning through money, according to one campaign official, who said Clinton learned about her financial constraints only after the New Hampshire primary on Jan. 8," Kornbut and Balz report.

A Clinton campaign source is more frank with the Chicago Tribune's Mark Silva: ""We were lying about money," the source said. "The cash on hand was nothing." Silva writes: "In turn, Clinton didn't tell Solis Doyle that she was lending her own money to keep the campaign afloat. Solis Doyle found out third-hand. And when she asked Clinton about it, the senator told her she couldn't understand how the campaign had gotten to such a point."

In a statement about Doyle's departure, Clinton said she was "enormously grateful for her friendship and her outstanding work" and said she "has done an extraordinary job in getting us to this point -- within reach of the nomination."

ABC's Jake Tapper: "Of course, by now Clinton had expected to have secured the nomination."

"A sudden switching of quarterbacks in the middle of the playoffs is not what any campaign needs; there's no question that Patti Solis Doyle's resignation will produce a spate of negative stories that no campaign likes to handle," writes The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder.

Says one adviser: "In part, this was Patti's choice." (In part, indeed.)

To strain the sports metaphors . . . Clinton is changing coaches as her team starts a tough road trip: The truth is there is probably nothing Williams can do to avoid seeing Clinton go a four-week stretch without a single win -- something that could severely test the continued prospects of a momentum-free campaign.

All that stands between now and March 4 is Tuesday's Potomac Primary -- Virginia, Maryland, and the District of Columbia -- plus Wisconsin (Clinton's best shot at a win this month) and Obama's native Hawaii.

That's a recipe for a slow Clinton bleed (10 consecutive losses?) coming into Ohio and Texas, while Obama can continue to depend on quick infusions of cash. It's enough to make any campaign feel woozy.