The Filter: 1.31.08

A round-up of this morning's must-read stories--live from the San Fernando Valley in Southern California.

*If you haven't already, make sure to check out Suzanne Smalley's Stumper item "Cracks in the Romney Facade." "

(Holly Bailey, Newsweek)

still refuses to use the F-word—front runner, that is. Boarding his campaign plane early Wednesday, the morning after his big win in , the Arizona senator waved off reporters who asked if he was finally comfortable thinking of himself as the man to beat for the Republican presidential nomination. "I'm trying not to think that way," McCain said. "You know me, I'm way too superstitious for that … We've still got a long way to go."

(Jonathan Alter, Newsweek)

For all the attention paid to Ted Kennedy's endorsement of Barack Obama, the more crucial seal of approval may be the one affixed by Caroline Kennedy. An Obama TV ad that features her is already being widely aired in Super Tuesday states. If Caroline helps Obama cut into Hillary Clinton's base among women over 40 (especially Roman Catholic women), Obama aides believe her involvement could prove important to the outcome. 

(Matt Philips, Newsweek)

Though he never made much of a mark in the polls, Edwards has had a major impact on this race by driving the conversation, something he deserves a lot of credit for. He was the first candidate out with a universal health care plan and the first to rail against trade agreements like NAFTA that, he says, have cost America a million jobs. He also brought a sense of morality and social justice to the race, themes both Obama and Clinton have folded into their stump speeches over the last month. Through a year of hard campaigning, Edwards has forced the Democratic Party to refocus itself on the plight of the poor.

(Jonathan Martin, Politico)

In the final GOP debate before Super Tuesday, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Sen. John McCain of Arizona bickered over a laundry list of past and present positions, most notably whether Romney backed a timetable for withdrawing troops from Iraq. But there was little focus on the nation’s economic uncertainty or the hot-button topics that make some conservatives doubt McCain’s pureness of heart. And for Romney, who now faces an uphill climb when voters in this state and more than 20 others head to the polls on Tuesday, that was not good news.

MORE: McCain and Romney Tangle at Debate, but Also Try to Mold a Two-Man Race (New York Times) 

(Mark Z. Barabak, Michael Finnegan and Evan Halper, Los Angeles Times)

John McCain sought to fasten his grip on the Republican presidential nomination Wednesday by securing high-profile endorsements from erstwhile rival Rudolph W. Giuliani and, in a reversal of his promised neutrality, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Former New York City Mayor Giuliani, who spent months atop national polls but never finished better than third in any contest, quit the race at a Simi Valley news conference, where he hailed the Arizona senator as a friend and an "American hero." 

(Karl Rove, Wall Street Journal) 

In the aftermath of the Florida primary, some new rules for winning the nomination have emerged and some old rules have been ratified. As we head toward the 23 contests next Tuesday, it's worth considering a few of them.

(Peter Beinart, Washington Post)

The Clinton-Obama race is close, fierce and at times petty. But it's nowhere near the nastiest in recent memory. And far from damaging the eventual nominee, it could actually help him or her. The pundits should worry about something else. 

(Kate Snow, Jennifer Parker, Sarah Amos and Eloise Harper, ABC News)
Reporters covering Bill Clinton have noticed a much more subdued tone coming from the former president in recent days. Gone is the Clinton on display in South Carolina, who went on the attack against his wife's chief Democratic rival Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill. Gone, too, are the lengthy freewheeling discussions with voters, the constant references to his White House record, and the flashes of temper directed at the news media... That's led some to speculate that Clinton, who was acting as his wife's chief attack dog, has been muzzled.

(David Broder, Washington Post)

On the Democratic side, the battle is more even, but the advantage has shifted back to Barack Obama -- thanks to a growing but largely unremarked tendency among Democratic leaders to reject Hillary Clinton and her husband, the former president. The New York senator could still emerge from the "Tsunami Tuesday" voting with the overall lead in delegates, but she is unlikely to be able to come close to clinching the nomination. And the longer the race goes on, the better the chances that Obama will ultimately prevail, as more elected Democratic officials and candidates come to view him as the better bet to defeat McCain in November.

MORE: Obama Takes Aim at Last Rival Standing (Los Angeles Times)


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