The Filter: May 12, 2008

A round-up of this morning's must-read stories.

(Adam Nagourney and Jeff Zeleny, New York Times)

In a sign of what could be an extremely unusual fall campaign, the two sides said Saturday that they would be open to holding joint forums or unmoderated debates across the country in front of voters through the summer. Mr. Obama, campaigning in Oregon, said that the proposal, floated by Mr. McCain’s advisers, was “a great idea.”... He and Mr. McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee, are starting to assemble teams in the key battlegrounds, develop negative advertising and engage each other in earnest on the issues and a combustible mix of other topics, including age and patriotism. Mr. McCain, of Arizona, will spend the next week delivering a series of speeches on global warming, evidence of his intention to battle Mr. Obama for independent voters... Clearly concerned that questions about such things as his association with his former pastor had damaged his standing with independents, Mr. Obama, of Illinois, is likely to embark on a summertime tour intended to highlight the life story that was once central to his appeal. Preliminary plans include a stop in Hawaii, his birthplace, and a major address there at Punchbowl Cemetery, where his maternal grandfather, who fought in World War II, is buried... Both sides say the states clearly in play now include Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Nevada, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin. Republicans said they hoped to put New Jersey and possibly California into play; Democrats said African-Americans could make Mr. Obama competitive in Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina. Mr. Obama’s advisers said they had a strong chance of taking Colorado, Iowa, Nevada, New Mexico, Ohio and Virginia away from the Republican column.

(Ben Smith, Politico)

Clinton is balancing a range of considerations: her bank account; her political future and the party’s; her need to win back Obama’s supporters, particularly African-Americans; and her need to keep faith with voters in her own (nearly) half of the party, many of whom have grown to dislike her rival. And so her options range from swift and gracious (although time is running out on that one) to the political version of Custer’s last stand: taking a losing hand to the Democratic National Convention in August. Each has its benefits and its drawbacks, but together they’re what’s left of Clinton’s options.   1) Never Say Die... 2) Extract a Job... 3) Cash Out...  4) Kicking and Screaming...  5) Racial Meltdown...  6) Unconditional surrender.

MORE: Democratic Leaders Hoping Hillary Doesn't Do More Damage (New York Daily News)
"What Hillary does in the next month is important," Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.), a one-time senior adviser to former President Bill Clinton, warned last week in Manhattan. Emanuel is not just another congressman - he's the fourth-ranking member of theHouse whose leadership of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is widely credited with the Democrats' retaking of Congress in 2006. But the man known affectionately by his colleagues as "Rahmbo" for his electoral prowess is clearly worried about an unbound Clinton, who so far has shown little desire to turn down the volume on Obama. "If she spends her time contrasting with Sen. McCain, drawing distinctions that help the Democratic Party, that's productive," he said. "If it's done in another way, that's not productive."

(Carrie Budoff Brown and Kenneth P. Vogel, Politico)

When the election returns filter in Tuesday from West Virginia, Sen. Barack Obama won’t be there. Nor will he leapfrog ahead to a later primary state, as he usually does on election nights. Exercising his new-found role as the likely Democratic nominee, Obama will instead travel to Missouri, a general election swing state, to begin laying the groundwork for November. He will do the same next week in Florida, raising money and setting out on what aides describe as a fence-mending bid in the orphaned state. The travel schedule is just one mark of a candidate eager to shift from primary to general election mode. Obama and his aides repeatedly told reporters this weekend that the primary is not yet over. But the signs of change were everywhere during the senator’s first campaign trip after a big win in North Carolina and a narrow loss in Indiana nudged him closer than ever to the Democratic nomination. In a two-day swing through Oregon, Obama purged Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton from his stump speeches, addressing his Democratic rival only when asked by voters. Obama instead focused solely on Sen. John McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee.  

MORE: Obama, Clinton Adjust Aim, Target McCain (Matt Phillips and Joel Milman, Wall Street Journal)
Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton stepped up their criticism of John McCain and aimed fewer potshots at each other amid signs the nomination fight is winding down and the Democratic Party is coalescing around Sen. Obama. Before taking time off the campaign trail Sunday, Sen. Obama zeroed in on the Republican presidential candidate's "gas-tax holiday," ridiculing the proposal as saving motorists "a quarter and a nickel a day" through the summer. He also tested a new, harsher message: Sen. McCain's involvement in the 1987 Keating Five savings and loan scandal would be fair game for the general election... Sen. Clinton also seemed to pull back her direct criticisms of Sen. Obama, invoking his name only in passing at a Manhattan fund-raiser Saturday. Instead, she sounded themes of party unity.

(Julie Eilperin, Washington Post)

McCain has made the environment one of the key elements of his presidential bid. He speaks passionately about the issue of climate change on the campaign trail, and he plans to outline his vision for combating global warming in a major speech today in Portland, Ore. "I'm proud of my record on the environment," he said at a news conference Friday at the Liberty Science Center in Jersey City. "As president, I will dedicate myself to addressing the issue of climate change globally." But an examination of McCain's voting record shows an inconsistent approach to the environment: He champions some "green" causes while casting sometimes contradictory votes on others.

(George Will, Newsweek)

Peripatetic John McCain, the human pinball, continues to carom around the country as his rivals gnaw on each other. Although action, not reflection, is his forte, perhaps he should go to earth somewhere, while the Democrats continue the destruction, and answer some questions, such as... Our goal in Iraq is "success," which you define as "the establishment of a generally peaceful, stable, prosperous, democratic state." Would a "generally" peaceful, stable, prosperous but authoritarian state be unacceptable? Or a mildly prosperous and "generally" stable state but one with simmering violence—which describes a number of nations today, including Iraq? Does the task of making your four adjectives descriptive of Iraq require and therefore justify more years of military involvement in the suppression of groups that are manifestations of sectarianism, criminality and warlordism? What other nations should we police? 

(Jo Becker and Christopher Drew, New York Times)

The secret of [Obama's] transformation, which has brought him to the brink of claiming the Democratic presidential nomination, can be described as the politics of maximum unity. He moved from his leftist Hyde Park base to more centrist circles; he forged early alliances with the good-government reform crowd only to be embraced later by the city’s all-powerful Democratic bosses; he railed against pork-barrel politics but engaged in it when needed; and he empathized with the views of his Palestinian friends before adroitly courting the city’s politically potent Jewish community. To broaden his appeal to African-Americans, Mr. Obama had to assiduously court older black leaders entrenched in Chicago’s ward politics while selling himself as a young, multicultural bridge to the wider political world... An untraditional politician who at times uses traditional political tactics, Mr. Obama, 46, was portrayed in dozens of interviews with political leaders and longtime associates in Chicago as the ultimate pragmatist, a deliberate thinker who fashions carefully nuanced positions that manage to win him support from people with divergent views.

(Michael Crowley, New Republic)

The Clintons find themselves victimized and under siege. The presidency is being stolen from them. The press is out to get them. They deride elites and champion the masses. They live in a constant state of emergency. But they will endure any humiliation, ride out any crisis, fight on even when fighting seems hopeless. That might sound like a fair summary of how Bill and Hillary Clinton have viewed the past five months. But it also happens to describe what, until now, was the greatest ordeal of the Clintons' almost comically turbulent political careers: impeachment. That baroque saga hardened the Clintonian worldview about politics and helps to explain their approach to this brutal campaign season. The Clintons have been here before, you see. They're being impeached all over again.

(Kenneth P. Vogel, Politico)

There’s a motivational shift afoot in Hillary nation. The legions of Hillary Rodham Clinton backers still investing their cash, energy and emotion into her faltering bid for the Democratic presidential nomination seem driven not by the reasonable expectation that she can beat Barack Obama, but by the emotional desire to see her through to the end of voting and stick it to those who have already written her off. Clinton’s campaign is fanning the flames of that backlash — against the media, against superdelegates who recently backed Obama and against Obama himself. Aides hope to convert the sentiments into protest votes that could deliver landslide victories in West Virginia and Kentucky, Clinton strongholds that are among the next three states to cast ballots.  

(Robert Novak)

An element of the Christian community is not reconciled to McCain's candidacy but instead regards the prospective presidency of Barack Obama in the nature of a Biblical plague visited upon a sinful people. These militants look at former Baptist preacher Huckabee as "God's candidate" running for president in 2012. Whether they can be written off as merely a troublesome fringe group depends on Huckabee's course. Huckabee's announced support of McCain is unequivocal, and he is regarded in the McCain camp as a friend and ally. But credible activists are spreading the word that Huckabee secretly allies himself with the bitter-end opposition. That hardly seems possible considering his public backing, but critics of Huckabee's 10 years as governor of Arkansas say he is all too capable of playing a double game.

(Anne E. Kornblut, Washington Post)

Clinton aides continued to insist that she will remain in the race even while confirming that she is $20 million in debt. "The voters are going to decide this," senior adviser Howard Wolfson said on "Fox News Sunday," acknowledging the $20 million figure. "There is no reason for her not to continue this process." Wolfson said he has seen "no evidence of her interest" in pursuing the second-place spot on the Democratic ticket, contrary to rumors that she is staying in the race to leverage a bid for the vice presidential nomination. 

(Ben Smith and Avi Zenilman, Politico)

In February, as Obama amassed delegates despite losing big states, the shape of the race became clear: The name of the game was delegates. It was the game Berman and a friend, Obama campaign manager David Plouffe, had been playing all along. And as Clinton’s staff scrambled after Super Tuesday to remake her strategy to meet that reality, it began to become clear that Berman had helped build Obama a lead too big to surmount. “He is the unsung hero of the Obama effort,” said Steve Elmendorf, a Democratic consultant who supports Clinton. The bearded, no-profile 50-year-old lawyer’s central role in Obama’s likely nomination is emblematic of the depth of Obama’s preparation for the 2008 campaign. Clinton’s delegate chief is the much-heralded, oft-profiled, tough-talking past master of the party’s rules, Harold Ickes. But Ickes had a broad portfolio that included fundraising and politicking, a lobbying and consulting business, and a sideline in bitter infighting — all conducted while Berman was concentrating solely on tasks such as hashing out the details of the mixed Texas primary system and arranging obscure Puerto Rican political deals.