Election '08: Clintons Make It Rain!

This week’s big story in Presidential politics continues to revolve around the Clinton-Obama battle as cries for Hillary to exit the race become louder and louder. As it stands on paper, Obama holds a slight lead against Hillary in elected delegates and popular votes; and, while Hillary still holds the lead in super delegates, Obama is narrowing the gap, taking 40+ SDs in the last couple of weeks. One of these includes the important endorsement of Sen. Bob Casey from Pennsylvania. I’ve previously discussed how Hillary’s chances of gaining the nomination are becoming more and more slight, and this week has seen those chances get even smaller as two more leaks have sprung in Clinton’s campaign.

The first hole came as Hillary finally responded to critics’ demands that she release her tax returns. This Friday, Hillary released her returns from 2000-2007 and they showed that the Clintons earned a whopping 109 million dollars since they left the White House, almost half through Bill Clinton’s speech tour. It should also be noted that out of that they gave 10 million to charity.

While so far all the returns look on the up and up (still waiting for Bill to release the donor list to his Foundation however), there is a question of whether her wealth will alienate her from her so-called “beer track” constituents, the working class, who’s support she desperately needs if she has any hope of winning the nomination.

The second hole emerged today as long time Clinton supporter and chief strategist of Hillary’s campaign, Mark Penn, resigned his post (he will still remain Clinton’s chief pollster), because of conflicts between the campaign and his lobbying job. While there is no law that says one cannot be a lobbyist and work on a presidential campaign, there has been, both in and out of the Clinton campaign, a negative attitude towards Penn who’s seen as having a complete conflict of interest.

This conflict came to light Thursday when the Wall Street Journal reported that Penn met with members of the Columbian government to sell trade agreements with the United States. Hillary has stated that she is opposed to such agreements. Penn’s name has always been known to insiders, but now that this has come to light he’s become a public liability to the Clinton campaign, rather than a mere beltway gaffe.

In the battleground state of Pennsylvania, a must win for Hillary, Obama continues to close the gap. Last Tuesday Rasmussen had her by 5 points and now, according to the American Research Group, the race is now in a statistical dead heat. Hillary must win by around 10 to continue her race, and make the argument that she is a viable contender. Today, Obama happens to be in Montana campaigning. This might seem strange considering how important Pennsylvania is, but Obama is probably aware that Hillary does better when she’s losing. For example, Hillary beat the polls in her last minute win in New Hampshire after Obama took Iowa.

Much like a basketball team that’s winning a game in the fourth quarter will run down the clock to take the last shot, Obama knows that as long as he can keep it close he can run into the state in the last week to try for the W. And even if he doesn’t get it a close win for Hillary will still be her loss. Right now all the pressure is on the former first lady, but we wonder if heart will be enough to take her across the finish line.

As far as John McCain, he has again enjoyed another week of media-free scrutiny. Moving from his Middle East tour, the Arizona Senator spent the majority of the week exploring his heritage and past, taking time to go to his former prep school to discuss honor. He also made the surprising stop at the Lorraine Motel, where Dr. Martin Luther King was shot to pay his respects and to apologize for voting against King’s Holiday, saying that he was, “slow…to give greatness it’s due.” His apology was met with both applause and jeers.

Before I exit there’s one more important issue in American politics that needs to be addressed. It doesn’t have to do with the election but it probably is the most important story out of Washington this week. On Thursday a second memo drafted by John Yoo (called Yoo II), former member of the US Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel and one of the creators of American’s torture policy, was released.

Why is this important? Because it outlines the various methods that the White House’s legal team used to circumvent the law and then make those circumventions classified when they never should have been. Over at Harper’s Magazine, Scott Horton has links to the memo and a great outlining of the entire situation. It is well worth the read.

Things to look forward to this week: More Pennsylvania as the primary is only two weeks away. Expect an Obama surrogate to place more emphasis on the Mark Penn-Columbia scandal. The proposed CBS debate will be placed on hold by the Obama campaign until after the results are in from PA. Should Hillary exceed the 10 point mark they will have it, otherwise it’s dead in the water. McCain will probably have yet another week of criticism free coverage.