By Daniel Politi, Today’s Papers
The Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, and New York Times lead, while the Wall Street Journal tops its world-wide newsbox, with word that Hillary Clinton will end her campaign on Saturday and endorse Barack Obama. Clinton made her decision after a day of talking to supporters and Democratic leaders who urged her to back down for the sake of party unity. Even some of her strongest backers expressed frustration at Clinton’s stated desire to wait before making a decision on how to proceed. “We pledged to support her to the end,” Rep. Charles B. Rangel of New York, who has been a staunch supporter of Clinton, said. “Our problem is not being able to determine when the hell the end is.” Meanwhile, some prominent Clinton supporters, apparently with her backing, have begun a campaign to urge Obama to pick the former first lady as his running mate.
The LAT highlights that Clinton now “has several options.” She could release all her delegates to Obama and drop out entirely or simply choose to suspend her candidacy and keep control of her delegates, “maintaining her political leverage until the Democratic National Convention in August.” The NYT and WP make it seem as though the decision has already been made and state that Clinton will suspend her candidacy, which, as the NYT helpfully explains, would allow her to keep on raising money to pay off the huge debt she has amassed in the past few months. Technicalities aside, everyone makes clear that Clinton was left with little choice yesterday as the few voices who urged Democrats to be patient were drowned out by party leaders who sent not-so-subtle signals that it’s time to move on.
As one campaign comes to an end, another is just beginning. Robert Johnson, the founder of Black Entertainment Television, announced yesterday that he is starting a so-called “dream ticket” campaign to urge party leaders to pressure Obama to pick Clinton as his running mate. Johnson said Clinton is “absolutely ready” to talk to Obama about it. Of course, that’s being done in the name of party unity as well. But most are skeptical about the possibility. The WSJ says Obama’s aides are suggesting that “an Obama-Clinton ticket is highly unlikely,” while the WP says that inside the Obama campaign “there is a distinct coolness to the idea.” Why? Two words: Bill Clinton. Sure, selecting Clinton as a running mate could dilute Obama’s message of bringing change to Washington, but figuring out what role the former president would play seems to be the biggest obstacle.
Obama tried to move on from all this “dream ticket” talk by announcing his three-member vice-presidential search committee, which will include Caroline Kennedy. But all the pressure heaped on Clinton to drop out, plus all the vice-presidential talk, meant that “the day after Obama sealed his victory felt like many before it,” with pundits wondering when Clinton would drop out, notes the LAT. The NYT reports that due to all this talk about Clinton, aides said Obama would “move slowly” in his search for a running mate. But the WP talks to supporters who say he needs to be more aggressive to take the spotlight away from Clinton by leaking the names of some prospects and perhaps even holding a meeting with a few of the people he’s considering for the No. 2 spot on the ticket.
In another example of how Obama spent the day mostly reacting to news rather than making it, John McCain “put his opponent on the spot” (WP) by formally proposing that the two candidates hold a series of town-hall meetings this summer. Obama’s campaign responded favorably to the idea, although it emphasized that the presumptive Democratic nominee would prefer “a less structured” format than what McCain has proposed.
Obama’s big event yesterday was an appearance before the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, but even there he had to share the stage with Clinton. In her remarks before members of the prominent Jewish lobby group, Clinton didn’t acknowledge Obama’s victory but praised the senator from Illinois and assured the audience that Obama “will be a good friend to Israel.” The NYT highlights that in his speech at AIPAC, Obama moved a bit “to the right” and “described a far tougher series of sanctions he would be willing to impose on Iran than he had outlined heretofore.” Obama received numerous standing ovations, but the WSJ points out that McCain enjoyed a similar response when he addressed the group.
The WP‘s Dana Milbank says Obama’s speech showed how “a mere 12 hours” after claiming the nomination, the senator from Illinois had “changed himself into an Israel hard-liner.” The change, which was “mostly in tone, but occasionally in substance,” was a central part of Obama’s effort to get Jewish-Americans, a key constituency, on his side. “As a pandering performance, it was the full Monty by a candidate who, during the primary, had positioned himself to Hillary Clinton’s left on matters such as Iran.”
In another development that might cause Obama a few headaches, all the papers go inside with news that Antoin Rezko, a longtime fundraiser of the senator from Illinois, was convicted of 16 corruption-related charges, including fraud and bribery. There’s no evidence that Obama was involved in any wrongdoing, but Republican operatives made it clear yesterday they plan to bring up the conviction during the campaign in order to raise questions about his judgment.
The WP‘s David Broder writes that after all his early success, “Obama limped into the nomination as a vulnerable and somewhat diminished politician.” Obama must now work quickly to “stop retreating and regain the initiative,” and the first step in that process is to be clear that he has the duty to choose his own running mate and won’t bow to pressure from Clinton supporters. “This is the big-time decision that could define a leader and lead to victory.”