Big Day or Non-Event?

By Howard Kurtz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, February 19, 2008; 8:28 AM

Has the press been snookered on today's Wisconsin primary?

Barack Obama's campaign manager spent time yesterday trying to convince reporters that of course Hillary Clinton can win the state. And he has a valid point. Pre-election polls either show Obama leading by a few points or, in one case, show HRC ahead.

So why hasn't there been a drumbeat in recent days about who's going to win Wisconsin? Answer: because Hillary's team declared preemptive defeat a week ago and said it would make its stand in Ohio and Texas on March 4.

Somehow, we all went along with that, even though Wisconsin is a state where she should be competitive: not a caucus state, not a red state, not a state with a huge black population, but one with a substantial number of blue-collar workers.

In the call yesterday, Obama campaign chief David Plouffe practically sounded like a Hillary cheerleader, saying Wisconsin "should tilt in their favor" and "they're contesting it ferociously," including a doubling of the ad buy on Friday. "The Clinton campaign clearly thinks it can pull out a win there," he said.

At the same moment, the Hillary team was holding its own conference call, trying to push the notion that Obama had lifted some language from another politician--namely, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick. Oddly enough, both men had quoted Martin Luther King Jr. to make the point that words matter.

A Joe Biden moment?

"Since last year," says ABC's Jake Tapper in a post Sunday, "observers have been noting that rhetorical similarities between the two candidates with vaguely similar biographies and campaign pitches -- who also share political guru David Axelrod. 'It's a handoff,' Axelrod explains in an email. 'They're friends and allies. They share a view of politics and often riff off of each other.'"

Deval Patrick isn't complaining: "'Who knows who I am? The point is more important than whose argument it is,' said Mr. Patrick, who telephoned the New York Times at the request of the Obama campaign. 'It's a transcendent argument.' "

During the dueling conference calls, I got an e-mail from Obama's press guy titled "if you're on the Clinton call right now . . . " He cited examples of Hillary allegedly lifting phrases from Barack.

The New Republic's Noam Scheiber isn't buying:

"I find it a little strange that the Clinton campaign would be pushing this allegation. As I noted back in November, you can't listen to a Clinton speech without hearing multiple riffs she's filched from other candidates."

CONTINUED     1              >

© 2008 The Washington Post Company