Today on the presidential campaign trail

May 16, 2008 11:11:35 AM PDT
IN THE HEADLINES Democrats say McCain was willing to negotiate with Hamas ... After GOP stumbles in the South, Obama warns Republicans about critical ads ... Democratic Party panel members show little interest in Clinton's call to seat disputed delegates ... Obama picks up endorsements from former Edwards delegate, California congressman Democrats accuse McCain of hypocrisy on Hamas WASHINGTON (AP) - Democrats accused John McCain Friday of hypocrisy on the question of whether the United States should negotiate with terrorists and dictators, saying the certain Republican nominee had previously been willing to negotiate with the militant Palestinian group Hamas.

In an op-ed published Friday in The Washington Post, former Clinton State Department official James Rubin said that McCain, responding to a question in a television interview two years ago about whether U.S. diplomats should be working with the Hamas government in Gaza, said: "They're the government; sooner or later we are going to have to deal with them, one way or another, and I understand why this administration and previous administrations had such antipathy toward Hamas because of their dedication to violence and the things that they not only espouse but practice, so ... But it's a new reality in the Middle East. I think the lesson is people want security and a decent life and decent future, that they want democracy. Fatah was not giving them that."

Rubin, who interviewed McCain for the British network Sky News, said McCain is "guilty of hypocrisy" and accused him of "smearing" Democrat Barack Obama. On Thursday, McCain suggested that Obama was naive and inexperienced for expressing a willingness to meet with rogue leaders like Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

McCain campaign spokesman Tucker Bounds said Friday that McCain has long said he would impose preconditions before meeting with Hamas or other radical groups and leaders.

--- Florida, Michigan cannot save Clinton WASHINGTON (AP) - Michigan and Florida alone can't save Hillary Rodham Clinton's campaign.

Interviews with those considering how to handle the two states' banished convention delegates found little interest in the former first lady's best-case scenario. Her position, part of a formidable comeback challenge, is that all the delegates be seated in accordance with their disputed primaries.

Even if they were, it wouldn't erase Barack Obama's growing lead in delegates.

The Democratic Party's Rules and Bylaws Committee, a 30-member panel charged with interpreting and enforcing party rules, is scheduled to meet May 31 to consider how to handle Michigan and Florida's 368 delegates.

Last year, the panel imposed the harshest punishment it could render against the two states after they scheduled primaries in January, even though they were instructed not to vote until Feb. 5 or later. Michigan and Florida lost all their delegates to the national convention, and all the Democratic candidates agreed not to campaign in the two states, stripping them of all the influence they were trying to build by voting early.

But now there is agreement on all sides that at least some of the delegates should be restored in a gesture of party unity and respect to voters in two general election battlegrounds.

Clinton has been arguing for full reinstatement, which would boost her standing. She won both states, even though they didn't count toward the nomination and neither candidate campaigned in them. Obama even had his name pulled from Michigan's ballot.

The Associated Press interviewed a third of the panel members and several other Democrats involved in the negotiations and found widespread agreement that the states must be punished for stepping out of line. If not, many members say, other states will do the same thing in four years.

--- Obama warns GOP about critical ads CHICAGO (AP) - Perhaps no one took greater comfort in the Republican Party's third straight loss of a long-held House seat this week than Barack Obama, who says the results point to clear limits in the effectiveness of attack ads he expects this fall.

The Democratic presidential candidate played a prominent role in all three special elections to fill vacant GOP seats, and he landed on the winning side each time.

In recent contests in Louisiana and Mississippi, Republicans or their allies ran TV ads linking the Democratic House nominees to Obama, warning that a vote for them was a tacit endorsement of Obama's agenda, which the ads described as very liberal. In Mississippi, ads against Democrat Travis Childers also tied him to Obama's former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, and to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.

The efforts failed, putting Democrats in House seats the GOP had considered safe, and sending waves of panic through Republican circles nationwide.

--- Obama picks up six delegates WASHINGTON (AP) - Barack Obama picked up endorsements Friday from a California congressman and two former John Edwards delegates from South Carolina as he closes in on the Democratic presidential nomination.

Obama has now added nine of the 19 delegates Edwards won before he dropped out of the race.

"He's inspired millions of young people to register to vote and join the ranks of our Democratic Party, he's consistently opposed the war, he advocates universal health care, and he delivers a message that transcends party politics at the same time," Rep. Pete Stark of California said in a statement announcing his support for Obama.

Obama also added three delegates from the North Carolina primary, which was held last week. The state Board of Elections has been reporting incomplete congressional district results on its Web site for more than a week. But with those delegates to be selected this weekend, the board provided more updated results to the state Democratic party.

The Associated Press had withheld two North Carolina delegates because of the incomplete results. Clinton lost a delegate based on the updated results, but she picked up a California superdelegate who made his choice public Friday after privately endorsing Clinton months ago.

Keith Umemoto of Sacramento told the AP Friday that he has endorsed Clinton.

--- THE DELEGATE BREAKDOWN Barack Obama: 1,904 Hillary Rodham Clinton: 1,718 --- THE DEMOCRATS Hillary Rodham Clinton campaigns in Oregon. Barack Obama meets with voters in South Dakota.

--- THE REPUBLICANS John McCain stops in West Virginia before addressing the National Rifle Association's meeting in Kentucky.

--- QUOTE OF THE DAY: "I'm not touching that one." - John Edwards, former Democratic presidential contender, when asked on CBS' "The Early Show" whether he left the race too early.

--- STAT OF THE DAY: About 45 percent of the statewide Democratic primary vote in Oregon's recent elections has come from the Portland area.