- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 13, 2008

McCain’s chances

“The conventional wisdom is that Republicans start at a serious disadvantage in trying to hold the White House,” John Fund writes at www.opinionjournal.com.

“A still-unpopular war and a softening economy certainly represent challenges. So far, most of the enthusiasm in the primaries has been on the Democratic side, with some 13 million voters casting Democratic ballots and fewer than 9 million picking a GOP one,” Mr. Fund said.

“But despite these obstacles, John McCain will now begin to assemble his fall election team with surprisingly good poll results. The average of all the recent national polls summarized by RealClearPolitics.com show the Arizona senator leading Hillary Clinton by 47 percent to 45 percent and trailing Barack Obama by only 44 percent to 47 percent. Both results are within the statistical margin of error for national polls, so it’s fair to say Mr. McCain starts out with an even chance of winning.

“How could that be? The answer is that the same maverick streak and occasional departures from conservative orthodoxy that make conservatives queasy have the opposite effect on independents and even some Democrats. Mr. McCain’s favorable numbers with independents exceed those of Barack Obama, who has emphasized his desire to work across party lines.”

Pettitte affidavit

Congress may have another Rafael Palmeiro moment on its hands.

A congressional panel has a sworn affidavit from major league baseball pitcher Andy Pettitte that says that then-Yankees teammate Roger Clemens told him nearly 10 years ago that he had used human growth hormone (HGH), the Associated Press reported late last night.

Mr. Pettitte disclosed the conversation to the congressional committee holding hearings today on drug use in baseball, a person familiar with the affidavit told AP on the condition of anonymity because the document had not been made public.

According to the person familiar with the affidavit, who said it was signed Friday night, Mr. Pettitte also said Mr. Clemens backtracked when the subject of HGH came up again in conversation in 2005, before the same House committee held the first hearing on steroids in baseball.

Mr. Pettitte said in the affidavit that he asked Mr. Clemens in 2005 what he would do if asked by the news media about HGH, given his admission years earlier. According to the account told to the AP, the affidavit said Mr. Clemens responded by saying Mr. Pettitte misunderstood the previous exchange in 1999 or 2000 and that, in fact, Clemens had been talking about HGH use by his wife in the original conversation.

“We don’t know what Andy said,” lead Clemens attorney Rusty Hardin said in a statement e-mailed to the AP by his spokesman. “We look forward to hearing tomorrow.”

The report came on the eve of Mr. Clemens’ much-anticipated appearance to testify before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. His former personal trainer, Brian McNamee, is today’s other main witness.

Rendell’s analysis

Pennsylvania Gov.Edward G. Rendell, one of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s most visible supporters, said some white Pennsylvanians are likely to vote against her rival, Sen. Barack Obama, because he is black.

“You’ve got conservative whites here, and I think there are some whites who are probably not ready to vote for an African-American candidate,” Mr. Rendell told the editorial board of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in remarks that appeared in yesterday’s paper.

To buttress his point, Mr. Rendell cited his 2006 re-election campaign, in which he defeated Republican challenger Lynn Swann, the former Pittsburgh Steelers star, by a margin of more than 60 percent to less than 40 percent, the Associated Press reports.

“I believe, looking at the returns in my election, that had Lynn Swann been the identical candidate that he was — well-spoken, charismatic, good-looking — but white instead of black, instead of winning by 22 points, I would have won by 17 or so,” he said. “And that [attitude] exists. But on the other hand, that is counterbalanced by Obama’s ability to bring new voters into the electoral pool.”

Mr. Rendell, chairman of the Democratic National Committee in 2000 and previously Philadelphia’s mayor, endorsed Mrs. Clinton on Jan. 23.

Pennsylvania holds its primary April 22.

Helping McCain

Conservative talk-radio host Rush Limbaugh said yesterday he may actually be Sen. John McCain’s “most valuable asset” in his presidential bid, Alexander Mooney writes at the Political Ticker blog at CNN.com

Commenting on the mainstream news media’s fixation with his feelings about Mr. McCain, Mr. Limbaugh said there may be more to his criticisms than meets the eye.

“If I really wanted to torpedo McCain, I would endorse him,” Mr. Limbaugh said on his radio show. “Because that would send the independents and liberals who are going to vote for him running away faster than anything.”

“What people don’t realize is that I am doing McCain the biggest favor that can be done for him by staying out of this,” he continued. “If I endorsed him thoroughly and with passion, that would end the independents and moderates, because they so despise me, and they so hate me.”

Viva la revolucion?

At least one group of Barack Obama lovers also love Marxist icon Che Guevara and the communist dictatorship of Cuba.

An Obama campaign office in Houston has a big Cuban flag on the wall, with the iconic Guevara image stamped onto the flag, according to a video taken by KRIV-TV in Houston.

When the Obama office spokeswoman, who identified herself as Cuban-American, sat down with KRIV for a follow-up interview, she repeatedly called questions about the Cuban flag “a distraction” and “a waste of time” and said, “I don’t have time to talk about the Cuban flag.”

Mr. Obama declines to wear an American flag pin on his lapel.

According to the Miami Herald, the Obama campaign called the display “inappropriate” and noted that the Houston office was funded and staffed by volunteers and not an official presidential campaign headquarters.

Greg Pierce can be reached at 202/636-3285 or [email protected]

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