A round-up of this morning's must-read stories.
CANDIDATES SCRAMBLING FROM COAST TO COAST
(Michael Finnegan, Maeve Reston and Seema Mehta, Los Angeles Times)
Republican presidential candidates jousted over conservative purity Sunday as they raced across the South, the Midwest and New England in a late scramble before the Super Tuesday contests that could settle the party nomination. With polls suggesting that Republican voters were consolidating behind John McCain, the Arizona senator made a foray into former Gov. Mitt Romney's home state of Massachusetts. He greeted New England Patriots fans in a Boston tavern just before the team's Super Bowl kickoff and spoke openly of his plans for the general election. Campaigning in Illinois and Missouri, Romney fought to keep McCain from establishing a sense of inevitability. He urged Republicans to pick a nominee with stronger conservative credentials, describing McCain as 'indistinguishable from Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama' on immigration, the environment and taxes.
CLINTON BRACED FOR A MARATHON STRUGGLE
(Edward Luce and Harvey Morris, Financial Times)
In the space of a fortnight, Mrs. Clinton's national lead over Mr. Obama ... has been reduced from a 20-point margin to a dead heat, according to the latest opinion polls from Gallup and Reuters. Some show that Mrs. Clinton's commanding lead in California ... has also been sharply cut, despite her strength among Hispanic voters. ... Until recently the Clinton camp saw February 5 as the day she would clinch the nomination. Now, as one official said, it is simply another move in a 'three-dimensional game of chess' that could continue for weeks, if not months.
DEMOCRATS FLOOD STATES WITH ADS AS TUESDAY NEARS
(Adam Nagourney, New York Times)
Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton have unleashed advertisements in nearly all the 22 states that have Democratic presidential nominating contests on Tuesday, a combined $19 million expenditure that is the most ambitious and geographically expansive television effort in a presidential primary. On the Republican side, Senator John McCain and Mitt Romney have a far more restrained advertising effort that started just this weekend and is focusing on a handful of states and national cable television.
MORE: Clinton, Obama Run Up the Miles to Gain an Edge (Washington Post)
IS HILLARY CLINTON'S POPULARITY WITH HISPANICS THE KEY TO SUPER TUESDAY?
(John Heilemann, New York)
The importance of the Hispanic vote on February 5 can’t be overstated. Of the 22 states holding primaries or caucuses that day, there are seven in which Latinos make up more than 10 percent of the population. In 2006, they accounted for 19 percent of the vote in California, 10 percent in Illinois, 9 percent in New Jersey, and 7 percent in New York—the four biggest prizes in terms of delegates on Tuesday... From Hillary Clinton’s point of view, this is terrific news. In Nevada, the one state so far where Hispanics have been a major factor, she whupped Obama among those voters by a margin of 64 to 26. According to an L.A. Times/CNN/Politico poll this week, she holds a two-to-one advantage among Latinos in California. Polls in other heavily Hispanic states show a similar spread.
(Hendrik Hertzberg, The New Yorker)
Obama’s Democratic critics worry that his soaring rhetoric of reconciliation is naïve. But, as Mark Schmitt has argued in The American Prospect, Obama’s national-unity pitch should be viewed as a tactic as well as an ideal. It might lengthen his coattails, helping Democratic candidates for the House and the Senate in marginally red districts and states. It would not protect him from attack, of course, but it would enable him to fire back from the high ground. And, as a new President elected with a not quite filibuster-proof Senate, he would be in a better position to peel off the handful of Republican senators he would need to make meaningful legislative progress than someone who started from a defensive crouch. Hillary Clinton would make a competent, knowledgeable, and responsible President. Barack Obama just might make a transformative one.
ROMNEY'S LAST STAND
(Jonathan Martin, Politico)
Mitt Romney’s campaign aides know that time and perception are conspiring against them. But they say that there is a path on Super Tuesday that will at least keep them in the race. Romney’s political survival hangs on two interconnected factors. First, and perhaps most important, is fear of John McCain... The Romney camp is also counting on its strategic plan for Super Tuesday.
MORE MITT: Romney View Maine Win as Sign of Things to Come (USA Today)
GOP SENATORS REASSESS VIEWS ABOUT MCCAIN
(Paul Kane, Washington Post)
Many Senate Republicans, even those who have jousted with McCain in the past, say their reassessment is underway. Sensing the increasing likelihood that he will be the nominee, GOP senators who have publicly fought with him are emphasizing his war-hero background and playing down past confrontations... But others have outright rejected the idea of a McCain nomination and presidency, warning that his tirades suggest a temperament unfit for the Oval Office.
LONGSHOT RON PAUL FINDS A HOTBED OF SUPPORT IN ALASKA
(Vauhini Vara, Wall Street Journal)
Some of his more radical ideas, like abolishing taxes and letting people carry firearms in national parks, have kept him from rising above fringe status in most states. In Alaska, where residents don't pay state income tax and often own guns for hunting and protection, his message has a more concentrated appeal.
HUCKABEE REJECTS SPOILER ROLE, VOWS TO CONTINUE RACE
(Perry Bacon, Jr., Washington Post)
Facing heat from backers of Mitt Romney, who say his continued presence in the race for the GOP nomination will hand that prize to Sen. John McCain, Mike Huckabee is not standing down. Desperate to stay relevant in this contest, the former Arkansas governor is instead dialing up his attacks on Romney and largely ignoring McCain, even though the latter has emerged as the clear GOP front-runner heading into Super Tuesday.
OBAMA, CULTIVATING CALIFORNIA SPIRIT, EASES CLINTON'S GRIP ON STATE
(John Harwood, New York Times)
In the iconography of American politics, California more than anyplace is where candidates, in Mario M. Cuomo’s words, “campaign in poetry.” Odes to the state’s embrace of youth, change and possibility linger in Democratic presidential lore. Like Robert F. Kennedy, George McGovern and Gary Hart in races past, Senator Barack Obama has embraced that imagery in his effort to upset Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton in the Democratic primary here Tuesday, a prize that polls over the weekend suggested was suddenly within his reach. “California has always represented the future in this country,” Mr. Obama, of Illinois, said here. “I’ve got a little piece of California in me.” Yet something more prosaic — the reality of today’s California, with its sagging economy and complex political process — may determine whether he can win the biggest battle of Tuesday’s showdown between the two remaining candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination.
IN HEALTH DEBATE, CLINTON REMAINS VAGUE ON PENALTIES
(Kevin Sack, New York Times)
Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton inched closer Sunday to explaining how she would enforce her proposal that everyone have health insurance, but declined to specify — as she has throughout the campaign — how she would penalize those who refuse... What might seem a mundane debate over health policy has taken on outsized importance in the approach to Tuesday’s voting because it is one of the few substantive differences between the two leading Democratic presidential candidates.
NEW JERSEY FINDS ITSELF AN UNLIKELY POLITICAL BATTLEGROUND
(Louise Roug Bokkenheuser, Los Angeles Times)
Despite the 127 delegates at stake, the campaigns only had a handful of offices in the state until a few weeks ago, according to New Jersey representatives for both campaigns. Now, in the days leading up to Super Tuesday, the race has narrowed considerably here, prompting supporters of both candidates to scramble for votes and resources. Obama plans to appear in New Jersey today, a last-minute visit highlighting the state's importance. A win here by the Illinois senator -- even a strong showing -- would be a setback for the senator next door, observers said.