Today's Papers

A Boost for Obama

Everyone leads with reports from South Carolina, where Barack Obama scored a resounding victory in yesterday’s Democratic primary. Obama won about 55 percent of the total vote, thanks to overwhelming support from black voters; Hillary Clinton trailed on 27 percent, while John Edwards came in a distant third. The New York Times argues that the win puts Obama back on level footing with Clinton in the run-up to coast-to-coast voting on Feb. 5; the Washington Post agrees, noting that Obama’s margin of victory was far higher than anyone had anticipated.

The Los Angeles Timesbemoans the racially charged campaigning that preceded the vote; the results also prompted questions about Obama’s ability to make good on his message of unity. While he netted four-fifths of the black vote in South Carolina, Obama won the backing of only a quarter of white voters—and as the Post notes, that polarization could allow his opponents to cast his appeal in narrower terms than he would like.

Still, the LAT reports that black voters remain confident that Obama won’t prove merely another Jesse Jackson; and as the NYT points out, the results also raised some awkward questions for Hillary Clinton. Chief among them: Has her campaign’s increasing reliance on Bill Clinton backfired? On the NYT’s op-ed page, Frankie Rich savages the Clintons’ two-for-one strategy, arguing that if Hillary wins the nomination it could provide an easy target for the eventual GOP candidate.

Both the Post and the NYT note that Edwards’ disappointing showing casts doubt on the viability of his candidacy; one of his aides admitted that he had struggled to make himself heard in the face of his rivals’ celebrity. In a lengthy editorial weighing the candidates’ merits, the Post dismisses Edwards as “unpersuasive” and lacking “evidence of presidential stature.”

All eyes now turn to Tuesday’s Republican primary in Florida, where tempers are already fraying. The Post fronts, and the NYT reefers, news of John McCain’s latest attack on Mitt Romney: The senator accused his rival of of having wanted to withdraw from Iraq, and likened his approach to that of Hillary Clinton. Romney demanded an apology, calling the remarks “dishonest” and “simply wrong.”

The man with the most at stake in Florida, though, is Rudy Giuliani; the NYT eyes his attempts to rekindle his campaign. One glimmer of hope: Early balloting rates are high across the state, perhaps boding well for Giuliani’s attempt to win over early-bird voters before losses in other states raised questions about his viability. Maureen Dowd, meanwhile, mourns the former mayor’s failure to indulge his melodramatic streak: “I simply expected that Rudy would rise to greater heights as he fell behind, that he would self-immolate in a dramatic way befitting a man who loves opera and the Godfather movies.”

In other news, the NYT fronts word that America’s two most senior intelligence officials traveled secretly to Pakistan earlier this month, hoping to persuade President Pervez Musharraf to allow the CIA greater freedom to operate in areas where al-Qaida and the Taliban are still active. The Pakistani leader rebuffed the proposals; the two countries will instead seek to improve surveillance and communication channels. Meanwhile, a former Pakistani interior minister said that security forces were failing to tackle insurgents in the northwest of the country, and warned that some areas faced “total Talibanization.”

Everyone reports on violence in Kenya, where clashes in the previously calm western city of Nakuru left at least 27 people dead. The LAT reports that tensions following last month’s disputed presidential vote appear to have spiraled into tit-for-tat tribal attacks, with hundreds of homes torched and dozens of people maimed with machetes. The Post reports that the army has been deployed to pacify the region, but the NYT says the city is still effectively under mob rule.

An American aid worker was abducted by gunmen yesterday morning in the Afghan city of Kandahar. Nobody has yet claimed responsibility, but the NYT reports that insurgents and criminal gangs often carry out kidnappings for ransom in the region. Meanwhile, Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai was in Davos this week for the World Economic Forum; the Post snagged a lengthy but not overly substantive interview.

The LAT fronts an interview with Russia’s “most notorious international outlaw”: Andrei Lugovoy, the prime suspect in the 2006 radioactive poisoning of a former Russian spy in London. “I don’t agree that the Cold War is back,” says the former KGB agent, whose notoriety recently earned him a seat in the Russian parliament. “It has never ended.”

Indonesia’s former President Suharto, a brutal dictator but a Cold War ally of the United States, died late last night, reports the LAT. The news broke too late for the NYT, which instead ran a piece eying Suharto’s fight for life; many Indonesians believed mystic forces were keeping their former leader alive.

Away from the A-sections, the NYTMagazine leads with a look at the end of American hegemony, arguing that 21st-century geopolitics will be defined by “a global, multicivilizational, multipolar battle” between a new Big Three: the United States, Europe, and China. The Post also tackles the question of America’s place in the world, reviewing John Bolton and Strobe Talbott’s new books on diplomacy and global governance.