The Washington Postleads with, and almost everyone else fronts, a look at how Sen. Barack Obama is working toward being able to claim victory after the last two primaries today, while Sen. Hillary Clinton is deciding what to do next. Obama’s campaign is trying to get undecided superdelegates to his side as soon as the polls close tomorrow, but it’s unclear whether he’ll officially be able to claim the nomination tonight. The Wall Street Journal leads its world-wide newsbox with word that Obama aides have begun the “awkward” process of wooing several of Clinton’s most important donors and advisers. USA Todayleads with news that Sen. Edward Kennedy is now recovering from what his surgeon called a successful operation to remove a malignant brain tumor. The 76-year-old senator now faces an even tougher challenge as he prepares to undergo follow-up radiation and chemotherapy that could prolong survival. Although Kennedy’s prognosis remains grim, experts say he will likely benefit from groundbreaking research that is finding new ways to increase the survival of patients with brain cancer.
The New York Timesleads with a dispatch from Venezuela that reports on President Hugo Chávez’s moves to overhaul the country’s intelligence agencies. Human rights groups and legal scholars say Chávez is trying to create a Cuba-style nation of informers because people, including judges and prosecutors, are now required to cooperate with Venezuela’s two new intelligence agencies. The Los Angeles Timesleads with the “war” that is currently being fought in Mexico between government forces and drug gangs. Since the crackdown against drug traffickers was launched a year and a half ago, approximately 4,100 people have been killed, including gang members, civilians, and members of the country’s security forces. While officials insist the increased violence is a sign that the drug gangs have been hurt by the crackdown, a majority of Mexicans don’t think the government is winning, and political analysts say the crackdown merely moves violence into different areas of the country while doing little to disband the gangs.
The NYT reports that the Obama campaign says it’s working to get at least eight undecided lawmakers to rally around the Illinois senator tonight. Meanwhile though, Clinton backers are urging uncommitted superdelegates to wait until Wednesday before endorsing Obama. Regardless of what happens tonight after the polls close in South Dakota and Montana, Democratic leaders seem to agree Obama will get enough superdelegates on his side to claim the nomination by the end of the week. And Obama’s victory rally, which will take place at the site of the Republican convention in August, will leave no doubt that he is making the switch from being a primary candidate to his party’s nominee for president.
The biggest unknown as the five-month primary season winds to a close is what Clinton will do, and the WP points out that she “sent mixed signals about her plans throughout the day.” Clinton has invited top fundraisers and supporters to a rally in New York for what the NYT bills as a “farewell speech,” but everyone hears from campaign aides that the move shouldn’t be seen as a sign that the former first lady will withdraw from the contest immediately. Many are pointing to the possibility that Clinton will pursue what aides are calling the “middle option,” which involves suspending the campaign while not withdrawing entirely. The LAT notes that it’d be unrealistic to expect Clinton to withdraw from the contest before Texas Democrats meet on Friday and Saturday to apportion the state’s delegates. But even as she vowed to take her case to the party’s superdelegates, former President Clinton suggested this is all but over. “This may be the last day I’m ever involved in a campaign of this kind,” he said.
The WSJ says that the effort to get Clinton’s big supporters to begin backing Obama is not an official part of his campaign strategy, “but the result of numerous informal conversations among people who have known each other for years.” Still, the Obama campaign knows it will have to approach many of these people directly and is currently working on a list of people who the senator will call personally. Of course, the process is hardly one-sided, as many Clinton aides are trying to position themselves for a spot in Obama’s team. Although some moves seem almost inevitable, bringing in such a large number of people from a former opponent is likely to raise tensions. Even leaving aside the issue of lingering animosity between the two camps, Obama’s advisers could feel offended if they suddenly find themselves “playing second fiddle to better-known figures,” as the WSJ puts it.
Chávez has been quick to label anyone who criticizes the new intelligence law as a supporter of the “empire,” meaning the United States, as well as of the Bush administration and the Patriot Act. The NYT points out that while the new intelligence law “has similar flourishes” to the Patriot Act, it also seems to have been inspired in part by Cuban policies. Most significantly, Venezuela’s use of community groups to help intelligence agencies is similar to the way Cuba uses neighborhood groups to report on activities that are seen as subversive. Legal experts are exploring ways to appeal its implementation, but it’s unclear whether such a challenge would even be possible for a law that was written and passed behind closed doors.
Sen. John McCain yesterday called for a worldwide divestment campaign against Iran that would be modeled on the strategy that pushed South Africa to abandon apartheid, but Obama’s campaign quickly fired back by saying the presumptive Republican nominee had voted against a divestment bill that was sponsored by the senator from Illinois. Meanwhile, USAT notes that the family investments of both senators include mutual funds that have shares in companies doing business in Iran. After the paper raised questions, Obama said he would get rid of his investment. McCain’s campaign said the senator’s wife once had three of these mutual funds but has sold two of them and is looking into what to do about the third.
The NYT fronts a dispatch from Moscow that takes a look at how there’s a Kremlin-created “stop list” that includes the names of government critics who are not allowed to appear on television. If a critic somehow makes it into the taping of a show, as happened once last fall, he or she could be digitally erased before it airs. Government officials deny such a list exists, but it’s clear that network executives know who they can and can’t invite into their shows. The result is that now it’s pretty much impossible to find anyone speaking critically, or even satirically, of the government on Russian television.
Just because a fire destroyed a huge chunk of Universal Studios doesn’t mean the show has to stop. It is Hollywood after all, and both the LAT and NYT report that even as officials were still investigating the fire, about 130 tourists got on the 10 a.m. tram to take a tour of the studio. The guides quickly added words about the fire into their regular routines. “We’re going to take you right up next to the devastated part of our lot and give you a close-up,” a guide said. Besides the effects of Sunday’s fire, visitors were treated to the same old tour that, of course, included lots of controlled fires and explosions as “reality and illusion blended on the lot even more than usual,” notes the LAT. “I think this is how the fire started,” joked one 15-year-old.