The primary battle heats up ahead of the Super Tuesday vote

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
Feb. 3 2008 5:39 AM

Super Troopers

Super Tuesday is almost upon us, and the papers are giving it all they've got. The Washington Postleads with a new poll that puts Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama neck-and-neck in the battle for the Democratic nomination. The New York Times gives its top spot to an analysis of the candidates intensive—and expensive—last-minute advertising, while the Los Angeles Times leads with a look at the California primary.

With two days to go until the biggest primary polling event in U.S. history, the latest national poll shows 47 percent of likely voters supporting Hillary Clinton and 43 percent backing Barack Obama. Given the four-point margin of error, that's essentially a dead heat, suggesting that neither candidate benefited decisively from John Edwards' withdrawal. In the GOP camp, John McCain has a clear advantage: He's got the backing of 48 percent of likely voters, leading Mitt Romney by 24 points. Of course, as the Post points out, pollsters have been getting things wrong fairly consistently so far this election cycle.

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The Democratic rivals have unleashed a $19 million advertising blitz ahead of Tuesday's vote, reports the NYT,covering nearly all of the 22 states where delegates are up for grabs and massively outspending their Republican counterparts. The surge speaks not just to the Democratic hopefuls' fund-raising success, but also to the parties' differing rules: With the Democrats assigning delegates proportionally across the board, it makes sense for candidates to work hard even in states where they're unlikely to win the popular vote.

That explains, in part, the importance of the Californian primary: It's the biggest prize of all, and both Democratic candidates hope to do well. The LAT notes that while the race could be close, Clinton has had the edge in most polls. Either way, results will be slow coming in: Officials say that up to one-fifth of ballots could remain uncounted on Dlection Day. The Post sees Berkeley's crunchy-granola liberals leaning toward Obama, while blue-collar workers favor Clinton; the NYT notes that the Golden State will also vote on a swathe of important financial measures.

Elsewhere, the NYT and the Post give overviews of the candidates' state-by-state campaigns. The NYT also looks across the Hudson to New Jersey, where Clinton's brand recognition should serve her well; still, many of the Garden State's working-class whites seem lukewarm about her campaign. The Post eyes New Mexico, where Obama has gained ground but is struggling to overcome Hillary's Hispanic advantage, and Missouri, where the African-American vote may prove decisive.

The Post considers the ideological questions raised by John McCain's candidacy—and notes that his resurgence could dash the presidential hopes of New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg, who'd been mulling a campaign targeting independent voters. In the NYT, Michael Oreskes argues that McCain and Obama tap into unease over political partisanship; that's good enough for the LAT, which today endorses both candidates. In the Post, former Bush aide Peter Wehner also ponders Obama's crossover appeal, concluding that while the Illinois senator is better than Clinton, he's still a liberal at heart.

Despite the proximity of the primary vote, the rest of the world apparently continues to exist. The NYT fronts a look at Iran's increasingly frail economy: In the midst of a bitingly cold winter, many Iranians have been left without electricity or gas for weeks at a time, prompting calls for the government to tone down its anti-Western rhetoric and focus on domestic concerns.

In Chad, a rebel army yesterday launched a surprise assault on the country's capital, N'Djamena; the NYT reports that government spokesmen insisted that the situation was under control. The Post notes that the fighters approached from the direction of the Sudanese border, prompting some Chadians to accuse to the Sudanese government of supporting the attack.

An Egyptian chemicals expert with ties to al-Qaida was not, as previously thought, killed by a U.S. air strike in Pakistan in 2006; the LAT reports that intelligence officials now believe Abu Khabab Masri is alive and well, and may be seeking to develop chemical toxins for use in terrorist attacks.

The Post and the NYT report that French President Nicolas Sarkozy has tied the knot with singer-supermodel (and self-described "tamer of men") Carla Bruni. As Sarkozy had predicted, the media only found out about the wedding once it was over.

Back home, there's good news for couch potatoes: The LAT reports that Hollywood's striking writers may finally be close to agreeing to a deal with the studios. Still, the Post says, it'll take weeks to get benched TV shows back on the air.

In the meantime, you can always try the sports channels: Today is Superbowl Sunday, and the Patriots are just a game away from a perfect season. To get there, they'll have to beat the Giants—who, as the NYT notes, may be losers, but at least have a welcoming locker room. The Post does its best to spoil the party with a bleak look at the life of injured NFL retirees, who often struggle with lingering health problems and massive medical bills.

Ben Whitford writes for the Guardian, Mother Jones and Newsweek.

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