On the eve of Super Tuesday, the papers devote lots of inches to the campaigns as the presidential contenders rushed to sway voters before what will effectively be a national primary. USA Todayleads with its most recent national poll, which is the latest to show a tied race on the Democratic side as Sen. Barack Obama has caught up with Sen. Hillary Clinton. Things are looking better for Sen. John McCain, whose support continues to increase and now stands at 42 percent, compared with Mitt Romney's 24 percent and Mike Huckabee's 18 percent. The New York Times also leads with the elections and says the Republican race could effectively be wrapped up tomorrow, a sentiment that is echoed by the Wall Street Journal, which says McCain could be "his party's presumptive nominee" after tomorrow's votes are counted. The Los Angeles Times, which carries a two-story lead on the campaigns, says Romney was fighting hard to "stop McCain from establishing any sense of inevitability."
The Washington Postleads with a report by the Interior Department's inspector general that says the U.S. Park Police is plagued with a variety of problems that have left many national landmarks vulnerable to attack. There aren't enough officers guarding some of the biggest landmarks, and many of the officers suffer from low morale, are underequipped, and often aren't sufficiently trained to deal with problems. When the Park Police chief was asked about the claim that the monuments aren't sufficiently protected, he responded: "They're still standing." USAT goes across the top, and everyone fronts, the Super Bowl, where the New York Giants won 17-14 and ended the dream of an undefeated season for the New England Patriots. TP's favorite headline comes from the Post: "Nobody's Perfect: Giants Pull Off a Super Stunner."
In a move that both the LAT and NYT say was meant to evoke confidence, McCain campaigned in Romney's home state of Massachusetts and was chatting with New England Patriots fans right until the Super Bowl kickoff. Meanwhile, Romney kept on trying to convince Republicans that he is the true conservative in the race and described McCain as "indistinguishable" from the Democratic contenders on several issues. For his part, Huckabee said he would stay in the race and harshly criticized Romney, whose campaign kept repeating that he might be hurt by the former Arkansas governor's refusal to quit running. And while he could hardly hide his contempt for Romney, Huckabee had nothing but nice words about McCain, saying that they both understand that "Mitt has tried to become the nominee by destroying the people around him."
On the Democratic side, Obama gained another big-name endorsement from the Kennedy family as California first lady Maria Shriver appeared at a rally with Michelle Obama, Oprah Winfrey, and Caroline Kennedy. The NYT's Andrew Rosenthal writes in an "editorial observer" column that these "four extraordinary women put on the best campaign rally I've seen in 20 years of covering presidential politics." It was a clear attempt to capitalize on gains that Obama has made in California, where polls show he is tied with Clinton. Former President Clinton was also in Los Angeles, where he campaigned in several African-American churches and emphasized that he understood the dilemma of having to choose between his wife and Obama. He struck a conciliatory tone that many saw as pretty much an apology for his previous remarks about Obama, which had been characterized as racially insensitive.
The WSJ says that regardless of who wins each state tomorrow, most expect that Obama and Clinton will split the delegates and each will come out with around 800. The best Clinton can hope for now is to get the majority of the vote in several of the big states to become "the perceived winner."
USAT's poll shows that regardless of their preferences, people are paying attention to the race. And the LAT notes that this heightened level of interest runs across the globe, where there appears to be agreement that any change from President Bush should be welcomed. If there's one clear trend that the dispatches from the LAT's foreign correspondents make clear is that there is barely any interest on the Republican side of the race as the world seems focused on the idea that Americans could elect the first woman or African-American president.
The WP fronts its latest poll that is another illustration of just how much of a role the economy is likely to play in the presidential race. More than eight in 10 people ranked the economy as "not so good" or "poor" and the majority believe the country has already entered into a recession. Most Americans also aren't confident that the stimulus package currently making its way through Congress will improve the situation.
While concerns about the economy have clearly overtaken Iraq, the WSJ says on Page One that interest in the war could grow again as the costs continue to increase. The budget that the White House will propose today will call for $515 billion for the Pentagon, which is the highest level, adjusted for inflation, since World War II. With the heightened fears of a recession, Democrats think more people will begin to pay attention to how much the war has cost and they'll be able to use the rising costs against the president and other Republican politicians.
In other Iraq news, the papers point out that the U.S. military accidentally killed nine people in an airstrike south of Baghdad. At least some of the victims were members of the predominantly Sunni Arab security forces known as the Concerned Local Citizens.
The NYT and LAT front a look at how Google has spoken up against Microsoft's bid for Yahoo! in its official company blog. "Could Microsoft now attempt to exert the same sort of inappropriate and illegal influence over the Internet that it did with the PC?" wrote a Google vice president. The NYT sees it as the clearest sign that Google will work to prevent, or at least delay, a deal. The LAT points out that as Google has continued to grow in size and stature, Silicon Valley dwellers no longer see Microsoft as an evil company that must be stopped at all costs.
Sure, the game was exciting, but how about the ads? The NYT notes many of the commercials "took a satiric tack," which "was a welcome contrast to the angry, off-putting tenor of too many spots in last year's Super Bowl." USAT's Ad Meter declares Anheuser-Busch as the winner for the 10th consecutive year with its ad featuring a Dalmatian and a horse (watch it here) and ranks FedEx's giant pigeons commercial in second place (video is here). The WSJ also points to the Dalmatian ad and says another big winner was the Coca-Cola commercial featuring balloons from the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade (available here). The WP's Tom Shales declares Careerbuilder.com as the big loser with the night's two worst ads.