Obama breaks another fundraising record and is endorsed by Colin Powell.

Obama breaks another fundraising record and is endorsed by Colin Powell.

Obama breaks another fundraising record and is endorsed by Colin Powell.

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
Oct. 20 2008 6:20 AM

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The New York Times Washington Post Los Angeles Times, and Wall Street Journal's world-wide newsbox lead with twin pieces of good news for Barack Obama's campaign that could go a long way to help the Democratic candidate seal the deal with undecided voters in the final sprint to Election Day. On the same day when former Secretary of State Colin Powell became the highest-profile Republican to endorse Obama, the Democrat's campaign announced that it had raised more than $150 million in September. The staggering sum more than doubled the $66 million Obama collected in August, which, at the time, marked a record for monthly fundraising.

USA Todayfronts the Powell endorsement butleads with a look at how airlines will be offering 11 percent fewer flights this Thanksgiving season compared with last year. This means passengers during the busy season can expect higher fares, packed airplanes, and fewer choices to recover from delays and missed connections.

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On NBC's Meet the Press, Powell described Obama as a "transformational figure" who has "given us a more inclusive, broader reach into the needs and aspirations of our people." While Powell emphasized that he respects McCain and considers him a friend, he also said that in recent weeks he got the feeling that the Republican candidate didn't really understand the economic problems facing the nation.

Powell also said the choice of Sarah Palin made him question McCain's judgment and criticized the tone of McCain's campaign, particularly the continued focus on William Ayers. "McCain says that he's a washed-out terrorist," Powell said. "Well, then, why do we keep talking about him?" Considering Powell's 35-year military career, some think that his endorsement could help convince voters who are still concerned about Obama's lack of national-security experience. "What that just did in one sound bite," said former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, "is it eliminated the experience argument. How are you going to say the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs, former national security adviser, former secretary of state was taken in?"

Slate contributor Melinda Henneberger wondered why Powell's endorsement should be treated as a big deal. "Who cares what Powell, the 'loyal soldier'—if by loyal you mean willing to betray the American people—thinks?" In a front-page piece, the NYT's Elisabeth Bumiller says Powell's endorsement was, at least in part, an effort to address this issue and "reshape a legacy that he himself considers tainted by his service under President Bush." In fact, many Washington insiders quickly concluded the endorsement was more about Powell than either candidate, as the former secretary of state bet his chips against the president whom he used to serve. The endorsement came about after a long courtship by Obama, who has been trying to get Powell's support for several months.

While Powell's endorsement provides quite a bit of political drama, it's clear that the most important piece of news for Obama was his record-breaking fundraising numbers, which gives him a huge advantage over his rival. This means Obama will be able to continue to inundate the airwaves in traditional Republican states in his effort to expand the electoral map. Since Obama launched his campaign at the beginning of 2007, he has raised more than $600 million, which almost doubles the previous record set by President Bush in 2004. "The dam is broken," McCain said yesterday. "We're now going to see huge amounts of money coming into political campaigns, and we know history tells us that always leads to scandal."

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In a piece inside, the LAT points out that we could very well be seeing the death of the federal campaign-finance system. About half of Obama's contributors are small donors, and they have been a key reason why the Democrat has been able to raise an unprecedented sum for his campaign. When Obama decided to become the first candidate to decline federal financing, many doubted whether the gamble would pay off. But now that it has, future candidates are likely to follow his lead. "My guess is that this system will just go away," a Democratic consultant said. "The public financing system is basically the horse and buggy of politics."

The WP fronts, and everyone goes inside with, new resistance by powerful Iraqi lawmakers to a draft-version security agreement with the United States. The United Iraqi Alliance, a key bloc of Shiite parties that includes Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's Dawa Party, said it wants all U.S. troops to leave Iraq by December 2011. The draft agreement includes this same deadline but would allow an extension if both countries agree. The current draft also gives U.S. troops immunity from Iraqi law, except in cases when service members commit a major crime while off-duty. But the Shiite bloc says that is too vague and would allow U.S. officials to determine whether a service member is off-duty. Instead, the Iraqi politicians want to set up a joint committee to review suspected criminal cases and decide whether they should be tried in an Iraqi court.

It's unclear how much to make of these latest demands by Iraqi politicians. The LAT and WSJ both emphasize that the draft security agreement will be forwarded to the Cabinet this week. The WSJ says this is a sign that the disagreements over the draft "weren't considered significant enough … to keep the pact from moving forward." But the fact remains that prominent Iraqi politicians are still reluctant to support the agreement, partly out of fear that voters will punish them in the upcoming elections for siding with the United States. If an agreement isn't reached by the end of the year, U.S. troops won't have a legal basis for their presence in Iraq and would probably have to stop practically all of their operations and prepare to leave.

The LAT reefers news that "Mr. Blackwell," infamous for his annual worst-dressed list, died late last night. He was 86. Blackwell wrote up his first list in 1960 and never stopped. He "helped popularize the sort of dishy commentary that takes notable figures down a notch by poking fun at their personal style," notes the LAT. Victoria Beckham took the top spot in his 48th list this year.

The NYT's Alessandra Stanley says Sarah Palin's performance on Saturday Night Live, which gave the show its largest audience since 1994, was "definitely entertaining, but it was hard at times to tell whether it was a bold political tactic or a show-business audition." Perhaps Palin will "follow [Ronald] Reagan's path in reverse" because "[o]ne thing everybody can agree on," writes Stanley, "is that Gov. Sarah Palin is qualified—to someday host her own television show."

Daniel Politi has been contributing to Slate since 2004 and wrote the Today’s Papers column from 2006 to 2009. Follow him on Twitter.