CLINTON PRAISES McCAIN, QUESTIONS OBAMA'S READINESS
Senator Clinton is stepping up her criticism of Senator Obama's readiness to be president, suggesting yesterday that Senator McCain would be more qualified than the Illinois senator when it comes to national security. Speaking to reporters after meeting with military officers in Washington, D.C., Mrs. Clinton said it was imperative that presidential candidates pass what she termed the "commander in chief threshold." "I believe that I've done that. Certainly, Senator McCain has done that, and you'll have to ask Senator Obama with respect to his candidacy," Mrs. Clinton said. While the former first lady has stopped short of saying Mr. Obama is plainly unqualified for the job, she has inched ever closer to that pronouncement in recent weeks. By contrast, she heaped praise on Mr. McCain's national security credentials, calling him "distinguished" even as she disagreed with his policy prescriptions. In a conference call later in the day, foreign policy advisers to Mr. Obama questioned Mrs. Clinton's claims of substantive experience as first lady and once again criticized her judgment in voting to authorize the Iraq war.
McCAIN CAMP SLAMS CLINTON AND OBAMA ON EXPERIENCE
While senators Clinton and Obama were battling over national security credentials, Senator McCain's campaign seized on a comment by a top adviser to Mr. Obama to claim that both Democrats are weak on defense. "Senator Clinton has not had to answer the phone at 3 o'clock in the morning, and yet she attacked Barack Obama for not being ready. They're both not ready to have that 3 a.m. phone call," the adviser, Susan Rice, said in an appearance on MSNBC. The remark prompted a statement from Mr. McCain's spokeswoman, Jill Hazelbaker. "We agree wholeheartedly that neither Senator Clinton nor Senator Obama have the experience or judgment necessary to lead the United States in the struggle against violent Islamic extremists who seek our destruction, or to address the complex global environment that our next president will face," Ms. Hazelbaker said. "Only Senator McCain is ready to serve as commander in chief from day one."
OBAMA RAISES RECORD $55 MILLION IN FEBRUARY
As the Clinton campaign boasted of a surge in contributions since her victories in Ohio and Texas on Tuesday, Senator Obama's camp disclosed yesterday that the Illinois senator raised a record $55 million during the month of February. That easily topped the $35 million Mrs. Clinton took in and stands as the most any presidential primary candidate has raised in a month. Mr. Obama's February haul brings his total for 2008 to $91 million after he raised about $100 million in all of 2007. He built his fund-raising juggernaut on a base of more than 1 million mostly small donors who can give again and again before they reach the $2,300 limit. Mrs. Clinton's campaign said yesterday that she raised $4 million online in the wake of her Tuesday wins, giving her $6 million for the month so far.
Three more Democratic superdelegates announced their support for Senator Obama yesterday, helping to pad his total delegate lead that Senator Clinton cut into with her victories in Texas, Ohio, and Rhode Island on Tuesday. Endorsing the Illinois senator were Rep. Nick Rahall of West Virginia, according to Congressional Quarterly, as well as the chairman of the Democratic Party in Vermont, Ian Carleton, and a top party official in Nevada, Teresa Benitez-Thompson, who were both announced by the Obama campaign. The campaign has denied reports that it has upward of 50 superdelegates in its pocket and yet to be announced, but it has unveiled two or three endorsements each day this week, while Mrs. Clinton announced none. In addition to delegates, both campaigns are looking for any edge in momentum in a contest that will not see a major primary for more than six weeks.