After seeking it so long, John McCain can now see the Republican presidential nomination almost within reach. He knows the need to reconcile with those conservatives who have so long sought to deny him the party's prize. But even such an obviously sensible strategy has its limits.
Chatting with reporters as his campaign plane flew from St. Louis to Chicago, McCain was asked about radio host Rush Limbaugh's frequent jabs at him. The Times' Maeve Reston was among those listening, and she reports that McCain suffers no illusions on this front.
"We'd like to have everybody on board," he replied. "We'd like to have a totally united party, but I also realize there are some people that just may not be able to support me at the end of the day."
He then acknowledged, with a typical one-liner, that he is not part of Limbaugh's audience: "There's a certain trace of masochism in my family, but not that deep."
Powell thinks it through
The man who resisted considerable public pressure himself to run as a Republican back in 1996 is still not ready to endorse anyone in 2008.
But Colin Powell, former general for President Bush I and former secretary of State for President Bush II, gave CNN's Wolf Blitzer some hints Friday about his thinking. One thought: He may vote for a Democrat or an independent, which he had said last summer on "Meet the Press."
Here's what he said Friday:
"I will ultimately vote for the person I believe brings to the American people the kind of vision the American people want to see for the next four years. A vision that reaches out to the rest of the world, that starts to restore confidence in America, that starts to restore favorable ratings to America.
"Frankly, we've lost a lot in recent years. I am going to be looking for the candidate that seems to me to be leading a party that is fully in sync with the candidate, and a party that will also reflect America's goodness and America's vision."
Hmm, a party "fully in sync with the candidate" and "we've lost a lot in recent years. . . ." Let's see, which party could he be thinking about?
Were they pushed out?
Clearly spooked by a few of Rep. Ron Paul's finishes kind of close behind him, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has dropped out of the race for the Republican presidential nomination.
Romney was so flustered Thursday in his withdrawal speech before the Conservative Political Action Committee in Washington that he didn't even mention the Texas congressman.
That's not unusual: Hardly any other candidate has mentioned Paul's name for the last year, so terrified are they of his stare and libertarian views.
Romney's exit followed the Paul-forced departures of other GOP candidates -- Rudolph W. Giuliani, Fred Thompson, Tommy Thompson, Sam Brownback, Jim Gilmore. Jeb Bush didn't even consider trying.
That leaves only Pittsburgh native Paul, somebody named John McCain and this Mike Huckabee fellow from Arkansas.
According to an authoritative Paul campaign news release, with all of his accumulated fifth-, fourth-, third- and second-place finishes, Paul claims 42 delegates to the Republican National Convention. That puts him about 660 delegates behind McCain and 1,149 shy of the number necessary to seize the party nomination in the name of the Ron Paul Revolution.
And Texas doesn't vote until March 4!
In recent days there was an as yet little-noticed incident in Bridgeton, Mo., just outside St. Louis. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton addressed a town hall meeting there and was taking questions from the audience.
One elderly woman rose and asked the Democratic candidate about a rumored economic union among the United States, Canada and Mexico that is widely discussed, feared and abhorred among conspiracy fanciers. The woman said the president planned to implement the secret agreement effective in 2010.
Then the woman called the president "Bush the bastard."
The Democratic crowd immediately roared its approval. Clinton nodded her head slightly and smiled.
Then, she proceeded to answer the question, saying "there's not a lot of truth to it."
It'll be interesting to see if Clinton's silent assent to that crude comment arouses as much criticism and controversy as last year when a Republican woman in South Carolina asked Sen. John McCain about Clinton, calling her "the bitch."
At the time, CNN showed a video clip of the incident and strongly criticized McCain for not admonishing the woman, although the candidate did say belatedly that he respected the New York senator.
Vetoing the governator
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger revealed the other day that 18-year-old daughter Katherine had rejected his choice for president, Sen. John McCain.
A first-time voter, Katherine opted for Sen. Barack Obama, her mother's favorite, according to the governor. In fact, she wore her vote to the polls: an Obama T-shirt.
The inner California
Nationally, Super Tuesday seems to have been the election that nobody lost. In California, though, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton was clearly a winner -- and many credit that to her popularity among Latino voters. Exit polls showed that about seven in 10 Latino voters chose Clinton -- and three in 10 Democratic votes were Latino.
Sen. Barack Obama polled well in the African American community -- winning nearly eight of 10 black voters, but not quite one in 10 Democratic voters were black.
Exit polls also found that there's not much animosity between Clinton and Obama supporters. More than half of each's voters say they would be satisfied with the other candidate.
Excerpted from The Times' political blog, Top of the Ticket, found at www.latimes.com/