WASHINGTON POST: For the bruised and bitter staff around Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, Tuesday’s death-defying victories in the Democratic presidential primaries in Ohio and Texas proved sweet indeed. They savored their wins yesterday, plotted their next steps and indulged in a moment of optimism. “She won’t be stopped,” one aide crowed. And then Clinton’s advisers turned to their other goal: denying Mark Penn credit.
With a flurry of phone calls and e-mail messages that began before polls closed, campaign officials made clear to friends, colleagues and reporters that they did not view the wins as validation for the candidate’s chief strategist. “A lot of people would still like to see him go,” a senior adviser said.
The depth of hostility toward Penn [pictured right] even in a time of triumph illustrates the combustible environment within the Clinton campaign, an operation where internal strife and warring camps have undercut a candidate once seemingly destined for the Democratic nomination. Clinton now faces the challenge of exploiting this moment of opportunity while at the same time deciding whether the squabbling at her Arlington headquarters has become a distraction that requires her intervention.
Many of her advisers are waging a two-front war, one against Sen. Barack Obama and the second against one another, but their most pressing challenge is figuring out why Clinton won in Ohio and Texas and trying to duplicate it. While Penn sees his strategy as a reason for the victories that have kept her candidacy alive, other advisers attribute the wins to her perseverance, favorable demographics and a new campaign manager. Clinton won “despite us, not because of us,” one said. MORE
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SHOW ME THE MONEY: The Obama campaign has been agitating for the press to push for the release of Bill and Hillary Clinton’s 2006 tax returns, arguing that they would be expected to do the same. “We’re going to ask you guys to do your job,” said Obama campaign strategist David Axelrod, referring to reporters. “If we kicked the can down the field on tax returns, you would be asking us for them. I presume you will do the same to them.” Axelrod said Clinton’s argument that it will take time to release the tax forms is senseless. “They’ve talked about change you can Xerox, you can Xerox your tax returns there’s not a whole lot of preparation for that.” But the Clintons will apparently need at least a month and a half of preparation. Clinton communications director Howard Wolfson responded by saying, “Their tax returns since they left the White House will be made available on or around April 15.”
HEY THERE, CHELSEA GIRL: Treading in what might be considered enemy territory Wednesday, Chelsea Clinton urged students at the University of Pennsylvania to give her mother’s presidential candidacy a chance. “I’m really excited to talk to you about all the reasons why I passionately believe in my mother, not only as a daughter … but also as a young woman and a young voter,” she said. The former first daughter’s visit to the Ivy League school was targeted at college-age voters, who haven’t been Hillary Clinton’s strength. It was the first of what’s expected to be dozens of forays into the state by both the Clinton and Barack Obama campaigns leading up to the now critical April 22 Democratic primary. “I hope you don’t get tired of seeing me and my family here in Pennsylvania, Philadelphia and even here at Penn,” Clinton, 28, told her dwindling audience as she wrapped up an hour-long question-and-answer session. [via THE MORNING CALL]