[This article contains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine.]THE ISSUE THE ACTION REPUBLICANS DEMOCRATS TIE Foreign Policy Debates The BARACK OBAMA--JOHN MCCAIN clashes over Iran and Cuba have served as proxies for likely general-election mantras ("Obama lacks experience and judgment" vs. "McCain = Bush"). McCain has shown relative ease in drawing Obama into the fight and away from domestic issues. Obama has seen other Democrats rally strongly to his side. X Party Unity Even as Senator HILLARY CLINTON continues her nomination fight against OBAMA, Democrats are coming together in preparation for the general-election contest. The party's top donors (hers and his alike) are meeting to plot fall strategy. Some (although not all) Clintonistas are warming to the idea of an Obama nomination--and the candidate seems to be readying herself for a probable departure. Meanwhile, in the face of disastrous poll numbers and recent defeats, Republicans have bonded together, put aside differences and turned to maverick McCain as a savior. But many Republicans still fear they will be hung together in November--even if they hang together now. X Triangulating Bush PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH, during an overseas trip, picks a fight over the alleged "appeasement" of terrorists (potentially rallying the conservative base against OBAMA). Then the White House picks a fight with nbc News over the editing of an interview with the President--tossing in swipes at its coverage of Iraq and the economy and its supposed liberal bias (rallying the base against Old Media). Still, an unpopular, lame-duck leader might be more of a boomerang against MCCAIN than a blade against Obama. X Pop Culture MCCAIN's latest star turn on Saturday Night Live was (to borrow his applause line) "crazy exciting." Two bits of comedy addressed his age and the unending Democratic race with dandy timing and delivery, serving to remind Democrats that they are facing an old dog who can show off new tricks on plenty of fun TV venues. x
Winner of the Week: Democrats
Obama struck a good balance by engaging with McCain while not appearing to force Clinton from the race. Republicans finally woke up to the prospect of a potentially disastrous Election Day--but haven't done much to fix things (yet).
McCain Under The Influence. How did the anti-special-interest candidate get surrounded by lobbyists?
For the past two decades, few politicians have publicly denounced special interests more often than John McCain. But for much of 2008, he has struggled to explain the fact that many of his advisers are current or former influence peddlers. The issue remained mostly a distraction until early May, when McCain parted ways with two aides whose firm once lobbied for the Burmese military junta, a regime he condemns. Now the lobbyist issue is roiling McCainLand, prompting more departures--including top fund raiser and former Representative Thomas Loeffler--and a strict conflict-of-interest policy. The sudden house-cleaning has raised an awkward question: Why is McCain seemingly drawn to people from the world's second-oldest profession? (Campaign manager Rick Davis and top strategist Charlie Black are both former lobbyists.) Some suggest the flap represents the latest example of McCain's famous inattention to detail--a potential vulnerability in the campaign, and in the White House.
George W. Bush (Still) President Read Mark Halperin every day on thepage.time.com
NOT ALL ROUNDS ARE CREATED EQUAL. THE WEEK'S WINNER IS BASED ON THE RELATIVE IMPORTANCE OF EACH FIGHT AND BY HOW MUCH THE WINNER TAKES EACH ROUND.