Some day, race will disappear as an issue

Comedian Bill Maher had it right –did no one notice Barack Obama was black before South Carolina?

Up to that primary, the contenders handled race rather responsibly. But in the heat of competition, the race factor came up in a nuanced, inexplicit way. Defensive sensitivities then surged forward.

Hillary Rodham Clinton simply over-credited Lyndon Johnson by saying Martin Luther King’s dream didn’t get realized until Johnson passed the Civil Rights Act. Of course, it took a movement to get him and Congress to that point.

McCain is on a roll

John McCain has taken pole position in the Republican White House race, having secured Rudolph Giuliani’s endorsement and with California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger poised to follow suit.

Fresh from a crucial victory in Tuesday’s Florida primary, the Arizona senator won the key backing of Giuliani Wednesday as the former New York mayor and hero of 9/11 announced his exit from the race.

Edwards suspends campaign

Democrat John Edwards bowed out of the race for the White House on Wednesday, saying it was time to step aside “so that history can blaze its path” in a campaign now left to Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama.

“With our convictions and a little backbone we will take back the White House in November,” said Edwards, ending his second campaign in a hurricane-ravaged section of New Orleans where he began it more than a year ago.

Edwards said Clinton and Obama had both pledged that “they will make ending poverty central to their campaign for the presidency.”

Edwards drops Presidential run

Former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards, who focused his bid for the Democratic nomination on helping the middle class, will withdraw from the presidential race in a speech later on Wednesday.

A campaign official said Edwards would announce his decision to pull out during a speech in New Orleans at 1 p.m. EST.

Edwards has not won a single contest in the Democratic race for president, and lags behind front-runners Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton in public opinion polls.

McCain becomes a frontrunner

Sen. John McCain won a breakthrough triumph in the Florida primary Tuesday night, seizing the upper hand in the Republican presidential race ahead of next week’s coast-to-coast contests and lining up a quick endorsement from soon-to-be dropout Rudy Giuliani.

“It shows one thing: I’m the conservative leader who can unite the party,” McCain told The Associated Press after easing past former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney for his first-ever triumph in a primary open only to Republicans.

“We have a ways to go, but we’re getting close” to the nomination, he said later in an appearance before cheering supporters.

Rudy exits, stage left

In the end, 9/11 wasn’t enough. Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, once the Republican presidential front-runner thanks to his status as “America’s Mayor,” suffered a debilitating defeat in Tuesday’s Florida primary. He prepared Wednesday to quit the race endorse his friendliest rival, John McCain.

Giuliani stopped short of announcing he was stepping down, but delivered a valedictory speech that was more farewell than fight-on.

Romney now stands alone

John McCain won Florida. Rudy Giuliani headed for the exits. And Mike Huckabee stayed put.

None of those things are good for Mitt Romney, McCain’s chief rival, who spent a small fortune of his own money to get this close to the White House.

So much for podunk politics

Yucca is so yesterday.

So are other localized issues once indulged in the presidential campaign. Ethanol has gone up in (politically correct) smoke. Billions for Detroit? A distant echo.

The presidential candidates, who have seemed to be running for mayor at times, now must run for the presidency.

They face what is essentially a national election in a week, two dozen contests coast to coast, and can no longer get by with the single-state pandering that helped get them where they are. Don’t expect to be hearing more about Iowa hog waste from the men and woman who would be president.

Will youth make a difference?

Tammy Hsu is one of those 20-something voters who can drive a presidential candidate crazy.

She registered to vote during the recent Illinois “grace period” and cast an early vote in her state’s Super Tuesday primary. But she’s still not completely sold on any candidate, not even Barack Obama, the home-state Democrat widely depicted as the choice of young voters.

Nor is she committed to a political party.

Rudy’s last gasp

Republican Rudy Giuliani’s White House quest could be in deep trouble as he lags far behind the leaders in a Florida presidential primary he counted on winning, according to a Reuters/C-SPAN/Zogby poll released on Tuesday.

Hours before the start of Florida’s voting, Arizona Sen. John McCain held a slim 4-point lead over former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, 35 percent to 31 percent, in what was essentially a two-man race, the poll found.