Will Obama shift his focus to McCain?

Pivoting away from Clinton, Obama appears ready to go into a general-election mode.

By Steve Benen

Published April 23, 2008 4:05PM (EDT)

In his speech in Indiana Tuesday night, Barack Obama, who had been challenging Hillary Clinton very aggressively of late in Pennsylvania, mentioned his rival's name just once, and that was to congratulate her for her Keystone State victory. In contrast, Obama mentioned John McCain's name seven times, in each instance in a negative light.

The New York Times' Jeff Zeleny makes the argument today that this is just part of a new shift -- Obama intends to transition away from the intra-party fight and towards the general-election campaign.

Senator Barack Obama opened the next phase of his presidential campaign [in Evansville, Ind.] Tuesday evening, seeking to turn his focus away from Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton and persuade party leaders that time is running out for Democrats to start defining their Republican opponent.

A series of endorsements are scheduled to be announced in the coming days, including superdelegates who intend to pledge their support for Mr. Obama. And more campaign workers in the Chicago headquarters will be dedicated to taking on Senator John McCain of Arizona, the presumptive Republican nominee ...

"There is a sense of urgency about the time we're losing and a sense of urgency that we not savage each other to the benefit of Senator McCain," said David Axelrod, the chief strategist for Mr. Obama. "Ultimately, what this is about is the race in November."

We've heard talk of a similar strategy before, but it didn't take long before the temptation to respond to Clinton's intraparty attacks proved irresistible.

We'll see if Obama really does focus his energies on McCain from here on out. If Democrats are really lucky, Clinton will do the same.

Steve Benen

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