No matter that Sen. Hillary Clinton is still looking for lightning to strike, the November presidential contest between Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. John McCain took shape Thursday, as Obama unveiled his national grass-roots organizing drive and McCain's top adviser called Obama's campaign a ''hypocrisy.''
Meanwhile, in Washington, Obama met with congressional superdelegates -- some uncommitted, some secretly pledged -- in an effort to pry them off the fence or go public. Obama strolled to the Capitol when one his meetings had to break up because of a House vote, and then he lobbied for superdelegates on the House floor.
A key organizer of Obama's morning meeting with conservative Democrats who call themselves ''Blue Dogs'' was Rep. Melissa Bean (D-Ill.), who was also named Thursday to be one of 14 co-chairs of the Obama 50-state voter registration effort, which is really the framework for Obama's national grass-roots efforts.
The co-chairs, equally divided between men and women, are an ethnically and racially mixed political balancing act from the left, right, gay, labor and celebrity worlds, with lesbian rocker Melissa Etheridge, actress Kerry Washington and R&B performer Usher Raymond IV.
Some superdelegates reluctant to go public
Bean said the notion that many of these uncommitted superdelegates -- party leaders and elected officials (including all members of Congress) -- are agonizing between Obama and Clinton is baloney.
''Almost no one is undecided,'' Bean said. What they are is ''undeclared because there is no upside for them'' to take a side and risk alienating their base.
While the Clinton team pressed the argument that Clinton can appeal to key voting segments that Democrats will need in November -- whites, Catholics, Hispanics, females -- Obama is benefitting from the conventional wisdom that he will have the Democratic nomination wrapped up enough by May 20 or June 3 to declare victory.
Obama got a taste of what is ahead following an interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer on ''The Situation Room,'' where Obama said McCain is ''losing his bearings as he pursues this nomination.'' Obama was reacting to a statement McCain made that Obama is favored by the Palestinian militant organization Hamas. Last month, Hamas political adviser Ahmed Yousef said they liked Obama.
Throughout the 16 months Obama has been campaigning for president, he has had to constantly shore up support within the Jewish community, so any mention that Hamas favors him is a potential problem.
McCain senior adviser Mark Salter shot out a memo saying the ''bearings'' crack was ''not a particular clever way'' of making an issue of McCain's age. Obama's ''new brand'' of politics, said Salter, was really an attack, and that ''is called hypocrisy.''
Salter said McCain was raising ''legitimate questions'' about Obama's ''judgment and preparedness'' to be president. Salter said they won't be scared off by an Obama team tactic to call ''ANY criticism on ANY issue'' -- Salter used capital letters -- ''negative, personal attacks.''
Obama ''is hopeful that the media will continue to form a protective barrier around him, declaring serious limits to the questions, discussion debate in this race,'' said Salter. Obama ''has good reason to think this plan will succeed, as serious journalists have written of the need for ''de-tox'' to cure ''swooning over Sen. Obama.''
Bill Burton, an Obama spokesman said ''clearly losing one's bearings has no relation to age, given this bizarre rant that Mark Salter just sent out.''
But I take Salter as an expert in one thing -- McCain has long benefitted from the press treating him like a sweetheart, part of which he earns because he is so accessible. So when Salter writes about Obama's loving press treatment, of all people, he should know.