Obama's Preacher And Clinton's Pollster

Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., left, shares a laugh with Sen. Hilary Rodham Clinton, D-NY prior to the start of the Democratic presidential primary debate of the 2008 election
Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., left, shares a laugh with Sen. Hilary Rodham Clinton, D-NY prior to the start of the Democratic presidential primary debate of the 2008 election hosted by the South Carolina State University in Orangeburg, SC., Thursday, April 26, 2007. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

The Skinny is Joel Roberts' take on the top news of the day and the best of the Internet.

Eager for still more inside information on Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama?

In their apparent effort to tell us everything we could possibly want to know about the front-running Democratic presidential candidates, The New York Times and the Washington Post offer front-page stories Monday that go well beyond their positions on the issues or their standings in the polls.

The Times takes a look at Obama's faith, including his connection to a controversial Chicago minister, the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., who played a key role in the Illinois senator's transformation "from skeptic to self-described Christian."

The Times describes Obama as "a man whose family offered him something of a crash course in comparative religion" – grandparents who were non-practicing Baptists and Methodists, a stepfather who was a "nominal Muslim," and African relatives who were both Muslims and Christians.

Obama remained mostly secular until his arrival in Chicago as a young community organizer and met Wright, "a dynamic pastor who preached Afrocentric theology, dabbled in radical politics and delivered music-and-profanity-spiked sermons."

However now that Obama's running for the White House, the Times says, Wright's "assertions of widespread white racism and his scorching remarks about American government" have forced the senator to distance himself from the man who presided over his wedding and baptized his two daughters.

In February, Obama canceled Wright's delivery of the invocation when he officially announced his presidential run. Wright himself acknowledges that some of his positions may be too radical for Obama to embrace.

"If Barack gets past the primary, he might have to publicly distance himself from me," Wright said. "I said it to Barack personally, and he said yeah, that might have to happen."

The Washington Post, meanwhile, has a Page One profile of Hillary Clinton's top campaign strategist, Mark Penn.

While he doesn't have the title of campaign manager, the Post says Penn, a former pollster for President Bill Clinton, "controls the main elements of her campaign" and "has become involved in virtually every move Clinton makes."

The Post says even Penn's enemies describe him as brilliant, unwavering loyal and relentlessly focused on the endgame of winning the general election.

He's also considered by some to be "arrogant and controlling," traits which the paper says led him to be fired from Al Gore's 2000 presidential campaign.

Iraq Vote Only A Prelude?

If you think things are nasty in Washington now, as the White House and Congress head for a showdown over the Iraq funding bill, just wait until September.

That's when a progress report on the Baghdad troop buildup will be issued by Gen. David H. Petraeus. And unless he has significant military and political progress to report, the Los Angeles Times says the debate over the war could turn even uglier – and even more difficult for President Bush.

The Times says Democrats and Republicans in Congress already are focusing on September as "their next major decision point on the war." Hearings are being planned to debate Petraeus' findings and Democrats promise new efforts to force the president to withdraw U.S. troops.

By September, the troop buildup will be more than six months old, and if things in Iraq haven't improved substantially, public support for the war will likely have eroded even further.

Also by September, "skittish Republicans will be four months closer to starting their reelection campaigns." And, the Times says, they'll need "dramatic evidence of progress" to maintain their support for the war.

A NOTE TO READERS: The Skinny is now available via e-mail. Click here and follow the directions to register to receive it in your inbox each weekday morning.