Dining with journalists. If Kevin Rudd is to be attacked for anything over his dealings with Brian Burke it should be for his naivety in ever thinking that dining with a collection of Western Australian based journalists might be important in his quest to become Leader of the Labor Party. The guest list contained a group of scribes of absolutely no significance for a national politician. It was clearly nothing more than an effort by a very skilled lobbyist to ingratiate himself with people who might be able to help him than with doing anything to help Mr Rudd.

Dining with developers. The kind of dinner that does deserve criticism is when politicians have a friendly get together with property developers like that which the Sydney Morning Herald reports this morning that NSW Planning Minister Frank Sartor hosted in February 2006. The dinner, attended by more than 30 developers, raised more than $500,000 – at the same time the Government was set to make decisions on development applications by some of those companies.

Participatory democracy. The search by the parliamentary Liberal Party for what to ask during question time has gone further than the audience of 3AW’s Neil Mitchell. Now we can all have a go. Just fill in the form on the Liberal website and see if you can outsmart Kevin 08 and his team.

Obama to march on. The Barack Obama march towards the presidency looks like going a few more yards this week with Democratic Party convention delegates to be chosen in Wisconsin and Hawaii. In both states the Crikey Election Indicator, based on the prices at the Intrade prediction market, has Obama a firm favourite.

Wisconsin Hawaii
Hillary Clinton 17.8% 8.6%
Barack Obama 82.2% 91.4%

Not that victories this week will be decisive. The professional politicians with votes not decided by primaries and caucuses who will attend the Democratic convention apparently will be the deciding factor. It is fascinating to read how many in this group, in particular Al Gore, are deciding to stay neutral at this stage of the contest. From my distance it looks like people too scared of backing the wrong candidate but the spin doctors are preferring to put it down to a desire “to avoid the perception of a back-room deal that thwarts the will of millions of voters who have cast ballots in primaries and caucuses.” The Crikey Indicator on who will eventually win the nomination has Obama at 71.5% to 26.5% for Clinton with a compromise candidate emerging put as a 2% chance. On the Republican side the probability of John McCain defeating Mike Huckabee this week in each of Washington and Wisconsin is 95%.

The Daily Reality Check

John Howard still has the ability to fascinate us. The previews of tonight’s edition of Four Corners on the ABC top the list of most read stories on the Crikey internet survey along with another story from recent political history – Kevin Rudd’s emails with Brian Burke over the Perth dinner that never was. Stories about people clearly are of more interest than those about ideas. Of the 50 stories on the top five list this morning, 28 are centred around a person. Toss in those about the weather, sex, sport and motor cars and the 10 stories left include a pub that may shut because of fights, a suburban street terrorised by thugs, a growing demand for exorcisms and a study showing that less protein leads to fewer children. What we are left with in the “serious” category is the Treasurer reining in foreign investors, bombers terrorising Pakistan, plans to cut workers compensation payments in South Australia, scientists studying a giant floating plastic mass in the North Pacific Ocean and people doing little to curb their use of water.

The Pick of This Morning’s Political Coverage

Swan reins in foreign investors – David Uren, The Australian
Worker compo cuts – Greg Kelton, Adelaide Advertiser
Ministers were scared to shunt John Howard – Sue Dunlevy, Sydney Daily Telegraph
Learning to stand on three feet – Glenn Milne, The Australian
Investors’ housing splurge – Tim Colebatch, Melbourne Age
Class action plan for compensation – Ben Langford, Northern Territory News

The Pick of the Weekend’s Political Coverage

We’re not in Kansas any more – George Megalogenis, The Australian
Sorry, no media circus, says Nelson – Dennis Shanahan and Patricia Karvelas, The Australian
Purcell’s future in balance – Steven Wardill and Peter Michael, Brisbane Courier Mail
Rudd’s remarkable beginning – Laurie Oakes, Sydney Daily Telegraph
Cornelia Rau offered $2m payout – Michael Owen, Hobart Mercury