With Hillary’s coffin poised above her grave, the ropeman readying to lower it, there are those out there already saying R.I.P. to the former first lady and who have moved on to the main bout: the glorious, gory battle that will be Barack Obama versus john McCain.

Here’s how the US press are seeing it at this early stage:

Obama’s adversity creates opportunity: After months of bruising political battles, the matchup for the November election is now almost set. It’s clear that one of the two presumptive nominees has been badly hurt by his party’s nominating fight. Barack Obama? No. John McCain. Certainly, Obama has faced the tougher primary battle. But in adversity has come opportunity. The presumptive Democratic nominee has been able to confront difficult questions about his candidacy that would normally arise during the general election. And he was able to test out an affirmative message of change with independent voters in nearly every state of the country. — Politico

The asymmetric election: Neither campaign is planning a major pivot for the fall. Both are confident they have a strategy for victory. So my role today is Dr. Doom — to break through unmerited confidence and raise the anxiety level in both camps. Since effectively wrapping up the nomination, Barack Obama has lost 7 of the last 13 primaries. Obama’s confidants say that this doesn’t matter. In states like Pennsylvania and Ohio, primary election results are no predictor of general election results. That’s dubious. Though voters now prefer Democratic policy positions on most major issues by between 11 and 25 points, Obama has only a 0.7 percent lead over McCain in the RealClearPolitics average of polls. His favorability ratings among independents has dropped from 63 percent to 49 percent since late February. — New York Times

Trouble as Obama closes in: Fifty-six contests. Hundreds of millions of dollars raised and spent. More than 35 million votes cast. And, finally, five months later, one apparent winner. Barely. As the epic Democratic presidential primary battle finally comes to conclusion today with votes in South Dakota and Montana, Senator Barack Obama is trying to round up enough superdelegate endorsements so he can declare victory by reaching the threshold of 2,118 delegates required to seal the nomination. He was 41.5 short as of last night, with 31 at stake in today’s contests. But even as Hillary Clinton sends mixed signals about her willingness to leave the race, Obama, unlike his counterparts in recent presidential cycles, is not exactly sprinting across the finish line. — The Boston Globe

Sledging and cheap shots: It’s getting chippy. As official Washington seeks to slip quietly into the long Memorial Day weekend, Sens. John McCain and Barack Obama  have gone to war over the war. McCain started the squabble with a release expressing his “disappointment” with Obama and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton for their votes against the Iraq funding legislation. “This vote may win favor with MoveOn and liberal primary voters but it’s the equivalent of waving a white flag to al Quaeda.” (Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney also attacked the frontrunners in a statement — casting the vote as a sign of “their lack of leadership” and adding that it “serves as a glaring example of an unrealistic and inexperienced worldview on national security.”) Obama swung back at McCain and Romney, painting the duo as decidedly out of touch with the situation on the ground. “Governor Romney and Senator McCain clearly believe the course we are on in Iraq is working, but I do not,” Obama said in a statement. And then, he twisted the knife a bit, adding: “And if there ever was a reflection of that it’s the fact that Senator McCain required a flack jacket, ten armored Humvees, two Apache attack helicopters and 100 soldiers with rifles by his side to stroll through a market in Baghdad just a few weeks ago.” — The Washington Post

McCain launches verbal sortie. Republican Sen. John McCain wasted no time Tuesday night in launching his first general-election broadside against Sen. Barack Obama, casting the Democrat as an out-of-touch liberal who offers a false promise of change.  In a prime-time speech designed to upstage Obama (D-Ill.) on the night he claimed the Democratic nomination, McCain (Ariz.) began what top aides and other Republicans promise will be an aggressive effort to claim the mantles of reform, experience and mainstream values. Obama, he said, is an “impressive man” but one with a thin record. — Washington Post

Imagining a McCain or Obama presidency: What should we expect from a President Barack Obama or President John McCain? For the decisions that will help determine the future of America’s role in the world, with implications for global markets and international politics, the 2008 presidential election offers clear alternatives. The presidential election result is just one of many factors that will make an important difference in determining U.S. policy. The current economic slowdown, the cost of U.S. military commitments in Iraq and Afghanistan, public demand for resistance to changes in the global economy, and a Congress determined to scale back America’s overseas commitments will each limit the next president’s room for maneuver. — RealClearPolitics

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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