Where a Short Walk Is Not Just a Short Walk
By Paul Kane
The Senate continued Monday night to take on the atmosphere of a high school divided by competing cliques, as Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) joined their colleagues in advance of President Bush's State of the Union address.
Senators met in the chamber, as they do every year, at 8:20 p.m. before departing 10 minutes later for the other side of the Capitol. Similar to their interactions at a vote earlier in the day -- or their lack of interaction, to be more precise -- the leading candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination did not come near each other, much less address the other.
Clinton stood in the well of the chamber, talking to colleagues from both parties. Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), who has worked with her on health-care issues, spoke amiably to the New York senator even though he has spent the past week distancing himself from her politically while campaigning for Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).
Obama, meanwhile, bounded into a conversation with two former competitors for the Democratic nomination, Sens. Joseph Biden (Del.) and Christopher J. Dodd (Conn.). Obama then made a beeline for the pages who lined the back of the chamber, shaking each one's hand, before settling into a long conversation with a few of the more junior (and undecided in terms of endorsement) senators: Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Bob Casey Jr. of Pennsylvania.
Clinton found her way into her own klatch of junior senators who have not yet endorsed in the Democratic race: James Webb of Virgina and Jon Tester of Montana.
When Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) ordered the Senate to get in line, Obama cut across the chamber to queue up next to Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) so they could walk over together. Obama's move ensured that Kennedy, whose endorsement of Obama today dominated cable television coverage of the race this afternoon, should sit near Obama. There is no assigned seating for where each senator sits inside the House chamber, only an area designated for where the Senate is supposed to sit.
With Vice President Cheney leading them out of the chamber, Clinton settled in line next to Dodd and Biden. About 20 feet ahead of her, Obama draped his right arm around Kennedy and began the journey across the Rotunda to hear Bush's State of the Union -- as many of their colleagues wondered if Clinton or Obama will get to deliver that address next year.
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