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Phil Gramm, Jesse Jackson: Hurting and Helping Their Candidates

Sometimes political candidates want to strangle their surrogate supporters. And sometimes they want to kiss them.

Cases in point: Phil Gramm and Jesse Jackson.

Gramm is co-chair of McCain's campaign, once considered a candidate for Treasury Secretary. His statement that Americans are "whiners" suffering only a "mental recession" was the last thing John McCain needs as he tries to gain the upper hand on the economy. That's why McCain joked today that Gramm might now be a candidate for Ambassador to Belarus.

Barack Obama has been much kinder to Jesse Jackson, despite Jackson's vulgar trash-talk denigrating Obama's message and vowing to strike back. Why? Because Obama has no problem with skirmishing verbally with Jackson. In fact, flak from Jackson over his exhortations for more responsibility from black fathers can only help Obama with white swing voters--and some African Americans who agree with him as well.

Sometimes it seems the candidates' surrogates have made more news than the candidates themselves. Such is life in a 24/7 media environment. Stay tuned; much more to come before November.

Questions? Comments? Write to politicalcapital@cnbc.com.