With colleagues in Congress quick to claim credit where it is due, word moves quickly when undue credit is claimed.
"If it happens once or twice, you let it go," said Sen. Christopher J. Dodd (D-Conn.), an Obama supporter. "If it becomes the mantra, then you go, 'Wait a minute.' "
Immigration is a case in point for Obama, but not the only one. In 2007, after the first comprehensive immigration bill had died, the senators were back at it, and again, Obama was notably absent, staffers and senators said. At one meeting, three key negotiators recalled, he entered late and raised a number of questions about the bill's employment verification system. Kennedy and Specter both rebuked him, saying that the issue had already been resolved and that he was coming late to the discussion. Kennedy dressed him down, according to witnesses, and Obama left shortly thereafter.
"Senator Obama came in late, brought up issues that had been hashed and rehashed," Specter recalled. "He didn't stay long."
Just this week, as the financial markets were roiling in the wake of the Bear Stearns collapse, Obama made another claim that was greeted with disbelief in some corners of Capitol Hill. On March 13, Dodd, the chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, and Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, unveiled legislative proposals to allow the Federal Housing Administration to guarantee new loans from banks willing to help homeowners in or approaching foreclosure. Obama and Clinton were in Washington for a day-long round of budget voting, but neither appeared at the housing news conference.
Yet Obama on Monday appeared to seek top billing on Dodd's proposal.
"At this moment, we must come together and act to address the housing crisis that set this downturn in motion and continues to eat away at the public's confidence in the market," Obama said. "We should pass the legislation I put forward with my colleague Chris Dodd to create meaningful incentives for lenders to buy or refinance existing mortgages so that Americans facing foreclosure can keep their homes."
Dodd did say that Obama supported the bill, as does Clinton. But he could not offer pride of authorship to the candidate he wants to see in the White House next year.
Paul Hodes isn't known to miss a press conference himself, whether or not he had anything to do with the issue.
Then again, it looks like Senator Clinton has been exaggerating a little this week as well.