The Note: The Courage To Create Change


Gov. Tom Vilsack (D-IA) continues his presidential announcement tour. Today, he travels from Concord, NH to Pittsburgh, PA, picking up attention -- and perhaps superdelegates -- along the way.

Vilsack speaks at New Hampshire Technical Institute at 10:00 am ET in Concord, NH. Then he heads to the famed Concord High School for 1:15 pm ET remarks. Staying on message, Gov. Vilsack takes a tour of GT Solar, Inc. at 3:15 pm ET in Merrimack, NH. Vilsack caps his New Hampshire day with a reception at Gary Hirshberg's home in Concord, NH.

On Sunday, you will not want to miss George Stephanopoulos' exclusive interview with the (for now) only formally announced Democratic presidential candidate, Gov. Vilsack. Another, not-yet-formally-announced Democratic presidential hopeful, Sen. Evan Bayh (D-IN), will join George to chat Iraq and politics as well. Check your local listings for "This Week with George Stephanopoulos." LINK

In one of today's few must-watch events, Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) takes a public AIDS test and joins Rick Warren and Sen. Sam Brownback at Saddleback Church in California to discuss the global struggles with HIV/AIDS at 1:15 pm ET. Later Obama appears on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno. Note prediction: the audience will love Obama as much as Jay does, and several Tonight Show writers will decide on the spot to support him for president over a certain New York Senator.

The President and First Lady participate in a World AIDS Day meeting today at the White House at 9:55 am ET.

Former President George H.W. Bush leads a presidential delegation to attend the inauguration of Mexican President-elect Felipe Calderon in Mexico City, Mexico.

Former President Bill Clinton attends UN Tsunami Envoy Events in Thazhanguda, Cuddalore and Chennai, India. While in New Delhi yesterday, FPOTUS announced a deal his foundation hammered out with France, Brazil, Britain, Norway, and Chile to get those countries to financially back his plan to significantly reduce drug prices for children fighting HIV/AIDS. The New York Times has more on the deal. LINK

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA) was scheduled to speak at the National Committee for Quality Assurance's conference, "Pay for Performance: A Critical Examination" at 9:15 am ET.

Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA) speaks at the American Bar Assn. Standing Committee on Law and National Security's "16th Annual Review of the Field of National Security Law," at 1:20 pm ET at the Marriott at Metro Center.

The Center for American Progress and the New Organizing Institute hold a discussion "Online Strategies in the 2006 Election." At 12:30 pm ET at CAP in Washington, DC.

Former Senator John Edwards (D-NC) to sign copies of his new book, "HOME: The Blueprints of Our Lives" at Borders in Dallas, Texas at 7:00 pm ET.

The DNC Executive Committee hears Gov. Howard Dean (D-DNC) tout the success of his 50-state strategy tomorrow at its third and final meeting for 2006. Later in the day tomorrow, the DNC's Rules and Bylaws committee meets to hammer out bonus delegate plans for states which don't try to jump to the front of the nominating line in 2008.

Why there is nothing like presidential politics, Part I:

With a "Suchitepequez, Guatemala" dateline, the Boston Globe reveals Gov. Romney appears to have had some illegal immigrants doing some work on the yard around his house through a company he hired. LINK

Regarding one of the workers: "For about eight years, Rosales said, he worked on and off landscaping the grounds at Romney's home, occasionally getting a 'buenos dias' from Romney or a drink of water from his wife, Ann," reports the Globe.

Be sure not to miss Gov. Romney's initial "Aw, geez" reply when asked for comment.

After that, to delight McCainWorld, the story goes on:

"Several hours later, his spokesman, Eric Fehrnstrom, provided the Globe with a statement saying that the governor knows nothing about the immigration status of the landscaping workers, and that his dealings were with Saenz, who is a legal immigrant from Colombia."

"Fehrnstrom said that Romney would look into the matter further."

And, thus, we learn

1. This story is going to have some legs.

2. Governor Romney has some serious self-vetting to do. LINK

The RGA Rumble in Miami:

The New York Times' Nagourney has every juicy detail (from the $50,000 price tag on McCain's swanky gubernatorial wooing party to Gov. Pawlenty's prepared endorsement of McCain to the cut of John Weaver's jib as he walked through the hotel lobby) of the McCain vs. Romney dynamic dominating the Republican Governors Association gathering in Miami. LINK

Romney's spokesguy Eric Fehrnstrom provides the Times the official take from the Bay State crowd: "It makes sense for Senator McCain to be here honoring Republican governors, because as a group they are fiscally conservative and innovators in education and health care policy. The answers to many of the challenges facing our nation can be found in what they are doing every day."

Nagourney doesn't use his full throat to say we have a two-person race on our hands for now, but he comes pretty darn close.

Jonathan Martin of National Review also has the Pawlenty support for McCain and reports that Gov. Matt Blunt (R-MO) may make his Romney endorsement within days in his must-read piece on all the RGA goings on. LINK

(And Note the close Romney supporter who anonymously boasts of a dozen GOP governors poised to support Gov. Romney.)

Scott Helman of the Boston Globe writes up the McCain/Romney "dogfight" preview in Miami. LINK

The St. Petersburg Times "The Buzz" blog has John McCain hamming it up before the RGA got underway.LINK

The Washington Times story on the Romney/McCain tug-of-war in Miami includes the Massachusetts Governor's secret dinner and the Senator's midnight under-the-door invites. LINK

Vilsack makes it official:

The AP's Holly Ramer reports that New Hampshire voters "got right to business" when questioning Vilsack about domestic and foreign issues and the core of his campaign, renewable energy. LINK

In his Vilsack announcement piece, the Washington Post's Dan Balz has the orphan-turned-governor saying in an interview: "I just want to be on the stage. If I'm on the stage, I'll take my chances. I'll take my shot with anybody." LINK

Josh Gerstein of the New York Sun questions how Vilsack differentiates himself with top aides replying, "he's the only guy who doesn't have Washington on his resume." LINK

With a Washington, DC dateline, one-time Hawkeye State resident Jeff Zeleny writes up Vilsack's entrance into the race for the New York Times including the dramatic details of how Vilsack became Mayor of Mt. Pleasant, IA in the mid-1980's. LINK

Coverage of Vilsack's announcement by the Wall Street Journal's John Harwood seems to say more about Sen. Obama than it does about Gov. Vilsack. "The person with the greatest chance of altering the race appears to be Sen. Barack Obama . . . whose message of hope and optimism has created a political sensation."

Democratic pollster Peter Hart goes on to call Sen. Obama the "Robert Kennedy of American politics for 2008."

Mike Glover of the Associated Press reports that in his announcement kick-off, Vilsack emphasized oil dependence, national security, and the economy "vowing to have the 'courage to create change.'" LINK

Thomas Beaumont of the Des Moines Register writes up the kick off of Vilsack's announcement tour with critics believing, "a non-Washington background, an interesting upbringing and a multistate campaign launch are not guarantees that Vilsack can compete the better-known candidates." LINK

Jonathon Roos also of the Des Moines Register writes of Vilsack's advantage for the Iowa caucuses since many of the other candidates "are from the sophisticated east coast. Most will likely have to consult an atlas to find Iowa after they've gone to Ohio first." LINK

Todd Dorman of the Quad City Times focuses on Vilsack's "underdog" status and what's next for his announcement tour. LINK

Tim Jones of the Chicago Tribune reports on Gov. Vilsack's enthusiastic and early presidential launch for 2008 and that time may be on his side. Note readers will find much to love in this story, including the references to Harwood, Winnie the Pooh, and Mark Twain. LINK

More on Vilsack's policies from the Chicago Tribune. LINK

The Quad City Times explores how Vilsack appeals to voters though "his governance and campaign style never had the bombast to draw crowds. Instead, he pursued agendas and tactics that elicited 'hmms,' and other reflective utterances." LINK


Mike Dorning of the Chicago Tribune Notes Sen. Barack Obama's (D-IL) appearance today with Sen. Brownback (R-KS) at evangelist's Rick Warren organized World Aids event at California church and what the attendance to the religious event means for party politics. LINK's Ron Fournier writes about the inability of both Democrats and Republicans to stake a valid claim on American suburbia and exurbia. "It's not clear that Democrats are any more in touch with mainstream America, but they have loosened the GOP's grip on the politically potent exurbs," adding that it is yet to be seen whether Democrats will be able to maintain their meek grip, and/or strengthen it, in the 2008 elections. LINK

2008: Republicans:

After referring to the "really mixed" polling on whether the public would back a Mormon for president if that is all they knew about the candidate, Romney pollster Jan van Lohuizen said at yesterday's 2008 Republican panel discussion sponsored by The Hotline: "Okay, we're not going to run on the Mormon ticket. We got it." ABC News' Teddy Davis has more on the Political Radar: LINK

Romney pushes towards one last battle on the same-sex marriage issue, Notes the Boston Globe. LINK

In a piece looking at RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman's warning to the nation's Republican governors that that the GOP will "lose again in 2008" if the party does not "change government for changing times," the Washington Post's Shailagh Murray Notes that Mehlman "singled out an effort by outgoing Gov. Mitt Romney . . . to expand health-care coverage to all Massachusetts residents." LINK

"'That is the kind of innovation we need at the state level, and in Washington,' Mehlman said."

Pat Healy of the New York Times reports that newly-elected New York GOP Chairman Joe Mondello received a courtesy call from Sen. McCain (R-AZ) last week. LINK

2008: Democrats:

For the second time in as many days, the New York Post's Bishop tries to bait Sen. Clinton into the presidential race (or, at least, a public appearance) with Sen. Obama's flurry of public appearances of late. LINK

Key graph #1: "'She's been quiet and, you know, there's a question that we all hear is that she may not get in this if Barack Obama gets in,' Iowa Interim Democratic Party Chairman Rob Tully said."

Note, too, that unlike Sen. Obama, Sen. Clinton did not call New Hampshire Democratic Party Chairwoman Kathy Sullivan to congratulate her on the huge victories for Democrats in the Granite State this year.

Nedra Pickler of the AP reports that "states willing to hold back in the rush to move up presidential nominating contests" could receive extra delegates to the Democratic National Convention under a new plan being presented to party leaders aimed to avoid "front-loading" the primaries. LINK

Glen Johnson of the AP Notes Senator Kerry's desire to move past a botched joke and onward to 2008 and just how complicated that may prove to be. LINK

Johnson also mentions that Jerry Crawford, the chairman of Kerry's Iowa campaign in 2004, will be supporting Gov. Tom Vilsack this time around, but the Shaheens of New Hampshire may be open to a second Kerry bid.

The Wall Street Journal's Wirey Jacob Schlesinger reports that the inaugural cartoon on shows Sen. Clinton "slamming Howard Dean with an oversize mallet."

The Washington Wire also reports that Sen. Clinton and former President Clinton "top pollster Peter Hart's Washington state survey on most-desirable weekend family companions, trailed by the Bushes; Cheneys and Kerrys finish last."

The Wall Street Journal's Schlesinger also looks at how some Senate leaders, including incoming Energy Chairman Bingaman, back an Obama plan forcing government to raise corporate average fuel-economy standards for autos by one mile per gallon each year, unless regulators prove it isn't feasible. House Energy Chairman-to-be Dingell of Detroit blasts CAFÉ as outmoded, and instead backs incentives for flex-fuel cars.

The Las Vegas Sun's Lisa Mascaro reports that Howard Dean is targeting areas in rural Nevada as part of his "50 State Strategy" to turn Red states Blue. LINK

Politics of Iraq:

The bipartisan Iraq Study Group plans to recommend withdrawing nearly all U.S. combat units from Iraq by early 2008 while leaving behind troops to train, advise and support the Iraqis, the Washington Post's Peter Baker and Thomas Ricks report. LINK

In a story that reports that the Bush Administration is deliberating whether to abandon reconciliation efforts with Sunni insurgents, the Washington Post's Robin Wright reports that U.S. officials are increasingly concerned that their reconciliation efforts may even have "backfired," alienating the Shiite majority and leaving the United States vulnerable to having no allies in Iraq. LINK

In a news analysis, David Sanger of the New York Times describes the current moment as possibly President Bush's last to alter his Iraq strategy and redefine the terms of victory as nearly everyone in Washington seems to no longer be debating if troops should start coming out of Iraq, but instead simply debating when and how rapidly. LINK

The San Francisco Chronicle's Marc Sandlow sees President Bush's comments while traveling in the Middle East as yet another example "that the world of public Bush-speak -- from his vigorous support for al-Maliki and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to his rejection of direct diplomacy with Syria and Iran -- bears little relation to what goes on behind the scenes." LINK

GOP agenda:

Adam Nagourney of the New York Times, who grew up always wanting to be a blogger, blogs the GOP's introspection on their 2006 midterm performance at the RGA gathering in Miami -- and potential course corrections for 2008. LINK

The AP's Liz Sidoti reports on Ken Mehlman telling those gathered at the RGA that "for Republicans, this must be a time for self-examination when it comes to our policy" and urged the party to do some soul-searching before 2008. LINK

Democratic agenda:

The Washington Post's E.J. Dionne reports that the real tension in the new Democratic majority is between older members who came to political maturity in the pre-Clinton, pre-Gingrich era and younger members "have only known life in the opposition during a time when Republicans radically centralized control in their leadership." LINK

Outstanding House races:

Hispanic voting rights groups in Texas are crying foul because of the date set for the runoff between Rep. Henry Bonilla (R-TX) and Ciro Rodriguez (D-TX). The AP's Suzanne Gamboa writes that the Dec. 12th runoff "falls on the Feast of the Virgin of Guadalupe," a holiday which most Catholic Hispanics celebrate, and that "the district has a 61 percent Hispanic voting age population." LINK

2007: Governors:

Tom Loftusand and Elisabeth J. Beardsley of the Louisville Courier-Journal believe that Rep. Ben Chandler's (D-KY) announcement that he will not run for governor "has given new hope to Democrats." Rep. Chandler calls the situation "fluid with a capital F." LINK

Casting and counting:

According to draft recommendations issued this week by a federal agency that advises the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, paperless electronic voting machines "cannot be made secure," reports the Washington Post's Cameron Barr. LINK

In a story which chides some liberals for being paranoid even when they win, the Wall Street Journal's ed board Notes that Democrats could attempt to disallow the Florida certification and vote to seat Christine Jennings in January unless a new election is granted as was done in a contested Indiana House race 20 years ago.

Political potpourri:

Andrea Stone of USA Today reports on Rep. elect Keith Ellison's (D-MN) inaugural controversy surrounding which religious book -- the Bible or the Quran -- upon which he chooses to place his hand when he takes the oath of office in January. LINK

The Wall Street Journal's Schlesinger reports that former Viagra pitchman Bob Dole is teaming up with Pfizer again, this time to "hawk success stories for Medicare's drug benefit."

Jim Abrams of the AP writes about the co-dependent relationship between the Republican Main Street Partnership -- which lost 10 members this year -- and Blue Dog Democrats. Abrams makes Note of how each member was taken down by their Democratic challenger in the last election, and how the moderate candidates prevailed. LINK