The Note: What if Hillary Clinton Said "Jose"

WASHINGTON, Dec. 5

If you can't close your eyes and imagine exactly what Tony Snow and Joe Biden are going to say about both the Gates confirmation hearings and the Iraq Study Group report, you obviously haven't been paying attention.

(Not to mention what we will hear from victory lappers Congressman Murtha, Paul Krugman, and Frank Rich.)

And if you live in Iowa or New Hampshire and haven't got a call yet from Hillary Clinton to muse with her about what issues are important to children and families and about her decision making process, you might be paying attention, but you should reconsider your conception of yourself as a playa.

And/but no 2008 top-tier playa is going to be caught dead making anything even semi-official in the month of December. If you want to feel bad for someone, it shouldn't be the political reporters who have to babysit these serial strip teases, but the spouses and children in the McCain, Romney, Edwards, Obama, and Clinton households -- all of whom, it appears, are going to have to mix talk of family, presents, and turducken with Excel documents showing caucus votes needed, the cost of 30 seconds on Boston TV, and how one raises $1 million (plus) a week for six straight months starting by late January.

As Karen Hughes always says, The Note shouldn't be giving advice -- and we aren't. But consider this analysis (a/k/a: "Notebook unloading"):

1. The Arizona Republic will not do as much investigative work on "its" candidate as the Boston Globe will do on Mitt Romney.

2. Sen. Clinton and Sen. Obama, as the latter said last night, really, truly, fully do like each other, as do their campaign-staffs-in-waiting. Contrast that with the pulsating negativity that courses between the McCain and Romney camps, with their prickly principals and aides du campe.

3. Any White House expectation that 43 can hold the spotlight deep into 2007 has gone from fantasy to delusion. (Or is it "delusion to fantasy"?)

4. Forget the phone calls to key early state activists and New York politicos: hiring Jonathan Mantz, Karen Hicks, and Phil Singer is not something someone not running for president does.

5. (With Zeleny gone), the Chicago Tribune will not do as much investigative work on "its" candidate as the Boston Globe will do on Mitt Romney.

6. Two years in the Senate ain't a lot of time.

7. Endangered species: Romney/Mormon stories without the words "Harry Reid."

8. Who was it again who said that senators can't get elected president?

9. One has to wonder how many different versions of response Axelrod and Gibbs have prepared to answer the "Where's the Beef?" line that you know is going to be coming out of Democratic third-tier land pretty soon.

10. With the Madden Primary and the Comstock Primary both going to Governor Romney, look for the largely free pass for Senator McCain to fade with the advent of the new year.

11. You know the varsity is on the field when you get a call warning you that you're going to see stories about Senator Clinton making calls.

12. Watch the crowd size at Obama's Manchester event on Sunday, with good enough SOTs and NATS to sustain until Monday's broadcast network morning shows.

13. The F.E.C. makes no distinction between an "exploratory" committee and a full-blown one, and we should all do the same thing.

14. The tone of a candidate and a campaign can mean the difference between winning, losing, and being able to play again. A campaign for the vice presidential nomination can look, feel and seem very much like a contest for the top job.

Playing all this out in real time:

One day after establishing a presidential "exploratory" committee, Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS) delivers the keynote address at the Linn County Christmas Party. He also holds his kick-off fundraising at 7:00 pm ET at the Best Western Longbranch Hotel in Cedar Rapids, IA.

Later today, the Iowa Democratic Party will name Norm Sterzenbach as political and caucus director. Sterzenbach has a long record of experience in Iowa politics. In 2000, he was with former Sen. Bill Bradley (D-NJ). In 2004, he was caucus director for the AARP. And, in 2006, he was deputy campaign manager for Chet Culver's successful gubernatorial campaign.

Robert Gates' confirmation hearings -- with confirmation expected in short order -- get underway in the Senate Armed Services Committee at 9:30 am ET in Hart 216. The potential 2008 presidential candidates on the panel include Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY), and Sen. Evan Bayh (D-IN). There is a possibility of a closed session in S-407 of the Capitol Building following the open session.

Later today, President Bush hosts a White House dinner for outgoing UN Secretary General Kofi Annan.

Speaker-designate Nancy Pelosi and House Democrats were scheduled to hold a forum on the Iraq war with former National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski, Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, and Major General John Batiste at 9:00 am ET. Pelosi and the incoming Democratic leadership hold a post-forum presser at 11:00 am ET in the Cannon Rotunda.

Sens. John McCain (R-AZ), Russ Feingold (D-WI), Joe Lieberman (ID-CT), Susan Collins (R-ME), Christopher Shays (D-CT), and Marty Meehan (D-MA) hold a press conference on lobbying, ethics and earmark reform in the Senate Radio & Television Gallery at 1:15 pm ET.

Incoming House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) holds a pen-and-pad only news briefing at 11:30 am ET in the US Capitol in Washington, DC.

Former President Clinton attends a CHAI Event in Angkor, Cambodia.

On Oprah today: "Global Warming 101 with Al Gore." Check your local listings. LINK

Gov. Janet Napolitano (D-AZ), the new chair of the National Governors Association, and Gov. Tim Pawlenty (D-MN), the NGA's new vice chair, hold the kick-off meeting of the Innovation America Initiative at 10:30 am ET at the Pointe South Mountain Resort in Phoenix, AZ.

US Supreme Court Associate Justices Stephen Breyer and Antonin Scalia "converse on the Constitution" at an event jointly sponsored by the Federalist Society and the American Constitution Society at the Capitol Hilton Ballroom at 6:00 pm ET. The event will be moderated by Jan Crawford Greenberg, ABC News' legal correspondent.

ABC News' Mark Halperin speaks at New Hampshire's St. Anselm College's Institute of Politics at 7:00 pm ET.

Before the 2008 rush begins, take one fond, backward glance at 40 years of campaigns at a public Celebration of the Very Full Life of R.W. Apple Jr., at 11:00 am ET today in the Eisenhower Theater at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

In the nation's capital, Johnny's friends and family will remember his life and long career at the New York Times.

Speakers from the worlds of journalism, politics and food will include Joseph Lelyveld, Calvin Trillin, Hodding Carter, Lord Owen (the former British foreign secretary), Alice Waters, and John McCain. Then a reception will follow, at which great stories will be told.

A crowd as big as Johnny's love of good Thai food (and everything else wonderful in life) is expected, so arrive early if you plan to attend.

Robert Gates for SecDef:

The New York Daily News' McAuliff tees up the Gates hearings through the 2008 presidential lens. LINK

Brownback forms presidential "exploratory" committee:

The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza has Matt Keelen, a Republican lobbyist not affiliated with any '08 candidate, saying that Sen. Brownback's campaign will be "compassionate conservatism on steroids" with a strong focus on poverty and moral issues. LINK

"Money is a major hurdle for Brownback, who has never raised or spent more than $2.5 million on a race." David Kensinger, Brownback's former chief of staff and an informal adviser to his presidential campaign, acknowledged that Brownback's fundraising ability remains an open question, but added: "If you can win Iowa, you are going to have all the money you need overnight."

In his story looking at Sen. Brownback getting in the presidential race, the Hill's Alexander Bolton has ACU's David Keene explaining why conservatives distrust McCain, FRC's Tom McClusky calling Romney's record on life "spotty," and ATR's Grover Norquist criticizing Huckabee for raising taxes by saying, "I would prefer a fat guy with a skinny budget."LINK

The Kansas City Star's Matt Stearns and David Goldstein, both total pros, report that Brownback's Senate chief of staff, Rob Wasinger, 34, has left to run the exploratory committee, which will be based in the Kansas City area. LINK

The Kansas City Star duo also Note that Brownback is calling for "a flat tax, term limits for judges and members of Congress, and 'compassionate yet practical programs to help the poor here and around the world.'"

With Sen. Brownback in the presidential race, social issues will come into focus reports the Los Angeles Times' Johanna Neuman. The president of the conservative Concerned Women for America tells the Los Angeles Times that Brownback is not just a politician trying to pander conservatives -- he's consistent about his point of view. LINK

Stu Rothenberg tells the Los Angeles Times: "Obviously there's a vacancy on the right, and he may well fit the niche. He's a longshot -- but you don't have any shot if you don't throw your hat in the ring."

The Associated Press' San Hananel reports that Sen. Brownback's 10-state tour will end with a night in Louisiana's Angola state penitentiary in an effort to draw attention to faith-based approaches to cutting the recidivism rate. LINK

In her story looking at Brownback's entrance into the race, USA Today's Jill Lawrence picks up on former Frist adviser Alex Vogel saying "the threshold for respectability" for Brownback and other long shots is $10 million by the end of March 2007. LINK

USA Today also picks up on FEC chairman Michael Toner predicting that the eventual nominees will raise $500 million apiece.

Sen. Obama works Sen. Clinton's turf:

Pat Healy of the New York Times reports that Sen. Obama (D-IL) met with billionaire philanthropist and heavy-hitting Democratic donor George Soros yesterday and used his Midtown Manhattan office space to meet with some other potential donors. LINK

"One of the donors who met with Mr. Obama, and who spoke on condition of anonymity because he did not want to offend Mrs. Clinton, said that he and several others had supported Mrs. Clinton's Senate campaigns but were not committed to her as a presidential candidate," writes Healy.

"'I like Hillary a lot, but I'm also impressed with Obama -- his message, the way he connects to people,' said the donor, a prominent New York business person. 'It's a little too early for Democrats to be certain that Hillary is the strongest bet for 2008. There are a lot of good people interested in running.'"

(Whether or not Jonathan Mantz has already identified the source of the blind quote and reached out to that person remains unclear.)

Note, too, the Healy kicker, which had the tab scribes buzzing (along with some feelings of "is that all there is?" underwhelment):

"While Mr. Obama was warmly received by the dinner audience -- he won two standing ovations -- his performance was not flawless: at one point he referred to 'Jose' Posada of the New York Yankees instead of Jorge."

The Phil Singer and Jonathan Mantz hires by the Clinton camp get some play in this Obama story too.

The New York Daily News Obama coverage includes Chris Lehane and Hank Sheinkopf explaining why Sen. Clinton may need not worry about an Obama candidacy just yet. LINK

The New York Post's Haberman also includes the Jorge vs. Jose mistake. LINK

New York Post columnist Andrea Peyser came away seemingly unimpressed with Sen. Obama, and records for history the most memorable moment of the evening, when the lights went out on the Senator's presser, as Tommy Vietor looked on with a patented combination of bemusement and world-weariness. LINK

Sen. Clinton reaches out:

"I'm In," blares the New York Post headline with an accompanying photo of Sen. Clinton.

Ian Bishop and Maggie Haberman of the New York Post write, "Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton yesterday answered the question on everyone's mind - telling one New York lawmaker flat out: 'I'm really going to go for this.'" LINK

More Bishop/Haberman: "Another New York lawmaker said that during the course of their conversation, Clinton revealed she felt pressure to formally jump into the 2008 White House race sooner rather than later because other candidates are becoming increasingly active."

Per the Union Leader's John Distaso, Sen. Clinton has weighed in on a presidential run with calls to New Hampshire Democratic activists, gaining the support of veteran state and national party activist Karen Hicks. Distaso also reveals Clinton's telephone conversation last week with Gov. John Lynch. LINK

The Des Moines Register's Thomas Beaumont on Sen. Clinton reaching out to Iowa Democrats, including Bonnie Campbell, who worked in the Department of Justice during Bill Clinton's administration. LINK

2008:

The New York Times' Nagourney writes up some '08er travel schedules including the added book reading in Portsmouth, NH to Sen. Obama's schedule on Sunday. LINK

New Jersey's presidential primary is on track to move from June to February -- to the great delight of finance directors in each campaign, no doubt. LINK

2008: Democrats:

Lynn Sweet of the Chicago Sun Times blogs about the origins of Barack Obama and the buzz generated by his middle name, Hussein. LINK

The Washington Post's E.J. Dionne looks at Sen. Obama's recent remarks to Rick Warren's Saddleback Church and opines that it "demonstates a much truer Christian spirit than the GOP masterminds who have recently tried to push people away from Obama by pointing out that his middle name is Hussein." LINK

The Christian Science Monitor's Linda Feldmann predicts that if Obama runs without stumbling, "there may not be enough political oxygen left for any of the other Democrats running or thinking of running or being urged to run." LINK

At a Christian Science Monitor breakfast with reporters this morning, Gov. Tom Vilsack (D-IA) re-stated his line about that six months old Des Moines Register presidential preference poll showing him in fourth place among Iowa Democrats. "People perceive me as a governor, not as a presidential candidate," Vilsack said.

Then he went on to add, "I have more number ones signed up today – people who know they will caucus and organize for you – than any candidate has any had -- not only at this point at time, but at one month out from the caucuses. . . no doubt about that. . ."

Vilsack told reporters to expect a lot of talk from him in the coming weeks and months about energy security. He claims to have a better record in that policy area than any candidate considering a 2008 presidential run.

Before he delves too deeply into policy on the trail, Vilsack intends to spend some time this month raising money. He heads to New York City today for a fundraiser, then back to Iowa for a couple gubernatorial events there, and then to the donor-rich state of Florida to shake the trees there.

The State's Lee Bandy reports that Gov. Vilsack did not seem concerned about his status as the underdog when he visited South Carolina, where staffers had to recruit passersby to fill empty front-row seats. Vilsack said, "I'm the one person who is legitimately, totally outside of Washington on this thing. I'm the one who can win. When people start thinking I'm the one who can win. ... You know you can't govern, you can't change unless you can win." LINK

Gov. Vilsack spoke about stamping out inequality during a campaign stop in South Carolina, reports the Des Moines Register's Thomas Beaumont.LINK

Kansas City Star's Peter Brown Notes that former Sen. John Edwards (D-NC) could be the Democrats' winning ticket for 2008 because of his Southern ties and his likeability. LINK

Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT) won his battle to deny John Bolton's confirmation as United Nations ambassador, Notes the Hartford Courant's David Lightman. LINK

2008: Republicans:

Gov. Romney's political action committee announced that Gov. Matt Blunt (R-MO) will chair his PAC's Governors' Advisory Council.

In a story that has possible implications for whether Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-CO) will seek the White House in 2008, Roll Call's David Drucker reports that "speculation is mounting" that Sen. Wayne Allard (R-CO) will retire in 2008. If Allard's seat opens up, Tancredo has signaled that he could run for that seat instead of making a presidential bid.

2008: Independents:

Michael Bloomberg came clean about his height (inaccurately listed on his driver's license as 5'10) while visiting with Gov. Jeb Bush in Florida yesterday. LINK

"Mayor Bloomberg held a 90- minute round-table discussion here yesterday with more than a dozen top labor leaders - while insisting once again that he harbors no national ambitions," writes David Seifman of the New York Post of Bloomberg's trip to Miami. LINK

NY1's Monday night coverage of the trip emphasized the Mayor's tarantella of respect with Jeb Bush, leaving one to ponder a possible self-funded indy ticket that would ruin the best-laid plans of John Weaver and Patti Solis Doyle.

Politics of Iraq:

"The depletion of major equipment . . . has left many military units in the United States without adequate training gear, officials say. Partly as a result of the shortages, many U.S. units are rated "unready" to deploy . . . raising alarm in Congress and concern among military leaders," writes the Washington Post's Ann Scott Tyson. LINK

David Kirkpatrick of the New York Times briefly explains how the Iraq Study Group came to be. LINK

"A few members of the Iraq Study Group have made political contributions since they joined the bipartisan committee," writes the Hill's Bob Cusack, highlighting Leon Panetta's $500 contribution to Rep. John Murtha (D-PA), while also Noting it is not clear what rules the ISG gave itself in terms of partisan activities. LINK

GOP agenda:

For Nightline, ABC News' Jake Tapper looked at the least-active Congress in recent history, on track to meet only 241 days in 2 years (the 1948 'do-nothing' congress met 254 times). Watch the video: LINK

The Washington Post's Jonathan Weisman reports that tomorrow's bill on abortion anesthesia may well be that last of it's kind for years as Democrats will seek to "avoid confrontations over hot-button social issues that divide their caucus, and focus instead on military and pocketbook issues." LINK

The Washington Post's Steven Mufson and Juliet Eilperin preview the House vote on a Senate offshore drilling plan that would open up new are in the Gulf of Mexico, Noting Democratic Leaders refusal to take a position on the issue and the possibilities of future offshore drilling legislation. LINK

Roll Call's Erin Billings reports that incoming Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is forming a "strategic communications center to help Republicans redefine their vision and argue their case for a return to a GOP majority."

Democratic agenda:

The New York Times' Kirkpatrick looks at the rise to powerful chairmanships among members of the Congressional Black Caucus and Notes the dilemma many face in both promoting an agenda with broad appeal within the Democratic caucus and an agenda geared towards the needs of the people they represent -- a more liberal electorate in overwhelmingly African American districts. LINK

"It is so much power that Representative Charles B. Rangel, the New York Democrat set to be chairman of the pivotal Ways and Means Committee, said he hesitated to speak about it publicly. 'I don't want to scare the hell out of people,' Mr. Rangel said, 'that blacks are now in charge of the committees and so, therefore, watch out.'"

Note the raising of the reparations issue, and Rangel using female pronouns to refer to the Lord -- surely warming Chairman Emanuel's heart.

After it raises the minimum wage, the Democratic controlled Congress may pursue legislation requiring employers to provide paid sick days for employees. The New York Times' Steven Greenhouse has the story. LINK

In her "Heard on the Hill" column, Roll Call's Mary Ann Akers has a "well-placed GOP source" saying that Nancy Pelosi, "in a random act of bipartisan kindness that will surely irk Members on both sides of the aisle, has decided to reward Hastert with the plush and coveted Capitol office suite now held by retiring Ways and Means Chairman Bill Thomas (R-Calif.)."

DGA:

Zachary Goldfarb of the Washington Post picks up on the AP's reporting that Gov. Kathleen Sebelius (D-KS) will become the first female chair of the DGA tomorrow. LINK

The announcement is expected to be made by Gov. Bill Richardson (D-NM), the current chair of the DGA, during a 2:30 pm ET press conference at the Capital Hilton on Wednesday.

NRCC:

The Hill's Aaron Blake reports that Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK) announced that the team which will help him transition into the role of NRCC chair will include former NRCC Chair Tom Davis (R-VA) but it will not include Rep. Tom Reynolds (R-NY), the current chairman who saw the GOP lose control of the House under his watch. LINK

Bolton:

Zalmay Khalilzad, Richard Williamson, Sen. Mike DeWine, and Nicholas Burns all get mentioned as possible John Bolton successors in the New York Times story on Bolton's departure. LINK

The Washington Post's Peter Baker and Glenn Kessler report on Ambassador Bolton's resignation, Noting that while the White House attention focused on Khalilzad, Administration officials say the pick will be a political nominee. LINK

The Boston Globe writes that with Bolton out as U.S. ambassador to the UN, the Bush administration has lost one of its leading "hawks." Note the liberal analyst who jumps all over the Bolton exit as well as Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's resignation as a sign of the collapse of the neo conservative hold on Bush administration policy since 9-11. LINK

On his "Political Punch" blog, ABC News' Jake Tapper reports that one Republican official said of Bolton that, "on the confirmation level, the reality is Democrats were opposing him, but very nervous about prospect of filibustering him. John is enormously popular with certain constituencies" big in Democratic political circles. LINK

The Schwarzenegger Era:

The San Francisco Chronicle on Schwarzenegger becoming the first governor in more than thirty years to attend the swearing-in ceremony of the state's newly elected state lawmakers. LINK

OH-15:

Robert Vitale of the Columbus Dispatch reports that the mandatory recount in the Ohio 15 race between Rep. Deborah Pryce (R-OH) and Mary Jo Kilroy (D-OH) starts today. The last total had Republican Pryce up by 1,055 votes. LINK

Political potpourri:

The Utah legislature took one step closer to increasing its representation in the US House -- which was received as very good news by city officials in the District of Columbia. Kirk Johnson of the New York Times explains. LINK

Casting and counting:

The Associated Press reports the US Election Assistance Commission rejected a requirement for all voting machines to have an independently verifiable record of the votes cast. LINK

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