The Note: What if Hillary Clinton Said "Jose"

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.

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