The Note: The Way to Win, Chappaqua Style



Before Hillary Clinton's bold stroke Saturday morning, the first State of the Union speech of the rest of George W. Bush's presidency was already in danger -- along with Mr. Bush's entire agenda -- of being drowned out by the drawn-out political death of the war in Iraq.

ABC News' Gary Langer reports: "President Bush faces the nation this week more unpopular than any president on the eve of a State of the Union address since Richard Nixon in 1974." LINK

"Nixon was beleaguered by the Watergate scandal; for Bush, three decades later, it's the war in Iraq. With his unpopular troop surge on the table, his job rating matches the worst of his presidency: Thirty-three percent of Americans approve of his work in office while 65 percent disapprove, 2-1 negative, matching his career low last May."

"Only three postwar presidents have gone lower -- Jimmy Carter, Nixon and Harry Truman. And only one has had a higher disapproval rating, Nixon."

Now, any illusions the White House had that the 2008 presidential contest could be repressed until late 2007 have been blown away.

The Gang of 500, every cable network, talk radio host, and pajama-clad blogger is significantly more interested in all things Clinton than they are in health care tax credits, nuanced global warming positions, or Cheney-Pelosi body language.

And between now and Tuesday night's 9 pm SOTU, Hillary Clinton will claim some really choice network television real estate, as well deliver what will surely be the most watched, hyped, and covered video web chats in the (short) history of the medium.

Senator Clinton has already answered many key questions about her presidential campaign, but left some very much tbd.

Now known: she appears ready to be the first candidate in modern times to reject public financing for the nomination and general election campaigns; she will manage the Clinton Brand in a hands-on fashion; she is going to compete hard for the netroots; there will be no photo op left behind.

It is the unknowns, though, that will attract the attention of the impatient.

1. When she announces her national committee of supporters, who will be the senior member of Congress? The senior African-American? The senior Illinoisan? The senior conservative Southerner? The senior pro-lifer?

2. How much opposition research has she collected on herself? And on others? What will be gathered in both categories in the coming weeks and months? And how forthcoming has she been with her staff? Most of all: whither Cheryl Mills?

3. Howard Kurtz's tour de force Washington Post story -- tracking the right-wing Freak Show's first-of-many attempts to muddy up Clinton (and Obama), in this case using the Washington Times-Fox News conveyor belt -- leaves out the key talk radio piece. So: has the Clinton campaign found a way to track right-wing talk radio?

4. Everything else!

In fact, there is a way to begin to answer all of these questions and more.

The key to evaluating Sen. Clinton's chances of taking the White House in 2008 is to understand just how well she knows The Way to Win.

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