The Note: It's Never Too Early, Part 101

WASHINGTON, Jan. 29

Remind us again why there is something wrong with the country taking its time over about a year to consider its choices for the biggest job on the planet.

If you are bored, turn away.

But please don't think that because of some shifts in the calendar or the (compared to some, but not all cycles) early start that the campaigns and candidates are any more focused on fundraising than they were in the past. Ask Lamar Alexander, Tom Harkin, Bob Dole, Phil Gramm, Bob Graham, John Kasich, Joe Lieberman, or pretty much anyone not named "Forbes" who has ever run how much time they had to spend on fundraising, back in the Golden Years of yesteryore, before all these horrible changes.

And if you can bear to pay attention, you can learn a lot.

For instance, just in the last 72 hours, we learned it is never too early:

-- to understand that Hillary Clinton is the front-runner not just because she can raise the most money and is famous, but also because she has become the most experienced presidential-level politician in the race. (Only those who have closely watched her over the years -- and did hard labor with her, listening to looped talk about "the children and the families" in Upstate New York in 2000 -- can really explain the evolution to you, so make sure you read Adam Nagourney's New York Times take. LINK

And the conventions of journalism only allow Nagourney to hint at the reality: the headlines about the Clinton botched joke obscure how formidable -- relaxed, funny, tough, pleasant -- she has become on the stump.)

-- to take David Yepsen for shakes and fries at the Drake Diner (and then talk about it in your stump speech, as Hillary Clinton deftly did this weekend).

-- to acknowledge that as long as Iraq is Iraq, the Democratic Nominee for President in 2008 is favored over the Republican Nominee for President in 2008, making Hillary Clinton, as a snapshot right now, the most likely person to be the Next President of the United States.

-- to try and figure out the rank order of cash raised from January 1 through March 31 of Clinton, Edwards, Giuliani, McCain, Obama, and Romney.

-- to realize that Iowa is wide open for both the Democrats and the Republicans and both contests are going to be fought out on the ground the old fashioned way.

-- and/but to realize also that every major (and minor) candidate in the race (except maybe Tom Vilsack) thinks the path to victory involves bringing "new people" into the caucus process. (Good luck with that.)

-- to wonder which presidential candidates, beneath the radar, are most willing to spend their time when they are NOT in Iowa and New Hampshire, doing phone time making calls to unaffiliated Pooh-Bahs who live in Iowa and New Hampshire.

-- to try and figure out the rank order of cash raised from January 1 through March 31 of Clinton, Edwards, Giuliani, McCain, Obama, and Romney.

-- to Note that Rudy Giuliani clearly does not intend to take on the "big tent" fight at every key public appearance -- at least not yet.

-- to ask why the press simultaneously bemoans how "early" all this activity is taking place, and then does stuff like have most every major paper in the country over the weekend publish detailed, heavily reported stories about the semiotic meaning of Barack Obama's law school days. (Only the Los Angeles Times -- so far -- has done the Occidental years LINK.)

-- for the New York Times to quaintly think that it can shine the disinfection of light onto the dynamics of the right-wing Freak Show (as in the Obama/madrassa-Clinton/oppo-machine Insight story) by writing front-page stories about it. (Although today's effort is must-read and hilarious. LINK)

-- to determine that the press doesn't really plan to hold Democratic presidential candidates accountable for making wild statements that might tie the hand of the commander in chief during wartime -- the way that just might happen if Republican candidates were saying comparable things about a Democratic president.

-- to try and figure out the rank order of cash raised from January 1 through March 31 of Clinton, Edwards, Giuliani, McCain, Obama, and Romney.

-- for the smarter political scribes to write columns premised on the Notion that there are too many unknowns to make sensible definitive statements about the presidential contests -- and then write columns with oodles of speculations anyway (!). (Newsweek likes this dynamic so much that they let Jon Alter LINK and Anna Quindlen LINK do it in the same issue this week.)

-- for the New York Times to write editorials about 2008 that all but call for the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy to co-chair the Iowa caucuses, with jaw-dropping sentences such as this: "The problem with the 23-month campaign is not just the fatigue it will inspire, but the effect on democracy. Bundlers -- master fund-raisers who package individual contributions into big ones -- will have even more power…. Congress should fix the broken public financing system, which has not been significantly updated since it was adopted in 1974. ...We will never return to the time when presidential campaigns unfolded handshake by handshake in New Hampshire -- and we shouldn't -- but Congress and the national parties can set a more thoughtful 21st-century pace." LINK

-- for the Gang of 500 to make the judgment, again and still and over and over, that the war in Iraq and the Bush presidency are effectively over. (The latest "evidence": the Newsweek poll numbers and this New York Post headline: "BUSH HITS IRAQ BOTTOM: AMONG LEAST-POPULAR PRESIDENTS OF ALL TIME AS WAR TAKES TOLL IN POLL.")

-- to try and figure out the rank order of cash raised from January 1 through March 31 of Clinton, Edwards, Giuliani, McCain, Obama, and Romney.

Two of those six candidates, Sen. McCain (R-AZ) and Sen. Clinton (D-NY), share a national security stage today at noon ET in San Antonio, TX for the dedication ceremony for "The Center for the Intrepid," a rehabilitation facility for wounded members of the military. LINK

Sen. McCain's briefing memo on the event likely says, "Remember: when you are in public, you are not supposed to demonstrate that you like Sen. Clinton. There are Romney trackers EVERYWHERE."

The immunized former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer is scheduled to testify in the Scooter Libby trial today in Washington, DC, after a Cathie Martin return engagement.

Gov. Mike Huckabee (R-AR) intends to file papers to set up a presidential exploratory committee today with the FEC.

Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA) delivers the keynote address at the Aiken Rotary Club meeting at the Aiken Municipal Conference Center in Aiken, SC at 12:40 pm ET. Later today, Gov. Romney announces endorsements from Charleston area leaders at the Coen Capital in Mt. Pleasant, SC at 5:00 pm ET.

And be sure to check out ABC News' Terry Moran's interview with Gov. Romney tonight on Nightline at 11:35 pm ET.

Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) joins his Senate Homeland Security Committee colleagues for field hearings on "Hurricanes Katrina and Rita: Outstanding Need, Slow Progress" starting at 10:00 am ET at the Louisiana Supreme Court Building in New Orleans, LA. At 1:15 pm ET, the senators will take a bus tour of devastated areas.

According to his prepared remarks, Sen. Obama is expected to say, "In the weeks after Katrina, an ashamed nation looked at what had been allowed to happen here and said 'Never again. Never will we turn our backs on these people. Never will we forget what happened here.' The President came down and said, 'We will do what it takes, we will stay as long as it takes, to help citizens rebuild their communities and their lives.'

"Just eighteen months later, we heard not one word -- not one word -- in the President's State of the Union address about New Orleans. And so I have one more set of questions to ask today: 'Are we willing to do whatever it takes? To stay as long as it takes? Are we in danger of forgetting about New Orleans?'"

President Bush holds a meeting with the (supportive and friendly) members of "Securing America's Future Energy" in the Roosevelt Room at 2:45 pm ET and is expected to make remarks to the pool at the bottom of the meeting. LINK

The President also interviews with NPR's Juan Williams today. You can listen for excerpts throughout the day and a complete report at 4:00 pm ET on "All Things Considered." LINK

White House press secretary Tony Snow gaggles off camera at 10:00 am ET and briefs on camera at 1:00 pm ET.

Christie Vilsack, Iowa's former First Lady, speaks to the Spartanburg County Democrats at 5:30 pm ET at the Wild Wing Café in Spartanburg, SC.

Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA) was scheduled to outline his ideas for No Child Left Behind reauthorization at 9:45 am ET at the National School Boards Association gathering in Washington, DC. Secretary Spellings is scheduled to address the group at 2:45 pm ET on the same topic.

Republican Senate Conference Chairman Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) speaks on the implications of China's recent test of an anti-satellite weapon at noon ET at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, DC.

2008: Democrats: Clinton's Iowa campaign swing:

Bottom line: she impressed Glover, Beaumont, Yepsen, and many voters, and/but she still has to come back a lot and win over enough people to finish, uhm, where frontrunners need to finish. Oh, and the Freak Show is alive and well, but she kept it at bay for a full 35 hours.

ABC News' Jake Tapper called Sen. Clinton "sharply critical" of President Bush on Iraq in his weekend wrap for Good Morning America.

The AP's Mike Glover reports that Sen. Clinton said Sunday that President Bush "has made a mess of Iraq and it is his responsibility to 'extricate' the United States from the situation before he leaves office." LINK

"Clinton lets personality show during Iowa visit," reports the Des Moines Register's Tom Beaumont. LINK

The Quad City Times' Ed Tibbetts reports that Sen. Clinton argued Sunday for a "pragmatic approach to stop the troop escalation in Iraq, saying it's easy to appeal to people with 'soundbites' and calls to cut off funding." LINK

In Sunday's Des Moines Register, David Yepsen recounted how a "stream of people, including many younger women, stopped by to shake hands, get an autograph and wish her well," when he sat down to interview Sen. Clinton at the Drake Diner in Des Moines. LINK

"Clinton said they were evidence of how 'there's a very big upside' to her gender. 'It's a big plus, but I've got to demonstrate that I'm the person who should be president. I'm not running as a woman, but I'm proud to be one. . .'"

Under a "Mixed Reviews for Clinton" header, Dan Balz writes up the results of an unscientific Iowa focus conducted by the Washington Post. LINK

". . . a 90-minute conversation with 14 Iowa Democrats here Sunday afternoon tells a more complete and not-so-encouraging story of" Sen. Clinton's "candidacy in its early stages."

"Their opinions underscored what polls and strategists are saying: The Democratic race in Iowa is wide open. There is great interest in Illinois Sen. Barack Obama but many questions about whether he is ready to be president. Former senator John Edwards of North Carolina is well known to Iowa activists, but for someone leading the polls here he evoked a curiously unenthusiastic reaction among many in the group. Other candidates sparked limited interest, although there were kind words for former Iowa governor Tom Vilsack, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson and Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware."

In a story looking at Sen. Clinton's efforts "over a sub-freezing weekend to show fellow Democrats she isn't an ice queen," the Wall Street Journal's Jackie Calmes reports that the former first lady "nearly brought down the house in Davenport yesterday when, for those in the audience who hadn't heard, she paraphrased one man's question" about 'evil and bad men."

As Sen. Clinton seeks to strike a balance between "proving her toughness and revealing her personality," the Washington Post's Anne Kornblut and Dan Balz report that the former first lady casually referred to her husband as "this guy from Arkansas." LINK

Tom Beaumont's Sunday write-up of Sen. Clinton's Des Moines Register interview in which she said: "Many of the doubts that are being expressed now were certainly present when I made my initial listening tour in New York. There were so many doubts." LINK

Bloomberg's Kristin Jensen describes the "retail politics" Sen. Clinton needs to abide by to make headway in Iowa before next January's caucuses --church socials, breakfasts with voters, and the like-- as Iowa "is a state that can make or break a national frontrunner." LINK

ABC News' Mark Halperin writes, "It is chronologically too early in the cycle to pick the next president of the United States, but in Iowa -- whose caucuses this time next year will help define the contours of the 2008 race -- it is starting to feel late." LINK

"For Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., it has gotten late awfully early in Iowa, a state in which her comparatively weak political standing does not match her front-running national status." Halperin also offers 10 observations/lessons from Sen. Clinton's Iowa campaign swing. LINK

Kay Henderson of Radio Iowa begins her report with the Senator's avoiding two opportunities to address the Iraq issue on Saturday. Sen. Clinton responded to it Sunday, saying, "You know, I acted on the best judgment that I had at the time, and at the time I said that this was not a vote for pre-emptive war." LINK

Henderson writes that Sen. Clinton's aides wish to stress the president's "misuse" of his given authority.

The Washington Times' Charles Hurt ledes with Sen. Clinton defending her 2002 vote to authorize the war in Iraq, which he describes as a "vote that Democratic activists have said could doom her campaign for the presidency." LINK

On ABC News' Jake Tapper's "Political Punch" blog, ABC News' Kate Snow writes that anyone who saw Sen. Clinton in Iowa over the weekend can see that she is "in a groove," finding the right tone to connect with the women in the audience, cracking a joke, and offering some new talking points about President Bush and Iraq. LINK

Snow also reported this weekend from Davenport, Iowa on the botched joke, suggesting she is equipped to deal with 'evil and bad men' -- but those in the room wonder: did she mean Bill, Bush, Newt or Osama bin Laden?LINK

In Sunday's Chicago Sun-Times, Robert Novak cited sources as saying Rep. Emanuel will end up supporting Sen. Clinton when he emerges from underneath his desk. LINK

The New York Post's Ian Bishop: LINK

The Los Angeles Times' Michael Finnegan sees her first campaign stumble. LINK

New York Daily News: LINK

The New York Post's Maggie Haberman takes a brief look at Peter Daou, Sen. Hillary Clinton's (D-NY) web guru and his plan for her campaign.LINK

Chip Ried on NBC's "Today Show" reported on Sen. Hillary Clinton's (D-NY) trip to Iowa, describing "raucous cheering from adoring crowds," but cautioning that some activists "have not forgiven her" for her Iraq war vote in 2002, and that voters "want assurances she is tough enough to win."

Bill Clinton's business practices:

Former President Bill Clinton may be scaling back his paid public speaking events to prevent any appearances of conflict of interest reports the New York Post's Maggie Haberman. LINK

ABC News has confirmed the Haberman exclusive that President Clinton is looking at this issues, but expect at least a few more carefully vetted speeches for cash money to be given.

Politics of Iraq:

The San Francisco Chronicle lands an interview with Speaker Pelosi during her lay over in Germany. Post-Iraq visit, she's even more convinced that withdrawing troops is the way to go: "We owe them better policy. We owe them better initiatives. . . I believe redeployment of our troops is a step toward stability in the region." LINK

Robert Novak seems to see Sen. Warner as leaving Sen. Biden in a lurch after canceling their date. "That killed the Democratic leadership's dream of passing a Biden-crafted anti-surge resolution by 70 votes or more. Such a proposal now cannot get the 60 votes needed to end a filibuster (and could fall short of the 50 senators needed for a simple majority). Conceivably, no resolution may be passed by the Senate," writes Novak. LINK

The Politico's Patrick O'Connor looks at the continuing debate about withholding funding for the new Iraq war plan. LINK

The Wall Street Journal's Scot Paltrow reports that Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) will begin holding three days of hearings into Iraq contracts starting Feb. 6. "Any new disclosures about lax oversight or misspent funds could prove embarrassing to the Bush White House just as it is pressing for an additional $1.2 billion to spend on reconstruction and economic stimulus in Iraq." The New York Times' Jim Rutenberg goes through the list of GOP Senators opposed to President Bush's new plan in Iraq. LINK

Bush Administration agenda:

Newsweek's interview with Vice President Cheney: LINK

Newsweek also published a poll over the weekend showing President Bush with his lowest approval rating in that poll to date. LINK

House Republican retreat:

The Washington Times' Christina Bellantoni reports that the GOP's weekend retreat focused on a "return to roots." LINK

2008:

Michael Finnegan of the Los Angeles Times takes a look at the proliferation of online attack ads and the role they're already playing in the 2008 presidential race. LINK

2008: Republicans: Huckabee:

"Blurring the traditional lines of partisanship, conservative Mike Huckabee launched his bid for the Republican presidential nomination with a swipe at President Bush and a friendly nod to fellow Arkansan Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton," writes Ron Fournier of Hotsoup.com. LINK

The AP reports that former Gov. Mike Huckabee (R-AR) is looking to replicate the success of another governor from Hope as he announces his candidacy for the White House. Said Huckabee, "I think this is an opportunity to show the American dream is still alive and there's hope and optimism that can be awakened in a lot of people's lives if they think that a person like me can run and actually become President." LINK

The Los Angeles Times' Serrano on Huckabee's entrance into the race. LINK

The New York Times: LINK

2008: Republicans: Giuliani:

After his Granite State swing this weekend, Ted Johnson of Variety reports that former Mayor Rudy Giuliani will be trolling for Hollywood dollars, courting studio heads and holding a fundraiser at the home of former California gubernatorial candidate/Giuliani supporter Bill Simon -- who, some of you may remember, was having breakfast with Giuliani on the morning of September 11, 2001 in New York City. LINK

When you spend the weekend in New Hampshire and you leave with the support of the outgoing New Hampshire Republican Party chairman, you can call that a successful trip. Wayne Semprini, who served as NH GOP chair until Saturday, has signed on to chair Rudy Giuliani's Granite State efforts. LINK

The Washington Post reported Sunday that Giuliani has hired Bill Stepien to be his national field director. "Last cycle he directed the 72-Hour Project," the RNC's "much-ballyhooed" turnout apparatus. LINK

Rick Wiley is leaving his post as executive director of the Republican Party of Wisconsin to join the Giuliani campaign as Deputy Political Director. Wiley headed up the 2004 Republican coordinated campaign in battleground Wisconsin. He also served as the state party's political director from 2001-2004.

Wiley currently resides in Madison, Wisconsin, where he is an avid Chicago Cubs and Chicago Bears fan living in enemy territory. The New Hampshire Union Leader's Michael Cousineau writes up the weekend's New Hampshire GOP meeting, where Giuliani "wooed the hearts and minds of 600 people," including some crucial 400 delegates. LINK

The AP's Philip Elliott Notes Giuliani's frequent 9/11 invocation as his calling card: LINK

2008: Republicans: Romney:

ABC NEWS' Terry Moran blogs about his interview with 2008 GOP presidential contender Mitt Romney, writing he was struck be how many people in Iowa came to see Romney, how tuned in Iowans are this year, and how smart and personable Romney is. LINK

Keying off of NARAL and Planned Parenthood questionnaires Romney completed in 2002, Jennifer Rubin writes that Romney's "conversion" on abortion is "more recent than you think." LINK

Romney addressed concerns about his abortion stance Saturday, telling the National Review Institute's Conservative Summit, ''On abortion, I wasn't always a Ronald Reagan conservative. Neither was Ronald Reagan, by the way. But like him, I learned from experience.'' LINK

More from the New York Times' Caucus blog: LINK

With regards to Romney's health-care plan, the Hotline's Riki Parikh picks up on SEIU Secretary-Treasurer Anna Burger telling ABC News on Friday: "You have to give him credit for it. He was willing to step up and do something." Burger added that SEIU would "love to here Mitt Romney talk about how he wants to expand" health care when SEIU teams up with the Center for American Progress to host a health-care forum in Las Vegas. LINK

2008: Republicans: McCain:

The "McCain Express" rolls into Massachusetts -- of all places -- on Wednesday night, reports the Boston Herald under a headline: "McCain's sneak attack: Arizona senator launches campaign 'Express' in Bay State." LINK

Roll Call's Davis and Whittington report that Sen. McCain never responded to the Republican Study Committee's invitation to address the group at its annual retreat this week in Baltimore, MD. (Mayor Giuliani sent his regrets and Gov. Romney plans to attend.) "And in that sense, the video brouhaha -- a short-lived and misguided brouhaha, considering that he wasn't sleeping after all -- constitutes one of the first 'macaca moments' of the 2008 campaign. It is also a sign that Mr. McCain -- and every candidate who has, or will, throw a hat into the ring -- will have a very, very long road ahead," writes the New York Times Tom Zeller on video inaccurately claiming to show John McCain sleeping during the State of the Union that many believe highlights one of Sen. McCain's major hurdles: his age. LINK

2008: Republicans: Thompson:

Former Gov. Tommy Thompson (R-WI) believes he has a "leg up" when it comes to securing the Midwest in his bid for the White House, reports Kay Henderson of Radio Iowa. LINK

2008: Democrats:

Aaron Gould Sheinin of The State looks at the issue of the lack of Democrat endorsements in South Carolina, in what is a must-read story for insiders. LINK

Taking a look at one Democratic voter in the Iowa caucuses, the Politico's Roger Simon talked with Pat Baxter-Rebal, a self-proclaimed Democratic activist, to get her opinions on the candidates, with some surprising results. She Notes Clinton's work in child welfare, Edwards' "charm," and Obama's experience, "--and Tom Vilsack." LINK

The Washington Post's Anne Kornblut and Dan Balz reported on Saturday that Sen. Clinton has to make up ground in Iowa where she trails Edwards, Obama, and Vilsack. LINK

"'John Edwards has been out there a lot, and he ran before, and since that time he's been cultivating people, meeting them in living rooms, signing up people, and that means a lot,' said" Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA), "who is supporting Vilsack."

"'And then Barack Obama, when he came to my steak fry -- I haven't seen anything like that since Robert Kennedy ran for president.'"

Hoping to expand the Democratic Party's appeal beyond labor, minorities, women and coastal progressives, former Gore spokesman Chris Lehane penned an op-ed in Sunday's Los Angeles Times urging four reforms: first, he calls for states from the Southwest, South, and West all voting on the same day as Iowa and New Hampshire; second, he writes the primary season should be extended through May; third, he proposes to eliminate the "super delegate" system; and fourth, he wants independents to be allowed to vote in Democratic primaries, as already happens in New Hampshire. LINK

"Most Iowans believe a black or a woman could be elected president, but a majority believe the country is not ready to elect a Hispanic, according to a poll released Sunday." LINK

"According to The Des Moines Register's Iowa Poll, two-thirds of the state's adults believe the nation is ready for an African-American president in 2008. A smaller slice, 55 percent, say Americans would elect a woman. About 40 percent of respondents believe the country is ready for a president who is Hispanic."

Calling Bob Graham: The AP's Nedra Pickler reports that SEIU has a new requirement to get its endorsement -- "candidates will have to spend time on the job with a member and in their homes to experience their lives." LINK

View photos of the Democratic '08ers speaking to SEIU's board on Friday and Saturday: LINK

Tamara Lytle and John Kennedy of the Orlando Sentinel report on the 2008 operations already descending on Florida, raising money and scooping up operatives. Said Wayne Hogan, a Jacksonville lawyer supporting former Sen. John Edwards (D-NC), said: "Florida has a lot of voters. And it has a lot of money. So you want to be here early." LINK

2008: Democrats: Clinton:

John DiStaso reported in Saturday's Union Leader that Sen. Clinton has tapped the "highly-regarded" Liz Purdy of Concord, NH as a senior staffer in the Granite State. LINK

Adweek today reveals the names of the Madison Avenue contributors to Hillary Clinton's ad team. LINK

They include Roy Spence (Krispy Kreme, Wal-Mart, Fannie Mae, and Southwest Airlines), Andy Berlin (Mello Yello, Coca Cola, Nestea, Tidy Cats, Glenlivet) and Jimmy Siegel, who impressed politicos by re-creating Eliot Spitzer for his gubernatorial run.

In an Orlando Sentinel op-ed, Paul Roget Loeb wonders where his campaign donation money is really going, bemoaning the spending practices of Sen. Clinton in her Senate re-election race, saying, "She spent $36 million of it on a race that she could have won staying home in her pajamas, not spending a dime," while praising other presidential candidates, of whom he writes, "Their top priorities really did seem to be helping other Democrats win a critical immediate election, more than building their own careers." LINK

In a Wall Street Journal op-ed, Michael Barone expresses his visceral discomfort with the royalist direction of American politics before concluding: "We need as much knowledge of our presidential candidates as we can get and, if we get some of it by knowing their families as closely as we know the families of recent occupants of the White House, so be it."

James Rosen of The State previews Sens. Hillary Clinton and Lindsey Graham speeches this Wednesday at the New America Foundation. LINK

The New York Times' Robin Toner looks at maternity angle Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Clinton have been playing up lately asking, "Is this a throwback, or a step forward?" LINK

2008: Democrats: Obama:

In a story looking at Sen. Obama's time at Occidental college, years before Columbia and Harvard, a woman who knew Obama and who did not want to be identified told the Los Angeles Times that she was surprised that "Barry" might run for president. "It was just different times then. People sat around and smoked dope and talked about how they would reform the world. But you never thought they would," she said. Larry Gordan has the story. LINK

Jodi Kantor took an exhaustive Page One look at Sen. Obama's law school days in the New York Times on Sunday. LINK

The Los Angeles Times did it too: LINK

As did the Boston Globe: LINK

2008: Democrats: Biden:

ABC News' Jake Tapper reports Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE) will file paperwork on Wednesday with the Federal Election Commission to officially kick off his second presidential campaign and his Web site, JoeBiden.com, will also be launched Wednesday. LINK

The Washington Times' Eric Pfeiffer picks up on Sen. Biden telling ABC News' "This Week with George Stephanopoulos": "It's not the American people or the United States Congress who are emboldening the enemy. It's the failed policy of this president." LINK

2008: Democrats: Richardson:

An Albuquerque Journal editorial, while not giving him a full-throated endorsement, laundry-lists the resume highlights of Gov. Bill Richardson (D-NM). While the ed board admits that Gov. Richardson isn't perfect, they're not afraid to say, "he's one underdog whose experience, ideas and accomplishments rise to the top." LINK

"The applause following Richardson's formal introduction did sound to some ears just a decibel or two more raucous," than the applause for Wesley Clark in Nevada this weekend Notes the Albuquerque Journal. LINK

Harry Reid's "deal in the desert":

Under a "Bullhead City, Ariz." dateline, Chuck Neubauer and Tom Hamburger looked at Sen. Reid's "deal in the desert" for Sunday's Los Angeles Times. LINK

Ethics reform:

The Wall Street Journal's Brody Mullins reports that the speed of trying to enact new ethics rules on Capitol Hill has created "uncertainty about what's allowed, and some unintended consequences."

Speaker Pelosi, Rep. Emanuel, and Sen. Bayah, "have failed to disclose they are officers of family charities, in violation of a law requiring members of Congress to report non-profit leadership roles," reports USA Today. LINK

2008: Senate:

Sens. McConnell and Ensign are making the rounds to their colleagues up for reelection in 2008 and trying to get them to commit to running with promises of party help. Roll Call's Billings has the story on the GOP incumbent retention efforts.

Political potpourri:

Roll Call's Stuart Rothenberg doesn't see the West turning Democratic just yet, "After dissecting the historical data over the past 25 years and comparing it to election results from the past few cycles, it's very clear that not much is going on. I'm certainly not ruling out changes in 2008 or 2010, and I'm not saying that there have been no changes. But so far, the hype about a shift has overwhelmed the reality."

The week ahead in politics:

President Bush plans to see how his economic agenda plays in Peoria tomorrow when he heads to Peoria, IL to deliver remarks on the economy. On Wednesday, Mr. Bush plans to make remarks on the economy at Federal Hall in New York City. President Bush attends the National Prayer Breakfast on Thursday and addresses the House Democratic Issues Conference (which the White House week ahead schedule referred to as the "House Democrat Conference") on Saturday in Williamsburg, VA.

Also tomorrow, former Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA) and his son Tagg Romney meet with area residents at 8:30 am ET at the Lizard's Thicket in Columbia, SC.

Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS) hosts a media availability at 3:00 pm ET in Cedar Rapids, IA and then headline a fundraiser for an Iowa Republican county auditor candidate and meet with Republican leaders at 7:00 pm ET.

Former Gov. Tom Vilsack (D-IA) hosts an open house at the grand opening of his field office in Ames, IA on Tuesday at 6:00 pm ET.

Former Gov. Mike Huckabee (R-AR) hosts a town hall meeting at 8:00 pm ET at the Iowa Welcome Center in Urbandale, IA.

On Wednesday, former Sen. John Edwards (D-NC) holds a town hall meeting on America's role in the world at 2:30 pm ET at the Hopkins Center at Dartmouth College in Hanover, NH.

On Thursday, Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA) delivers a speech on the Supreme Court confirmation process Thursday at noon ET at Georgetown University Law Center in Washington, DC.

Former President Bill Clinton addresses House Democrats at the start of their winter retreat in Williamsburg, VA.

Former Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA) travels to New Hampshire, visiting the towns of Orford, Grafton, Lancaster, and Gorham.

Thursday marks former Lt. Gov. Michael Steele's (R-MD) first day as chairman of GOPAC.

The Democratic National Committee's winter meeting begins Thursday with expected addresses by all of the Democratic Party's '08ers on Friday and Saturday.

On Saturday, Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) begins her first trip to New Hampshire since October 1996.