The Note: The Unfinished Work


On Saturday, Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) declares his presidential bid at the Historic Old State Capitol in Springfield, Illinois at 11:00 am ET.

Obama then travels to Cedar Rapids, IA for a 5:00 pm ET town hall meeting. He holds an 8:30 pm ET meet-and-greet in Waterloo, IA.

On Sunday, Sen. Obama continues stumping in the Hawkeye State, holding a 1:00 pm ET rally at Iowa State University in Ames, IA.

The Illinois lawmaker returns to Chicago for a 6:30 pm ET rally at the University of Illinois-Chicago Pavilion.

Time shifting, he caps off his announcement weekend with a Sunday appearance on CBS' "60 Minutes."

So many questions will be answered in the next 50 hours. Here are just some of them:

Will Sen. Barack Obama begin to give a stump speech, a la Bush 1999 (but not Clinton 2007) that he will deliver relentlessly the rest of the year and that allows America to get to know his heart (and his head)?

Will the Obama campaign's oft-stated commitment to run a "different kind of campaign," lead it to fumble press or candidate logistics to an extent that reporters begin to ask -- in print/on the air, or, at least, among themselves -- "if he can't run an announcement tour, how can he run the country??!!??"?

Will the Springfield kickoff event get road-blocked cable coverage?

Will the candidate get a "pop quiz" question from a voter that he flubs? (Note to Senator Obama: A 1/2 gallon of Tropicana Pure Tropics Orange Strawberry Banana Juice costs about $2.59. LINK)

Will the crowd sizes be so overwhelmingly large that the Gang of 500 begins to believe that something Special is happening?

Will David Axelrod be mobbed by the media whenever he appears on the trail?

Will web contributions to the campaign spike dramatically in way that makes the Gang of 500 believe that something Special is happening?

Will Lynn Sweet's all day, every day TV appearances lead to a dedicated SweetTV cable channel (with many a confused late night viewer tuning in based on the name alone)?

Will the campaign begin to let America fall in love with Michelle Obama this weekend, or will they wait? (Beyond the "60 Minutes" turn…)

Will Robert Gibbs wear sunglasses, even inside?

Will the "60 Minutes" piece be as hard-hitting as most Obama coverage (and most "60 Minutes" profiles of attractive Democrats), or, uhm, more so?

Will the Clinton campaign watch all this and say, "If we aren't going to use all this opposition research we are collecting, why are we collecting it?"?

Will the Republican National Committee put out press releases, based on their own extensive opposition research, contrasting Obama's 2007 centrist rhetoric with his votes-n-quotes from his Illinois days -- or will they continue their audacious hope that Obama is the only force that can stop Hillary Clinton from winning the nomination early and easy? (See below for a clue….)

Will all the new, but yet-to-be-announced Senate hires look at the fun on the trail and say to themselves, "Do I really want to sit around the Hart Building?"?

Will the phystical crush of the weekend make the campaign think it needs to either budget hundreds of thousands of dollars for private security, or make an extraordinary early request for Secret Service protection?

Will the candidate who speaks of the need to move beyond the cynicism seemingly inherit in modern day campaigning -- you know, one comprised of stump speeches, bumper stickers, slogans, soundbites, logos, and a legion of flaks and consultants -- have all that on display tomorrow?

Will comparisons to Lincoln be made explicit?

Will there be any flashes of (understandable) Obama nervousness or (the rumored) Obama temper?

While we wait for the answers, here are some very must-reads:

1. The Washington Times on simmering conservative unhappiness with the Republican Big Three of McCain, Romney, and Giuliani. LINK

2. The New Hampshire Union Leader on the front-loaded calendar and New Hampshire's determination to be first first first. LINK

3. The Chicago Tribune on the competition over bundlers among the Democratic Big Three of Clinton, Obama, and Edwards. LINK

4. The Washington Post on the White House's lame duckery as it relates to 2008. LINK

Befitting the first White House in 80 years without someone running for president, President Bush has no public events today.

But the '08ers are out in force today and this weekend, competing for a slice of attention.

Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) speaks at Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrion's State of the Borough address at 9:30 am ET at Hostos Community College in Bronx, NY. Tonight, Sen. Clinton plans to raise some coin at Cipriani at a closed press fundraiser.

Former Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA) and his wife Ann meet with Anderson area residents at Tucker's Restaurant at 8:30 am ET in Anderson, SC. Romney attends the Alabama GOP Winter Dinner and State Executive Committee Meeting at 7:00 pm ET in Montgomery, AL.

Former Gov. Mike Huckabee (R-AR) delivers 11:30 am ET remarks to the Chamber of Commerce's National Leaders Forum at the Daniel Webster College in Nashua, NH. He will be on WRKO Radio 680 AM/Boston with talk show host Howie Carr at 4:30 pm ET. Then, Huckabee speaks at the Business and Industry Association and the New Hampshire Political Library's new National Leaders Forum in Nashua, NH at 5:00 pm ET. And finally, the former governor attends a 5:00 pm ET reception at the fabled Merimack Restaurant in Manchester, NH.

Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS) is in Michigan today as he begins weekend meetings with Republican activists, donors, and elected officials at the annual Michigan GOP state convention in Grand Rapids, MI.

Former Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA) is scheduled to deliver a speech to the TD Ameritrade, Inc. at the Manchester Grand Hyatt in San Diego, CA at 11:00 am ET.

The presidential exploratory committee of Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) opens its Michigan campaign headquarters in Grand Rapids at 4:00 pm ET with special guest Michigan Attorney General Michael Cox, who will chair McCain's Michigan campaign.

One day after a tour de force performance at CSIS which convinced Howard Fineman that he better brush up on his Spanish, Gov. Bill Richardson (D-NM) is back in Santa Fe, NM today where he honors New Mexico's African American citizens with a proclamation reading.

Former Gov. Tom Vilsack (D-IA) hosts a media conference call at 12:30 pm ET to discuss details of his Iowa organization.

Rep. Henry Waxman's (D-CA) House Oversight and Government Reform Committee holds a 10:00 am ET hearing on allegations of "waste, fraud, and abuse" in pharmaceutical pricing with a focus on its potential effect on federal health programs and the federal taxpayer.

The House GOP's new series of weekly radio addresses gets underway today. House Republican Leader John Boehner (R-OH) taped the first radio address; it will be distributed later this morning.

In the address, Boehner says: "Democrats owe it to the American people to offer a plan of their own, because leaving Iraq in chaos would directly threaten America's safety and security."

The Brookings Institution holds a 1:00 pm ET discussion on President Bush's tax-based insurance proposals with Kate Baicker of the Council of Economic Advisers and Robert Reischauer and others of the Urban Institute.

At 1:30 pm ET, tune into ABC News Now's "Politics Live" to see ABC News Political Director Mark Halperin interview former DNC Chairman Terry McAuliffe about his new book, "What a Party!" LINK

On Sunday morning, be sure to tune into "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" for an on-the-road interview with former Gov. Mike Huckabee (R-AR), who is campaigning for president, and an interview with Sen. John Kerry (D-MA), who says he has passed on 2008 so that he can campaign to end the Iraq war.

See below for weekend highlights.

2008: Democrats: Obama:

On the eve of Sen. Obama's official campaign launch, the RNC takes Note of his decision to not participate in the AFSCME forum scheduled for Feb. 21 in Carson City, NV in a research piece entitled "The Dem Dodger" set to hit an inbox near you soon.

On "Good Morning America," ABC News' Claire Shipman took a look at Sen. Barack Obama through the eyes of a law school classmate, a family friend, and a fellow community organizer. LINK

USA Today's Judy Keen has an interview with Sen. Obama where he says, "I am absolutely convinced that . . . We've got a message that I think will appeal to the American people." LINK

No news in the interview (Obama hits the same talking points he gave to Roger Simon….), and/but once again he says his books and policy speeches already delivered make him more specific than anyone has ever been. That will rankle in some quarters.

Under an "Obama Forged Political Mettle in Illinois Capitol" header, Peter Slevin reports for the Washington Post's front page that Obama once paid a political price for missing an important vote on a crime package because he was on vacation in Hawaii. LINK

The Chicago Tribune's Lynn Sweet reports that Sen. Obama used PAC money to help launch his '08 bid, even though he's now banning that money during his campaign. LINK

The Chicago Tribune's Jennifer Hunter on Sen. Obama's willingness to compare himself to the greats. LINK

The Chicago Tribune uses Sen. Obama's expected announcement to give a history lesson on campaigning. LINK

The Cincinnati Enquirer reports this morning that Obama has Ohio in his sights and will head to Cincinnatti for a large fundraising event February 26th. Howard Wilkinson of The Enquirer has all the details. LINK

Politics of Iraq:

With implications for 2008, Hotsoup's Ron Fournier thinks that Congress' failure to make progress on Iraq this week is a "Katrina moment" which could remind Americans about Washington's "failure to lead." LINK

Newt Gingrich tells Fournier that "legislative fights over slavery and the Vietnam War were messy, but those debates 'weren't as childish or trivial' as what we saw this week."

"'What is particularly sad is that the public has a correct understanding that none of the maneuvers matter because it's all so petty and, basically, public relations,' Gingrich said."

Jeff Zeleny of the New York Times reports that House Democrats appear to have come to agreement to try to pass a first non-binding resolution opposing the President's plan to increase the number of troops in Iraq. LINK

Be sure to Note Rep. Joe Sestak's (D-PA) meta-endorsement of the Richardson plan for Iraq and Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) in quite a different place on Iraq than his preferred presidential candidate -- Sen. Clinton.

For the Washington Post, Shailagh Murray takes a look at House Democrats move to allow Republicans to bring their war-related measure to the floor. LINK

USA Today on the same: LINK

Be sure to Note Rep. Joe Sestak's (D-PA) meta-endorsement of the Richardson plan for Iraq and Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) in quite a different place on Iraq than his preferred presidential candidate -- Sen. Clinton.

"Democratic leaders billed the nonbinding measure as the beginning of a more expansive campaign to force an end to the nearly 4-year-old war," reports Noam Levey of the Los Angeles Times. LINK

The Wall Street Journal's Wirey John Harwood looks at the ways in which Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has tried to divide antiwar bloggers from Democrats who are afraid to cut money for troops.

"Though squeeze is toughest on 2008 contenders, other Democrats may be forced to wrestle with it for months in votes on war appropriations," reports Harwood.

McAuliffe's book party:

Clinton campaign chairman/former DNC chairman/author Terry McAuliffe apparently doesn't only know how to raise money. He knows how to spend it too -- or at least get hoteliers to spend it on his behalf.

Once you made your way past the raw bar, the charcuterie, and the suckling pig at the swanky new Park Hyatt in Washington, DC last night, you were then encouraged to proceed to the 8th floor suites where chocolate, brandy, and tea rooms awaited.

But, of course, the food and drink was not the main event that drew more than 1200 Democratic donors, activists, politicians, and a healthy smattering of journalists out on a cold night.

McAuliffe's party was in celebration of his best selling book, "What A Party!" And Sen. Clinton played the role of special guest.

As McAuliffe was plugging his book in his remarks, he reminded those gathered of his always -- uhm, creative methods in raising campaign cash.

"Buy 100 books and get to hold the Bible at the next inauguration," McAuliffe joked to the crowd.

Having just flown in from Chicago, IL on his book tour, McAuliffe proclaimed to the crowd -- with a clear nod to one of her top competitors for the nomination -- that "Chicago, IL is Hillary Clinton country."

Sen. Clinton took to the microphone to praise Terry and his wife and children and thank them for their close friendship and touted McAuliffe's sense of patriotism.

When a birthday cake appeared on stage -- Happy 50th, Terry! -- Sen. Clinton joked about her recent singing caught on tape. "Many of you may have seen on "YouTube" that I am not the Clinton who can carry a tune," said Clinton. "I am not going to remain at the microphone," she added as the birthday music began to play.


The absence of a candidate in the 2008 presidential contest "will spare the White House the trials of a campaign, easing the tensions between governing priorities and election imperatives that traditionally tear at the institution," writes the Washington Post's Peter Baker "Yet, at the same time, it means that no one will be making the case for the Bush legacy as 2008 nears." LINK

Helen Kennedy and David Saltonstall of the New York Daily News wrap the latest three Quinnipiac University polls from the key battleground states Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Florida and write of a possible Giuliani vs. Clinton general election -- which for New York tabloid writers is pretty much hitting the jackpot. LINK

Peggy Noonan writes poetically about the same matchup -- but doesn't realize that Hillary R. Clinton used to shop for her own groceries in Little Rock. LINK

Broadcasters are "licking their chops" as large states move their primaries up and campaign ads hit the airwaves earlier than in any presidential election. Jessica Holzer of The Hill has the story. LINK

2008: the money trail:

Tom Hamburger of the Los Angeles Times looks at the art of bundling contributions and whether or not the major presidential candidates are planning on disclosing the names of their top money collectors. LINK

Note the nuanced Edwards and McCain answers.

2008: conventions:

The AP has a report on the debate over the economic gains that a national political convention brings to a city. Denver organizers are hoping that the 2008 DNC convention will bring in as much as $200 million. LINK

2008: Republicans: McCain:

Dan Nowicki of the Arizona Republic writes this morning that Sen. John McCain's biggest vulnerability is his tough stances on key issues, which could turn him off to voters. LINK

Refusing to offer a presidential endorsement, Sen. Norm Coleman (R-MN) declared his support for McCain supporter Gov. Tim Pawlenty for vice president, reports Brady Averill of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. LINK

2008: Republicans: Romney:

The Hotline's Marc Ambinder looks at Romney's "journey to the right" for National Journal's cover story. LINK

While visiting Ames, Iowa, Gov. Romney touted energy independence, the Des Moines Register reports. LINK

Gov. Romney tells the AP he supports President Bush and he doesn't think it will hurt his 2008 chances. " 'I think politically, the pundits would tell you you should get as far away from the president as you can, you should establish a different view, you should say it is wrong," said Romney, who is set to formally enter the presidential race next week. "That may well be the political right thing to do, but it just happens to be the wrong thing to do.' " LINK

In an op-ed for the Union Leader, Kathleen Parker defends Romney against charges of flip flopping. LINK

The Boston Herald's Howie Carr is not so charitable. LINK

The Wall Street Journal's Wirey John Harwood reports that Romney is proposing an extension of Bush's tax cuts rather than offering his own new ones.

2008: Republicans: Giuliani:

For CQ, Rachel Kapochunas looks at Giuliani's potential vulnerabilities on social issues. LINK

The Wall Street Journal's Wirey John Harwood highlights Giuliani's meeting with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-CA).

2008: Republicans: Gingrich:

Gingrich said Thursday that if "October feels like a vacuum" he'll run for president, the Naples Daily News' Charlie Whitehead reports. LINK

2008: Democrats:

Boston Globe columnist Scot Lehigh thinks that the Clinton, Edwards, Obama trifecta is obscuring the other, "serious" and "experienced" candidates in the field. LINK

2008: Democrats: Clinton:

The New York Daily News' McAuliff Notes Sen. Clinton's vote against confirming Gen. George Casey as the new Army Chief of Staff which distinguishes her from her fellow Democratic '08ers in the Senate -- Sens. Biden, Dodd, and Obama. LINK

CBN's Dave Brody looks at Sen. Clinton's news conference on anti-Israel Palestinian textbooks and questions if she's genuine on being pro-Israel. LINK

2008: Democrats: Gore:

"Outside America he is perceived as a prophet," said Sir Richard Branson said of Al Gore on CBS' "Early Show" this morning.

When asked if he could better create change on the issue of global warming from inside the White House, Gore reminded Harry Smith that he "worked in the White House for 8 years" and learned that what is needed more than anything else to move the issue forward is to change public opinion and that is what his current campaign is all about.

Gore also never directly answered Smith's question about whether or not he intends to announce a presidential campaign at the Oscars.

ABC News' David Chalian has the story on the "Political Radar." LINK

Nitya Venkataraman of ABC News looks at the continuing buzz around a possible 2008 Gore candidacy, fueled by the talk among supporters of his campaigns past about just such a run. LINK

2008: Democrats: Edwards:

The two John Edwards' bloggers were intially told "they were fired, but, as a backlash to the reported firings grew on the Web," Edwards "called the women and agreed to rehire them," reports the New York Sun's Josh Gerstein. LINK

"Asked whether the campaign had sufficiently screened the two women before they were hired, Ms. Palmieri said it was difficult to find and read every word a prolific blogger had written over a period of years," writes John Broder of the New York Times in his story looking at Sen. Edwards decision to keep his controversial bloggers on staff. LINK

"Edwards Keeps Bloggers on Staff Amid Controversy," headlines the Washington Post's Chris Cillizza. LINK

Politico's Ben Smith writes up Sen. Edwards' taking heat from the religious left over his bloggers. LINK

David Ingram and Mark Johnson of McClatchy on Sen. Edwards' decision to keep his chastised bloggers on the payroll. Said Edwards, "They have both assured me that it was never their intention to malign anyone's faith, and I take them at their word." LINK

In his New York Times column (that Edwards' finance folks will be shipping all over), Paul Krugman goes ga-ga over the John Edwards universal health insurance plan and urges other candidates -- namely those named Obama and Clinton -- to match it. (Krugman doesn't apply such pressure to the Republican presidential field.) LINK

"So this is a smart, serious proposal. It addresses both the problem of the uninsured and the waste and inefficiency of our fragmented insurance system. And every candidate should be pressed to come up with something comparable," writes Krugman.

"Yes, that includes Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. So far, all we have from Mr. Obama is inspiring rhetoric about universal care -- that's great, but how do we get there? And how do we know whether Mrs. Clinton, who says that she's 'not ready to be specific,' and that she wants to 'build the consensus first,' will really be willing to take on this issue again?"

On the other hand: Marie Cocco of the Statesman Journal in Salem, OR calls the Edwards health care plan "misguided," and writes, "Like Clinton did, Edwards seems to believe that you can get the private insurance industry to do something it refuses to do because, in essence, doing what Edwards wants would put the industry out of business." LINK

Aaron Gould Sheinin of The State reports on Sen. Edwards' town hall meeting with South Carolina voters, where topics ranged from his health care plan, his luxurious house, and his spot on "The Daily Show." LINK

2008: Democrats: Richardson:

Jeff Jones of the Albuquerque Journal writes up Gov. Richardson's call for a "New Realism". LINK

Richardson told ABC News Thursday that he will look into a proposal by one of his Democratic presidential rivals to cut off all funding for U.S. fighting in Iraq.

"'Did he do that?' Richardson asked in response to a question about" Gov. Vilsack, "urging Congress to immediately end all funding for U.S. fighting in Iraq."

"'Let me get back to you on that,' said Richardson. 'I'll have to see.'"

ABC News' Teddy Davis has the story on the "Political Radar." LINK

2008: Democrats: Dodd:

David Lightman of the Hartford Courant reports on the long list of celebrities joining the Dodd Squad, or at least donating to Sen. Dodd's campaign, including Jimmy Buffet, Alec Baldwin, and Chevy Chase. LINK

Politics of Pelosi's plane:

In his "Congressional Memo," the New York Times' Carl Hulse looks at Speaker Pelosi's attempts to turn the plane controversy story around and concludes with two House Republicans (LaHood and Flake) who sound a bit more like Tony Snow than Eric Cantor (or Tom Cole!!). LINK

"On Thursday, Pelosi's office struggled to put to rest a matter that had ballooned into headline news, while GOP opponents gleefully maneuvered to squeeze out another day of portraying her as an entitled Presidio princess," writes Faye Fiore of the Los Angeles Times. LINK

ABC News' Jake Tapper has the continuing saga of Speaker Pelosi and the airplane. "Pelosi charged that the Pentagon is treating her request for a military plane differently than that of her predecessor because she is a woman," writes Tapper. LINK

On his Political punch blog, Tapper tests your political smarts with an Air Pelosi Quiz. Don't worry, it's multiple choice LINK has the video of Pelosi's attempts to quell the hub-bub. LINK

Democratic agenda:

Speaker Pelosi testified before a House committee on global warming yesterday and endorsed mandatory restrictions to cut greenhouse gasses. Pelosi also reversed course on nuclear energy and now seems to believe it should be "on the table" as an alternative energy source. The New York Times' Cornelia Dean has the story. LINK

The Wall Street Journal's Washington Wire picks up on some environmental groups not being pleased about Pelosi putting nuclear power on the table.

Weekend highlights:

In her first trip to New Hampshire in more than a decade, Sen. Clinton (D-NY) kicks off a series of "Conversation with Granite Staters" this weekend. On Saturday, she holds a 9:00 am ET town hall meeting at Berlin City Hall followed by a 2:00 pm ET town hall meeting at Concord High School. On Sunday, she holds a 10:30 am ET house party in Manchester, NH at 10:30 am ET followed by a 1:00 pm ET house party in Nashua, NH. Her last stop will be a 4:30 pm ET town-hall meeting in Keene, NH.

On Saturday, Giuliani will be doing some important spade work in the Golden State this weekend when he speaks to the California State GOP Convention at 3 pm ET.

Gov. Huckabee attends the Horry County Republican Party Ball in Myrtle Beach, SC at 7:00 pm ET. Former Gov. Tommy Thompson (R-WI) campaigns in Iowa this weekend. He hosts a meet & greet at the Best Western in Marshalltown, IA at 10:00 am ET. Thompson ventures to Ames, IA for a12:00 pm ET meet and greet. His last stop will be a 2:00 pm ET meet and greet in Des Moines, IA.

On Sunday, President and Mrs. Bush attend a social dinner in Honor of Ford's Theatre Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Celebration at 7:50 pm ET in Washington, DC.