WASHINGTON, Feb. 12
The Gang of 500 and its 22,000 closest friends believe Ring 1 is moving inexorably along, Ring 2 has as much bounce as a dropped dead cat, and Ring 3 is where all the action is.
That is to say:
Ring 1 -- the Iraq war: This week's House Iraq non-binding resolution debate will have interesting twists and turns (with the press simultaneously overestimating and underestimating the significance of the number of House Republicans who vote for the measure), but it is just a step along the way to the reality catching up with the political end of the war that occurred in November.
Ring 2 -- other legislative business: Ring 1, lingering bitterness over the Pelosi plane flap, taxes, Vice President Cheney, and Ring 3 make this ring as dead politically as the war.
That leaves us Ring 3 (2008), which is hoppin'.
As Yoda (a/k/a "the Washington Post's Dan Balz") and others have pointed out, these are NOT the earliest starting presidential nominating fights ever -- far from it. But the level of February intensity is patently unprecedented.
Now, the sheer volume of cable, e-mail, and the Internet focus on 2008 gives the impression to the Gang of 500 that more than 22,500 people are actually paying attention to all this now. That impression is wrong.
Go to any medium-sized Midwestern town and ask everyone you see what they think of John Edwards' decision to keep those two bloggers on his staff, and if they think the 28 hours it took to resolve the matter represented an unconscionable delay that reveals more about Edwards' capacity to be president than anything else he ever has done in his life. Chances are, unless the town is Madison, Wisconsin, you will get a lot of blank looks.
But those 22,500 people are extraordinarily influential in creating and influencing media, both Old and New. And the media, as always, is having an extraordinary influence over the campaigns.
Even the Internet is not vast enough to list all of the manifestations of the unparalleled early intensity of this race, but here's a start:
-- Reporters are already locking in campaign-defining double standards (imagine if Hillary Clinton had said that the lives of the military personnel killed in Iraq were "wasted").
-- The Howard Kurtzes of the world are already writing stories about the double standards, and the press is already failing to internalize those stories.
-- Candidates are already losing control of their public image and anxiously strategizing to win them back. (When was the last time you saw John McCain on television NOT being defined by his support for the Iraq war?)
-- Reporters and editors already have fully rationalized their capacity to simultaneously complain that the candidates aren't talking enough about issues while framing all of their coverage around process, polls, personality, drama, strategy, tactics, and gaffes.
-- White House reporters are already drifting off of their beat to cover the campaign. (Put another way, they would rather have their calls returned by Brian Jones and Phil Singer than by Dan Bartlett.)
-- The campaign staffs pretty much HATE the other candidates -- and each other. (And there are already factions within every campaign, with frustrations, competition for candidate favor, fatigue, and Fear of the Spouse running at fall levels.)
-- Intense investigative work already has begun on the major candidates -- with the fruits of some of those efforts coming soon.
-- Second-level campaign staffers are already worried that their candidates haven't been fully forthcoming about their personal finances and "young and irresponsible" behavior to the first-level staffers.
-- Minor candidates (outside the Big 6) are attacking major ones in order to try to fight their way into the dialogue of the 22,500.
-- The staffs of the minor candidates are doing cost-benefit-analysis of the upside of those attacks versus the prospect of getting on the ticket.
-- The battle for endorsements is hot and heavy.
-- Big 6 campaigns are already turning down magazine profiles and refusing network access, because they can afford to be choosy.
-- Pro forma coverage of perceived second-tier candidates has already fallen off a cliff.
-- The campaigns are already contemplating if the press will allow them to skip (or underperform ing) early states.
-- Jeff Zeleny is already making "60 Minutes" cameos.
-- Andrea Mitchell is already in New Hampshire and already (successfully) badgering campaign aides for exclusive interviews.
-- Bob Novak is already making sweeping declarations about which candidacies are dead (wo)men walking.
-- Roger Simon is already tallying Marriott points.
-- Jonathan Martin already has a cold.
-- Reporters are already bored with some of the leading candidates.
Of course, it's still too early (apparently) for reporters to demand access to closed-press fundraisers (even in big public spaces), or to track candidates' private meetings, or to track which Bush and Gore bundlers are up for grabs, but attention is being paid everywhere else.
So: Two days after publicly declaring his presidential candidacy, Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) attends a 2:00 pm ET house party in Nashua, NH and then heads to Durham, NH for a 6:30 pm ET town hall meeting at the University of New Hampshire.
Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani continues his swing through California today. He's scheduled to speak at 3:30 pm ET to the Churchill Club in Santa Clara and attend events in Fresno.
Former Gov. Mike Huckabee (R-AR) holds a 10:00 am ET press conference in Columbia, SC.
Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY) has no public schedule today.
Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT) kicks off the DL21C 2008 Road to the White House Series at Red Sky Lounge at 7:30 pm ET in New York City.
President Bush meets with Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus at 10:15 am ET and delivers 2:30 pm ET remarks celebrating African-American History month.
The Senate meets at 1:00 pm ET for morning business. Later in the day, the chamber will likely resume consideration of a continuing resolution (HJ Res 20), or stop-gap spending measure. The House convenes at 12:30 pm ET for morning hour debate and at 2:00 pm ET for legislative business.
Politics of Iraq:
Under the headline, "GOP Expects Defections as House Debates Iraq Resolution," the Washington Post's Lyndsey Layton and Jonathan Weisman report that GOP leadership knows that some House Republicans are going to vote in favor of the Democrats rebuke of President Bush's troop increase. LINK
"A senior Republican aide said the GOP leadership knows that Republicans from districts where the war is unpopular will have to vote with the Democrats to protect themselves. "And that's okay," he said, adding that Republican leaders will not tell their members to stick with the party line."
The over/under seems to be 30/60, but this is, as they say at the Whole Foods on P Street, an organic situation.
The Wall Street Journal's David Rogers takes a look at how Democrats have adjusted their resolution opposing President Bush's troop increase in the hopes of attracting some Republicans.
The Los Angeles Times' Noam Levey and Richard Simon write on the Iraq war resolution and the GOP supporters it is getting in the House. LINK
2008: Obama vs. Clinton:
Now that the race for the Democratic nomination is really underway, ABC News' Jake Tapper gives an in-depth analysis of the types of campaigns Clinton and Obama will have and who they will try to appeal to. LINK
Pat Healy and Jeff Zeleny of the New York Times look at how the central issue of Iraq played in both Sen. Obama's weekend in Iowa and Sen. Clinton's weekend in New Hampshire. LINK
"Mr. Obama's aides said they viewed Mrs. Clinton's vote on the war in 2002 and her refusal to explicitly disavow that vote as her single biggest vulnerability, and that Mr. Obama would point it out at every opportunity," the Timesmen write.
And Note the Mark Penn interview where he pleads with Democrats to train all their fire on President Bush and the Republicans on this issue.
"Obama Questions Rivals on Iraq," report the Washington Post's Anne E. Kornblut and Dan Balz. LINK
'"I am not clear on how she would proceed at this point to wind down the war in a specific way," he told reporters before a boisterous rally at Iowa State University. "I know that she has stated that she thinks that the war should end by the start of the next president's first term. Beyond that, though, how she wants to accomplish that, I'm not clear on."'
Jennifer Hunter and Lynn Sweet of the Chicago Sun-Times on Sen. Obama's implicit criticism of senators who voted in favor of the 2002 Iraq war resolution. "Even at the time, it was possible to make judgments that this would not work out well," said Obama.LINK
"Obama criticized Clinton for her position on the Iraq war, an issue that bedeviled her with voters in New Hampshire over the weekend," write Maggie Haberman and Ian Bishop of the New York Post. LINK
New York Daily News on same: LINK
The Politico on Sen. Obama borrowing a line -- and taking a shot at -- Sen. Clinton. LINK
Scott Shane and Jim Rutenberg of the New York Times curtain raise Vice President Cheney's potential appearance as a witness in the Libby trial now that the defense begins to present its case.LINK
Vice President Cheney's support among conservatives and the general public has eroded, reports the Wall Street Journal's Yochi J. Dreazen.
On "Good Morning America," ABC News' Kate Snow described the Obama/Clinton/Giuliani weekend as a "dizzying non-stop parade of contenders."
The Washington Times David Lambro lays out the (alleged/assumed) consequences of an accelerated nominating calendar. LINK
The New York Post's Fred Dicker reports that Empire State legislative officials are beginning to talk about moving the New York presidential primary from the first Tuesday in March up to the first Tuesday in February which would match efforts in other populous states like California, Florida, Illinois, and New Jersey. LINK
Per the Huntsville Times, the Alabama Legislature will likely change the state's Feb. 5, 2008, presidential primary date because it conflicts with the start of Mobile's Mardi Gras. "But Gov. Bob Riley said Friday he wants to keep the election as early as possible. . . Saturday, Feb. 2, has been mentioned as a possibility." LINK
"Nebraska Democrats are switching from a May primary election to Feb. 9 caucuses next year to decide their preference for the party's presidential nominee," reports the Omaha World-Herald. LINK
". . . a moment of political reckoning for social conservatives seems inevitable. Will they give ground on their issues in order to elect a Republican?," wrote Pat Healy of the New York Times in a week-in-review piece looking at the search for "Mr. Right." LINK
2008: Republicans: McCain:
In a story looking at the challenges Sen. McCain faces in winning over his party's base, David Reinhard of the Spokesman Review reports that James Dobson of Focus on the Family said in a radio interview, "I would not vote for John McCain under any circumstances." LINK
While calling into Don Imus' program, Sen. Kerry threw an elbow in the direction of Sen. McCain, the man he once wanted to be his running mate.
"John McCain is one of the architects of this surge," said Sen. Kerry.
(Kerry's apparent venom directed at John Edwards, however, provided the more supercharged moments, even if Imus was doing the egging on.)
2008: Republicans: Giuliani:
Michelle Caruso of the New York Daily News on Sunday wrote of Rudy Giuliani's flirting with a formal declaration of his candidacy while addressing the California GOP faithful in Sacramento, CA. LINK
Sunday's New York Post coverage: LINK
Richard Perez Pena of the New York Times on the same: LINK
On Saturday, Ray Rivera of the New York Times offered a look at Rudy Giuliani's history and evolution on abortion, which failed to ask questions such as "would he like Roe overturned?" and "why did he change his views on partial birth abortion?" LINK
Newsweek's Jonathan Alter walks through some of Giuliani's more combative moments during his mayoral tenure in New York City and wonders if his temperament will be fodder for his rivals this campaign season. LINK
Josh Gerstein of the New York Sun curtain-raises Brooklyn-native Rudy Giuliani's upcoming trip to the World Ag Expo in California and also Notes the Giuliani camp's possible Golden State strategy to the nomination. LINK
2008: Republicans: Romney:
John Heilemann gives us his take on the Rise of Romney for this week's New York Magazine. While acknowledging Gov. Romney's general appeal to a GOP clamoring for a savior (partly due to his "head of hair that rivals Ronald Reagan's in the annals of Republican follicular achievement"), Heilemann is focused on the trouble Romney will face due to his political "gymnasticism." LINK
The Boston Globe's Scott Helman delivered a Sunday must-read on Gov. Romney's sometimes overlooked position on embryonic stem cell research that is not entirely embraced by some in the pro-life movement. Gov. Romney believes it is okay to use discarded embryos in a fertility clinic for stem cell research, but also supports the President's veto refusing to allow federal funding for such research. LINK
Romey is going to be in a battle, not just to be seen and heard, but also for money as is every other candidate running. Suzanne Struglinski of the Desert News has the story. LINK
2008: Republicans: Huckabee:
ABC News' George Stephanopoulos went on the road with Huckabee for "This Week." LINK
Jessica Foster of Myrtle Beach's Sun News reports on Gov. Huckabee's weekend sermons in two churches in Conway, South Carolina.LINK
2008: Republicans: Brownback:
Sen. Brownback is briefly mentioned in a New Yorker profile of Tom Monaghan, which Peter Boyer frames as a "pizza mogul" funding a "moral crusade."
Ian Bishop of the New York Post writes up Sen. Schumer's early February comments on Charlie Rose about how a Clinton-Obama ticket is not likely to be a viable one. LINK
"'My only concern is that it's not a balanced ticket. . . . I think a ticket should have geographic balance -- usually with a Southerner,'" Schumer told the Post.
Robert Novak decides that DreamWorks is key, that Edwards is more skilled than Clinton, that Obama is beloved, and that, apparently, no one can win the Democratic nomination. (Or something like that.) LINK
Two top Iowa Democrats -- Attorney General Tom Miller and Treasurer Mike Fitzgerald -- endorsed Obama over Vilsack, reports Radio Iowa. LINK
2008: Democrats: Obama: assessments:
"He's everything she's not. He's warm, she's cold. He's a great speaker, even off-the-cuff. She's usually wooden and sticks to the calculated message. He's the fresh-faced outsider. She's the ultimate insider. He talks about uniting America across racial and political lines. She's a born-to-divide partisan. Her sense of inevitability makes you tired, Obama's charisma makes you pay attention," wrote Michael Goodwin in his Sunday Obama vs. Clinton comparison in his New York Daily News column. LINK
Goodwin might like to imagine if the AP will ever write a lede like this about Clinton:
CHICAGO (AP) _ A roaring crowd of more than 7,000 people welcomed U.S. Sen. Barack Obama home from the campaign trail Sunday night, but he didn't let all the attention go to his head.
''I am an imperfect vessel for your hopes and dreams,'' Obama told the crowd during a raucous rally at the arena of the University of Illinois at Chicago.
In his Sunday New York Times column, Frank Rich offered Sen. Obama a warm welcome to the presidential race largely for his position on Iraq. LINK
Bloomberg's Jay Newton-Small and Kristin Jensen have Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) calling Sen. Obama "very appealing" while saying that he was worried to read about Obama "expressing distaste" for the battles fought between former President Bill Clinton and Speaker Gingrich in the 1990s. LINK
"'My approach there was, wait a minute, no, we were on the right side, and they were on the wrong side,' Frank said. 'And I don't want somebody rising above that very important battle for all the things I cared about.'"
2008: Democrats: Obama:
ABC News' Jake Tapper and Katie Hinman report on Obama's first full day as a presidential candidate and the criticism he is already receiving from foreign leaders and the race factor. LINK
Australian Prime Minister John Howard is apparently not a fan of Sen. Obama's plan to set a deadline and begin withdrawing troops out of Iraq. The New York Times has the story. LINK
In addition to the Australian prime minister jabbing Obama, the Senator also drew criticism from former Mayor Giuliani for his invocations of Abraham Lincoln. Referring to Republicans Giuliani said "We're the party of Abrahman Lincoln," Judy Keen of USA Today reports. LINK
Yesterday, Obama was interrupted by anti-war protestors. ABC News' Jake Tapper has the details. LINK
Be sure to check out ABC News' Jake Tapper's blog on 'Obamamania.' LINK
"Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois painted a new picture of himself to a packed Hilton Coliseum crowd Sunday - as that of a nonpolitical politician, a diplomat who claims he could salvage the country's broken foreign relations," ledes the Des Moines Register's Abby Simons in describing Obama's trip to Iowa this weekend, as the senator clamored for a "new breed" and "a change in American attitudes" toward politics. LINK
Per Charlotte Eby of the Quad City Times, Obama delivered a stinging criticism of the President and his handling of Iraq, saying "we now have spent $400 billion and have seen over 3,000 lives of the bravest young Americans wasted." LINK
Obama later apologized for using the word "wasted," and let's see if that ends it.
"[T]ruth be told, there was little that was really new or different about the issues Obama raised in his maiden swing as a formal presidential candidate," writes Mark Barabak of the Los Angeles Times on Obama's swing through Illinois and Iowa over the weekend.LINK
More from the Chicago Tribune's Christi Parsons and John McCormick: LINK
Lynn Sweet on the first Obama fundraiser. LINK
The Chicago Sun-Times' Abdon M. Pallasch looks at Sen. Obama's reputation with students as a good listener when he taught constitutional law at the University of Chicago, and whether or not professorial "frumpy credential" would be an electoral hindrance.LINK
Chris Fusco and Lynn Sweet of the Chicago Sun-Times report on Sen. Obama's enthusiastic reception at the University of Illinois at the end of this weekend announcement blitz. Introducing her husband to the crowd, Michelle Obama said, "Don't be fooled by people who claim that it is not his time. The kind of leadership we need now is more intangible -- it's not practiced, it's not calculated." LINK
Obama draws crowd of over 5000 in Ames, reports Radio Iowa. LINK
2008: Democrats: Obama: announcement coverage:
New York Times: LINK
Washington Post: LINK
Chicago Tribune: LINK
New York Daily News: LINK
Los Angeles Times: LINK
2008: Democrats: Clinton:
Sen. Clinton presented herself as the Democrat top Republicans fear most on Sunday while campaigning in Nashua, N.H. LINK
"I know what Gingrich tells people privately, I know what DeLay tells people privately, I know what Karl Rove tells people privately," Clinton said Sunday at the Nashua home of Debra and Mike Pignatelli. "I'm the one person they are most afraid of. Bill and I have beaten them before and we will again," in a moment that was apparently not captured on video.
"This is not the first time that the former First Lady has touted the Clinton brand's history of winning presidential elections," writes ABC News' Teddy Davis.
"It is the first time, however, according to people who have followed the early stages of her presidential campaign, that she has been so explicit in naming Republicans whom she claims privately fear her as a general-election opponent."
More from The Politico: LINK
Looking at Sen. Clintons campaign trip to New Hampshire, the Washington Post's Chris Cillizza writes," Clinton veered away from drawing simple conclusions on issues such as the war in Iraq and health care, insisting that each is a complex problem that does not lend itself to a simple solution.
More Cillizza, "On Iraq, an area where Clinton has drawn considerable criticism for her unwillingness to apologize for her 2002 vote authorizing the war, she defended the Senate's effort to pass a nonbinding resolution condemning President Bush's plan to send 21,500 more combat troops to Iraq, calling it a first step in changing U.S. policy on the war. She also said she opposes any proposal to defund U.S. troops now or in the future."
"Returning to New Hampshire for the first time in more than a decade, Sen. Hillary Clinton met yesterday with enthusiastic overflow crowds -- but also with pointed questions about her past and future stances on the Iraq war," wrote Celeste Katz in Sunday's New York Daily News. LINK
"Clinton has declined to [renounce her vote on Iraq], a stance that has drawn questions or protests at every public campaign appearance she made during her two-day campaign visit to the Granite State," writes Susan Milligan of the Boston Globe on the "heat" Clinton is feeling over the Iraq issue. LINK
The New York Times' Pat Healy's Sunday story on the tough Iraq questioning Sen. Clinton found coming her way in New Hampshire. LINK
Sunday's New York Post coverage: LINK
James O'Toole of the Pittsburg Post-Gazette on Sen. Clinton's New Hampshire swing and the early "maturing" of the 2008 race.LINK
Sen. Clinton step foot in the Granite State this weekend for the first time since campaigning for her husband, this time to bolster her own presidential aspirations. The Concord Monitor's Sarah Liebowitz sums it up. LINK
Scott Brooks of the Union Leader describes Sen. Clinton's mastery of "living-room politics" as she attended house parties with uncommitted Democratic voters. LINK
The Nashua Telegraph's Kevin Landrigan reports that Clinton told Nashua residents that she will continue to push for non-binding Senate resolutions opposing troop increases in Iraq, while also taking a swipe at the President's handling of Iran. LINK
"Clinton chose to hold her first town meeting in Berlin, an economically depressed city in northern Coos County. While the area is low on Democratic voters -- Coos voters constituted less than 4 percent of the Democratic primary vote in 2004 -- Clinton said she wanted to make a statement about her commitment to rural America," wrote James Pindell and Susan Milligan of the Boston Globe on Sunday. LINK
The New York Post's Haberman and Bishop report on Sen. Clinton's recently beefed up Secret Service protection -- "from three or four federal agents to as many as a dozen." LINK
Per the New York Daily News, Bill Clinton spoke at a Westchester Democratic gathering thanking supporters of Sen. Clinton's reelection campaign. LINK
2008: Democrats: Edwards:
Newsweek's Jonathan Darman offers the "authentic" Sen. John Edwards a (mostly) big wet kiss, buying whole cloth the story of Edwards' repeated refusal to change his ways in the face of consultant advice. Nice picture of the house, though. LINK
2008: Democrats: Richardson:
The Albuquerque Journal's Thomas Cole continues with Part 4 of a series giving an in-depth look at New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson. LINK
2008: Democrats: Vilsack:
In the wake of Sen. Obama's decision to skip the Feb. 21 AFSCME forum in Nevada because he is going to be in Iowa, former Gov. Tom Vilsack (D-IA) sent him a letter Sunday offering to debate the Illinois lawmaker in front of AFSCME Council 61 anywhere in the Hawkeye State.
According to the terms of the letter, Vilsack would still go to Carson City, NV for the back-to-back candidate appearances which will be moderated by ABC News' George Stephanopoulos and then immediately return to Iowa to debate Obama.
Democratic Senate colleagues are organizing fundraisers to help the recovering Senator from South Dakota fill his campaign coffers, says Roll Call, on "what may be the strongest signal yet that Sen. Tim Johnson will run for re-election in 2008."
The New Hampshire primary, the first in the nation since 1920, is at risk of losing it's spot as other states are trying to move theirs ahead of the Granite State. ABC News' Geoff Morrell, Paul Beban, and Wendy Brundige have more. LINK
Wayne Washington of the State in South Carolina looks at how the presidential candidates will play to their base constituencies on the issue of the Confederate Flag. LINK
The Los Angeles Times' Richard Simon reports on the odd place Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK) has found himself in: "pushing tougher fuel-economy standards for cars," citing the clear signs of climate change that "more apparent" in Alaska. LINK
The New York Times' Patricia Cohen explores the psychological profiles of Democratic and Republican voters. LINK
More schedule items:
On Tuesday, Gov. Romney is scheduled to formally declaring his presidential candidacy at The Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, MI at 9:00 am ET. Romney also delivers 2:00 pm ET remarks in Des Moines, IA. President Bush takes part in a service project marking the 5th anniversary of the USA Freedom Corps in Washington, DC. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff testifies on the budget before the House Homeland Security Committee. Former Mayor Giuliani delivers a speech at the Opening Ceremonies of World Ag Expo beginning at 11:30 am ET in Tulare, CA. Former Gov. Tommy Thompson (R-WI) attends the 9:30 am ET release of the final recommendations of the Commission on the No Child Left Behind Act. Former Gov. Tom Villack delivers an energy speech to San Francisco's Commonwealth Club, San Francisco, CA.
On Wednesday, President Bush meet with President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of the Republic of Liberia, marking the President's 100th meeting with an African Head of State.
On Thursday, President Bush delivers remarks on the global war on terrorism, focusing on Afghanistan at Mayflower Hotel in Washington DC. Former Vice President Al Gore participates in an event on global warming in Los Angeles, CA Gov. Romney holds a 7:00 pm ET fundraiser in Boston, MA.
On Friday, President Bush holds a meeting with Panama's President Martin Torrijos.Sen. John Edwards is expected to attend a Bay Area fundraiser in CA. DNC Chairman Howard Dean attends a Bay Area party fundraiser in CA. Sen. Dodd participates in the New Hampshire Political Library's "Politics and Eggs: 2007 Candidates Series". Gov. Romney meets with local residents at 7:00 pm ET in The Villages, FL. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA) discuss "America's Future: Two Visions, Two Books, Two Parties" at 10:00 am ET in Washington, DC.