The Note: Frontrunners Were Made to Be Broken

WASHINGTON, Feb. 20

If you skipped television and the papers over the President's Day weekend, you are in grave, grave danger.

To the rescue, complete with all due modesty, with your weekend must-sees and must-reads, The Note:

Roger Simon, Dan Balz (with 2!), and Adam Nagourney tone poems on The 2007 Spirit of John McCain. LINK, LINK, LINK, and LINK
(Note the campaign officials talking on background about strategy and division in that last one.)

NOTE QUESTIONS ABOUT THE FUTURE: WHEN, IF EVER, IS MCCAIN GOING TO GO INTO FULL-TIME HAPPY WARRIOR MODE, AND CAN HE WIN IF HE DOESN'T?

George Stephanopoulos, ABC News, and Newsweek on Mitt Romney, who just might be a Mormon flipper, but not, his defenders will tell you, a flip-flopper. LINK, LINK, LINK, LINK, LINK, and LINK

NOTE QUESTIONS ABOUT THE PRESENT AND THE FUTURE: WILL ROMNEY'S NEW (EARLY!) TV AD HELP, AND WHAT ARE HIS CAMPAIGN STAFF TELLING HIM "PRIVATELY" ABOUT HOW THE FLIP-FLOP FOCUS IS PLAYING WITH THE GANG OF 500? (Hint: read Richard Cohen's column on Romney maybe renouncing his Mormon faith. LINK)

Tom Beaumont of the Des Moines Register on the Republican Big 3 and their lust for the Right LINK, and David Yepsen on the enthusiasm gap between the parties that favors the Democrats. LINK

NOTE QUESTIONS ABOUT THE FUTURE: WHO WILL WIN THE YEPSEN PRIMARY AND WHICH REPUBLICAN -- CANDIDATE OR NOT -- WILL CONVINCE HIM THAT 2008 CAN BE A GOP YEAR?

Hillary Clinton's enemies are gearing up LINK

or, alternatively, are surprisingly dormant LINK

NOTE QUESTION ABOUT THE FUTURE: DOES JOHN PODHORETZ'S MUST-READ NEW YORK POST COLUMN -- IN WHICH HE FREAKS OUT ABOUT CHRIS RUDDY AND RICHARD M. SCAIFE NOW CLAIMING TO THINK THAT BILL CLINTON WAS "A PRETTY GOOD PRESIDENT" -- FORESHADOW THE CRACKING UP OF THE ANTI-CLINTON MOVEMENT? LINK

Case Study #2 in our series "How Barack Obama's campaign is going to deal with scrutiny," courtesy of the Los Angeles Times and Robert Gibbs. LINK and LINK

NOTE QUESTIONS ABOUT THE PRESENT AND THE FUTURE: DOES THE OBAMA CAMPAIGN HAVE SOMEONE GOING CAREFULLY THROUGH HIS TWO BOOKS -- FOR STARTERS -- TO LOOK FOR EVERY LANDMINE, AND IS OBAMA COOPERATING IN THAT PROCESS?

What happens when the Boston Globe actually turns on a candidate not from Massachusetts, in Rick Klein's three-dimensional-chess piece on the Kerry camp claiming, contrary to John Edwards' post-facto claim, that Edwards did not clamour to fight back again Bush-Cheney in 2004. LINK

NOTE QUESTIONS ABOUT THE FUTURE: WILL EDWARDS TRY TO DEFUSE THIS TENSION NOW BEFORE IT STRIKES AGAIN, AND DID ELIZABETH EDWARDS READ THAT GLOBE PIECE WITH A HIGHLIGHTER IN HAND?

What Hillary Clinton is doing instead of apologizing for her Iraq vote (courtesy of Pat Healy's must-read in the New York Times LINK -- Note the campaign officials talking on background about strategy and division in this one, along with the Big Hand of Mark Penn), and why Paul Krugman is not pleased LINK, and Dick Morris is (not) afraid. LINK

NOTE QUESTION ABOUT THE PRESENT AND THE FUTURE: DID CLINTON GET THE APOLOGY BUGABOO OFF OF HER BACK AS THE CAMPAIGN INTENDED?

The more immediate question for Clinton is what will happen tonight in La-La Land, when the Hollywood four-some of Steven Spielberg, David Geffen, Jeffrey Katzenberg, and Andy Spahn host a closed press fundraiser this evening for Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) at the Beverly Hilton Hotel.

According to David M. Halbfringer's curtain raiser in the New York Times, Tom Hanks, Jennifer Aniston, Eddie Murphy, and Denzel Washington are among the stars who reportedly bought tickets for the cocktail reception and "studio bosses from Universal, Paramount, Disney and 20th Century Fox have all sent checks or faxed their credit card numbers, too." LINK

Earlier in the day, Sen. Obama makes a 5:00 pm ET appearance at the Rancho Cienega Sports Complex in Los Angeles, CA.

Fresh from a significant interview on "This Week with George Stephanopoulos," former Gov. Mitt Romney's (R-MA) campaign announced earlier today that it will become the first major presidential candidate to air a 2008 television ad. The ad is set to air starting Wednesday, and, spokesguy Kevin Madden says, will air ultimately in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Michigan, and Florida. LINK

Romney says in the ad: "This is not a time for more talk and dithering in Washington. It's a time for action." The campaign is refusing to disclose the size, scope, or duration of the buy.

More from the AP's Glen Johnson. LINK

Closing arguments in the trial of Scooter Libby get underway today following a final review of jury instruction proposals which were scheduled to begin at 9:00 am ET. The jury could receive instructions and begin deliberations tomorrow. On cue, Vice President Cheney is in Japan for meetings with the emperor and prime minister.

President Bush participates in a 10:10 am ET swearing-in ceremony for John Michael McConnell as the second Director of National Intelligence at Bolling Air Force Base in Washington, DC. He participates in a 1:15 pm ET meeting on health-care initiatives at the White House.

First Lady Laura Bush Attends a 10:30 am ET briefing on the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Marine National Monument, hosted by the Council on Environmental Quality, at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington, DC.

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) is in Georgia and South Carolina today. While in Florence, SC, Sen. McCain will pick up the endorsement of state Sen. Hugh Leatherman at a 3:00 pm ET press conference, reports the Politico's Jonathan Martin. LINK

Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) holds a 3:15 pm ET "Conversation with Community Leader" in Miami, FL. The event is hosted by Rep. Kendrick Meek (D-FL).

Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE) delivers 12:45 pm ET remarks to the Carson City Democratic Party at Comma Coffee in Carson City, NV, and gives a 10:00 pm ET address to the Nevada Committee on Foreign Relations at the University of Nevada-Reno in Reno, NV.

White House Press Secretary Tony Snow turns the tables on the press at 8:00 pm ET when he questions members of the press including Bob Schieffer of CBS News, David Gregory of NBC News, Terry Hunt of the Associated Press, Mark Knoller of CBS Radio, April Ryan of American Urban Radio, Sheryl Stolberg of the New York Times, and Richard Wolffe of Newsweek. (C-SPAN will have live coverage).

On Wednesday, C-SPAN will have live coverage at 3:00 pm ET of the AFSCME-sponsored Democratic presidential candidates forum in Carson City, NV, in which the candidates will be questioned by George Stephanopoulos of ABC News.

The Supreme Court hears 10:00 am ET oral arguments on sentencing guidelines in Rita v. United States, and Claiborne v. United States.

The Senate is in recess until Monday, Feb. 26. The House is in recess until Tuesday, Feb. 27.

Libby trial:

Keying off of the Libby trial winding down, the Washington Post's Michael Abramowitz looks at the apparently declining influence of Vice President Cheney in President Bush's second term. LINK

"One former administration official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to talk more candidly, said Cheney's office has 'disappeared' on foreign policy under Libby's replacement, David Addington, and the vice president's foreign policy adviser, John P. Hannah. 'Addington and Hannah are smart people, but they are no Scooter. Scooter worked 25 hours a day and he had Addington and Hannah working for him, so it was a powerful combination," this source said. "The result is that Cheney is taking a back seat, and there is no check or balance on Condi in foreign policy. It is what Condi decides and what the president agrees to.'"

Politics of Iraq:

With Congress on recess, the anti-war group "Americans Against Escalation in Iraq," says its organizing events across the country to make sure the Iraq war follows lawmakers home, blogs the New York Times' Zeleney for the "Caucus." LINK

A conservative advocacy group designed to counter the anti war MoveOn.org has its sights on the 17 GOP lawmakers who voted for the House resoluion oppoing President Bush' troop increase, report Politico's Patrick O'Connor and Josh Kraushaar. LINK

The implications of Bob Novak never forgiving John Murtha for Abscam. LINK

2008:

The Washington Post's Jeffrey Birnbaum looks at the far-reaching tentacles of Mark Penn's Burson-Marsteller firm. LINK

"But unlike in previous campaigns when candidates have focused almost entirely on the uninsured, the early presidential candidates are talking about promoting wellness as a way to avoid the high costs of treating cancers, heart disease, and other ailments," writes the Boston Globe's Susan Milligan on including health care in the issues of 2008. LINK

Jake Tapper's Political Punch blog has video clips of two candidates handling some tough questioners. Gov. Romney faced down an anti-Mormon voter in Florida (LINK) and Sen. Edwards weathered a question from Bill Maher about the real difference between his and Sen. Clinton's positions on their Iraq war votes (LINK)

LINK

2008: Republicans:

A CBS News poll shows Giuliani leading Sen. McCain 50%-29% in a primary match-up.

2008: Republicans: Giuliani:

"Long dismissed by Washington insiders as incapable of receiving the Republican Party's presidential nomination because of his pro-abortion rights, pro-gay rights and pro-gun control views," ABC News' Teddy Davis reports that Giuliani "was lavished with praise Friday" at the National Press Club "by an icon of American conservatism." LINK

"'He is much stronger than anyone could have predicted six months ago,' said former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich from Georgia. "New York is four times safer than it used to be. It's one of the greatest achievements of government capability in the 20th century. And Rudy just has to go out and say, 'This is who I am. If you think the world's dangerous, and you need a tough guy . . . that's me.' "

2008: Republicans: McCain:

In a Wall Street Journal op ed, former Sen. Phil Gramm (R-TX) shouts from the rooftops about his support for Sen. McCain for President. Gramm writes, "I believe the man we need to meet the mortal need today is here. He is experienced, but has not lost his common sense or his ability to be outraged. His conservatism is not the result of a studied philosophy, but of common sense and personal observation. His name is John McCain. He might not be the right president for all times, but he is the right president for these times."

Dick Polman of the Philadelphia Inquirer describes what he believes is the evolution from McCain's 2000 Straight Talk Express to what Polman now calls, "The Flip Flop Express." LINK

Salon's Mark Benjamin on McCain and the war. LINK

Ginny Skalski of The State recaps McCain's Monday trip to South Carolina where he showcased his "conservative side." LINK

Sen. McCain said in a speech yesterday that former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld will go down as "one of the worst secretaries of defense in history," per Washington Times' Greg Pierce. LINK

The AP on McCain's call for Supreme Court justices who strictly interpret the Constitution. LINK

Former Gov. Frank Keating (R-OK) is backing McCain, the AP reports. LINK

Former Sen. Mike DeWine (R-OH) will head Sen. McCain's bid in Ohio, the AP reports. LINK

2008: Republicans: Romney:

After showing a clip of Romney telling "This Week," "Our belief is just like it says in the Bible. The Messiah will come to Jerusalem," ABC News' George Stephanopoulos said Sunday on "Good Morning America": "We checked in with a Mormon spokesman. They say it's not actually true. They believe the New Jerusalem is in Missouri and that's where Jesus is going to come."

Thomas Beaumont of the Des Moines Register Notes that while campaigning in Iowa this weekend, former Gov. Romney said in an interview that the United States should maintain diplomatic isolation but "keep communication channels open." LINK

2008: Republicans: Brownback:

The Kansas City Star reprints Mike Hendricks' 1996 profile of Sen. Brownback when he was first a candidate for Senate, where he was characterized as "hard to pigeonhole." LINK

2008: Republicans: Hunter:

The Associated Press reports that Rep. Hunter called the Iraq debate in the Congress a waste of time while visiting Concord, NH, and told local Republicans, ''I don't have to hire consultant to develop a conservative image because I am a conservative.' LINK

2008: Democrats: Clinton:

The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza reports on Sen. Clinton's efforts to attract black voters in South Carolina, while at the same time compete with Sen. Obama over endorsements and appearances in the first-in-the South primary state. LINK

The New York Times' Patrick Healey on Sen. Clinton's "delicately worded pitch" to black voters. Note too how Clinton spun Robert Ford's negative comment about Sen. Obama to her advantage. LINK

Aaron Gould Sheinin of South Carolina's The State reports that Sen. Clinton was "greeted like a star" during her campaign visit to Columbia, SC, where she trumpeted her bipartisan credentials, talked up her husband, and downplayed her singing talents. LINK

The State on the same: LINK

"Sen. Hillary Clinton made her first swing to the South yesterday, drawing an enthusiastic crowd of African-Americans and showing that Sen. Barack Obama doesn't have a lock on the black vote," write the New York Daily News' Michael McAuliff and Helen Kennedy under a "Hill wows 'em in S.C." header. LINK

The New York Post's Ian Bishop Noticed Sen. Clinton mentioning that her campaign struck no deal with South Carolina state Sen. Darrell Jackson, who endorsed Clinton after he snagged a consulting deal. LINK

Washington Times' Jim McElhatton reports that a trustee demands one of Sen. Clinton's brothers, Anthony Rodham, repay $107,000 for alleged loans from United Shows' owners Edgar and Vonna Jo Gregory, who were both pardoned by former President Bill Clinton in 2000. Per McElhatton, Rodham reportedly said he worked as a consultant for United Shows and denied receiving money to effort the Gregory's pardon. LINK

Sen. Clinton gets favorable poll numbers for standing by President Clinton during the Monica Lewinsky scandal, says the New York Post. LINK

The son of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) is on board with Sen. Clinton. LINK

Jonathan Martin of the Politico expresses bemusement at a geographical gaffe made by Sen. Clinton in South Carolina, where she pledged to campaign from the "Lowlands to the Midlands to Upstate," when she should have said "Lowcountry." Martin warns that "Charlestonians take their turf, and some would say themselves, seriously." LINK

2008: Democrats: Obama:

"I see in Barack Obama ... the same magnetism I saw in Bill Clinton," said former South Carolina Democratic Party Chairman Dick Harpootlian, who is endorsing the Senator's White House run, reports the Charleston Post and Courier. LINK

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) gushed over Sen. Obama at a San Francisco fundraiser yesterday, but she is not endorsing anyone for president, the New York Sun's Josh Gerstein reports. LINK

The San Francisco Chronicle's Carla Marinucci and John Wildermuth on the same: LINK

Mary Anne Ostrom of the San Jose Mercury News: LINK

Chicago Sun Times' Lynn Sweet points to yesterday's Los Angeles Times article, which questioned whether Obama took too much credit in his asbestos fight as a Chicago community organizer, and Notes that Obama campaign's research director Devorah Adler dug up the real identities behind the characters in Obama's memoir even though it may have been easier to ask Obama directly. LINK

"Obama was in the '60s, but not of the '60s -- the first serious presidential candidate since Bob Dole who can say that," writes the Boston Globe's Peter Canellos in his National Perspective analysis on Sen. Obama's status as a new kind of candidate. LINK

The Washington Post's ed board on Sen. Obama's "intriguing bid" to salvage the public financing system of presidential campaigns. LINK

2008: Democrats: Edwards:

The Politico's Ben Smith looks at the striking similarity between Edwards' DNC winter meeting speech and a speech that former Rep. David Bonior (D-MI), his campaign manager, gave years ago. LINK

But then Smith sort of undoes his own thesis with Google.

"I am the candidate of big, fundamental change," Sen. Edwards told US News' Kenneth T. Walsh, in a profile of the former Senator who, Walsh says, "hopes to ride a wave of liberal anger and generalized dissatisfaction." LINK

2008: Democrats: Richardson:

The Albuquerque Journal has its last installment of the weekly series that gives an in-depth look at Richardson's rise to New Mexico's top seat and his ambition to rise even higher. LINK

Steve Terrell of the Santa Fe New Mexican looks at the central place the Nevada caucus will hold for Gov. Richardson's presidential prospects. As political science professor David Damore said (in decidedly un-Sinatra-like tones), "If he can't win here, he won't win anywhere." LINK

2008: Democrats: Dodd:

Per Charlotte Eby of the Quad City Times, Sen. Dodd advocated removing all troops from Iraq and called his 2002 war vote "a mistake." LINK

According to a Quinnipiac University poll of Connecticut voters, Dodd would finish a distant fourth behind Clinton, Obama, and Gore in his home state. LINK

Ray Hackett of the Norwich Bulletin has the poll's breakdown.

Sen. Dodd charmed the crowd at yesterday's Politics and Eggs breakfast in Bedford, NH, reports David Lightman of the Hartford Courant. "I'm 62," Sen. Dodd said. "This is not a warm-up for some future run. I am who I am. I'm not going to go through some metamorphosis." LINK

2008: Democrats: Biden:

Biden is in Reno ahead of Wednesday's debate in Carson City and used President's Day to try to win over support in his bid for the White House. Biden joked to the crowd that Nevadans had better get used to seeing a lot of the Democratic presidential candidates in the months ahead, "all of us are going to be showing up ... all 800 of us," he said. LINK

"Joe Biden's mouth can get him in trouble, but when it is working right, the words drop from his lips like pearls, and nodding heads now spread through the audience like ripples on a pond." writes Politico's Roger Simon LINK

Gore:

The New York Post's Cindy Adams perfectly reflects Gang of 500 thinking on whether Al Gore will run, is running, and might run. LINK

Iowa:

USA Today's Judy Keen on the 2008ers locating their Iowa headquarters outside of the now fashionable and expensive downtown Des Moines. LINK

Gov. Chet Culver (D-IA) will "Do what it takes" to keep Iowa Caucuses first, reports O. Kay Henderson of Radio Iowa. LINK

2008: Senate: Minnesota:

In an interview with Dane Smith at the Minneapolis Star Tribune, newly-announced Senate candidate Al Franken asserted that "humor and seriousness don't have to be in conflict with each other." Noting that, should he win, he would be the fourth consecutive Jew to hold the seat, Franken laughed, and joked, "I don't think Minnesota is quite ready to elect a Gentile to this seat." LINK

2008: House:

In an effort to strike an independent image back home, Rep. Carol Shea-Porter (D-NH) and Rep. Nancy Boyda (D-KS) are already "rejecting financial assistance" from the DCCC, reports the Politico's Josh Kraushaar. LINK

Week ahead:

On Wednesday, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees hosts the first 2008 Democratic Presidential Candidate Forum in Carson City Nevada. ABC News' George Stephanopoulos moderates. Sens. Biden, Clinton and Dodd, former Sen. Edwards and Gravel, Rep. Dennis Kucinich, Gov. Bill Richardson and former Gov. Tom Vilsack are all expected to participate. Sen. Obama will not be taking part in the forum. Sen. Obama travels to Iowa where he holds a town hall meeting at Polk County Convention Complex in Des Monies. Former Mayor Giuliani holds a town hall meeting with first responder in North Spartanburg, SC. President Bush participates in a tour of Erlanger Hospital-Baroness Campus in Chattanooga, TN. He also participates in a conversation on health care initiatives. The Supreme Court hears 10:00 am ET oral arguments in the patenting case Microsoft Corporation v. AT&T Corporation.

On Thursday, President Bush participates in a tour of Novozzymes North America, Inc. in Franklinton, NC and then joins a panel discussion on cellulosic ethanol, the National Press Foundation holds its annual awards dinner Thursday at 6:30 pm ET at the Hilton Washington in Washington, DC. Participants will include David Remnick of the New Yorker, Gwen Ifill of the News Hour, Michael Weisskopf of Time Magazine, Brody Mullins of the Wall Street Journal, Steven Henn and William Kistner of American Public Media, Paul Kane of Roll Call, Andrew Taylor of the Associated Press, and Steve Sack of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. The Economic Policy Institute holds a 9:00 am ET discussion on working Americans at the Cannon House Office Building in Washington, DC. Participants include Paul Krugman of the New York Times, Tom Kochan of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Beth Shulman, author of "The Betrayal of Work: How Low-Wage Jobs Fail 30 Million Americans and their Families", Harley Shaiken of the University of California, Berkeley, and Richard Freeman of Harvard University. Thursday is also former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist's 55th birthday.

On Friday, Speaker Pelosi appears on Friday's "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno". Sen. Obama makes a 3:00 pm ET appearance at the University of Texas at Austin. Gov. Vilsack attends a 6:00 pm ET gathering at the Fairfield Senior Center in Fairfield, IA, and a 7:30 pm ET gathering at the Hotel Ottumwa in Ottumwa, IA.

Intern for the ABC News Political Unit:

The ABC News Political Unit is now seeking full-time unpaid summer interns in Washington, D.C.

There are a few requirements you should know about before applying for the internship.

—You must be either a graduate student or junior or senior in college. —You must be able to work long days, starting early, Monday through Friday. — If your school gives credit for internships, you must receive credit. —The internship begins May 29 and runs into August.

Not only will you get to write for The Note and help us manage ABC's Political Radar, but ABC News Political Unit interns also help us by conducting research, maintaining contact lists, and attending political events.

If you write well, don't mind getting up early, and have some familiarity with web publishing, send a cover letter and resume to teddy.davis@abc.com as soon as possible, with the subject line: "INTERN" in all caps.