The Note: From the Omni Shoreham to the Pettus Bridge

WASHINGTON, Mar. 2

Whether it's hanging out at a Conservative Political Action Conference hotel bar or dropping in on Jay Carson's birthday party, this weekend will present many challenging moments when a Bill Kristol or a Beau Willimon LINK might turn to you and ask, "What's up with the three Rings?"

Your answers (for now):

Ring 1 (Iraq):
The Democrats' congressional leadership have completely lost all momentum on ending the war. Unless they come up with something deeply bicameral that can't be cast as a "slow bleed"; unless they can simultaneously satisfy the blogger/Murtha wing, the presidential candidates, and their Red State Members of Congress; unless they can pick off GREATER numbers of Republicans, rather than fewer; and unless they can (for once) outfox Mitch McConnell -- unless they do all these things, they are going to have to wait months (not weeks) and see if the President's troop introduction works (or doesn't) before they can actually get anything done.

Ring 2 (other legislative business):
Flairs on immigration only prove the point: bitterness over Iraq makes needle-threading bipartisan deals close to impossible.

Ring 3 (2008):
It's all about fundraising; campaigns abandoning quietish trench warfare in favor of standing on the trenches and firing bazookas at each other; and the dropping of opposition research on everyone BUT Ben Smith.

And/but, for the next 72 hours, it's all about the Republicans' CPAC meeting and the unexpected convergence in Selma, Alabama of America's first black president, his wife, and the man who might become the nation's actual first black president. While every effort will be made by the participants to commemorate this sacred and important event with dignity, some of the media is bound and determined to turn it into a Freak Show face-off.

But the GOP is up first, with presidential candidates galore in line to speak today and tomorrow, just as the Big 3 frontrunners (and their staffs) have started to forget the 11th Commandment about not criticizing fellow Republicans, and former Virginia governor Jim Gilmore aides and abets the process of saying the Big 3 are not true conservatives.

Duncan Hunter was scheduled to speak at 8:30 am ET, Gov. Huckabee is slated for 10:00 am ET, Mayor Giuliani is expected to take the stage at noon ET.

The afternoon brings Rep. Tancredo to the podium at 1:00 pm ET followed by Sen. Brownback at 1:30 pm ET. Gov. Romney addresses the crowd at 2:45 pm ET.

Later this evening, Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN) keynotes at 7:30 pm ET at CPAC's Ronald Reagan banquet.

The candidates hold various receptions and media availabilities around their speeches.

Sen. McCain declined an invitation to appear at CPAC. The Senator participates in a media availability in Salt Lake City, UT with Gov. Jon Huntsman, Jr. at 12:30 pm ET. This evening there will be an open press fundraiser in Phoenix, AZ with Sen. McCain and Gov. Huntsman at 9:30 pm ET at the Phoenix Convention Center. The Senator plans to gaggle with reporters in Phoenix from 10:30-10:45 pm ET.

For more on the Sunday event featuring 2/3 of the Democrats' Big 3, see below.

After his CPAC stint, Rep. Tom Tancredo hits the road for a 6:00 pm ET Jones County Beef & Noodle Dinner at the Moose Lodge in Anamosa, IA.

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