The Note: From the Omni Shoreham to the Pettus Bridge


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.

President Bush delivers 2:40 pm ET remarks on No Child Left Behind reauthorization at Silver Street Elementary School in New Albany, IN. He then travels to Louisville, KY to deliver a 5:35 pm ET address in support of Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) at a National Republican Senatorial Committee reception at the Seelbach Hilton. (The Louisville Courier-Journal's ed board is none too pleased with Sen. McConnell's schedule today. LINK)

After a round of taped network morning show interviews aired this morning, Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) attends a pen and pad 12:30 pm ET AIPAC briefing at the Sheraton Chicago Hotel and Towers in Chicago, IL. Sen. Obama is likely to talk about Iran and his vision for the Middle East.

Coming to an inbox near you, the Republican National Committee plans to meta-help the Clinton campaign with a research document going after Sen. Obama's foreign policy credentials and intimate that the presidential contender has been late to the foreign policy arena. The RNC highlights Jeff Zeleny's recent New York Times reporting that "when he arrived in Washington he waited 11 months to deliver a major speech on Iraq" and that Obama had not announced a troop withdrawal deadline from Iraq before entering the presidential race.

Former Sen. John Edwards (D-NC) holds a 3:00 pm ET meeting with United Farm Workers President Arturo Rodriguez at Casa Velasco in Fresno, CA.

Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT) delivers a 10:30 am ET address at the University of South Carolina's Moore School of Business in Columbia, SC, and has a 5:00 pm ET meeting with York County Democrats at party headquarters in Rock Hill, SC.

Gov. Bill Richardson (D-MN) begins a busy weekend in Iowa, starting in Des Moines with a 1:30 pm ET luncheon with Polk County Democrats at Latin Kings Restaurant, followed by a 2:20 pm ET meet and greet with "Young Democrats" at Drake University, a 5:30 pm ET coffee with MeetUp supporters and Iowa bloggers at the Breakroom Cyber Café, and ending with a 7:30 pm ET house party with Rep. Mark Davitt (D-IA) in Indianola, IA.

Sens. Joe Biden (D-DE) and Dick Durbin (D-IL) participate in a noon ET briefing on violence against women at the Dirksen Senate Office Building in Washington, DC.

Former President Bill Clinton (D-AR) takes part in the Landon Lecture series with 4:30 pm ET remarks at Kansas State University in Manhattan, KS.

Sen. Wayne Allard (R-CO), Karl Rove, and Dick Wadhams address the Colorado GOP in Littleton, CO at a 9:00 pm ET fundraising dinner.

Don't miss "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" on Sunday when George sits down exclusively with Treasury Secretary Paulson.

2008: Republicans: setting the CPAC stage:

Rudy Giuliani's decision to attend CPAC has made the absence of McCain, who will be in Utah and Arizona, "more conspicuous", according to an aide working for aMcCain rival.

"The definition of conservative is what you believe, not which meetings you attend," counters McCain spokesman Matt David, who knows his candidate can boast of many key conservative supporters around the country. LINK

When asked a year ago if McCain could overcome doubts among conservatives in his second presidential run, American Conservative Union President David Keene, the chief sponsor of the CPAC conference, told ABC News: "Frankly, I doubt it."

On the eve of this year's '08er speeches to CPAC, Kirby Wilbur, a member of the CPAC board of directors, told ABC News that he thinks McCain has "sunk deeper in the hole" with conservative activists since last year, citing his criticism of President Bush on global warming, his "teaming up with Ted Kennedy on immigration," and the "fact that he has snubbed" this year's conference.

Can someone emerge as the CPAC favorite this weekend? Only time will tell.

Conservatives appear not to have much love for Republican '08ers, the Boston Globe's Milligan reports. LINK

After the Romney campaign told ABC News' Teddy Davis that it could not substantiate the former governor's claim to the Christian Broadcasting Network that Giuliani is "pro-gay marriage," a source close to the Giuliani campaign told ABC News: "It is sad but unfortunately not surprising, that Mitt Romney's flailing campaign has chosen to misrepresent Rudy's positions. He can't keep his own positions straight let alone Rudy's." LINK

"Unless the GOP finds a fantasy candidate they're stuck with McCain, Giuliani, and Romney. Which means the conservative vote is up for grabs. McCain's advisers know their candidate has problems with conservatives but argue that of the three, he has the most conservative record. But policy positions may not make the difference. No matter how much pandering he does, McCain can't stop conservatives from flocking to Rudy regardless of his record, either because they're emotionally drawn to the former mayor or because they can't stand the competition. It won't be clear how far McCain can go until it's clear how far Rudy will fall," writes John Dickerson of Slate in a must-read look at McCain's launch strategy and plan to recapture some of that 2000 magic. LINK

Jonathan Martin of Politico adds Steve Scheffler of the influential Iowa Christian Alliance to the list of players who are concerned about the lack of social conservative bona fides among the top-tier GOP contenders. LINK

In an interview with Politico, former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) said the only 2008 GOP candidate he wouldn't support is Sen. McCain. LINK

"I don't agree with him on hardly any issues," Santorum said.

ABC News' John Parkinson writes up Cheney's remarks last night that he delivered to CPAC. "I know we've got some Democrats with big ideas for taxes they want to raise," Cheney proclaimed, stoking the friendly crowd. "They ought to realize that no nation has ever taxed its way to prosperity." LINK

Selma commemorated:

On Sunday, Sen. Obama attends a "Unity Breakfast" at Wallace Community College, followed by Sunday services at Brown Chapel AME Church in Selma, AL for the annual Bridge Crossing Jubilee to commemorate the March 7, 1965 "Bloody Sunday" Selma-to-Montgomery voting rights march.

Also in Selma for the day's events is Sen. Clinton who speaks at the First Baptist Church. Both Sens. Obama and Clinton plan to participate in a reenactment of the march across the Pettus bridge.

Sen. Clinton then joins her husband Bill Clinton for their first joint public appearance since she declared her candidacy. FPOTUS will be inducted into the National Voting Rights Museum's Hall of Fame.

"Everybody's interpreting this as the Clintons saying together, we are not going to give up on the African American vote," said ABC News' Claire Shipman on "Good Morning America."

Sen. Obama told Shipman, "I don't expect to get the African American vote simply because I'm African American. I think I've got to earn it."

"How the joint Clinton trip came about was a subject of some debate: The senator's advisers dismissed the suggestion that the former president is rushing in at the last minute to help his wife's standing among black voters. But they admitted that the decision was made yesterday, more than a week after Hillary Clinton made her plans to go to Selma," writes Anne Kornblut of the Washington Post. LINK

The New York Daily News casts Bill Clinton as Sen. Clinton's Obama-kryptonite while in Alabama this weekend. LINK

2008: Republicans: McCain:

ABC News' Jake Tapper provides the details of McCain's mistaken wording on Letterman by describing lost American lives in Iraq as "wasted" and Sen. Obama taking a far different approach to McCain's words than the DNC. LINK

Liz Sidoti of the Associated Press examines how Sen. McCain's "wasted" slip-up "underscores the scrutiny in store for him as he seeks the presidency." LINK

Washington Times: LINK

Chicago Sun Times: LINK

The New York Times: LINK

Jim Kuhnhenn of the Associated Press reports that the McCain half of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law may opt out of public financing for his presidential bid, save for a hypothetical fundraising truce between his and the Democratic nominee's campaigns. LINK

The Wall Street Journal's Wirey Mary Lu Carnevale writes up National Review's ideological ratings which suggest to some that perhaps conservatives shouldn't dismiss the Arizona Senator just yet.

Dan Norwicki reports on Sen. McCain's "big-money splash" for the Arizona Republic, as the Senator eschews today's CPAC conference and instead holds an "exchange of ideas" at the Phoenix Convention Center -- an "exchange" that will cost $1000 for reserved seating. LINK

2008: Republicans: Giuliani:

Chuck Raasch in USA Today examines the surge in support for Mayor Giuliani despite his dubious conservative credentials, positing that, "the search for a candidate identified with strong leadership qualities, as Giuliani has carried since 9/11, may be trumping some of the threshold requirements on abortion rights and other cultural issues that have marked GOP presidential primaries for over a quarter century." LINK

Bill Simon and Ted Olson of the Giuliani campaign both pushed back on Ben Smith's "Politico" story about the former mayor's judicial nominees calling it misleading. LINK

"The mayor does not have a free hand in judicial appointments in New York City. An independent panel gives the mayor a choice of three candidates for each open seat, and the mayor has to select from those three. Rudy did not choose the candidates; he had to select one of three locked-in choices," Simon spun.

Smith's conclusion suggests that he, at least, is not convinced.

The New York Daily News writes Giuliani will be in "hostile territory" for his LA fundraiser next week. The paper also reports that Adam Sandler will be the big name star in attendance, along with Dennis Miller, J. Peterman, and an Angel. LINK

2008: Republicans: Romney:

Gov. Romney seems to think all the scrutiny on him by Old Media outlets means he's the conservative candidate of choice. The Boston Globe's Scott Helman has the story which includes a scenario in which Romney is standing on tables and teaching parrots to say his name, as well as slicing fudge. LINK

In an interview with the New Hampshire Union Leader's Garry Rayno, Romney says that he would impose a spending cap on all federal agencies excluding defense spending. In the interview, Romney also sang praises to the health care insurance plan he helped create as governor, but does not want to implement one nation wide plan. LINK

In a separate story, Romney touted his success in politics as a result of his long career in business, writes Son Hoang of the Union Leader. LINK

2008: Republicans: Gilmore:

Ralph Z. Hallow writes that former Gov. Jim Gilmore (R-VA) will publicly say that the top three GOP candidates are "phony conservatives" in an video press release that will be posted to YouTube tomorrow. LINK

2008: Republicans: Hunter:

Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) has dropped two campaign advisors in South Carolina for their comments on immigrants and religious minorities, the AP reports. LINK

2008: Republicans: South Carolina:

The State tallies the results of the Spartanburg County GOP straw poll. LINK

2008: money:

"After a stop in Hollywood, the Democratic money chase is headed to Wall Street," report Brody Mullins and Ianthe Jeanne Dugan of the Wall Street Journal. The chase one again puts Sens. Clinton and Obama head to head.

But wait, former Gov. Mitt Romney has strong personal and professional ties on Wall Street and former Mayor Rudy Giuliani is a hometown favorite, Mullins and Dugan write.

Helping raise $10.4 million for the RGA this week and hitting the road today to help Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and the NRSC at an event expected to rake in $2 million, nothing is stopping President Bush from being his party's fundraiser-in-chief, reports James Gerstenzang of the Los Angeles Times. LINK

2008: Democrats:

The Wall Street Journal ed board takes the Clintons, John Edwards, and other Democrats to task for choosing to send their children to private schools but being against school choice. "The mystery man," the ed board writes "is Sen. Barack Obama, who sends his child to a private school in Chicago yet once referred to school vouchers as 'social Darwinism.'"

2008: Democrats: Obama:

NBC's Nora O'Donnell interviewed Sen. Obama for "Today", where the Senator addressed the issue of "royal family" fatigue over the Clintons and Bushes, saying, "We're in a moment where the country is looking for something different."

Also addressing the already-testy nature of the contest between he and Sen. Clinton, Sen. Obama offered some contrition saying, "I want all our statements to sound like me," but added, "I can mix it up."

"The best way to respond [to an attack] is with the truth," he said.

In an interview with CBS's "Early Show," Obama said, "we should show some restraint from some of the snappy comments but I think we should have responded" when he was asked about the Geffen-inspired feud with Sen. Clinton.

He also said Al Gore would be an "extremely formidable" candidate if he entered the 2008 race.

On quitting smoking, "Nicorette is going just fine," said Obama.

ABC News' Tahman Bradley on the FEC's answering Sen. Obama's campaign cash question to his liking. LINK

The Hill on the same: LINK

"Political observers, however, say the ruling is likely a moot point," writes the Chicago Tribune's John McCormick, "since a financial truce is highly unlikely in an era where political advertising, organization and travel are extremely expensive and both parties will be ferociously fighting for a White House with no incumbent." LINK

With Sen. McCain agreeing to accept public financing in the general election should he be the Republican nominee, unsurprisingly the Washington Post ed board writes that more candidates should say yes to Sen. Obama's challenge and help save the public financing system. LINK

The New York Times: LINK

An article in the Baltimore Sun by David Nitkin and Harry Merritt discusses the other side of Obama's racial makeup -- meaning his white mother's ancestry. Genealogical research suggests his ancestors on his mother's side owned slaves. Of course, in his book, Obama has acknowledged ancestral ties to Jefferson Davis so this doesn't seem all that shocking. LINK

Lynn Sweet reports in her blog for the Chicago Sun-Times that Sen. Obama is launching his Florida operation and has signed up Rep. Robert Wexler (D-FL) as his state campaign co-chair. LINK

2008: Democrats: Clinton:

The New York Post says Eliot Spitzer may endorse Sen. Clinton. . . someday. LINK

Sen. Clinton plans to get a little help from rap mogul Timbaland when he hosts a fundraiser for her in Miami on the last day of first-quarter fundraising. The New York Post has the implications for Sen. Obama. LINK

Byron McCauley of the Cincinnati Enquirer bumped into a book touring Clinton campaign chairing Terry McAuliffe at a coffee shop in Cincinnati yesterday, and Noted his multi-tasking and his tie "which was so orange Stevie Wonder could see it." LINK

(The Macker's Syracuse pride is, of course, always visible.)

2008: Democrats: Edwards:

Sen. Edwards passes the million-dollar mark in Internet fundraising, reports Mike Baker of the Associated Press. Though this is somewhat shadowed by Sen. Clinton's massive fundraising efforts, Ross Baker of Rutgers University says, "She's not one person, she's two people. . . Edwards doesn't have to match her dollar-for-dollar - that's unrealistic. All he needs to do is stay competitive." LINK

ABC News' Jake Tapper reports on an Edwards campaign virtual headquarters allegedly being vandalized by Republicans. LINK

The Denver Post's Chuck Plunkett writes on Edwards campaign stop yesterday in Denver, CO where he called on students to "take action". LINK

2008: Democrats: Biden:

Nicole Gaudiano of the Delaware News Journal reports that Biden is ranked fourth in the Senate for the most votes missed. Among presidential contenders, Biden trails only Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS) for most votes missed. LINK

2008: Democrats: Vilsack exit interviews:

"Iowa polls are not accurate in terms of caucus support," complained recent non-candidate Gov. Vilsack, who feels that early polls did not reflect his campaign's strength, reports Thomas Beaumont of the Des Moines Register. LINK

Gov. Vilsack insisted that money was the reason for ending his campaign, saying, "We were absolutely convinced, and I remain convinced and will as long as I live, that I would have won the Iowa caucuses based on the information that we had that is legitimate."

Gov. Vilsack will likely endorse one of the Democratic presidential candidates, reports Radio Iowa's O. Kay Henderson, though he hasn't "thought a great deal about the criteria." When asked if he would consider a run for the Senate, Gov. Vilsack said, "I spent time in the legislature. I spent time as an executive and I realized I'm more of an executive kind of a guy," but of course, "You never want to say never." LINK

2008: Democrats: South Carolina:

The State's Aaron Sheinin reports in a must-read for the Obama and Clinton campaign staffs that the Legislative Black Caucus in South Carolina is having a tough time deciding who to pick as their keynote speaker. LINK

2008: issues:

Healthcare continues its rise to the top of 2008 issues that Americans are concerned about, as a new New York Times poll finds that a majority of Americans feel the government should guarantee healthcare. The paper examines what this means for the contenders -- especially Sen. Clinton. LINK

2008: nomination calendar:

Mark Z. Barabak of the Los Angeles Times offers a profile of New Hampshire secretary of state Bill Gardner, "the one and only person in New Hampshire with the power to schedule the state's presidential primary." LINK

Gardner has been profiled before, but this must-read look contains lots of fabulous color that only a man of Barabak's stature and skill could conjure.

2008: California:

Candidates courting California. The New York Times reports on Edwards, Clinton, and Giuliani's upcoming swings through the state, in addition to the array of visits by those and other '08 hopefuls. LINK

Politics of Iraq:

S.A. Miller of the Washington Times looks at the House Republicans who are regrouping to block any plan the Democrats have to stop the troop surge in Iraq. LINK

Senate Democrats agree that an agreement has not yet been reached on how to confront President Bush on Iraq, the New York Times reports. LINK

Democratic agenda:

Susan Crabtree of The Hill offers a story on a House Judiciary subcommittee that sent out the first of what is expected to be a series of subpoenas to Bush Administration officials in an investigation into alleged corruption and mishandlings with Iraq and Hurricane Katrina. LINK

Bush Administration agenda:

A New York Times/CBS News poll finds President Bush having lost some support among Republicans. LINK

Weekend politics:

CPAC continues Saturday at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, DC, beginning with former Rep. Bob Barr (R-GA) at 9:00 am ET, and Fox News' Sean Hannity gives a 9:30 am ET address. Former RNC Chair Ken Mehlman introduces a 2:00 pm ET address from Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R-MN), and former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX) and David Horowitz hold a discussion at 3:00 pm ET. Newt Gingrich delivers his address to the conference at 4:45 pm ET. Straw poll results are expected to follow Gingrich's remarks.

Sen. Obama speaks at a 10:00 am ET labor rally at the Hyatt Regency hotel grand ballroom in Chicago, Illinois.

Fresh from their Washington, DC dinner, Sen. Clinton joins Los Angeles Mayor Antonia Villaraigosa in Los Angeles, CA on Saturday morning.

Gov. Richardson does double breakfast duty in Des Moines, IA, with a 10:30 breakfast with Women for a Stronger America at the A Dong Restaurant, followed by another at 11:30 pm ET with union leaders at the Hotel Ft. Des Moines.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) delivers a 9:00 pm ET keynote address to the Colorado Jefferson Jack Dinner in Denver, CO

Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) campaigns in New Hampshire.

Gov. Huckabee plans to hold an "informal media availability" to discuss presidential politics and other topics in the Randall Davey Room at the Broadmoor South Tower in Colorado Springs, CO at 1:30 pm ET on Saturday. Later in the evening. Gov. Huckabee offers a closed press address to the Family Policy Council at Focus on the Family headquarters in Colorado Springs, CO at 9:30 pm ET.

Sen. Clinton travels to Dubuque, IA on Sunday and will be in Des Moines, IA on Monday.

Former Sen. Edwards continues his college tour with a stop at UCLA on Sunday.

Also on Sunday, Sen. Biden begins a swing through South Carolina, holding a 2:00 pm ET town hall meeting on Iraq at Corker College in Hartsville, SC. He holds another town hall at 4:00 pm ET at The Skye in Bennettsville, SC, and finishes with a 6:30 pm ET meet and greet at the South Carolina Cotton Museum in Bishopville, SC.

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