The Note: Canceling the ‘Grand Bargain’

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We learned an awful lot about fear in this busy week on the campaign trail and on Capitol Hill. To review: All the Republican candidates are scared of Fred Thompson. Lots of them are afraid of Mitt Romney -- or, at least, what his wallet can do for him in Iowa. Rudy Giuliani is afraid of lightning. John Edwards fears fading into the second tier. Hillary Clinton is terrified of Barack Obama's fund-raising. And the Republican Party is very, very afraid of the immigration bill they helped kill last night in the Senate.

The failure of immigration reform in another Congress (President Bush, slowed down by a stomach ailment in Europe, is still hopeful about the bill's chances, but doesn't he have to be?) has too many causes to count, as reflected in a final tally that left the Senate 15 votes short. It leaves a long trail of deeply disappointed politicians -- Bush, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., prominent among them. ABC's Jake Tapper reports that the measure collapsed under its own weight because it was "a true compromise in the sense that there was something in it for everyone to hate."

The failure belongs to Washington itself, and a political culture that can't find consensus on Iraq, healthcare, energy security, or Social Security, either. "To those far removed from the backrooms of Capitol Hill, what happened will fuel cynicism toward a political system that appears incapable of finding ways to resolve the nation's big challenges," writes The Washington Post's Dan Balz, penning a debate line for one or more 2008ers.

As for what's next, there is no purer test of Bush's remaining effectiveness as a leader. Witness this challenge delivered by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.: "We need some support and I hope the president understands that there's only about 16 months until there is an election and a new president," Reid said, per The Wall Street Journal's David Rogers and Sarah Lueck.

Ah yes -- 2008. Reverberations are still being felt from the decisions by McCain and former mayor Rudolph Giuliani, R-N.Y., to skip the Iowa straw poll. Former governor Mitt Romney, R-Mass., is scaring the field away from Ames: Former governor Jim Gilmore, R-Va., is now bypassing the straw poll as well, and he could get company in the form of former senator Fred Thompson, R-Tenn., and former governors Mike Huckabee, R-Ark., and Tommy Thompson, R-Wisc., according to campaign advisers. Any Little Leaguer knows that winning by forfeit is no fun, but this fear of Romney could build him up as much it brings him down.

Then there's the dread of Fred. McCain could see his already lagging fund-raising suffer further as Fred Thompson prepares to enter the race, just weeks before the end of the second-quarter money race, The Washington Post's Matthew Mosk writes. This killer quote is from John Dowd, McCain's former personal lawyer and fund-raiser who's now with Thompson: "It's a difficult thing to leave a friend and go to another friend. But we lost the John McCain I knew."

Odds and ends from the campaign trail:

On the eve of an AFL-CIO forum tomorrow in Detroit, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's chief strategist, Mark Penn, announced that he will recuse himself from his consulting firm's work on behalf of the management side in labor disputes, Marc Ambinder reports in his Atlantic blog. That's nice, but hasn't Penn always claimed never to have been involved those activities in the first place?

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