Nobody can use the change of seasons more than former mayor Rudolph Giuliani, R.-N.Y. Think he'd like a do-over for the week? He lost a pair of campaign chairmen in early-voting states -- one to a spot in the Bush Cabinet, one to bizarre drug charges. (Asks ABC's Jake Tapper: Which fate is worse these days?) National polls show his lead slipping, and state polls have him trailing in the most important states. (He did himself no favors by showing up nearly an hour late for an event in Iowa yesterday.) And we learned this week that Giuliani was skipping Iraq Study Group meetings to attend big-money speeches. (Maybe he knew the report would land with a thud.)
Now comes Giuliani's successor, Michael Bloomberg, ready to buy himself a seat at the 2008 table -- and swipe Rudy's campaign rationale in the process. It's not just the I-fixed-New-York thing where Bloomberg chips away at Giuliani's base. Bloomberg is a doer, a bold, decisive leader at a time that the public is fed up with partisanship. (Sound like anyone else in the race?) And if Giuliani's appeal to the dispirited GOP is built on the assumption that he can reach out to moderates and win a tough general election, does that argument stand up if a billionaire -- a true independent, and a fellow New Yorker at that -- is waiting for him after the primaries?
The Bloomberg-Giuliani relationship has never been strong, and the current mayor's camp has now had more than five years in City Hall to collect damaging material to dump on Giuliani. The former mayor greeted the party-switching news flatly yesterday, declaring "I like Mike" and expressing disappointment in Bloomberg's decision. But this one hurts in Rudy land, The New York Times' Michael Powell reports: "As Mr. Bloomberg is his former supporter and would also campaign as a bold steward of America's largest and safest major city, the sting goes perhaps deepest for Mr. Giuliani."
Bloomberg yesterday repeated his stock answer about expecting to serve out the remainder of his term, but he was loving the attention and did offer this nugget to eager reporters: "I do think the more people that run for office, the better." Remember: This would not be a rash decision -- Bloomberg presidential buzz has been in the ether since he won reelection in November 2005. His aides have game-planned it all thoroughly, and he won't run to play spoiler -- and he know he'll be battling a history that stretches from Teddy Roosevelt to Ross Perot. "The former chief executive of a business media empire would face the same obstacles that have snuffed out all prior such renegade ventures," John Harwood and John McKinnon write in The Wall Street Journal.
Giuliani capped the week by showing up 50 minutes for a speech in Des Moines, which did little to turn around the storyline of a campaign in turmoil in Iowa. "That's a pretty big screw-up," Des Moines Register columnist David Yepsen writes on this blog. But Yepsen still sees hope for Giuliani: "Add it all up and it's still not a bad scenario for the former New York Mayor in Iowa. But it does require more time on task here."
Decision day for Bloomberg is a long way off, and yesterday provided fresh examples of why any candidate who can would wait as long as possible. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., didn't silence the boos at the "Take Back America" conference, not even with her vote last month to cut off war funding. A stock line about the Iraqi government failing "to make the tough decisions that are important for their own people" earned her a smattering of hoots and hollers, ABC's Teddy Davis and Lindsey Ellerson report.
Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., won the conference straw poll, besting former senator John Edwards, D-N.C., and Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., 29-26-17. This is indicative of precisely nothing, but Edwards did keep it closer than the huge Obama ovations might have indicated. And boos aside, Clinton does have some core support among liberals -- and could find the other two members of the Big Three fighting over the same segment of the party. "You see Obama's [supporters'] second choice and Edwards [supporters'] second choice are each other -- in this group, the two of them form the top tier," pollster Stan Greenberg told Politico's Ben Smith.
Also in the news:
The Washington Post's Lois Romano profiles Clinton's "other family" -- no, not the Sopranos. It's the sometimes vicious, always discreet core of women who form Clinton's campaign brain trust -- some of whom have been in her orbit since before she became first lady. "Never have so many women operated at such a high level in one campaign, working with a discipline and a loyalty and a legendary secrecy rarely seen at this level of American politics," Romano writes. Says campaign manager Patti Solis Doyle, "Something happens to a group of people when you've gone through wars together. You just develop a bond." How many other campaigns have weekly yoga classes at headquarters?
Scott Helman of The Boston Globe details another apparent attempt to make an issue out of former governor Mitt Romney's religion: this one by one of Sen. John McCain's county chairmen in Iowa. The argument attributed to Chad Workman at an April meeting of Republican activists: "The fundamental flaw of Mitt Romney . . . was that he was Mormon, not because he thinks this way or that way on one issue." McCain, R-Ariz., disavows such tactics, but "the number of incidents suggests that Romney's religion will remain a tempting target for political opponents seeking a competitive edge," Helman writes.
Romney, R-Mass., seeks to flesh out his national-security and foreign-policy credentials with a speech today to the American Enterprise Institute. He plans to call for a more aggressive approach to confronting rogue states and "jihadism." "For conservatives like me, facing reality is not a source of fear. It is a source of confidence," Romney plans to say, according to excerpts provided to ABC. "We need more than a change in direction; we need a new course altogether. . . . We must move from tactics to strategy."
Edwards, meanwhile, is recasting a central part of his campaign message as he moves beyond anti-war fervor and back into the economic populism that fueled his first run in 2004. His plan for economic fairness includes a crackdown on creditors, more consumer protections, and a new Family Savings and Credit Commission. "It's not enough to talk about the Two Americas," Edwards plans to say in New York City today, per his campaign. "We also need to talk about what we need to do to build One America."
Obama today plans to post his list of 113 earmark requests online today, making him the first White House aspirant to offer such details, the Chicago Tribune's Jim Tankersley reports. How long before others follow?
And the winners are in for the $5 donors who get to dine with Obama: they're from Nevada, Louisiana, Florida, and the Bronx, a mélange that includes a miner, a non-profit worker, a firefighter, and the wife of a soldier serving in Iraq.
So that's two of President Bush's three career vetoes on the subject of stem-cell research -- guess he feels strongly about this one, huh? But where were the snowflake babies this year? Replaced by an executive order, naturally -- just the latest indication of the shifting politics surrounding this volatile subject, ABC News reports. Now that the legislative process has played out, look for this issue to become a larger part of the Democrats' stump speeches -- and to get a few mentions from Republicans, too.
Certainly Gov. Bill Richardson, D-N.M., could have been more careful before he launched his latest attack on his Democratic rivals. Not only was he previously in favor of the very Iraq plan he's blasting them for supporting, but his campaign removed a reference to his support for the plan in one place on his Web site, but not another. The New Republic's Ryan Lizza has a cached version of the site to prove it.
A Richardson spokeswoman, Katie Roberts, told ABC's Justin Rood that Richardson aides "have never and would never scrub out Web site" -- they simply wanted to update Richardson's plan, she said -- and called the story part of "an agenda . . . to derail the Richardson campaign." Right.
"No one's plates were run," Eric Fehrnstrom, Romney spokesman, denying New York Times reporter Mark Leibovich's claim that a Romney security aide pulled him over in New Hampshire for following the former governor's car to closely. Leibovich stands by his version of events.
"I've Got a Crush on Fred Thompson's Politics." -- Obamagirl, he's not.