His approval ratings are in the 20s, his top domestic and foreign initiatives are in tatters, and even his No. 2 is arguing that he's not really part of the administration. Rock bottom for President Bush? Think again.
With the immigration compromise holding on by a thread, House Republicans this morning will seek to sever it with an unusual party resolution condemning the president's proposal. And Sen. Richard Lugar, a White House loyalist and the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, gave a surprise speech on the Senate floor last night calling for a change in policy in Iraq. "Our course in Iraq has lost contact with our vital national security interests in the Middle East and beyond," said Lugar, R-Ind. The Wall Street Journal's David Rogers calls it "a double barrel of dissent from Republicans."
As for the controversy over the administration's expert (ahem) marksman, pity Dana Perino for having to explain the inexplicable from the White House briefing room podium yesterday. How does the White House feel about Vice President Dick Cheney's contention that he's not part of the executive branch? "I'm not a legal scholar. . . . I'm not opining on his argument that his office is making. . . . I don't know why he made the arguments that he did," Perino said, per The Washington Post's Dana Milbank, who places Cheney in the undisclosed location of the government's "fourth branch."
How long before all of this bubbles over into the presidential campaign? Maybe it's already there. That's one way to read the GOP's fund-raising woes -- and it's no longer just Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who's worrying about lagging numbers.
Former governor Mitt Romney, R-Mass., who is beginning to distance himself more from the Bush administration, let slip yesterday that he's floated himself another loan even while holding another last burst of high-dollar fund-raisers. The fact that he can do so with such ease surely frustrates McCain, who is chasing a moving target. But what does it say that the Republican with the most impressive fund-raising operation is worried?
Romney once said paying his own way to the White House would be "akin to a nightmare," but he is very much awake after having spent $4.25 million on early ads. "Because I have to, all right?" Romney said when asked why he's chipping in beyond the $2.4 million he contributed in the first quarter, The Boston Globe's Scott Helman reports.
As for the Democrats, Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., who's either rolling in it or worried about getting rolled, fired off an e-mail message to supporters blasting "pundits and Washington insiders" for caring about the money race -- and asking for a final series of donations in the process. The move came hours after he tapped his (presumably flush) campaign account with his first ad of the election cycle (we get the bipartisan imagery, but couldn't he have found a single Republican who hasn't endorsed a candidate yet?).
Though the ad's timing seems odd (who's paying attention a week before the Fourth of July?), Jeff Zeleny of The New York Times points out that Obama is taking to the airwaves in Iowa a week before the Clintons are set to make their first joint campaign appearance in the state.
But it's still the Republicans who have the most to fear in meeting their numbers this quarter, and their money woes aren't limited to the race for the White House, either. The gap between Democrats and Republicans in congressional war chests is growing: The latest filings show the Democrats with $25.5 million on hand for House and Senate campaigns, with Republicans holding just $6.1 million (!) in the bank. Washingtonpost.com's Chris Cillizza reminds us that this is a mirror-image reversal of the parties' financial position at this time in 2005 -- and Democrats won both the House and Senate anyway in 2006. "Put simply, it complicates any effort by Republicans to play offense in states and seats held by Democrats," Cillizza writes.
Fortune's Nina Easton finds one secret to the Democrats' financial success: their courtship of business leaders. The 2008 campaign "reveals a concerted push by Democratic candidates to secure the blessing of big business while they continue to take their swipes at corporate America on behalf of the little guy." And who's ahead? Why Clinton, of course. "There has been a real opportunity to know me and work with me . . . and to develop personal friendships," Clinton told Easton.
With Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., raising money today with Warren Buffet, and all the candidates -- including former senator Fred Thompson, R-Tenn., playing the money game today -- even the Supreme Court realizes that it's all about the Benjamins. Yesterday's ruling limiting the scope of McCain-Feingold could be the story with the longest legs (Romney and the right applauded the ruling, but money follows energy, so careful what you wish for). "Critics said the decision will encourage a financial arms race between well-heeled special interest groups," The Washington Post's Robert Barnes reports, noting that the Chamber of Commerce and the AFL-CIO were equally pleased with the ruling.
Also in the news:
Christie Whitman's anticipated clash with former mayor Rudolph Giuliani, R-N.Y., didn't live up to the hype on Capitol Hill. Despite suggesting in the days leading up to the hearing that Giuliani blocked efforts to require proper safety equipment in the wake of 9/11, "Whitman backed away from criticizing the Republican presidential candidate," ABC's Jake Tapper reports. "I don't think that the mayor is blaming me, I'm certainly not blaming the mayor," Whitman said, in a hearing that turned into an effort to "save her reputation," Tapper writes.
With Giuliani's South Carolina campaign chairman, Thomas Ravenel, indicted on cocaine charges, the Giuliani campaign yesterday replaced him with his father, 80-year-old Arthur Ravenel, a former member of Congress. It took approximately 11 seconds for a rival campaign to revive comments the elder Ravenel made in 1990, when he referred to "black time" as "fashionably late," and in 2000, when he called the NAACP the "National Association for Retarded People." Ravenel said he misspoke, but seriously, who is vetting these people?
Obama is starting to play hardball with those questioning whether he's qualified to be president. "The only person who would probably be prepared to be our president on Day One would be Bill Clinton -- not Hillary Clinton," Obama said yesterday, per the Chicago Sun-Times' Scott Fornek. "The question is who can inspire the nation to get us past the politics that have bogged us down in the past. That was true, by the way, in the '90s as well as more recently."
Coming off his appearance with his wife on "The Tonight Show," Former senator John Edwards, D-N.C., is going up with an ad in New Hampshire today, his first of the cycle in the first-in-the-nation primary state. "It's time for the president of the United States to ask Americans to be patriotic about something other than war," Edwards says in the ad.
Part Three of the Globe's Romney series looks at his business career, the source of Romney's riches -- and the work that's allowed political opponents to portray him as a job-killing corporate raider. Get this: Mr. Perfect sweats through his blue dress shirts.
Tony Blair's retirement job is set: He will accept a post as soon as today as special envoy to the Middle East, ABC's Dan Harris reported on "Good Morning America."
As for the funster of a vice president, with the Post series continuing today (he picks tax cuts and Supreme Court nominees, too), Sally Quinn weighs in with an op-ed calling on GOP senior statesman to mount an effort to force the "toxic" Cheney into early retirement. Her nominee for a replacement? Fred Thompson. "I could easily imagine him telling the president, 'For God's sake, do not push that button!' -- a command I have a hard time hearing Cheney give," Quinn writes. Nice try, Sally, but if the Post series has taught us one thing, it's that Cheney's here to stay.
"You can't spend money on food when you're spending money on haircuts," Edwards, telling Jay Leno that he and his wife are still planning to hold their anniversary dinner at Wendy's this year.
"What I would like to know, sir, is what do you propose we do with the 12 to 20 million people who are here illegally? And I look forward to your answer here on YouTube." Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Colo., issuing an unusual challenge to Romney to explain his position on immigration.