The Note: Making It Real

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Tossing aside all subtlety on this Friday the 13th. . . . Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., wants us to know that he's black (but doesn't want us to know that so many black voters are still supporting another candidate). Former senator John Edwards, D-N.C., wants us to know he cares about poor people (but not that he worked for the same type of hedge fund he now wants to hike taxes on). Former governor Mitt Romney, R-Mass., wants us to know he's married to his high-school sweetheart (but not about those not-so-nice things he's said about GOP orthodoxy).

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., wants us to know she's married to Bill Clinton (but would rather we hadn't overheard her make some type of secret pact with Edwards.) And Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., wants us to know what he thinks about Iraq -- if only he could get us to stop everyone from focusing on his campaign turmoil. (Going 24 hours without losing a high-level staffer -- or at least maintaining a campaign balance carrying seven digits -- would help.)

On the day that the original "Comeback Kid" makes his first campaign trip to New Hampshire on behalf of his wife, McCain is vying for his own comeback -- but this is a much different campaign than we've seen from him. ABC's John Berman reports that McCain flew commercial last night to New Hampshire and stayed at a Courtyard Marriott -- even as Romney hosted much of the national political press corps at his $10 million lakefront home on Lake Winnipesaukee (where one of his neighbors is Mr. Marriott). McCain has his son, Jimmy, a US Marine, with him on the trail, but no campaign bus -- cutting costs -- and only a bare-bones staff.

Per excerpts released by his campaign, McCain plans to get tough with the Iraqi government with a 1 pm ET speech in Concord: "The Iraqi government can function; the question is whether it will. If there is to be hope of a sustainable end to the violence that so plagues that country, Iraqi political leaders must seize this opportunity. It will not come around again." Yet Iraq is a difficult issue upon which to rebuild a flagging campaign (until/unless McCain makes a dramatic shift, at least). And the revelation that he has as little as $250,000 in unencumbered cash in his campaign account raises an even more fundamental question for him: Does he have the money to stay in the race if he can't afford to keep the Straight Talk Express fueled up? Gas is expensive these days, and it's tough to run a campaign on stubbornness alone.

Post-release of the administration's status report that indicated little progress by the Iraqi government, Senate Democrats assailed the president's war strategy and seized on the opportunity to push legislation that calls for withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq. Under questioning yesterday from ABC's Jake Tapper, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev, refused to answer whether the United States had a moral obligation to secure the war-torn nation for Iraqis or whether the withdrawal of U.S. forces would make the country safer for the tens of millions of Iraqis who live in the country today.

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