The Note: Playing Hardball

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Even as staunch a loyalist as Giuliani, R-N.Y., is putting some daylight between himself and the president. In interviews with The New York Times and USA Today, the former mayor criticized the Bush administration for not putting enough pressure on Pakistan to pursue suspected terrorists, and hinted strongly that the administration has allowed the war in Iraq to detract from efforts to pursue al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan. "Neither one of these two wars -- the one in Afghanistan/Pakistan or the one in Iraq -- was nearly at the level of the planning we had done for the two wars we would have to fight at once," Giuliani told the Times' Marc Santora.

This is why Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and other Democratic leaders don't feel pressure to compromise with Republicans in crafting a bill that would change course in Iraq. "Reid's leadership team has placed a bet that -- after a month-long recess at home with voters in August, followed by a Sept. 15 assessment of the war's progress from Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq -- Senate Republicans will feel the pressure to give up and endorse stringent Democratic withdrawal timelines," Paul Kane and Shailagh Murray write in The Washington Post.

As for the political fallout of Edelman's letter, it's a "gift" for Clinton, the New York Daily News' Richard Sisk and Ken Bazinet report. It "could reassure some anti-war Democrats still irked by Clinton's early support for the Iraq War," they write.

Also making news:

How to bring a campaign back from the dead in three easy steps: Spend less, raise more, then win New Hampshire and South Carolina. That's the concise argument for the road to recovery for McCain, R-Ariz., as outlined in a memo that found its way into the inbox of Politico's Jonathan Martin. (If those first two steps were so easy, what took so long to make them happen?) The formula: "over-perform in Iowa" (whatever that means), win in New Hampshire ("John McCain country"), then marvel at the consequences, with the "momentum of a New Hampshire win sweeping us to a victory in South Carolina." Great, so we can tune out for the next seven months.

The disclosure of lobbying and legal work Thompson performed on behalf of an abortion-rights group in the early 1990s has prompted a behind-the-scenes clash with former governor Mitt Romney, R-Mass., whose campaign has been eager to spread the word that another candidate has a checkered record on abortion, per Michael Finnegan of the Los Angeles Times. "Disclosure of his lobbying to ease a rule that barred abortion counseling at federally funded clinics gave Romney an opening to try to block Thompson's momentum," Finnegan writes.

Romney is also picking a fight with Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., blasting him for suggesting that "age-appropriate" sex education should begin as early as Kindergarten. "In my view, zero is the right amount," Romney said Wednesday night, per ABC's Teddy Davis and Lindsey Ellerson. They report that, while Romney was governor, the state education department called for sex education to begin in elementary schools -- and for Massachusetts students to know, by the end of the fifth grade, a fair amount about sex and sexual orientation.

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