The Note: Obama's Gamble

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Former governor Mitt Romney, R-Mass., took a break from attacking Democrats long enough yesterday to take aim at the Bush administration's bureaucracy, AP's Glen Johnson reports. The Department of Homeland Security, Romney said in New Hampshire, "probably needs to be streamlined," and he included another jab at the president: "The last thing I want is the guys managing the Katrina cleanup managing my health care system."

Columnist Robert Novak examines former senator Fred Thompson's wife, Jeri -- the woman rumored to be behind much of the staffing turmoil that's plagued his pre-campaign. Novak finds her to be "intelligent" and "beautiful" -- and too much of a seasoned political operative to be belittled as a "trophy wife." "The spectacle of Thompson's Republican adversaries demeaning his wife in conversations with journalists suggests how seriously they regard his prospective candidacy," Novak writes. "Jeri Thompson will be at his side as an asset, not a liability."

Reid Wilson of Real Clear Politics handicaps the field for next weekend in Ames. "If flunked, this test will more than likely chase a few contenders from the race for the White House," Wilson writes. Asked about the high expectations for Romney, spokesman Kevin Madden channels his inner high-school football coach: "Worrying is only for people without a plan."

Wired Republicans are trying to save the Sept. 17 CNN/YouTube Republican debate, which is in danger of collapsing because candidates including Romney and Giuliani are shunning it, reports Katharine Q. Seelye of The New York Times. "The candidates' failure to embrace the new format, which the Democrats participated in last week, has prompted a public soul-searching by some of the party's most loyal supporters," Seelye writes. Says conservative blogger Andrew Sullivan, "The current old white men running for the GOP already seem from some other planet."

While his rivals spar, Edwards, D-N.C., has been trying to make a campaign issue out of the Bush administration's proposed $20 billion arms sale to Saudi Arabia. "I believe that Congress's responsibility is to stop the deal," Edwards said in California yesterday, per the target="external"New York Sun's Josh Gerstein. (Know any presidential candidates who are in Congress?) Neither Clinton nor Obama has taken a position on the sale.

Edwards also directed his populist outrage at Republicans. "What Giuliani is, is George Bush on steroids," Edwards said, per Rolling Stone's Tim Dickinson. "Giuliani, Romney and the rest of the Republicans running for the nomination are going to give the country four more years of crony capitalism, which is exactly what we have now."

Haven't heard from Howard Dean in a while? It turns out he's been hard at work, behind the scenes. The Hill's Alexander Bolton reports that Dean "is building a sophisticated infrastructure to woo so-called values voters."

Dean is also launching a new state-by-state effort to protect against voter supression, The New York Times reports. "Our candidates need to know how elections work in every single precinct," Dean told the Times' Jacqueline Palank. "That is an enormous advantage when you're going up against a party that is essentially a vote suppressor."

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