The Note: On to Ames

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Romney told ABC's George Stephanopoulos this morning that Brownback's attacks are borne (Bourne?) of desperation. "Sam Brownback, he's a sweet guy, but he's obviously in a pretty desperate situation at this point," Romney said on "Good Morning America." "He ought to get to his own campaign and stop worrying about mine." And this on the his differences with the president over the war in Iraq: "Right now, I don't have a different view than he does with regard to the surge." (Which are the two most important words in that sentence?"

The ABC/Washington Post poll in Iowa lines up the field as Romney, Giuliani, and Fred Thompson, followed by McCain and Huckabee tied for fourth. "A strong presence in Iowa has lifted Mitt Romney over his Republican rivals in overall support and ratings of personal attributes alike," ABC's polling director Gary Langer writes. "But his support is not strong, and likely caucus-goers overall are less than thrilled with their choice of candidates."

Outside the debate hall, the spotlight falls on Jeri and Judi -- a pair of GOP spouses who may or may not be doing their husbands any favors.

The Washington Post's Alec MacGillis and John Solomon took a critical Sunday look at Jeri Thompson, and identify her as the hold-up in a range of campaign-related decisions, including "direct-mail efforts, personnel choices and the timing of the campaign kickoff." Another takeaway: Jeri Kehn seems to have hitched her wagon to Fred's (does that make him a trophy husband?). "Kehn left three court judgments behind her in Nashville, one of which remains unpaid today, and a court twice garnished her wages," MacGillis and Solomon write. "But after meeting Fred Thompson, Kehn began establishing herself in Washington Republican circles, and marriage more than consolidated her place in the city."

Speaking of upward social mobility, after Judith Giuliani was diced up by Vanity Fair, the Giuliani campaign has begun its pushback: Judith sat down for a two-hour interview with The New York Times where she confirms that Rudy asked her out at a Manhattan cigar bar in May 1999 -- while the then-mayor was still married. On her inexperience as a political spouse, Mrs. Giuliani says, "I'm sure that's something that can get one into, you know -- " she told the Times' Eric Konigsberg in a Sunday piece. "But I try to remain me. And again, part of that is not doing anything more than I have to in terms of making myself in any way a distraction from what my husband is trying to do for America."

As for the Democrats -- who get their Des Moines debate in two weeks -- the weekend brought triumph to the liberal blogosphere at YearlyKos -- and handed Sen. Clinton a mixed bag. After former senator John Edwards, D-N.C., promised to make his wife, Elizabeth, the official White House blogger, Obama and Edwards double-teamed Clinton on the issue of accepting donations from lobbyists. "I don't think, based on my 35 years of fighting for what I believe in, anybody seriously believes I'm going to be influenced by a lobbyist or a particular interest," she said, to boos.

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