The Note: Straw-Poll Strikes:


Five questions to ponder on a steamy summer day: Which endorsement matters more -- Angelina Jolie's or Colin Powell's? Will Centro and 801 Grand in Des Moines stay open Christmas Eve (and if not, will the caucuses still matter)? Forget revolving-door laws in Congress -- can't Fred Thompson's campaign institute one of its own? Will Dennis Kucinich "win" another Democratic forum tonight (legalizing gay marriage means for this crowd approximately what spiking NAFTA meant to the AFL-CIO audience)? How much food-on-a-stick can Mitt Romney eat (and will fried dough upset the chemical balance that keeps his hair in place)?

We'll know the answer to that last question Saturday in Ames, where Romney, R-Mass., is set for a straw-poll romp that matters only for how it matches up with expectations. But he made things more interesting yesterday by attacking former mayor Rudolph Giuliani, R-N.Y., over the issue of illegal immigration. "If you look at lists compiled on Web sites of sanctuary cities, New York is at the top of the list when Mayor Giuliani was mayor," Romney said in Iowa.

Romney's sourcing (and his own Guatemalan lawn help) aside, this is a tactical strike (delivered, of course, in Romney's aw-shucks style) that aims to burnish Mitt's conservative credentials more than take Rudy down a peg. (Though doing both doesn't hurt.) The exchange marks "one of the strongest conflicts yet between Republican presidential front-runners," ABC's Jake Tapper and Ron Claiborne report, and it comes on one of the most "compelling issue for conservative Republicans": illegal immigration. The Giuliani camp responds, "The mayor's record speaks for itself" -- sort of making Romney's point for him.

The ride aboard the Mitt Mobile was already bumpy this week -- and not just because managing expectations is a dangerous game. Romney's getting pressed on his right by Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., and his attacks on abortion, so he'd rather be talking about immigration. He also succeeded in (partially) redirecting the storyline away from his thud of a joke equating military service with his sons' decision to campaign for him.

"One of the ways my sons are showing support for our nation is helping to get me elected, because they think I'd be a great president," Romney said. He's right -- spinning around Iowa in a luxury (unarmored!) Winnebago paid for by your multimillionaire father is grueling work when you could be out on your Jet Skis at the lake house. Josh Romney told The New York Times' Michael Luo that "his family is doing what it can to support the troops." "My dad's made a big point of trying to support the troops," he said, adding that military service is "just something none of us have done."

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