The Note: Bye-Bye ‘Bush’s Brain’


Five things we've learned since Friday:

1) Mitt Romney's millions bought him a whole mess of barbecue and red foam "mitts" -- and just enough of a win (at $800 a vote?) to declare a real victory in Ames with a straight face.

2) A Karl Rove-less White House is happening much faster than anticipated (isn't two weeks' notice the standard at IHOP, too?), and Rove is spinning his way home to Texas.

3) It's Mike Huckabee -- and not Sen. Sam Brownback -- who'll ride a mini-wave of publicity as the (possible) candidate of social conservatives (thank the watermelon -- or the stand-up act -- or maybe just Fred Thompson's timing).

4) Not all profiles of Rudy Giuliani unearth crypts full of skeletons (though we'll see how Placido Domingo plays in the heartland).

5) Profiles of Sen. Barack Obama (still) dwell on the improbability of the fact that he's even a serious presidential contender (and that's a nice place to stay as long as you can).

Five things we hope to learn by next weekend:

1) Whether Romney, R-Mass., will be "pleased as punch" with his victory lap (and whether he can go four days without talking about his dogs' car trips and sons' lack of military service).

2) Whether Rove's departure hastens a further breakdown of this White House's vaunted discipline -- and whether remaining staffers begin working on their own legacies before they follow Rove out the door.

3) Whether Huckabee, R-Ark., will get his wish of one-fourth of Romney's press following (and whether it will matter when Fred himself comes to Iowa at the end of the week).

4) Whether Tommy Thompson, R-Wis., is the only candidate savvy enough to take a cue from Ames (attention, Duncan Hunter).

5) Whether Obama, D-Ill., will shed his nice-guy image once and for all at ABC's debate Sunday in Des Moines (and whether former senator John Edwards, D-N.C., stands ready to join him in attacking Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y. -- even while Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., takes on all three of them).

Romney gets a bounce out of the Ames Straw Poll, where his 32 percent was slightly better than his true competition -- George W. Bush's 31 percent in 1999. Whether this is a high-water mark for the former governor -- or, in his words, he's "just getting started" -- will depend in part on the four-day, 10-state victory lap starting today, ABC's David Chalian reports. "Romney's first place showing also allows him to grab the national spotlight -- if only for a brief moment -- which his campaign hopes will further introduce him to Republicans nationwide," Chalian writes.

Don't expect any sort of victory lap from Rove, who becomes by far the biggest name in the White House exodus. "I just think it's time," he tells The Wall Street Journal's editorial page editor, Paul Gigot, in dropping the bombshell that he's resigning effective August 31. We did hope he'd do better than this explanation: "I've got to do this for the sake of my family" (though it does have a more pleasant ring than, "I've got to do this to avoid indictment").

But Rove does leave us with some parting prognostications (not likely to be his last): "He will move back up in the polls," he said of the president he's been serving for 14 years. And Democrats "are likely to nominate a tough, tenacious, fatally flawed candidate" -- Hillary Clinton. We'll hear more from Rove -- and his boss -- at 11:30 am ET, as the president departs for Crawford.

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