The Note: Second Acts


It's early in the campaign cycle for second acts, but that's the chore at hand for more presidential candidates than care to admit it -- and we're not even talking about the New Yorkers who will try to look like pros at the food-on-a-stick game today at the national political parade that is the Iowa State Fair.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., has a new book out that he hopes will resuscitate his campaign (it's worked so well for Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., so why not?). Former governor Mike Huckabee, R-Ark., needs to prove he's a rocker who has more than the one hit Ames in him (but he hasn't produced much music since Saturday).

Former mayor Rudolph Giuliani, R-N.Y., is refashioning himself as an immigration hard-liner (having given up on pleasing the GOP base on abortion), while buffing his tough-guy image on foreign policy. Elizabeth Edwards is reshaping her husband's campaign (itself a remade version of his 2004 run) by blasting away at his opponents. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., is pitching herself as champion of the "invisible" masses (and getting just the push-back she wanted from the Bush White House -- how often does a White House press statement end up plastered across Clinton's Web site?).

And now Sen. Barack Obama, who has defined his campaign on his freshness, is trying to reestablish his campaign rationale. He restates (and slightly recasts) his campaign argument in a fascinating interview in The Washington Post today, saying that he -- and not Clinton -- has the ability to bring the nation out of "ideological gridlock." "I believe I can bring the country together in a way she cannot do," Obama, D-Ill., tells the Post's Dan Balz. "If I didn't believe that, I wouldn't be running." He added that one of his top goals will be to emphasize his experience and judgment in the coming months, and he had this to say about his debate performances (sounding like a job candidate asked to identify his biggest weakness): "Some candidates have mastered that art more than I have."

So far, only the Republican National Committee is taking issue with Obama's statement that US forces need to be do doing more than "just air-raiding villages and killing civilians" in Afghanistan. But even if Obama's right on the policy -- and the fact that no Democrats are taking him on over his latest comments suggest that at least they think he is -- this is at least the third time in recent weeks that his locution on foreign policy is drawing shrugs.

The Clinton camp felt no need to attack yesterday -- the campaign was getting more mileage than it could have possible imagined out of its initial ad. They can thank White House spokeswoman Dana Perino, who went against her better judgment to label as "outrageous" Clinton's claim that most Americans are "invisible" to President Bush. The comments were on Clinton's Web site within minutes -- nothing like an attack from the right to get them juiced going into Sunday's Iowa debate on ABC. "Not only have I said it, I'm saying it now and I will keep saying it because I happen to believe it," Clinton said in Iowa, per Jennifer Jacobs of the Des Moines Register.

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