While Thompson (still, and STILL) waits to declare his candidacy, his no-nonsense prosecutor's image takes another hit in today's New York Times, with Jo Becker portraying him with as the kind of figure Arthur Branch would have no use for. "The public image of the impartial, 'let the chips fall where they may' prosecutor that Mr. Thompson has cultivated masks a more nuanced reality," Becker writes. In both Watergate and in investigating then-CIA director William Casey, Thompson "sometimes straddled a fine line between investigating his targets and defending them. Dozens of interviews and records from two administrations reveal a lawyer who often struggled to balance the agenda of his party against his duty to pursue the truth aggressively and independently."
Ari Fleischer (he of the new ad-war gig) offered his take on the Thompson candidacy over the weekend, telling ABC's Christine Byun in Indianapolis that Thompson will find out quickly whether he made a major mistake in waiting so long to announce. "I think from the moment Fred Thompson declares -- he's got a one week window -- for people to say he's for real or not," Fleischer said. "If he's for real, the sky's the limit. If people get a let-down feeling after his announcement, because he got in so late, it will be harder for him."
The Washington Post profiles its latest campaign "guru": Pete Rouse, Obama's chief of staff, who was part of a contingent of aides who joined Obama from the office of former Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D. "Pete Rouse is the Outsider's Insider, a fixer steeped in the ways of a Washington that Obama has been both eager to learn and quick to publicly condemn," writes the Post's Perry Bacon Jr. And Bacon identifies one area where he kept Obama from would could have been a fatal political mistake: He talked him out of voting for John Roberts' Supreme Court nomination.
The Economist finds Rove's successor -- and he's working for Hillary Clinton: Mark Penn. "There are striking similarities between the new Rove (53) and the old (56). They are both masters of demographic trends and poll data. They are both fixated on the possibility of realigning chunks of the electorate -- Latinos in Mr. Rove's case, suburban mothers in Mr. Penn's. They both like peering into the future."
The Washington Post's Anne Kornblut examines Edwards' rural appeal. "Edwards is casting himself as the candidate of rural voters, someone who understands the plight and values of family farmers (especially powerful in Iowa) and who could do in a general election what he argues Clinton and Obama could not: attract culturally conservative voters," Kornblut writes. It's key to his electability argument: "I think John Kerry accelerated in Iowa and New Hampshire, partly, in January because people were looking for a winner," Edwards tells Kornblut. "I think it will be similar" in 2008.
Former mayor Rudolph Giuliani, R-N.Y., talked taxes Saturday in New Hampshire -- and set up Democrats as unrepentant tax-raisers while pitching himself "as the tax-cutting heir to President Bush," ABC's Jake Tapper reports. "'We must take things away from you for the common good,'" Giuliani paraphrased Clinton as saying. "Do you understand what that implies? No, it's not Karl Marx. What she's saying in that is that 'We know better, the government knows better.'"