The Note: Craig’s ‘Cloud’

Collecting the reasons that Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, didn't do it:

1. "Wide stance."

2. "He said/he said."

3. Roaming toilet paper.

4. He's a commuter.(?)

5. "Witch hunt."

6. "Jiminy!"

7. "I am not gay. I never have been gay."

8. "I am not gay. I love my wife."

Craig also, apparently, loves political reporters. (Imagine what the next 36 hours will bring. And is he holding out the possibility of becoming gay in the future?) From the moment he thanked reporters for "coming out today" to his press conference, his surreal public appearance in Boise yesterday afternoon displayed all you need to know about why Craig has approximately zero friends left in political circles -- and why the GOP is praying that he steps down, or at the very least steps aside before facing reelection next year.

How's this for loyalty? Craig's chosen presidential candidate, former governor Mitt Romney, slapped him down even before Craig even appeared in public, comparing him to former Rep. Mark Foley and -- maybe worse for a Republican -- Bill Clinton. Craig's Senate Republican colleagues preempted his press conference by calling for an ethics investigation. And the right-wing blogosphere is afire with a near-singular call: resign.

Even Foley, R-Fla., didn't get this kind of treatment this fast -- maybe the GOP has learned some lessons after all. But this is a body blow to a party that could hardly afford another setback. "It was a bizarre spectacle, and only the latest in a string of accusations of sexual foibles and financial misdeeds that have landed Republicans in the political equivalent of purgatory, the realm of late-night comic television," writes Sheryl Gay Stolberg of The New York Times. "We are approaching a level of ridiculousness," said GOP strategist Scott Reed. "You can't make this stuff up."

"Larry Craig is going to fight for his job -- a classic Craig response to adversity -- but the fight may be uphill," writes the Idaho Statesman's Rocky Barber. "Already, some powerful friends are raising public questions about the veteran Idaho U.S. senator's conduct, casting doubt on his future in politics."

Few were quicker to condemn Craig than Romney, R-Mass., who welcomed the Idaho senator as "co-Senate liaison" for his campaign before cutting him loose within hours of the criminal plea being made public. "Frankly, it's disgusting," Romney said on CNBC. "I think it reminds us of Mark Foley and Bill Clinton."

Campaigns love the upside of endorsements, but they're seldom prepared when bad news comes. Craig's arrest "is one more reminder of the potential downsides for candidates: guilt by association, questions about judgment in the friends they pick, and several news cycles of bad publicity," writes The Boston Globe's Brian Mooney. "To avoid lasting damage, campaigns try to move quickly to limit the fallout" -- which is why, of course, Romney isn't waiting for this to play out any further.

If there's a benefit for the GOP, the "cloud over Idaho" Craig talked about yesterday is overshadowing the second anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. President Bush and First Lady Laura Bush visit the Gulf Coast today, after the parade of Democrats who blasted the Bush administration's response to the disaster have cleared out of town.

The AP's Ron Fournier looks at the big picture in New Orleans and finds "a broken political system that, from city hall to the state capital and the White House, has failed the people it serves. . . . Forgotten or not, it's clear the people of New Orleans are not being served." The state likes to blame the federal government, which is blaming the state, while the city blames -- well, everybody.

Lest you think the story begins and ends with "Brownie," Fournier offers this scene: In June, Gov. Kathleen Blanco, D-La., "is sitting at a polished wood table at the center of the U.S. Capitol in June, flanked by more than a half dozen Democratic leaders, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. One after another, five or so minutes apiece, the lawmakers take turns patting themselves on the back for sending federal money to Louisiana." But when a reporter asks Pelosi, D-Calif., about the billions of dollars people need to rebuild their homes, she defers the question to Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., and leaves the room. "The buck safely passed, Pelosi leaves the photo opportunity before the actual meeting with Blanco begins," Fournier writes.

Also in the news:

More details are emerging about the Clinton fundraiser who aroused the suspicions of The Wall Street Journal.

Norman Hsu is considered a fugitive by the state of California, Chuck Neubauer and Robin Fields report in the Los Angeles Times. Hsu "pleaded no contest to grand theft, agreed to serve up to three years in prison and then seemed to vanish." But he's been "hiding in plain sight": "He has funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions into party coffers, much of it earmarked for presidential hopeful Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York."

Hsu has a Clinton fundraiser scheduled for Sept. 30 -- and the Chicago Tribune's blog scored a copy of the invite. We're taking bets on whether it will ever take place . . .

Bill and Hillary Clinton will hit Iowa and New Hampshire together over Labor Day weekend, as the "fall campaign" kicks off, Camp Clinton announced this morning.

Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D., is back -- and he tells ABC's Bob Woodruff that he's running for reelection next year. "I will promise you that when my speech is back to normal, I will not act like a typical politician and overuse the gift," Johnson said in announcing his return to active public life in South Dakota. Johnson told Woodruff that he's ready to get back to work, and that he expects to improve physically with time. Regarding 2008, he says, "I expect to run and to win."

With President Bush stepping up his pre-Petraeus report push with a speech in Reno, Nev., yesterday, he's ready to ask Congress for another $50 billion for the war in Iraq, per The Washington Post's Thomas E. Ricks. The request "appears to reflect increasing administration confidence that it can fend off congressional calls for a rapid drawdown of U.S. force," Ricks writes. "The request is being prepared now in the belief that Congress will be unlikely to balk so soon after hearing the two officials argue that there are promising developments in Iraq but that they need more time to solidify the progress they have made."

Bloomberg News' Heidi Przybyla sees Romney "now focusing on economic matters, especially taxes," as he battles former mayor Rudolph Giuliani, R-N.Y., for the GOP top spot. Yet he keeps having to come back to abortion: After weeks of sorting out his position, he's calling a federal constitutional ban his "aspirational view." "I would love to see us not have abortion in this country, but that's not where the American people are," Romney said. "Therefore, I believe the right course for us at this point is to see Roe v. Wade overturned and to allow states to have returned to them the abortion matter."

Former governor Mike Huckabee, R-Ark., says that Romney's abortion position is just the start of his problems (and one-ups Romney in the GOP insult department -- how about a John Kerry comparison?). "How many different changes of position can one have during an adult's lifespan as a politician and then be confidant that that person is going to have another epiphany at some point in the future?" Huckabee tells the Christian Broadcasting Network's David Brody. Huckabee then predicts that Democrats would do "the same thing to him in a general election that Republicans did to John Kerry, by rolling those pieces of videotape with conflicting statements."

Also from that interview, on whether Romney's religion should be a campaign issue: "I think everybody's faith, their career, their family all of those things are part of what helps people to determine whether a candidate is acceptable to them and whether they want to support a candidate."

Only Huckabee and Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., showed up for Lance Armstrong's GOP cancer forum yesterday in Iowa, so you can understand why Armstrong may have wanted to go easy on them. Armstrong's co-moderator, Chris Matthews, didn't get that memo: He blasted as "gimmicks" Brownback's plan for across-the-board budget cuts, per the Des Moines Register's Grant Schulte. Per Schulte: "Minutes later, after Brownback walked off stage, Armstrong turned to his co-host. 'Chris,' he said. 'Just . . . be a little nicer.' "

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who turns 71 today, celebrated his birthday with a Leno appearance. "We are doing so poorly I thought maybe I would announce on this show that I'm running for president," McCain said. "We have obviously made mistakes."

And McCain has found a benefit of getting older -- and he's using his 95-year-old mother to exploit it. Roberta McCain is asking for donations in multiples of 71 to commemorate his son's birthday, and even has a video appeal to go with her plea. "When he was a young boy, all of the kids knew me as 'Johnny's mother' because he was the leader of the other children," Mrs. McCain writes.

Just in case Roberta McCain isn't all that persuasive, McCain has qualified with the Federal Election Commission to receive federal matching funds for his primary race. But McCain could still opt out, if he calculates that he'll have more money without abiding by the federal spending limits, ABC's Bret Hovell reports.

Taking advantage of the Katrina anniversary, Giuliani today will announce his "National First Responders' Leadership Team" in South Carolina. Meanwhile, his involvement in the 9/11 commemoration ceremony at Ground Zero is firing up the former mayor's critics. "Some relatives of people who died on Sept. 11 said they were dismayed, some because they feared his presence might inject politics into the event and others because they had been critical of him in the past," writes The New York Times' Michael Cooper. Said James Riches, a deputy fire chief who lost his son in the attacks: "It's a photo-op for him."

Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., has a very welcome piece of good news to announce today: His endorsement by the International Association of Fire Fighters. "The endorsement of the nation's 281,000-member firefighter union is a highly coveted one in Democratic politics," ABC's Donna Hunter and Jan Simmonds reports. Dodd and union President Harold Schaitberger are planning a three-day endorsement tour through Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada.

Sen. Joe Biden's take on why the war is still going on: President Bush is trying to "confuse voters and ensure that a chaotic end to the war is delayed until after he leaves office," the AP's Mike Glover reports. Says Biden, D-Del.: "They would not be the ones who would have to deal with the reality of picking people up off the roofs of the embassy."

Elizabeth Edwards is in another blog war, and this one is "a mommy war at the same time," ABC's Sunlen Miller reports. On the "Silicon Valley Moms Blog," "Rebecca" blasted Mrs. Edwards' decision to bring the children on the trail: "you are being a terrible mother, forcing your young children, who should be in SCHOOL, to ride in buses and talk to the press when they obviously don't want to." Edwards' response: "You don't get to say I am a terrible mother . . . You don't get to judge me because you think you know exactly what you would do if you had my disease. I want to be really clear: you don't know. And if the sun always shines on you -- and I pray it does -- you will never know."

Republicans -- not just Democrats -- are set to penalize states that hold primaries that are outside the window set by the party, Marc Santora of The New York Times reports. Florida, New Hampshire, Wyoming, Michigan, and South Carolina could all lose convention delegates.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg, I-N.Y., said again yesterday that he's not running for president, "but he did not stop there," The Hill's Sam Youngman writes. He offered advice to reporters on how to cover the presidential race, and listed issues that the 2008 candidates should be addressing, per Youngman. "And after all that, Bloomberg took the time to pose for pictures outside the National Press Building with supporters holding signs that read: 'Bloomberg '08: DraftMichael.com.' "

Is Karl Rove an Obama boy? When Rove gets back to the White House today with the president aboard Marine One, he'll find his Jaguar covered in Post-It notes and shrink wrap, with two stuffed eagles mounted on the trunk -- and an "I (HEART) OBAMA" bumper sticker on the windshield, ABC's Ann Compton reports. The car, Compton writes, will be difficult to drive home, since all four doors are sealed shut.

One reminder of a scandal past: "A former congressional page who received sexually explicit online messages from former Rep. Mark Foley said through his lawyer that he would not file a civil suit against Foley, and that he is satisfied with the news that the Florida Republican is unlikely to be charged with a crime," reports Amie Parnes of Scripps Howard News Service.

Wondering how Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, and Rep. Dennis Kucinich, R-Ohio, keep winning online polls? It may have something to do with the fact their supporters actively urge people to vote in online balloting run by ABC News and other operations, ABC polling director Gary Langer writes. "It happens all the time. People who want to stuff the ballot box just forward around the click-in's URL, burying it in an orchestrated cascade of votes for the favored person, position or point of view. Others go a step further, building automated voting bots that jack up the tally for the pre-selected winner."

The kicker: With friends like these . . .

"Frankly Americans will forgive us for being sinners. They won't forgive us for being hypocrites." -- Huckabee, on the Christian Broadcasting Network.

"It's disgraceful. . . . It harms our reputation with the American people." -- McCain, on Leno.

"He sounded almost as convincing as, 'I did not have sex with that woman.' " -- Gary Bauer, former GOP presidential candidate.

A Note Break

The Note will take a vacation Thursday and Friday, and will resume publishing after Labor Day. And I leave you in the hands of my colleagues in ABC's political unit through next week. Enjoy the holiday weekend.