Craig Saga Continues


With Fred Thompson planning to skip his fifth GOP debate so that he can (once again) grace Jay Leno's couch, tonight's Republican debate in New Hampshire was always going to have a hard time breaking through.

That task was made harder overnight with word that Larry Craig has opened the possibility of reversing his stated intention to resign from the Senate on Sept. 30.

In a voice message obtained by Roll Call that was inadvertently left by Craig at a wrong number on Saturday morning, the Idaho Republican discussed his forthcoming press conference "more as a strategy to rehabilitee his political fortunes than a statement about his looming departure." "'Yes, Billy, this is Larry Craig calling. You can reach me on my cell. Arlen Specter is now willing to come out in my defense, arguing that it appears, by all that he knows, that I've been railroaded and all of that,' Craig said on the voice mail. 'Having all of that, we've reshaped my statement a little bit to say it is my 'intent' to resign on Sept. 30." Listen to the audio and read the story by Roll Call's David Drucker and Emily Pierce here.

Bill Clinton, who knows a thing or two about survival, weighed in on whether Larry Craig could survive when he appeared this morning on NBC's "Today."

"He's legally entitled to the rest of his term," said the former president. "Unless they vote to expel him, which they can do, that's something that he and the Republicans will have to work out."

(Clinton's media blitz continues later today when he does CNN's "Larry King Live").

Despite the challenges of competing with the on-going Craig saga the Republican '08ers will give it a go starting at 9:00 pm ET. The 90-minute debate, which will be broadcast by the Fox News Channel and Fox News Radio, is taking place on the campus of the University of New Hampshire.

In addition to a Leno appearance that reporters can listen to by phone at 7:50 pm ET, Thompson's Wednesday game plan includes the release of a new television ad which touts the Law & Order actor as the candidate of "security, unity, and prosperity." The ad, which will air exclusively on the Fox News Channel, will air once during tonight's debate and throughout the day on Thursday, reports ABC News' Tahman Bradley and Christine Byun.

Watch the ad here.

At midnight, Thompson will post a video on his website (for those keeping score, this will mark Thompson's actual entrance into the race -- until, of course, he does it again tomorrow in Iowa).

Just when it seemed like Thompson had achieved a modicum of stability on the personnel front, Politico's Jonathan Martin reports that Jim Mills is leaving the campaign "due to strategic differences" as campaign manager Bill Lacy continues to consolidate control.

Timed with his much-anticipated entrance into the race, USA Today's Susan Page offers Thompson a handy "to-do list."

Romney, who hopes to score points at tonight's debate on the sanctity of marriage and sanctuary cities, has his own new ad out. The ad is called "Energy" and it touts Romney work in business and on the Olympics. It also claims that he "turned around our most Democratic state."

Democrats in Massachusetts see things a little differently.

Per the Boston Globe's Lisa Wangsness, the Massachusetts Democratic Party is launching today what it calls an "unparalleled repository of information" about Romney's record that could be "used against the former governor in his White House run."

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