Pun and (War) Games

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"The Iraq war now moves into a phase where the battlefield calculus is likely to matter far less than what happens in Washington," writes the Chicago Tribune's Michael Tackett. "But while the Democrats might believe they have the stronger argument, they also face the tougher decision of whether to vote for funding for a strategy that they have publicly rejected."

The '08 reactions broke down on generally predictable party lines, and much of the field gets a crack at Petraeus and Crocker in today's Senate hearings.

"Democrats mirrored the views of their base by joining hands in unified opposition to the Petraeus/Crocker analysis," write Politico's Ben Smith and Jonathan Martin. "For Republicans, some of whom had been sidling ever so slightly away from Bush on Iraq, the hint of even incremental progress was occasion to full-throatedly support the surge -- a policy that continues to enjoy strong support among the GOP voters most likely to turn out for next year's primaries and caucuses."

Today is Tuesday, Sept. 11, the first time the day and date have matched up like this since 2001. And the symbolism of the day will run through the presidential campaigns: The candidates are fanning out to remembrances and ceremonies. No one will be more visible, of course, than former mayor Rudolph Giuliani, R-N.Y.

Giuliani is viewed by Republicans as a hero of 9/11, "but those impressions have not translated into a substantial advantage over his party's other presidential candidates when it comes to who can best fight terrorism," per a New York Times/CBS poll. "61 percent of Republican voters said Mr. Giuliani would do about the same job as his rivals for the nomination in combating the threat from terrorism; Mr. Giuliani has made keeping the United States 'on offense' against terrorism a centerpiece of his campaign," write the Times' Marc Santora and Dalia Sussman. "And he still faces a formidable challenge in winning over conservative voters who are leery of his positions on some social issues, like abortion and same-sex marriage."

ABC's Cynthia McFadden examines Giuliani's role on 9/11 tonight on Nightline. And the political pre-buttal began before the former mayor uttered a word this morning at Ground Zero. This statement from FDNY Deputy Chief Jim Riches, a longtime Giuliani critic: "He just lies, and when you do find out more about him you won't vote for him."

Say what you will about Rudy -- and it's all being said -- but he does have more staying power than many political insiders anticipated. Maybe this is the political legacy of 9/11: "All summer, Republican strategists predicted Giuliani's national popularity would fade as voters became aware of his support for legalized abortion, gay rights and gun control," writes Bloomberg's Hans Nichols. "That fall from grace hasn't happened, and Giuliani, 63, is well ahead of his rivals."

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., hopes that today's anniversary and the action on Capitol Hill will help jump start his campaign. He kicks off his "No Surrender Tour" this evening in Sioux City, Iowa, and will also hit New Hampshire and South Carolina in the coming days. The Arizona Republic's Dan Nowicki senses the start of a "resurgence": "It all helps counter the previously prevailing perception that his candidacy was washed up." Said McCain campaign manager Rick Davis: "Now, the bar's even higher."

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