It has been eight months since President Bush announced the new Iraq surge strategy and in that time we have heard every '08 presidential candidate weigh in on every aspect of the White House's policy: when U.S. troops should come home, how many should stay and how many should remain, what is the role of the remaining troops and what conditions need to be met for any sort of withdrawal?
After weeks of build-up, President Bush tonight announces the next step forward after the recent report from his top commander on the ground, Gen. David Petraeus, and Ambassador Ryan Crocker.
ABC News' Jennifer Duck reports that the speech is being called the "Return on Success," (a title which frankly confuses us for its meaning and questionable grammar.)
The speech is an opportunity for the President to lay out the way forward as his own plan – not one from Gen. Petraeus. The President will say, "The more successful we are, the more American troops can return home."
Specifically Bush will announce: - 5700 troops out of Iraq by Christmas (and not replaced) - 2200 Marines home this month (and not replaced)
The next progress report will come in March, when President Bush will direct Gen. Petraeus to return to Washington and brief Congress on where things stand in Iraq.
It's almost certain that the Democratic and Republican nominees will be decided by that point in March. The Petraeus Report 2.0, and the weeks of lead-up to his testimony on Capitol Hill, will make Iraq front and center in the early stages of the general election and the substance of that report could be key for one candidate to say that he/she is the candidate with the right plan going forward in Iraq.
John Edwards takes a unique approach in his response to the President's speech tonight. He bought two minutes of air time on MSNBC to personally rebut the speech after Bush delivers it.
You can view a short clip here:
Edwards will say that President Bush is "pressing on with the only strategy he's ever had: more time, more troops and more war."
Rudy Giuliani, John McCain, Barack Obama and Edwards will be on Larry King Live after the President's speech but we won't see Mitt Romney (traveling), Fred Thompson (no interviews) and Hillary Clinton (no interviews).
Fresh from his speech to the nation on the Iraq war, President Bush delivers 11:35 am ET remarks to a military personnel luncheon at the Marine Corps Base in Quantico, Va.
Vice President Cheney makes 10:35 am ET remarks at the Gerald R. Ford Museum in Grand Rapids before heading to Florida for 2:45 pm ET remarks at speaks at Centcom.
Out on the trail... Hillary Clinton is in California for a press conference with Magic Johnson in Watts before the big celebrity fundraiser the former Lakers star throws for her at this house. Quincy Jones, a longtime supporter of the Clintons, Motown founder Berry Gordy and music executive Clarence Avant serve as co-hosts.
Her husband, former President Bill Clinton, is back on the book trail in Austin, TX signing copies of his book "Giving" at BookPeople.
John Edwards is in Nevada for a private meetings and a quick press avail at his Las Vegas headquarters. After that it's off to the Golden State for private events.