THE NOTE: Fred's Fumbles

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The Des Moines Register's Linda Lantor Fandel found him "awkward at making small talk, or not interested" during Thompson's editorial board meeting. "But as the interview got under way, Thompson demonstrated that he knows how to frame big problems -- national and international," she writes. Yet "Thompson gave long, meandering answers, but offered few solutions or detailed plans." If he doesn't become president? "The worst thing that can happen to me in this process is that I get sent back to being the happiest man that you ever met," Thompson said.

Isn't this all just prelude to the clash of the New York titans anyway? Former mayor Rudolph Giuliani, R-N.Y., may be itching for a battle with Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., but Clinton's got to feel good about the matchup, according to the new ABC News/Washington Post poll. Clinton tops Giuliani 51-43 in the hypothetical head-to-head.

"Belying Clinton's polarizing image, as many say they would not even consider Giuliani for president (44 percent) as definitely rule out Clinton (41 percent)," ABC polling director Gary Langer writes. And -- surprise -- Bill Clinton is as popular as ever: 66 percent approval rating. "Bill Clinton's legacy does at least as much for his wife's presidential ambitions as Rudy Giuliani's 9/11 performance bolsters his," Langer writes.

But hold on, Rudy -- who's this with the $5 million haul? Dr. No himself -- Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, whose has tapped libertarian and anti-war sentiments inside the GOP with more success than most observers could have imagined.

"Long treated at debates as the cantankerous old uncle you don't want to get started talking about the Gold Standard, Paul had big news," write ABC's Jake Tapper and Z. Byron Wolf. " 'It's really fascinating,' Paul said, seeming as surprised with the news as was much of the rest of the political world. 'I think the time is right. People are really frustrated -- frustrated with both parties, frustrated with the war.' "

This means Paul cannot be ignored any longer -- and will provide endless fodder for the online army who've been boosting his candidacy for months. "Whether Paul will be a major factor in the GOP nominating contests remains to be seen, but his money totals -- it is likely he will have outraised several second-tier Republicans and Democrats combined -- mean he will be in for the long haul," writes Reid Wilson of Real Clear Politics.

For some perspective, Paul appears to have raised about as much last quarter as Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Gov. Bill Richardson, D-N.M., and only $2 million less than former senator John Edwards, D-N.C. He raised considerably more than the combined quarterly tallies of senators Joe Biden, D-Del., and Chris Dodd, D-Conn.

Paul brought in FIVE TIMES what former governor Mike Huckabee, R-Ark., raised, despite Huckabee's second-place finish in Ames and the surge of attention that brought to his campaign. "We don't need to raise as much funds because we are frugal," Huckabee said in a statement, per ABC's Kevin Chupka. That's fortunate, but last quarter was a huge missed opportunity for him to cash in -- one he apparently couldn't take advantage of.

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