THE NOTE: Fred's Fumbles

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Columnist Robert Novak writes that former governor Mitt Romney, R-Mass., needs to publicly answer questions about his religion -- and hints that something could be coming soon. Novak says that Romney's oft-repeated assertion that only reporters ask him about his religious beliefs is "simply is untrue." "Romney is asked about Mormonism wherever he goes," Novak writes. "The consensus is that he must address the Mormon question with a speech deploring bias. According to campaign sources, a speech has been written, though much of it could still be changed. It hasn't been determined when he will deliver a speech that could determine the 2008 political outcome."

After thinking better of attacking Clinton yesterday, McCain ultimately did decide to chastise her for voting against war funding, per ABC's Bret Hovell. "I don't see how you support the troops if you're not willing to fund the mission that they are on," McCain said. He also had this to say yesterday, a day after saying he didn't know if Mormons are Christians: "I'm not an expert on the Mormon religion. I don't know enough about it to make a judgment. Except I respect the Mormon religion and I don't think that the fact that someone is a Mormon, that that should be held against them in any way."

With McCain building his campaign around the war, he's emphasizing the "I told you so" fact that he's "been one of its biggest critics," Wes Allison writes for Politifact.com. "But his backing of the overall U.S. mission in Iraq has made it difficult for McCain to differentiate himself from the president. . . . Few senators have done more than McCain to protect the administration's right to maintain the current course in Iraq and to wage war as the president sees fit."

Bloomberg's Edwin Chen sees "signs of a [McCain] rebound in New Hampshire." "At the heart of McCain's strategy is a massive campaign of town-hall meetings and house parties, where he mixes blunt answers and wisecracks -- a blend of gravitas and Groucho Marx," Chen writes. Says McCain: "We're gaining some traction, and we're having a lot of fun."

Here's one way Clinton is staying on top: She's avoiding specifics, which makes it hard to offend anyone, Peter Nicholas writes in the Los Angeles Times. "Clinton has built an image among Democratic voters as a skilled and experienced leader, propelling her to the top of the opinion polls. But her policy positions are sometimes unclear. In some cases, Clinton has made statements on the campaign trail or cast votes as a senator that put her on different sides of the same issue. At times she has avoided specifics, leaving her options open."

Steven Stark of the Boston Phoenix picks apart Clinton's "electability" argument. "There's only one problem with this faith in Clinton's electability: it's wrong. On paper, John Edwards is the party's best chance for a victory, even though his latest fundraising difficulties have made it increasingly unlikely that he will ever be the nominee," Stark writes. "The goal for Edwards, then, is to persuade enough Democratic voters in Iowa and New Hampshire to vote with their heads and not their hearts when the nomination process begins in January."

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