McCain also offered what he called "a little straight talk" in accusing both Giuliani and Romney of raising taxes, ABC's Bret Hovell reports. "And if you want to call them fees or you want to call them bananas, the fact is they're still tax increases when the consumer and the constituent has to pay additional monies into government coffers," McCain said.
But the real battles with Giuliani are over social issues, not fiscal ones, and there's fresh evidence today that Romney could be the beneficiary of concerns about Rudy. "An influential evangelical public relations executive wrote to some 150 top conservative Christian leaders warning of the prospect of a Giuliani or Hillary Rodham Clinton administration and prodding them to rally instead around Mitt Romney," Michael Luo reports in The New York Times. Mark DeMoss is urging evangelical leaders to "galvanize support around Mitt Romney, so Mr. Giuliani isn't the unintended beneficiary of our divided support among several candidates."
Tony Perkins and Gary Bauer also took the opportunity yesterday to praise Romney -- and offer some criticism of former governor Mike Huckabee, R-Ark., who wants to be the conservative choice, Ralph Z. Hallow writes in the Washington Times. "I don't think he's flip-flopping," Perkins said of Romney (high praise, no?). "Bauer agreed that Mr. Romney's change of heart was sincere, even though it 'happened to coincide with a primary [election campaign] schedule,' " Hallow writes.
The campaign squabbling isn't enough to make a certain former vice president want to be persuaded into running for president -- do you think? The "Draft Gore" folks made a splash with a full-page ad in The New York Times yesterday. The group is run by a five-member executive committee that doesn't include any DC powerbrokers, ABC's Nitya Venkataraman reports. They got that now famous $65,000 "standby" rate in the Times, and they raised the cash in SIX DAYS in small donations in the $20-$50 range. "The ad "comes two days before the announcement of this year's Nobel Peace Prize winners; Gore's crusade for the environment landed him a nomination," Venkataraman writes.
The Nobel buzz is only getting Gore's supporters more engaged -- but the man himself has said and done practically nothing that would make them optimistic. "Other groups, from New York to Iowa to California, are running drives to put Mr. Gore on primary ballots or make him an option in caucus rooms," The New York Times' Jim Rutenberg writes. "Yet, as of now, the movement is without a candidate. Mr. Gore's representatives say he has no plans to run or interest in doing so." Gore adviser Michael Feldman: "There isn't some secret campaign being put together here."
Also in the news:
The consensus on former senator Fred Thompson, R-Tenn.: He "performed just well enough at Tuesday's Republican debate in Dearborn, Mich., to keep his nascent presidential campaign alive and lurching forward," Time's James Carney writes. But: "His suit jacket was too large, leaving a gap between his neck and collar that conveyed an image of incipient frailty. His campaign is hoping he comes across as Reaganesque, but not in this way. Last night, at times, he did look a bit like Reagan did -- in his first debate against Walter Mondale in 1984, when Reagan seemed out of touch and overmatched."