THE NOTE: Rudy Set for Conservative Slam

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McCain could benefit from the continued uncertainty in the GOP race, National Review's Kate O'Beirne reports. "Republicans seeking to keep their party's base intact, while appealing to independents in order to have a shot at defeating Hillary, are taking another look at John McCain," she writes. "In a year when Democrats are heavily favored to win the White House, many conservatives are unwilling to experiment with the notion that a wholly new coalition, with fewer social and cultural conservatives, will coalesce around a socially liberal Northeast Republican."

McCain is pondering a seven-figure loan to keep his campaign running, Washingtonpost.com's Chris Cillizza reports. "Rick Davis, who took over control of the day-to-day operations following a huge staff shuffle this summer, has broached the subject of a large loan to fund the campaign's activities in early states," Cillizza writes. "The idea was discussed as recently as a phone call this week with senior staffers, according to sources familiar with that conversation."

Thompson once hoped to lock up the crowd he's addressing today. That won't happen, but he is making a play to be seen as the solid conservative in the race. "I was a conservative then. I am a conservative today, and I'll be a conservative tomorrow. I was walking the walk when others weren't even talking the talk yet," Thompson said yesterday, per ABC's Christine Byun. He tossed immigration in the mix as well, accusing Giuliani and Romney of supporting "sanctuary cities," Byun reports.

More evidence that Thompson is registering with the GOP base, his false starts notwithstanding: "When it comes to building a base of small campaign donors he's showing the potential to keep pace with better-funded rivals," Bloomberg News' Julianna Goldman reports. Thompson signed up more than 74,000 donors in his fundraising quarter, "more than double the contributors Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani signed up during their first reporting periods. If Thompson keeps adding donors at this clip, he may be competitive in early primaries even though he trails Giuliani and Romney in cash raised."

Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., has placed a "hold" on the FISA bill -- keeping it in limbo for now, and giving him a fresh campaign issue to appeal to the liberal base with. Dodd "will block a Senate vote on a White House-backed surveillance bill because it would include legal immunity for telecommunications companies that helped intelligence agencies carry out warrantless surveillance of Americans," per USA Today's Richard Willing.

Could Brownback's departure give Huckabee the boost he's long been craving? New York Times columnist David Brooks finds plenty of reasons why he could still be a contender. "Huckabee is something that the party needs. He is a solid conservative who is both temperamentally and substantively different from the conservatives who have led the country over the past few years," Brooks writes. "His popularity with the press corps suggests he could catch a free media wave that would put him in the top tier. He deserves to be there."

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