THE NOTE: Big Names Back Rudy, McCain

On the Republican side, while McCain and Giuliani boast of their big gets, it looks like Fred Thompson is making a move.

There's his new TV ad, where he boasts of his "100 percent pro-life voting record" (though he looks like me might be the third-best actor in the GOP field).

And there's also a more intense campaign schedule (everything is relative). Thompson "appears to be stepping it up, at least to a slow trot," The Washington Post's Michael Shear writes.

Thompson is also engaging in some direct engagement with Romney: "Governor, you can't buy South Carolina, you can't even rent South Carolina!" Thompson shouted, accusing Romney of spending "$20 million of his own personal fortune" in his run, per ABC's Christine Byun.

Writes Byun, "After a period of trying to stay about 'the fray', Republican presidential candidate Fred Thompson is sharpening his tongue . . . and taking names."

Per ABC's Matt Stuart, Romney was happy to respond: "When he catches up to me in events then he'll know he's got South Carolina too, but you have to work South Carolina, and that's what I've been doing for the past year."

Romney, who talked up adoption policy on the trail Tuesday, has also been working the religious right.

The Boston Globe's Michael Levenson gets this quote from Paul Weyrich (hardly how the Romney camp might phrase it, but it works): "I believe that he has flip-flopped in our direction, if you will -- the direction of the values voters -- and I think he will stay there."

And here's more of his thinking (closer to the truth?): "In analyzing the primary situation, I believe it's going to come down to a contest between Giuliani and Romney and I don't want Giuliani."

As for Ron Paul, he seemed as surprised as anybody by his raising $4.3 million in 24 hours -- $4 million of it online.

"To me it's pretty remarkable and pleasantly surprising," Paul told Sam Donaldson and David Chalian on ABC NewsNow's "Politics Live." "Everybody that's coming together is sick and tired of big government and they don't trust the major parties and the leadership of the major parties right now."

(And he's never seen or read "V for Vendetta": "It was a mystery and something I'm learning about," Paul said.

And more tea-leaf reading on Mayor Michael Bloomberg, I-N.Y.

"Mayor Michael Bloomberg's denials that he is running for president seem to be getting weaker," AP's Sara Kugler reports. "In three nationally televised interviews and a news conference over the past week, the billionaire independent dropped the phrase 'I'm not running' from his responses, which had been nearly automatic up until then."

In its place: "I'm not a candidate."

Also in the news:

Obama on Tuesday responded to the first time to blog-fueled talk that he doesn't put his hand over his heart during the Pledge of Allegiance.

"Been pledging allegiance to the flag, what, since I was three?" Obama said, per ABC's Sunlen Miller "Anytime that you pledge allegiance you put your hand over your heart, and I always have and I always will. . . . It's simply not true."

The New York Times' Katharine Q. Seelye sees the Obama camp's fingerprints on -- but not all over -- the bid to keep Stephen Colbert off the South Carolina ballot.

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