THE NOTE: Oprah, Bill Face Off

Be still Dick Cheney's (irregular) heart (no, not literally).

Defrost the Bush-Gore relationship (thank global warming).

Have a president over for overnights (Bill Richardson wants to sleep here).

Bring peace to the Middle East (or maybe just don't make things any worse).

And forget the candidates -- let's just turn this race over to the surrogates.

It's Bill vs. Oprah -- no last names necessary -- in the battle for Iowa (and particularly its up-for-grabs female voters, who are split between Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., and Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill.).

Oprah fans have to wait another week-and-a-half for the Double-O Show, but Bill's back on the trail for his wife in Iowa on Tuesday.

(In the meantime, we can only wonder about the counter-programming scheming covered by the Clinton troika of Patti Solis Doyle, Terry McAuliffe, and Mike Henry Monday night at BLT Steak in Washington -- with celebrity drop-bys courtesy of Gov. Martin O'Malley, D-Md., and Gov. Brian Schweitzer, D-Mont.)

Back to Bill v. Oprah: "Both are legendary communicators, perhaps the two greatest in their generation," writes The Washington Post's Anne Kornblut.

"Both helped build an ethic of empathy, turning the public confession into a rite of passage. Both are world-renowned -- one for being a former president, the other for a TV show usually identified just by her first name."

"Clinton has put gender at the center of her candidacy and almost always surrounds herself with women, both prominent and not, on the campaign trail," Kornblut continues. "That is in keeping with the Clinton campaign's view that it will perform well if it can turn out people, particularly women, who did not participate last time or who have never participated."

The Des Moines Register's David Yepsen sees all the Democrats trying to reach out to women caucus-goers.

"They're providing everything from big-name celebrities to computer Web sites to recipes for chicken-noodle casseroles to help do it," Yepsen writes.

But count him as a skeptic: "At some point, the campaigns are going to rediscover the value of old-fashioned, shoe-leather campaigning. Forget this high-tech stuff. Some of the out-of-state groups rolling into Iowa to help their candidates need to get their hands dirty."

Clinton gets a New Hampshire boost from the Granite State's first lady: Dr. Susan Lynch, a pediatrician (and the closest thing to a gubernatorial endorsement in the state, since Gov. John Lynch, D-N.H., is staying neutral).

"As first lady, pediatrician and most importantly a mother, I do not take my endorsement lightheartedly," Dr. Lynch said, per the Concord Monitor's Sarah Leibowitz.

They may or may not be Oprah fans, but Clinton sees a built-in advantage among older women, Patrick Healy writes in The New York Times.

"Elderly women who turn out for Clinton campaign events have become welcome set pieces, visibly demonstrating the candidate's effort to highlight her sex and her overtures to female voters, whom the campaign is counting on to propel her to the Democratic presidential nomination," Healy writes. Clinton "has shown particular pride in the women in their 70s, 80s and 90s at her events. She spends extra time with them on the rope line and repeats their stories to audiences."

But don't forget -- presidents are plentiful -- we're on No. 43 already. There's only one Oprah.

"As celebrity endorsements go, Winfrey's planned weekend fly-around to Iowa, South Carolina and New Hampshire on Dec. 8 and 9 with Obama and his wife, Michelle, is as big as it gets," Oprah fan Michael Saul writes in the New York Daily News.

"Her power is almost unprecedented. Her show, now in its third decade, has helped shape the national debate on a huge range of issues and, with a few well-placed words, changed the buying habits of millions and put once-obscure books on the best-seller list."

Former House speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., sees Oprah as a potential game-changer.

"My guess is that Senator Obama's going to win Iowa, and that he is going to win it by a surprising margin," Gingrich said Tuesday on ABC's "Good Morning America." As for Oprah, he said: "There are millions of people who trust her judgment. I think it's a significant asset to him -- and, he's not married to her."

Until Obama gets his dose of celebrity, it's Obama playing something of a Clinton role. A week after Clinton mocked him for citing his childhood years abroad as foreign-policy experience, he's surrounding himself with the pieces of the Democratic foreign-policy establishment he can muster: Tony Lake, Samantha Power, Susan Rice, Richard Danzig, John Hutson -- all in Portsmouth, N.H., Tuesday morning. Anyone up for a new approach to foreign policy?

And Clinton is fleshing out her resume from back when she was "the face" of her husband's administration abroad. Her new detail: "I was deeply involved in the Irish peace process," Clinton said on Monday, per ABC's Kate Snow and Susan Kriskey.

"And I know it's frustrating. It took years before the Catholics and the Protestants before Sinn Fein and you know, the DUP would even talk to each other."

Back at the hand-to-hand combat of the campaign . . . perhaps we shouldn't be surprised, but say this about the two New Yorkers who may or may not be on a collision course for November 2008: When they decide to hit, you feel it.

Now that Obama is starting to engage Clinton, here comes the counterattack -- and Camp Clinton is once again driving the conversation of the Democratic race, seeking to own every media cycle.

The campaign jumped on a Monday Washington Post story about Obama's PAC spending -- hardly a blockbuster expose -- with the fervor of an underdog.

It's another front in a raging month-long battle, where "Clinton has gone after Obama and Edwards on a range of issues, including healthcare, Social Security, and experience," The Boston Globe's Scott Helman writes.

And take the day's other big battle, this one started by Obama on ABC's "Nightline."

"I don't think Michelle would claim that she is the best qualified person to be a United States Senator by virtue of me talking to her on occasion about the work I've done," Obama told Terry Moran.

Yet even on this day, the Clinton campaign still managed to own the New York Post headline: "Rap the 'Rookie." "If he is elected, he would have less experience than any American president of the 20th century," Clinton spokesman Phil Singer said.

Among the Republicans, as former mayor Rudolph Giuliani slugs it out with former governor Mitt Romney, it looks like Rudy's may be doing some gardening.

The Daily News' Celeste Katz and David Saltonstall track down a Giuliani volunteer who showed up at two Rudy events in New Hampshire over the weekend -- and mysteriously got called on first both times, asking head-scratchers including: "What makes the liberal Democrats so wrong about the threats this country faces?"

"The puffy questions -- seemingly lifted straight from Giuliani's campaign playbook -- had many wondering if [Richard] Florino was a plant intended to make Giuliani look good," Katz and Saltonstall write.

"But Florino insisted to reporters that he was nobody's stooge -- just the volunteer co-chairman of Giuliani's town committee in Windham, N.H." Says Florino: "This isn't one of those Hillary events -- no. . . . Basically, I love politics, and he sees me as a familiar face."

Giuliani, R-N.Y., is still convinced that Democrats will come around and wind up supporting the Iraq war before the campaign is over. In fact, he told the Union Leader editorial board, he's "even more certain" now that invading Iraq was the right move than he was four years ago. (Seriously?)

And Rudy weighs in on the hottest issue in the GOP race: "Giuliani said that despite allegations to the contrary, he has always been tough on illegal immigration," John DiStaso writes. "As mayor, he said, he wanted to deport illegal alien criminals, but the federal Immigration and Naturalization Service opted for 'gardeners' and restaurant workers as part of a 'totally messed-up priority.' " (Romney would love to hit back, but that "gardeners" line makes it kind of tough. . . . )

Romney, R-Mass., did keep his battle with Giuliani going on Monday. "I think it's going to be very, very difficult for people to think of Mayor Giuliani representing the Republican Party," Romney told radio host Laura Ingraham. "He's the same as Hillary Clinton on most of those social issues." (There's the H-word again! Who says Romney doesn't swear?)

Oh, to have been a fly on the wall for Bush v. Gore II: The Private Meeting.

"Of course we talked about global warming -- the whole time," the former vice president said after his 40-minute private session with his one-time (and, kind of, still) rival.

Al and Tipper "left on foot and found themselves in the midst of a pack of reporters and photographers as they walked, hand in hand, along Pennsylvania Avenue," James Gerstenzang writes in the Los Angeles Times. "They cut across rush-hour traffic at midblock before ducking into an office building on 17th Street, a block and a half from the executive mansion." (Jaywalking, Mr. Vice President?)

A joint goodbye to two legislative titans -- one day, two resignation announcements, one from a former House speaker, the other from a former Senate majority leader. J. Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., left the House effective 11 pm ET last night, and Sen. Trent Lott, R-Miss., is set to follow him out the door in the coming weeks.

Those particular resignations are unlikely to alter the party balance in Congress.

"But with so many lawmakers -- including a large number from competitive states and districts -- heading for the exits, it's hard not to point to the GOP's newfound minority status in Washington, the turnover in party leadership and the perilous political environment heading into 2008 to explain the exodus,"'s Chris Cillizza writes.

Lott is "the latest in a string of prominent Republican lawmakers to leave Congress," ABC's Z. Byron Wolf writes. And sing a final tune: "When Lott resigns from the Senate this year and when Sen. Larry Craig opts against running for reelection next year, it will be the death knell of the barbershop quartet known as the Singing Senators."

And brace for the leadership battle: "Arizona Sen. Jon Kyl appears all but certain to get the whip post now held by Mr. Lott and would bring a more confrontational style to the No. 2 leadership job," The Wall Street Journal's David Rogers writes.

"Skirmishes were already taking shape yesterday between younger Senate conservatives and the Republicans' increasingly isolated moderate wing, which is trying to hold onto a place in the party leadership."

Also in the news:

Mideast peace talks start Tuesday in Annapolis, Md., and in advance Bush administration "aides played down expectations for an immediate breakthrough, while Saudi Arabia, a key U.S. ally, made clear that it expects an aggressive administration attempt to broker a final deal," The Washington Post's Michael Abramowitz and Glenn Kessler write.

"Israeli and Palestinian negotiators were already having trouble agreeing on a document that would outline the parameters of negotiations -- one sign of the huge obstacles awaiting the two sides when they sit down to bargain over such thorny issues as the status of Jerusalem and the fate of Palestinian refugees."

Bush is tempering expectations in his introductory address Tuesday morning. "Achieving this goal will not be easy -- if it were easy, it would have happened a long time ago," he plans to say, per excerpts released by the White House. "Our purpose here in Annapolis is not to conclude an agreement. Rather, it is to launch negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians."

Former senator John Edwards, D-N.C., talks faith with the Christian Broadcasting Network's David Brody. "Like a lot of people, my faith came roaring back when I needed it the most, when tragedies began to strike," Edwards said. And this response, on whether he believes Sen. Clinton "can be trusted": "I believe I can, and I'm going to let the American people make their own judgment about her."

And where does this fit into the Democratic battle for black voters? Jesse Jackson uses a Chicago Sun-Times op-ed to chide the Democrats -- including Clinton and Obama, though not by name.

"The Democratic candidates -- with the exception of John Edwards, who opened his campaign in New Orleans' Ninth Ward and has made addressing poverty central to his campaign -- have virtually ignored the plight of African Americans in this country," Jackson writes.

"The catastrophic crisis that engulfs the African-American community goes without mention. No urban agenda is given priority. When thousands of African Americans marched in protest in Jena, La., not one candidate showed up."

For a window into how and why the Clinton campaign operates, the Los Angeles Times' Stephen Braun profiles the hyper-organized, always prepared Clinton of the first lady years.

"Clinton's all-access pass into the West Wing gave her an intimate education in presidential decision-making that none of her opponents can claim. She observed at close range how big government works, and she learned painfully from her missteps how easily it bogs down," Braun writes.

"But her gates-drawn stance raised concerns that shadow her presidential bid today -- that she reacts with a siege mentality under pressure, retreating behind a restrictive wall of presidential and attorney privilege," Braun continues. This from Leon Panetta, President Clinton's former chief of staff: "There's no question that her first instinct was to protect herself and the president."

Clinton on Tuesday will outline her anti-AIDS proposals, "becoming the latest Democratic presidential candidate to commit to a significant expansion of federal efforts to combat the epidemic," Patrick Healy and Lawrence K. Altman report in The New York Times. "Taking Mrs. Clinton's into account, the three approaches are similar in terms of spending, goals and differences with President Bush's AIDS policy."

Guess who's coming to dinner? The governor who brought you open office hours wants presidential sleepovers with "average Americans," the Des Moines Register's William Petroski reports. "I would stay in touch. I would be a grass-roots president," said Gov. Bill Richardson, D-N.M.

Former governor Mike Huckabee, R-Ark., is up with a new ad -- no Chuck Norris this time, but that doesn't make it any less subtle. How about emblazoning the words, "CHRISTIAN LEADER" across the screen. Says Huckabee: "Faith doesn't just influence me; it really defines me. I don't have to wake up every day wondering, 'What do I need to believe?' "

For a clue about whose voters Huckabee is targeting, the New York Sun's Russell Berman picks up on the lovefest between Huckabee and Giuliani. Huckabee on Monday played referee in the Romney-Giuliani fight, and called it for Rudy: "I think Mitt was the one who went after Rudy more than Rudy went after Mitt," he told reporters in a conference call.

Remember Fred Thompson?'s Erick Erickson still likes him, sort of. "I want an across the board pro-life, pro-defense, small government, pro-entrepreneur conservative. And of the three men who fit the bill, I think Fred offers the most with the least baggage. He'll make sure the government leaves me the heck alone."

Get the pre-orders in for 2010: Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., "has agreed to a multimillion dollar deal with Hachette Book Group USA to pen his memoirs, giving the veteran Massachusetts lawmaker a forum for his own perspective on a life and career that has been examined by others in countless books and articles," The Boston Globe's Susan Milligan reports. Bob Barnett, who (of course!) represented Kennedy in negotiations (grabbing the senator more than $8 million!): "My sense is he's going to write his life as he lived it."

The kicker:

"There's a fireplace in this new home, but it doesn't really work and she thinks it's too small for Santa." -- Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., on his 6-year-old daughter's biggest fear, now that they live in Iowa.

"I wanted my kid to be a football star, not a national press secretary." -- Romney national press secretary Kevin Madden, on his 20-month-old son's Blackberry habit.

Bookmark The Note at

Interns for the ABC News Political Unit:

The ABC News Political Unit is now seeking three full-time spring interns in Washington, D.C.

The internship begins Monday, Dec. 31, and runs through Friday, May 25.

Not only do Political Unit interns attend political events and write for the politics page of, they also help us by conducting research, maintaining contact lists, and building the next day's political schedule.

In order to apply, you must be either a graduate student or a college student who has completed his or her first year.

You also must be able to work eight hours per day, starting early, Monday through Friday.

Interns will be paid $8.50/hour.

If you write well, don't mind getting up early, and have some familiarity with web publishing, send a cover letter and resume to as soon as possible, with the subject line: "INTERN" in all caps. Please indicate in your cover letter the dates of your availability.