THE NOTE: 'He's the One'

It's all deeply frustrating to the candidates who have spent the past year to establish front-running credentials at this moment. The Speech is in the rear-view mirror now, but Romney's view looking forward isn't that pretty now that he has more than Giuliani to contend with.

"He is neither the candidate poised to spring a surprise in Iowa or New Hampshire, nor the candidate judged by his fellow Republicans nationally as the top choice for the nomination -- or even the second or third," Dan Balz writes in The Washington Post. "He has become burdened by a front-runner's expectations without many of the traditional assets. . . . Having bet on doing well in the early states, he will now live or die by the results."

Clinton, D-N.Y., has plenty of fight left in her (but with Chelsea Clinton, Dorothy Rodham, and Bill Clinton all on the trail for her over the weekend, she may not have many tricks left in her bag).

Bloomberg's Al Hunt sits in on a Democratic focus group to paint the broad picture. "This isn't an anti-Hillary crowd. She gets high marks for her experience, intelligence and toughness; these qualities, they suspect, are what voters demand," Hunt writes. "Their hopes and dreams, though, are with Obama, 46. If he can dispel misgivings about his electability or experience, the formidable Clinton forces may be powerless."

The Post's Dan Balz: "Her liabilities always were there lurking, but through much of the year, her opponents watched with envy and admiration as Clinton cruised to an overwhelming lead in national opinion polls, turning perceived weaknesses into apparent strengths. . . . But she could not erase all doubts about her, and now they have resurfaced: Is she too polarizing to unite the country? Is she too evasive to win voters' trust? Is she too calculating at a time when authenticity is prized in presidential campaigns? Is she too cold?"

Here's another Clinton story that's getting some buzz: The Los Angeles Times' Tom Hamburger and Dan Morain travel to Syracuse to tell the story of Clinton's embrace of "old-fashioned pork-barrel politics, first to build power in the state, then to extend it nationwide as she becomes a leading candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination. And to fuel her rise, Clinton has relied on the controversial funding device known as 'earmarking.' The earmarks enabled her to win favor with important constituents, many of whom provided financial support for her campaigns."

Key paragraph: "Since taking office in 2001, Clinton has delivered $500 million worth of earmarks that have specifically benefited 59 corporations," Hamburger and Morain write. "About 64% of those corporations provided funds to her campaigns through donations made by employees, executives, board members or lobbyists, a review by the Los Angeles Times shows."

Then there's Giuliani, R-N.Y., who played defense for his entire first Sunday-morning hour as a candidate. He smiled past the toughest allegations on "Meet the Press," but he gave no answers that will make the many questions -- about his business interests, about his wife's security detail, about Bernie Kerik -- fade.

"Rudy Giuliani yesterday defended his consulting firm's work in Qatar, saying he was bolstering a moderate Persian Gulf regime in its fight against Islamic terrorists," Mary Jacoby and Chip Cummins write in The Wall Street Journal. And he's not releasing his client list -- sorry, Tim.

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