The New York Times' Ray Hernandez on Sen. Clinton's growing popularity with Republicans in New York and the mutual kissy-kiss between her and Sen. John McCain on "Meet" this weekend. (Note to Ray, sitting on the set of a Sunday show, however, Sen. McCain would say that Barbara Milkuski would make a great president, too.)
"Independent political analysts say her strong standing may give pause to any big-name Republican thinking about challenging her in 2006, chief among them Rudolph W. Giuliani and Gov. George E. Pataki. In fact, a Quinnipiac poll released earlier this month found that Mrs. Clinton would defeat both Mr. Pataki and Mr. Giuliani in head-to-head contests." . . . "[But] New York Republicans also say that the senator has had a free ride so far and that her opponent in the campaign will have an easy time driving up her negative ratings -- and halting her rise in the polls -- by pointing out what they describe as her poor record of accomplishment and her liberal ideology." LINK
The Boston Globe's Raphael Lewis looks at Gov. Mitt Romney's warmly received visits to Missouri and South Carolina over the weekend, where he talked about his opposition to cloning human embryos for stem cell research, how the gay marriage issue came to pass in his state, and to give Republicans far removed from Massachusetts a chance to view him as a possible commander in chief. LINK
The State's Lee Bandy takes special care to mention in his lead that Romney is a devout Mormon, Noting that the governor was happy with the crowd he saw in Columbia, but as state GOP chairman Barry Wynn put it, "the dating is just starting." LINK
The Boston Herald leads with Romney's statements to the South Carolina crowd that he's opposed civil unions "from day one," pointing out that the governor "has for months backed a constitutional amendment which would ban gay marriage while allowing Vermont-style civil unions" and has told state lawmakers that civil unions are the lesser of two evils. LINK
Alexander Morrison of the Spartanburg Herald-Journal describes a warm, though somewhat skeptical crowd for Romney's speech. LINK
The Herald-Journal also offers audio: LINK
We enjoyed the Bill Heffley-led C-SPAN coverage -- which gave us access to Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer's objectively-not-funny "joke" about the ocean; Romney's joke comparing Speaker Wilkins to the All Mighty (an apparent Beatles reference); the state chair's trashing of Howard Dean; and the way the Governor handled a post-speech question about immigration.
All in all, that is one optimistic and cleverly crafted road stump speech.
Of course, the Boston Globe's Joan Vennochi writes her column this morning about the continuing drumbeat/speculation that Romney will pass on a try for a second term. LINK
Rudy Giuliani heads to Jackson, MS to help Sen. Trent Lott raise money for his re-election campaign today. LINK
Democratic hopefuls are already plowing the field in California for cash; Carla Marinucci has news on an impending Bayh visit, Kerry visits, an impending Edwards visit, and a Joe Biden meet and greet that might be a fundraiser. LINK
The AP write-up on Sen. Edwards' exclusive "This Week" appearance includes his non-response to George Stephanopoulos's question about whether he'll sit out until and unless Kerry doesn't run. LINK
In case you missed it, here are the results from the 2005 CPAC poll of conservative activists conducted by Fabrizio McLaughlin. N=641.