This NYT piece indicates Bill and Hillary Clinton are obsessed with the campaign and fundraising success of Barak Obama. It’s just the latest evidence that they simply do not view John Edwards, Bill Richardson or (gasp!) Joe Biden and Chris Dodd as threats. First quarter fundraising totals are due by April 15th. Expect to be wowed by the money Hillary, Obama and to a lesser extent, Edwards, will have raked in. Any of those are likely to have raised more than the rest of the candidates combined. (With the possible exception of banking sector darling Chris “Buy Me” Dodd.)

An interesting snippet from the NYT piece:

Mrs. Clinton, as a veteran of her husband’s two campaigns and her own two Senate races in New York, started off with a far larger donor database and greater name recognition than Mr. Obama, of Illinois, and she had been widely expected to do significantly better than him in fund-raising for this period.

One donor, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he said the Clintons would not like his speaking openly, said the Clinton campaign had been trying to lower fund-raising expectations because of a concern about a surge by Mr. Obama, who has shown broad appeal among black, female and young Democrats and has captured some big-money donors like Orin Kramer, a former Clinton supporter.

“The Clintons thought the nomination would most likely be theirs, barring some major disaster, and they are having to work harder and earlier for the nomination than either Clinton expected,” said the donor, who said he had talked about Mr. Obama with Mr. Clinton. “This was not how things were supposed to go, and they are obsessed with beating Barack in fund-raising.”

At some fund-raisers, Mr. Clinton viewed part of his job as “explaining Hillary and Barack” to donors, in the words of one fund-raiser who talked to him — laying out the rivals’ positions on Iraq, for instance, in a manner that minimized their differences and made Mr. Obama appear less-than-consistently antiwar.

On a recent conference call with donors, too, Mr. Clinton gave a point-by-point analysis of the candidates’ positions on the war in Iraq.

Jay Carson, Mr. Clinton’s communications director, who is also a member of Senator Clinton’s campaign, was asked in an interview if Mr. Clinton was motivated at all by Mr. Obama’s candidacy or by voters’ comparisons of the rivals on Iraq.

Read the rest.

Fred Thompson’s threat to enter the presidential race has spawned such venom, you’d think he was responsible for the deaths of small animals.

One has to wonder what’s at the source of this animosity.  Many seem to doubt the seriousness of his candidacy, such as Slate who writes that while Thompson may make conservatives feel good he “has less experience than all the other top GOP contenders.” 

You would also think that Thompson was questioning the divinity of Christ. What else would make evangelical leader James Dobson throw down the gauntlet? “Everyone knows he’s conservative and has come out strongly for the things that the pro-family movement stands for,” Dobson said of Thompson. “[But] I don’t think he’s a Christian.”

Perhaps Thompson’s opponents are looking at these early polls and reading the tea leaves. Fox News has him coming in third among GOP candidates. He is also polling third among GOP Republican voters in the all important blue state of Pennsylvania.

Perhaps most telling is a warning recently posted at the leftist DailyKos.

Laugh his candidacy off at your own peril. Unlike Bush or many of the right’s other “stars” like George Allen, he’s no lightweight. (And remember, plenty of us laughed at “W” early on, too; let’s not forget how that turned out). Yes, Fred Thompson is a down-the-line Republican. Yes, he favors maintaining our commitment in Iraq. But he’s very intelligent, a strong speaker and an excellent debater. He’s generally well-respected by members of both parties in Washington and though he has been a loyal soldier for the Bush administration, he is not known to be ultra-partisan or a crony. In fact, he first rose to fame as one of the chief investigators on the Watergate counsel. I’m not writing off our chances against Thompson; I still think that, given the political climate, we’d be slight favorites. But we’d certainly have to fight hard for it. And though I like our chances against any of the current Republican top three, I’m nowhere near as certain about those chances against Thompson.

Small fury animals, look out!

Mitt Romney’s inclusion of Jeb Bush in a list of potential VP candidates Thursday raises a poignant question: Do his poll numbers have to reach double-digits before his campaign can officially take a nose dive? As if being a Mormon republican from Massachusetts isn’t hard enough, Romney now apparently wants to associate his candidacy with the political Worst Case Scenario that is the Bush administration. From the story:

Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney on Thursday dropped some names of potential running mates in the 2008 race, but added such speculation is a bit premature.

Among those Romney mentioned for the second slot on the Republican ticket were three Southerners: South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich of Georgia, and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

“I have to be honest with you, I haven’t given a lot of thought to that, so I don’t want to put any names in that hat right now,” Romney said, but also gave a nod to Bush, calling him “quite a guy.”

Apparently eminent businessmen do not shrewd politicians make. If founding one of the most successful private equity firms in the world can be accomplished without the mathematical acumen to equate “Bush” with “Unpopular,” then the fact that I had to use a pen and paper to calculate the tip at Red Lobster last week is, well, not keeping me from founding one of the most successful private equity firms in the world.

The best part about the Bush torpedo is that even FOX News recognizes it. An article on their website citing voter poll results last week declared that:

Overall, only a handful of voters think Jeb Bush would make a good president. About one in five (22 percent) think the governor would make a good choice and 57 percent disagree. As Jeb Bush is relatively unknown to many Americans, it’s a safe bet that much of the reaction is based on his last name and Bush fatigue.

Among Republicans, 43 percent think Jeb Bush would make a good president, 26 percent disagree and almost a third (31 percent) say they are unsure. Fully 81 percent of Democrats and 61 percent of independents do not think he would be a good choice.

In Romney’s defense, he may have mistaken Jeb Bush for Jeb Stuart, the writer of the original Die Hard screenplay. And who, in comparison to the current administration, would probably make a pretty good Vice President.

ABC News released a partial transcript of an interview between Presidential hopeful Rudy Giuliani and interviewer Barbara Walters scheduled to air tonight on the program “20/20.” Bwa-Bwa probes America’s Mayor as to the role of his First Lady in a prospective Giuliani White House:

Would she be involved in policy decisions?

“To the extent she wants to be. I couldn’t have a better adviser,” is quoted Giuliani.

Cabinet meetings? She would sit in …

“… if she wanted to … if they were relevant to something that she was interested in. I mean, that would be something that I’d be very, very comfortable with.”

To her credit, Mrs. Giuliani would agree to sit in on White House policy meetings, “if he asks me to.”

Something about these quotes is just too eerily familiar, like shopping at the supermarket with a girlfriend you’ve just made up with after a plate smashing argument. Either that or Mayor Giuliani and his wife have actually just met and it’s an arranged marriage. I suspect we will be getting the traditional “soft lights” and an even “softer side” from one of our most recognized Presidential hopefuls on tonight’s program. It’s a common sense campaign media move to appeal to those Middle American voters. The program airs tonight at 10 p.m. EDT

Giuliani will also respond to questions about the relationship between him and his 21 year old son Andrew which is widely reported to be strained and Mrs. Giuliani responds to the accusation that her relationship with the mayor is the source of his most recent divorce (if you’re counting, we’re on number two).

My only question is will the country get behind a Presidential bid from a candidate who has the love life of a Woody Allen main character? To be continued.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has billions of dollars, and if he wants to waste a big pile of them on a third-party bid for president in 2008, I say more power to him. Maybe he could be the nominee for Unity08. Bloomberg, along with Sens. Chuck Hagel and Joe Lieberman, seem like just the kind of guys Unity08 is looking for.

Unity08 is a cute idea, and I do sympathize with some of their concerns — especially about lobbying, corruption, and the influence of big money in politics. But there’s a good reason why we have a two-party system: People who are active in politics tend to come down pretty strongly on one side or the other on various issues. And the two major parties adjust and evolve on the issues in order to stay competitive and reach that elusive 50.1%. That’s why you don’t hear much anymore from Democrats about gun control, and you don’t see Republicans trying to shut down fertility clinics that discard embryos.

Unity08 assumes that there is a huge majority of Americans out there, who have previously been mostly apathetic about politics, but will now suddenly emerge as a political force to be reckoned with. It’s a free country, and they’re perfectly entitled to be 100% wrong.

From Time:

In our poll, Hillary Clinton loses to John McCain, 42%-48%, and to Rudy Giuliani 41%-50%. Even though Clinton maintains a 7% edge over Obama among Democratic respondents, Obama fares better in the general election matchups. It’s so close that it’s a statistical dead heat, but Obama still loses: 43%-45% to McCain, 44%-45% to Giuliani.

Rather stunning that given the president’s horrific approval numbers, the GOP still fares so well against the top tier democrats. We have to wonder what these numbers would look like if Bush’s numbers were at 50% or better.

The big three on the right are all facing a bit of a tough news cycle the last 24-36 hours. Check out these attention grabbing headlines.

Giuliani: 9/11 could pose challenges for Giuliani’s ’08 run
Is his 9/11 halo finally fading?

McCain: Democrats say McCain nearly abandoned GOP
Is this revelation the last straw for the conservative grassroots?

Romney: Will New Anti-Mormon Movie Hurt Mitt?
Will his religion become the hurdle his advisers have most feared?

Cue the Drudge siren. This is the sort of story that could inflict real dents in the Straight Talk Express.

Democrats say McCain nearly abandoned GOP
By Bob Cusack
March 29, 2007

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) was close to leaving the Republican Party in 2001, weeks before then-Sen. Jim Jeffords (Vt.) famously announced his decision to become an Independent, according to former Democratic lawmakers who say they were involved in the discussions.

In interviews with The Hill this month, former Sen. Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) and ex-Rep. Tom Downey (D-N.Y.) said there were nearly two months of talks with the maverick lawmaker following an approach by John Weaver, McCain’s chief political strategist.

Democrats had contacted Jeffords and then-Sen. Lincoln Chafee (R-R.I.) in the early months of 2001 about switching parties, but in McCain’s case, they said, it was McCain’s top strategist who came to them.

At the end of their March 31, 2001 lunch at a Chinese restaurant in Bethesda, Md., Downey said Weaver asked why Democrats hadn’t asked McCain to switch parties.

Read the rest.

Fred Thompson’s rise as the darling of the conservative Republican base had a bit of cold (holy) water thrown on it in the form of criticism from Focus on the Family founder James Dobson.

In a U.S. News and World Report story, Dobson says “Everyone knows he’s conservative and has come out strongly for the things that the pro-family movement stands for… [But] I don’t think he’s a Christian; at least that’s my impression.”

In the same piece, Dobson appears to give his blessing to Newt Gingrich, lauding him as “the brightest guy out there.”

It’s not much of a surprise, but Forbes has officially signed on to Team Rudy. Finally, a prominent republican we can rule out in 2008!

“We want NEWT! Er, no, no, not Newt … We want MITT! Umm, wait, hold on a sec … We want RUDY! Uhh, scratch that, darn YouTube … OK, here we go … We want FRED! Er …”

The online Republican faithful have a case of schizophrenia that would make Sybil look stable and well-adjusted. Each of the past four months, they have changed their mind about their favorite for 2008. Their latest infatuation is with Fred Thompson.

In a real-world scientific poll by USA Today, Thompson manages to pull in four times the support of Mitt Romney (January’s online fling) just by implying that he might be thinking about running, or perhaps not. Ouch. Mitt might be on his way to making the Guinness Book of World Records for most dollars spent per primary vote.

So let me get this straight. Thompson, with no serious political organization in place, no money, no establishment backing, is going to win the Republican coronation nomination? Sure he is. (When James Dobson says he doesn’t think you’re a Christian, that can’t help.)

My suspicion is that, at the end of the day, the unloved John McCain is going to be the compromise Republican nominee. I can already hear the wailing across the Web.

This CNN piece contains a quote that ought to have Romney’s people lighting candles that the Fredster doesn’t jump in:

Why hasn’t a single candidate pulled ahead with conservatives? Strategists say McCain hasn’t gained overall momentum, Giuliani supports abortion and gay rights, and although Romney is now viewed as a conservative, that wasn’t always the case.

“The one thing that this poll certainly suggests is that with Fred Thompson getting in the race, the candidate that gets hit the hardest is Romney, ” Winston said.


Here’s an old NY Sun piece that says the same thing
, but provides more detail.

Once upon a time Jim Webb was an unpolished underdog running for US Senate against heavyweight Senator George Allen. One macaca later and Webb finds himself one of the most fortunate Senators in history representing the Commonwealth of Virginia. One imagines even Webb is surprised to find himself a US Senator.

I am repulsed by the gungate matter and the way Webb is sacrificing his aide like a pig at a luau. My 3-year-old is better at taking responsibility for his actions than Mr. Webb.

Here’s a crazy shot in the dark, Webb will be a disappointment to more than yours truly, and thousands upon thousands of voters will wish they could have a big fat do-over. Because Virginia deserves better.

I received an interesting email from some very dedicated FOF’s. (Friends of Fred) Here’s a snippet. Is this just the tip of the iceberg? Is there really legit hunger for another republican to enter the race?

I want to tell you about a grassroots effort that we began two weeks ago which has had unprecedented success.

We believe in conservative values. In that respect, we’ve already begun working hard to make sure the right person is elected to the White House in ’08.

I am a former U.S. Congressional Staffer for former Congressman Van Hilleary and I am active in the GOP in Tennessee. I’d like to tell you about our efforts to get former Senator Fred Thompson into the race for ’08.

Our website went live less than two weeks ago. So far we (grassrootsvoter.com) have received petition signatures and full volunteer/contributor info from over 4,600 people. That includes scores of people from all 50 states as well as D.C. We expect to hit our first major milestone and our personal goal of 5,000 (soon).

We’ve been contacted by U.S. Soldiers, former WWII Vets, and even one of Fred Thompson’s own relatives! We’ve been interviewed by Westwood One and featured on various radio stations and television news outlets. Check out our News section at grassrootsvoter.com to listen to a couple of our favorite interviews.

We’ve also been endorsed by the House Minority leader of TN, Jason Mumpower, and other lawmakers.

We believe in everyday people. One way we are encouraging everyday people is through online advocacy and our website: www.grassrootsvoter.com

We’re convinced that we need a candidate to energize the country against impending competitors such as Sen. Clinton and Sen. Obama.

No one is paying us to do this, we’re not politicians, and nor are we being paid by politicians. We simply love our country and we believe Fred Thompson should succeed President Bush in ’08.

So desperate are conservatives for a torch bearer to the Reagan legacy, the alternative to the three-headed monster of Rudy McRomney has come out of nowhere. Is it Mark Sanford? Maybe Sonny Perdue, Mike Rounds or Jim Gilmore?

No, the heir apparent to the conservative moment (as of this month) is now the air traffic control guy from Die Hard II. The Right-Wing base is buzzing over the possibility that former Tennessee senator, and current Law & Order star Fred Thompson is really considering thinking about maybe sort of probably “leaving the door open” for a 2008 White House bid.

But while the story last week seemed to be how well Thompson (not to be confused with the more qualified Tommy Thompson) was already doing in some early polls, the question yet to be asked is whether or not the actor-turned politician-turned actor would actually be a good candidate for the presidency. The answer is no, and here’s why:

He doesn’t want to be President

John Edwards knew he was running for president in 2008 as soon as he lost in 2004. He never stopped running. Hillary Clinton has arguably had her eyes on the Oval Office all of her adult life, but at the very least since 2002. John McCain has built an impressive campaign apparatus in several states, correcting the missteps he made in his 2000 bid. Barack Obama, despite having limited electoral experience, has decided to dismiss the naysayers and run now rather than later. These are very ambitious individuals, all of whom want to be President of The United States very badly.

In his must-read contribution this week to the American Thinker, Steven Warhawsky points out why Fred Thompson’s humble approach to the White House might disqualify him right at the starting gate:

Besides his lack of high-level executive experience, there is another thing about Thompson that concerns me: His apparent lack of drive to be president. Unlike some commentators, I do not consider this a positive trait. Being President of the United States is the most important job — by far — in the entire world. It demands an enormous amount of energy, dedication, initiative, fortitude, pride, ambition, and respect for the office. And campaigning to become president is the most difficult and grueling “job interview” there is. As someone who desperately wants to see a Republican elected president in 2008, I am hesitant to support a candidate who, less than a year before the first primaries, has not even decided if he wants the job. Or why.

There is nothing remotely Reaganesque about that.

He doesn’t have the resume

Ronald Reagan served two terms as governor of the most populous state in the union before being elected President. Fred Thompson, having won two relatively easy elections, has never had to run a tough, no holds barred campaign against a strong opponent. Will Thompson have the gumption to stare fellow GOP candidates in the eyes, and attack their positions aggressively and publicly? Can he attack John McCain, who he has praised and campaigned on behalf of in the past?

Thompson has no executive experience, and no major legislative accomplishments to speak of in the Senate. He was never the CEO of a major corporation, nor was he the mayor of a major American city. Al Gore left public life and became an activist and documentary film maker. Rudy Giuliani left Gracie Mansion and started a consulting business, remaining involved in security issues. Fred Thompson left and became an actor. If he were to enter the race today, as a former U.S. Senator with no relevant political work to speak of, he’d be arguably the least qualified Republican candidate in the field.

He isn’t nationally electable, and he knows it

What do Sam Brownback, Tom Tancredo and Fred Thompson all have in common? None of them could win in a general election. All three men occupy the far Right-Wing of their party. Thompson opposes Roe v. Wade, opposes gun control and opposes same-sex marriage. If the recent success of Giuliani, Romney and McCain has taught us anything, it’s that the base isn’t as crazy as some would have us believe. They want to elect Republicans, because Republicans are generally better than Democrats. In order to do that, you may need to compromise on issues you hold dear. Does Fred Thompson come across as a compromising figure? The conservative base has a crush on ‘Hollywood’ Fred Thompson because he’s candid about his conservative values. That plays well on Fox News and talk radio, but the results probably wouldn’t be pretty (*cough*Goldwater!*cough*) in a national election.

I enjoy Fred Thompson the actor, and although I disagree with him on most policy, he seems like a nice enough fellow. But this fleeting “draft Fred” flurry will not last long, and is really just endemic of the Right’s Reagan nostalgia. He has no money, no staff and no chance. Sorry, Fred.

The Washington Post is reporting today, according to anonymous sources close to the NYC mayor, that Michael Bloomberg will decide on a 2008 presidential bid after the bulk of the primaries conclude early next year:

“If he felt that the candidates were likely to be such that it gave him the opportunity, he would do it,” the friend said. “It’s a long shot, but not 100 to 1.”

At No. 142 on the Forbes list of the word’s richest people, Bloomberg is worth at least $5.5 billion. He controls a private company that provides real-time financial data to money managers and others around the globe. And he has built a news-gathering organization that employs more than 1,000 reporters.

A generous philanthropist, Bloomberg has pledged to eventually give away his fortune and has constructed a building around the corner from his East 79th Street townhouse to provide the headquarters for his charitable foundation. Political observers say he has enough money to blanket the country with television ads for months if he becomes a candidate.

“He’d be a candidate almost in the progressive tradition,” said Hank Sheinkopf, a New York political consultant. “He could make the argument: ‘A pox on both their houses.’ He’s a celebrity by definition because he’s a billionaire.”

Read the rest of the article here.

In this Hotline piece McCain officially begins the game of “lowering the bar” in respect to campaign fundraising. Everyone knows the rules, you simply lower expectations well below what’s likely so that when real figures are announced, you can act surprised and humbled. (Just as Romney did it at his $8 million dollar dial-for-dollars day.) Expect more of the same this week from Hillary, Rudy and others.

Fred Thompson has got to be happy with the results of his groundwork. After saying he was “giving some thought” to the idea of running for president, the buzz among the GOP base took off. So just how far has this minimalist approach taken him?

Rasmussen reports today that in their first national telephone survey since his announcement, Fred Thompson essentially ties the Democratic front runner Hillary Clinton (44% Thompson 43% Clinton) in a head-to-head match up. It’s not a good week when your candidacy falters on the release of a remade internet video, and you are tied in the polls with a candidate who isn’t even running!

There’s also good news for Thompson coming from the early primary states. In Iowa Thompson has supplanted Romney for third place, and in New Hampshire he is polling in the top five. Those are not bad numbers for a candidate who doesn’t even have an exploratory committee.

If Mr. Thompson ever decides to bring his brand of law and order to the Republican nomination, we could be in for a real fight.

The timing of this is interesting (I’ll get to that in a bit): Aides to former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack are saying that he will endorse Sen. Hillary Clinton for president on Monday.

This endorsement should come as no surprise — I expected one DLC member to endorse the other. When it became clear that a Vilsack candidacy couldn’t essentially take Iowa off the table and clear the way for Hillary, then Plan B obviously was an endorsement. Whether Vilsack has been angling for a shot at VP or a nice Cabinet post, he’s obviously in the Clinton camp.

This move comes with its positives and negatives for Hillary. She benefits by gaining some organizational strength in a state where that definitely matters, and where her organization has been weaker than that of her top competitors, by most accounts. Some of Vilsack’s support (such as it was) might also move in her direction, which she could use — most Iowa polls (with the notable exception of ARG polls) have her in second or third. But she also raises the stakes for herself considerably in Iowa — with her money, her name, her machine, and now Vilsack’s endorsement, a poor showing in Iowa would be all the more devastating. When you have all of the advantages, you’d better win, or you’ll give voters reason to doubt your electability.

As for the timing of this, it is intriguing. Why announce this now? To get her name back in the headlines for something other than a spat over an Internet ad? Maybe, but the endorsement might have had more of an impact if they waited until closer to the caucuses. Apparently they felt they needed to do something now. Coincidentally, ARG’s Iowa poll for March just came out.

This week Jason discusses the Edwards press conference, the rankings, and the prospect of Fred Thompson joining the race.