Since the revelation that her cancer had returned, and some timely poll bumps for her hubby, Mrs. Edwards has been increasingly visible on the campaign trail. Voters are clearly comfortable with seeing her at her husband’s side, and spousal campaigning is as old as Mike Gravel’s jock, but are voters prepared for another buy-one-get-one-free presidency? Given that Mrs. Edwards made a point that she wouldn’t be attending cabinet meetings should her other half win, it seems odd that she’d insert herself so forcefully and authoritatively into the Bush v. Congress battle over Iraq funding. (below)

Everyone knows Mrs. Edwards is a smart, articulate woman and might make for a very respectable US Senator in her own right. But are they prepared to see her speaking for her husband’s campaign on policy matters?

Perhaps it plays well in a primary battle among Hillary-ized dems, but middle America voters in a general election might not appreciate a 2-for-1 sequel.

Mrs. Edwards criticizes Bush for veto threat

WASHINGTON (CNN) — Elizabeth Edwards, wife of Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards, strongly criticized President Bush for threatening to veto legislation which sets a timetable for withdrawing troops from Iraq.

“We don’t have any override votes, but there is no prohibition to sending back exactly the same bill with exactly the same timetable,” she said at the grand opening of her husband’s New Hampshire campaign office. “And if he vetoes that, to send back another bill with the same timetable. Do not start capitulating to a president who is going against the will of the American people, the vote in 2006, and frankly the will of the Iraqi people as well.”

Mrs. Edwards has been active on the campaign trail since her March announcement that she has had a recurrence of cancer.

The Giuliani campaign released a list of names of the former New York City mayor’s New Hampshire supporters. The Republican frontrunner just forgot to find out if those on the list were actually supporting him. Rudy’s campaign calls it a “regretable oversight”, but some of his alleged supporters are not pleased, and have voiced open objection. Few, though, have said they will not support Guiliani’s bid for the presidency, and rather than risk embarrassment for Rudy, a number have quietly decided to back him without any fuss. Convenient. It makes one wonder if that was the plan all along.

First, Barack Obama takes the lead at Political Derby, then he pulls ahead for the first time in a national poll. I think Rasmussen has a somewhat tighter screen than many pollsters on likely primary voters — the people who actually will take the time out of their day to show up on a cold January or February day and vote — but that’s probably more reflective of reality.

Hillary Clinton’s inevitability theme is shot. As we saw at the first Democratic debate last week, Obama is the real front-runner and everyone else knows it. When every candidate on the stage, including Mike “every question is about Iraq even if it’s about the price of milk” Gravel, is taking their shots at you, you’re the front-runner. “Joementum” Lieberman made that point when he lamented wryly in a 2004 debate that he wished someone would take a shot at him.

Of course, big questions remain for Obama: How will he hold up when everyone is focusing their fire on him? Will his younger supporters defy historical trends and actually show up? Can he close the gap in Iowa? Will Democrats believe that people who tell pollsters one thing on the phone will actually pull the trigger when the time comes?

Now we’ll see how Obama handles running out in front.

While this Thursday is the first Republican primary debate and will be the big test for many Republican candidates, Fred Thompson’s big exam will take place the next day. On Friday Mr. Thompson will address the 45th annual dinner of the Lincoln Club, which is billed as the “largest and most active political club in the United States.” While other Republican candidates have attempted to secure the position, Fred Thompson was the only one selected. The Lincoln Club is made up of some of California’s wealthiest republicans and is responsible for raising the support to replace Gray Davis with Schwarzenegger in 2003. Thompson’s ability to sell himself as the right presidential candidate will be key if he wishes to join the race behind such money makers as Romney and Giuliani. You’ll have to tune in to Political Derby’s power rankings in order to see the results of this very important week for Republican candidates.

More than 500 people showed up in Cookeville to urge Fred Thompson on to the presidency. Apparently, truth is stranger than fiction.  Why else would one choose to congregate in a place called Cookeville, Tennessee?

Knox News has the story:

U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp, a Chattanooga Republican who was one of the first officials to speak out in support of a Thompson run, told the crowd that Thompson not only can win the Republican nomination but that he also can draw in enough Democrats and Independents to win the election.

Wamp said Thompson is scheduled to give several talks at Republican gatherings around the country and that he could decide whether to run in June.

Read the rest.

At last week’s South Carolina debate, Democrats, in their quest to form a new megalith to rival such fiscally stable programs as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, were universal in their support for the creation of a gargantuan health care program. Agree with them or not, some candidates actually presented plans on how to achieve their goals. Such a move is often risky this early in the electoral season, as rivals may steal or slam ideas, depending on what the polls think of them.

John Edwards has proposed mandatory insurance for everyone. Barack Obama suggested offering a plan to the uninsured that would be similar to what federal employees receive. Obama’s plan would also “provide government-funded catastrophic insurance to prevent business from going bankrupt when they offer health insurance.” Well, at least he admits that his plan would be too expensive.

Hillary Clinton, always eager to tell voters what she thinks they want to hear, and possibly not liking the idea that many of them want her to say she is no longer running, declined to provide any details of how she would address the issue.

Rudy Giuliani, who has been called too liberal to appeal to the conservative Republican base, took the opportunity to show he is not crazy liberal.

The former New York City mayor, responding to comments in the first Democratic primary debate Thursday night, claimed Democrats favor “mandatory” universal health care and the plans would only exacerbate the cost of care by putting the system in the hands of bureaucrats.

“They’re moving toward socialized medicine so fast, it’ll make your head spin,” Giuliani said, adding that private solutions could help bring down the cost of care.

John Edwards, as stagnant in the polls as every strand of hair on his head, and still hoping his “two Americas” declaration is going to resonate somewhere, suggested that, “Rudy Giuliani needs to put an end to his campaign to divide America and concentrate on offering solutions to the big challenges we face.” Edwards was eerily silent on how to combat the plague of lawyers and their hand in the escalating costs of medical insurance and health care.

Following last night’s snoozer of a debate, it’s at least nice to see some equity in who the Republicans choose to bash. The entire Democratic field appears to be the target of the day for the Right-Wing punditry. However, only one popular target appears to get it the worst, and that seems to be the fair one with the golden locks from North Carolina.

Obama and Clinton get their fair share of criticism, but neither seem to agitate the chattering classes on the Right more than John Edwards. While Senator Clinton was asked to defend her war vote, Edwards was asked to defend the now infamous $400 haircut. The Politico’s Ben Smith earned his Matt Drudge Merit Badge in Hackery on the story, and Edwards had an answer for it last night:

It was simply a mistake. But if the question is, Brian, whether I live a privileged and blessed lifestyle now, the answer to that’s yes. A lot of us do. But it’s not where I come from. And I’ve not forgotten where I come from.

Many people in the audience and the viewing audience know that my dad worked in textile mills all his life, and I can remember vividly — my dad is here tonight. I was born here in South Carolina. I can remember vividly my dad after church once Sunday, when I was about 10 years old, taking us — it’s our whole family — into a restaurant. I was dressed up.

I was very proud to be there, and we sat, got our menus, looked at the menus, and the waitress came over and my father said, “I’m sorry, we have to leave.” I didn’t understand. “Why? Why do we have to leave?” And I was embarrassed. I found out when we got outside the reason we had to leave is he couldn’t pay the prices that were on the menu.

The reason I’m running for president of the United States is so that everybody in this country can have the same kind of chances I’ve had.

How this tale must’ve made blood boil on the starboard side of the spectrum. Perhaps what bothers conservatives the most is that the story is absolutely true. Not only was Edwards raised by two working class parents, but he himself got a BA in textile technology from NC State. Maybe it bothers them that Edwards actually represents the Horatio Alger, rags-to-riches story they love to tell, but so rarely work for themselves.

But I believe it goes even deeper. Haircuts aside, there’s clearly something about John Edwards that bugs the heck out of Republicans. On today’s Hugh Hewitt Blog, Dean Barnett attacked Edwards’s background, along with his vocabulary. They’ve gone after the former senator’s large estate in North Carolina, ripped into him for being a trial lawyer and even went so far as to pick apart a botched line during a press conference to discuss his wife’s bout with cancer. Maybe it’s his positioning as the scrappy upstart with the golden locks. Maybe it’s his unique position as the repentant populist, publicly apologizing for a bad war he gave his blessing to.

They don’t like the fact that a man who has lived in both Americas is willing to talk about it. They don’t like that a successful, southern lawyer from a blue-collar family has taken up company with the working poor of this country. If only he’d embrace his wealth the way Romney the venture-capitalist did, only then might he catch a break from his conservative critics. He might even make a nice Republican.

But now the boy who couldn’t eat in the fancy restaurant can pay whatever he damn well pleases for his haircuts. And if he has his way, all hard working Americans will be able to tell the same story.

According to SurveyUSA:

U.S. Senator Barack Obama emerged a clear winner in tonight’s debate among 8 Democratic candidates for President of the United States, according to a SurveyUSA poll of 403 South Carolina debate watchers. 31% of debate watchers say Obama won. Obama, the only black candidate, was the overwhelming favorite of black debate watchers. U.S. Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton finished in 2nd place, picked as the winner by 24% of viewers. Clinton, the only female candidate, did better among women than among men. Former U.S. Senator John Edwards finished 3rd, picked as the winner by 14%. Obama did three times better than Clinton and twice as well as Edwards among South Carolina’s Independents. Obama and Clinton tied among Democrats. Edwards and Obama tied among Republicans. Clinton won among white viewers. 60% of debate viewers were white. 36% of debate viewers were black.

I’m not sure what’s the bigger story here. Is it that a surprising 32% of South Carolinians admitted to watching a debate 9 months before the first votes are cast? Or that a shocking 2% of debate watchers thought Mike Gravel won? Won what? Best dressed? Most likely to play the part of Mr. Smithers in the Broadway version of The Simpsons?

While the Democrats took the MSNBC stage tonight, Fox News watchers will be seeing a lot more of Mitt Romney; the former gov has launched a $2 million national ad campaign aimed at conservative viewers.

While much of Romney’s campaign has focused on cementing his position as a social conservative, the ad highlights his promise to keep federal spending in check.

So why national ads so early in the race? Probably because his campaign is tired of seeing stories that end with lines like this:

…he has not only trailed Giuliani and McCain, but also has registered lower than actor and former Sen. Fred Thompson of Tennessee, who has not announced his intentions to run.

Even though he’s got the money and organization in the important states, Romney knows he needs to start registering in national polls, if only to avoid lines like that. And besides, $2 million won’t exactly leave him broke.

Roger Friedman of Fox News caught up with Al Gore at the Tribeca Film Festival.  Al Gore repeated his well rehearsed reply about having no plans when it comes to running for president. And what about the rumors of former and current political allies mobilizing?

“Oh, that,” he said, rolling his eyes. He didn’t quite say, ‘That’s not true.’ He came close, but it wasn’t a total denial.

There is nothing shocking there.  The news is Gore’s apparently shrinking waistline:

Maybe this is the new Gore. He’s wily now. And thinner. Even though he was wearing all black, you could tell that the man who won the popular vote in the 2000 election is getting himself in shape for something. Who knows what?

Much has been made of Gore’s body mass index being the predictor of his presidential aspirations.  Just recently, Dan Rather commented regarding Gore’s plans. 

“Al Gore is thinking seriously about [running],” former CBS anchor Dan Rather said recently on “The Chris Matthews Show.” “He’s beginning to lose weight–”

“I hear he’s made a commitment to a friend for a crash course to lose 40 pounds right away,” Matthews said, interrupting (of course).

Will he? Won’t he?  Perhaps the answer can be found somewhere between Dr. Atkins and South Beach.

This week’s Rasmussen poll has Barack Obama now tied with Hillary Clinton on top of the field for the 2008 Democratic nomination. Obama’s campaign has really hit its stride in the last few weeks, starting with his stunning fundraising numbers.

This is the latest in a series of bumps to the Billary campaign, which almost certainly has to be sweating the pressure the rock star candidate is bringing to bear on her position as the presumptive favorite in the race.

In other Obama news, an article on Slate is adding to the series of comparisons between him and John F. Kennedy. The story compares Kennedy’s handling of the religion card with what Obama may face with the race card:

…few people support Obama solely, or mainly, because he’s black. But if his strategists are thinking as Kennedy’s did in 1960, they may be calculating that his race can subtly enhance his other attractive qualities. Having passed a threshold among most white voters, his race can implicitly encourage them to feel that a vote for Obama is a vote for tolerance, for a future free of the constricting prejudices of the past, and for a sense of hope that Jack Kennedy once evoked.

Politico has an excellent op/ed from a leading evangelical strategist. Romney hopes this eventually sums up the views of enough evangelicals to provide the tipping point he’ll need to clear the “Mormon hurdle”.

Looking now to 2008, if I were to support a presidential candidate other than Mitt Romney, I would have two options. The first would be to select a candidate who shares my values and is an evangelical (and some fit this description) but has little record of turning budgets from red to black and solving complex problems (and little chance of raising the kind of money now necessary to survive the front-loaded primary process).

Or I could back an experienced politician who does not well represent my values and hope to influence him religiously (a strategy that historically has marginal success, at best).

No, wait, there is a third option, and that’s the one Karl Rove believes was exercised by 4 million evangelicals in 2000: I could stay home. The problem with that option is that it violates another evangelical tenet: a Christian citizen’s duty to vote.

Read the rest.

Hillary Clinton expected to win the Democratic nomination for president in a cakewalk, but as Barack Obama’s popularity has been increasing, Hillary’s lead in the polls has been eroding. Hillary also assumed the New York primary would be hers for the taking, especially after trouncing her Republican opponent in last year’s Senate race. Not so fast. Just as it has been nationally, Obama’s support has been increasing in NY. Hillary also assumed that she would have the support of African-American voters in New York, given her (and her husband’s) immense popularity in the community. But black politicians in NY have been slow to endorse Hillary. Everywhere she looks, Mrs. Clinton is having problems. Her wheels may be falling off, but she’ll grind her axles deep into the ground before letting up.

The New York Times called New York Hillary’s “home state”, a technicality based on a senator’s having to reside in the state he/she represents. While Hillary may be able to easily win a senate seat in a very blue state, much of her constituency does not consider her a New Yorker, and it would not behoove her to presume that she is the favorite.

Dick Cheney apparently was saved by the bell today when his arch-nemesis — Dennis Kucinich — decided to delay his plan to introduce articles of impeachment against the VP, because Dick was going to the hospital for a check-up on his blood clot. Whew! That was close! For some odd reason, this bizarre “reprieve” reminds me of when we decided to briefly stop bombing during Ramadan in order to show respect for Islam. “We’ll get back to killing you guys in a couple of weeks — happy holidays!” Did that actually win us any friends?

Come on Dennis, where’s the killer instinct? Did Deadeye Dick show his hunting buddy any mercy? No! The guy got between Dick and some half-tamed, flightless bird so he shot him in the face! Go for the jugular, Dennis! Well, maybe that’s too high …. Go for the kneecap, Dennis!

Now, is this impeachment “effort” likely to win Kucinich any more votes in New Hampshire? Probably not. Most Democrats thoroughly despise Cheney, and for good reason. But they also know that if Cheney goes, then George W. Bush will be left to run the country by himself, and that’s like leaving a 3-year-old with a lighter in a fireworks shop.

Could be much ado about nada, but this development could also be a sign of things to come. Is it possible Newt is rethinking his “decide after Labor Day” strategy? Is he reacting to Fred Thompson’s own flirting campaign? Does Newt mean it when he says he’ll only run if someone doesn’t step up to represent conservatives? Or is he planning to run regardless? Stay tuned.

From Politico:

Newt Gingrich has hired a pollster and a fundraiser, but not for a presidential campaign – at least not yet.

Gingrich, the former speaker of the House and leader of the 1994 Republican revolution, has not discouraged speculation he’ll add his name to the list of Republicans seeking the party’s nomination for president.

Read the rest.

According to a poll recently conducted by the Los Angeles Times, 26% of white, Christian conservatives favor Rudolph Giuliani.

A poll conducted this month found 26 percent of white conservative Christians favor Giuliani. That is more than double the number of those who favor his top rivals, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, the Times reported Monday.

Giuliani, a former New York mayor, holds liberal views on abortion and gay rights but is tough on terrorism, which bodes well with conservatives who value strong leadership on national security.

This isn’t so surprising. McCain has inextricably chained himself to the catastrophe-in-freefall that is the Iraq war, so he has lost the casual conservative vote and the “I read the newspaper” vote. Romney has his own fundamentally-conflicting identity issues which are going to make him hard to get behind for a lot of conservatives.

Giuliani may have been married, well, a lot, but he’s also America’s Mayor — and that kind of notoriety is hard to unseat.

At first glance, it sounds very impressive when you see numbers like these. Wow, Mitt Romney must be very popular in South Carolina, huh? It looks like the fact that Romney’s been hunting fewer times than Rudy Giuliani’s been married — as James Carville pointed out — isn’t hurting him at all in Dixie. Hmmm, something smells a little fishy here…

Sure enough, these county “straw polls” are highly dubious measures of support, in which payola goes a long way to determining the winner. In fact, these early “contests” that are largely about money, and that have in the past served to whittle down the Republican field, might prove to be a liability for the party this time.

As we saw in 2004 and in the first quarter of 2007, the financial playing field has been leveled. It’s unlikely the Republican candidate will have any advantage in money in 2008, so doing things the old way — selecting a nominee based upon who the money men have lined up behind — could turn out to be a costly mistake.

Barack Obama told a Nashua, New Hampshire town hall meeting yesterday that, if elected president, he would withdraw US troops from Iraq. [Full article].

I can’t breathe,” she said, her voice breaking with sobs. “I want to know, when am I going to able to breathe? Are you going to get us the hell out of there? Promise us you will get us out of there. That’s the most important thing.”

The crowd’s applause as she finished gave Obama time to compose an answer.

“I can only imagine how you feel, as a father and as a parent,” he said. “I don’t go to a single town-hall meeting where I don’t meet a mother or father who either is seeing a loved one go over there or has already lost someone, or has a loved one who has come back injured.

“So I make a solemn pledge to you, as president we will be out of Iraq,” the Illinois senator said to loud applause.
Obama reiterated his plan to remove troops by March 31, 2008, similar to a plan passed by Congress that President Bush has vowed to veto.

Democrats don’t have enough votes to override the veto. Without mentioning them by name, Obama criticized New Hampshire Sens. Judd Gregg and John Sununu, both Republicans who voted against the troop withdrawal deadline.

“There are two New Hampshire senators who have not made a commitment,” he said, “and the power is in their hands.”

Obama is uniquely qualified to make claims like this — he didn’t vote for the Iraq war in the first place. And with the Iraq war positioned so prominently on the political horizon, his stance on Iraq — both in 2002 and now — may serve as his trump card in the ’08 election.

The 2002 vote to go to war is the 800 pound gorilla in the democrats’ campaign bus. John Edwards chose to acknowledge his previous support of the Iraq war and admit that he’s wrong — and I can respect that. At least far more than Hillary’s approach.

By taking the “inaccurate information route” and absolving herself of any wrongdoing in voting to go to war in Iraq, Hillary Clinton paints herself as an aloof caricature of a politician. Her staunch refusal to admit that she might have maybe, possibly, under some circumstances made a mistake in voting to launch a war that the majority of America doesn’t support emphasizes how out of touch with the public she is.

I’d prefer that my president didn’t make mistakes, but, since none of the candidates running are robots or infallible deities, I’ll accept a human that can at least recognize when he makes them. And unlike Edwards and Clinton, Obama doesn’t have to do that — regardless of how he would have voted in 2002.

A few months back, I wrote a piece on Senator Sam Brownback, declaring him the conservative insurgent of the 2008 GOP field. I believed then, and still believe today, that he has the potential to be the Howard Dean of the 2008 presidential race.

He is consistently conservative, and unlike his better known opponents, shows little evidence of wavering or flip-flopping on those issues. He is staunchly opposed to embryonic stem cell research, abortion and same-sex marriage. An avid anti-tax crusader, Brownback once proposed implementing a flat tax on the District of Columbia as an experiment. A Methodist-turned-Catholic, the Kansan has tried to offer a broad evangelical platform that appeals to both the Christian Right, as well as the Christian Left. He has worked across the aisle with Senator Barack Obama, and with the late Paul Wellstone to fight human trafficking, disease and poverty in Africa. He was an early and vocal critic of his own government’s inaction on the genocide in Darfur, and has traveled to places such as Rwanda and Sudan numerous times over the past few years.

His personal bio seems to fit the bill, too. Brownback goes to church twice every Sunday, and once apologized to Hillary Clinton for having hated her. The senator has five children, two of which were adopted from impoverished countries, and has surprisingly been married just once–a seeming novelty amongst Republicans these days. He also, to my knowledge, has never dressed up like a woman. Sam arguably represents the Republican dream candidate, however his attempts to woo the GOP base have thus far been less than dreamy. With poll numbers in the single digits, and a Q1 report of just $800,000 in the bank, something seems to be the matter in Kansas. In an interview with McClatchy Newspapers, Brownback argued that his time is still to come, and that the current rankings will soon see a serious shakeup:

“There are a lot of people who are very demoralized right now,” he said, speaking of his fellow Republicans. “I think they’re open to be rallied. . . . I’m the tortoise in the race. I don’t like how that race starts. I love how that race finishes.”

Trailing not only in early polls but also in fundraising – he ended the first quarter on March 31 with only $800,000 in his campaign account – Brownback said his campaign will benefit from the retail politics of the first three small states scheduled to vote next January.

As voters in those states tune in, he said, they’ll tune out today’s front-runner, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, because he’s liberal on social issues such as abortion and gay marriage, and that’ll shake up the race.

“Things will shift. And I think they will shift pretty radically,” Brownback said.

Brownback believes he can get his name out in Iowa, be competitive in New Hampshire and predicts that he will win South Carolina. This is a risky proposition on his part, one that isn’t supported much by polling data. However Sam’s problem isn’t a mutually exclusive one. Mike Huckabee, Ron Paul and Tommy Thompson are all in the same boat–right values, right party and no cash. It’s arguably a sign of sophistication on the part of the GOP base, having been burned last year in the 2006 elections. Conservative voters want to win, and have thus embraced liberal Republicans like Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney.

But Brownback is counting on a sea change that may never occur. With a bulk of primaries happening on February 5, underdog candidates like him will be left with little time to wow potential supporters. And while Brownback suffers from the same problems as some of his conservative peers in the race, he also seems to suffer from strategy issues that might be specific to his campaign. For example, being a fellow midwesterner, a staunch conservative and a born-and-raised farmer, Brownback seems like a logical fit for Iowa Caucus voters. With a frontloaded primary season in store, why would the Kansas senator wait until South Carolina to make his mark? A passive, “tortoise” strategy such as that will only have Brownback heading back to Parker, KS sooner than he would like.

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson will be the first 2008 Democratic presidential candidate to air television ads, going on the air Monday in Iowa and New Hampshire.

Richardson, running a solid fourth place in the Political Derby Power Rankings, raised enough first quarter dough to stay in the race and the ad buy represents his most serious push yet to challenge the big three.

The biographical spots highlight Richardson’s greatest strength, a political resume that dwarfs the rest of the field. The only governor in the race, Richardson has been a Congressman, U.S. Energy Secretary and U.N. Ambassador. In short, he makes Hillary look like she did stay home all her life baking cookies. Not to mention one-term senators Obama and Edwards.

And considering Richardson would almost certainly lock up New Mexico, a swing state that went to Bush in ’04, he’d be the perfect candidate, if Dems were searching for one. Of course, they’re not searching for one – Democrats already have three candidates they like. The reaction to Richardson’s ads in these key primary states will likely show if the big three have locked up Democratic support, or if there is room for a fourth.