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Born at the Crest of the Empire

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Picture of the Day - 4

From Charlie Gibson's mixer at the debate last night. (AP Photo)

Elvis has left the building

Wow. This is getting crazy. Look at that crowd.

This video is the overflow room from the same event.

(Barack Obama speaks at Nashua North High School in Nashua, NH, January 5, 2008. (REUTERS/Jim Bourg))

Mitt Romney won the Wyoming caucuses

Not that anyone cares, but Mitt Romney did win the Wyoming Caucuses today.

Political bits

(HuffPo) Bill O'Reilly goes "guerilla media" and gets into a scuffle with the Secret Service at an Obama event. He's also at a Clinton event. (Retooling his show for a Democratic 2008?)

(NYTimes) Huckabee campaign manager Ed Rollins on the record,
Mr. Huckabee’s campaign manager, Ed Rollins, suggested he was entering something of a temporary alliance of interest with Mr. McCain against Mr. Romney. Mr. Rollins said Mr. Huckabee would be using the next several days to present what he said would be an unfavorable comparison of their records as governor.

“We’re going to see if we can’t take Romney out,” Mr. Rollins said. “We like John. Nobody likes Romney.”

Interestingly, McCain wants to run against Huckabee because he's an evangelical, while Huckabee wants to run against McCain because he's hated by evangelicals.

(NYTimes) "Clinton advisers said Friday that they would not mount a negative advertising campaign..., saying the primary was too soon for such an onslaught to have any effect." (Not because of the morality, but because it wouldn't work.)

And, Carl Bernstein is vicious,
The shining aspect of the Clintons’ politics has always been their understanding of the tragedy of race in America. Each has spoken eloquently of the day when a black candidate for president would capture the imagination of the country, and be elected.

But never did the Clintons anticipate that it might occur on Hillary’s watch as a candidate for president herself, in opposition to them.

Big debates tonight on ABC. Should be fun.

Later: Clinton drops a piece of "scare mail."

First poll, Obama +10

Rasmussen has the first poll up showing Obama +10, and you can't even get the site to load.

Politicalwire: Obama 37, Clinton 27, Edwards 19, Richardson 8.

Updates: ARG (Pro-Dem) Obama 38, Clinton 26, Edwards 20.

But the local polls, WMUR and Concord Monitor show it tied.

The Obama "movement"

(Cilizza) The line snaked for at least a half mile from the entrance of Nashua North High School. The first people in it had arrived at 7:30 a.m. -- two-and-a-half hours before Barack Obama was scheduled to start speaking. One woman had driven from West Hartford, Conn. The crowd was estimated at 3,000 and looked every bit of that number.

The movement has begun.

Picture of the Day - 2

Jerusalem prepares for the visit of George Bush. (AFP/Marco Longari)

(AP) "Jerusalem is spending nearly $400,000 to spruce itself up for the visit."

(NYTimes) The Israeli commitment to disband "illegal settlements" now only includes those settlements east of the wall.

(At the Press Briefing yesterday) "Q Does the President think it's a good prelude for the Israelis to kill nine Palestinians, five in one family -- as a prelude to his trip on the West Bank?"

(And, for those familiar with Israeli history, Bush will be staying at the King David hotel, the target of the influential bombing against the British in 1946.)

Iraqi soldier kills two US troops

Unfortunately, with the greater mixing of US and Iraqi forces, this was bound to happen sooner or later, an Iraqi soldier turned his gun on 2 US soldiers and killed them. (He's been caught.)

At this point, we don't know the details. The Shia generals are quickly trying to blame "Sunni Arab insurgent links," but, right now, there's no way to tell.

Also in Iraq, (LATimes) Shia members of the Iraqi parliament have increased their efforts to strip Sunni IAF leader Adnan Dulaimi of his parliamentary immunity.

Anecdotally bad for Clinton

From the decidedly anti-Clinton Swampland, a Democratic dinner in NH was overrun by boisterous Obama supporters who wildly cheered their candidate and twice booed Clinton. (Politico version)

Here's the new Clinton line of attack, "an untested man who offers false hope or a woman who's electable."

Just 3 days out from NH voting, she needs to get her legs back, and fast. The debate tonight will be huge.

(Also: Notable in relation to last night's post on the generational difference among staff and consultants, both the NYTimes and WaPo carry insider criticisms of Clinton senior strategist (and "microtrend expert") Mark Penn.)

Picture of the Day

(Hillary Clinton, seen here addressing the press in New Hampshire, pleaded with Democrats Friday not to rush to make a "leap of faith" on her Iowa caucus vanquisher Barack Obama. (AFP/Stan Honda))

Friday, January 04, 2008

Fineman's take - It's generational, but not how you think.

A very interesting read where Newsweek's Howard Fineman postulates that the victory for Obama was the result of a generational turnover of campaign staff and consultants.

While the Clinton's and Edwards' went with the traditional (frequently losing) consultants and experts, Fineman's theory is that it's Obama's bright younger staff who won the day. Interesting.

Suddenly, Romney's talking "change"

In regards to my earlier post, even Romney is now trying to get on the "change" bandwagon. (saying "change" 21 times in one speech.)

Later: According to Mike Allen, Giuliani used "change" a dozen times in a NH appearance today..

Picture of the Day - 4

Talking heads frequently opine as to whether Americans are ready for a black candidate, but I think the bigger question is whether the media is ready for a black candidate.

Just today, we've already seen innumberable bits of shocked analysis by these media figures pointing out that "lilly white" Iowa voted for a black man.

But, maybe the people of Iowa were simply voting for a candidate who happens to be black.

You know what I mean?

(Barack Obama speaks with a girl and her father during an impromptu stop at the 'Cafe on the Corner' in Dover, New Hampshire, January 4, 2008. (REUTERS/Jason Reed))


The main thing that comes through clearly from last night's caucuses is that the majority of the country fervently wants change after seven years of George Bush.

Starting with the GOP, the mainstream GOP, the segment that still approves of Bush, just can't get excited about anything at this point, but the "fringes," those who don't approve of George Bush came out in force.

The decisive Huckabee win definitively marks a moment of empowerment/rage by the Christian right who are seizing on the weakness of the mainline GOP to claim their space at the table.

But I don't think we should view these results through only that prism. Ron Paul (Ron Paul!) pulled 10% from a constituency which, although smaller, is perhaps more passionately anti-Bush/GOP.

Effectively, half of the GOP caucusgoers rejected the mainline candidates and positions of their party.

On the Dem side, the desire for "change" from this administration is overwhelming everything else, and for whatever reason, Obama has become the embodiment of that desire.

How does Clinton combat that? You can argue that her positions are better or that her experience is valuable, but in the end, she's found herself on the wrong side of that overwhelming Dem desire for change, and reversing that in a month will be a very difficult task.

The other real question going forward is whether the Edwards voters, which will become available as his campaign dissembles, want the traditional Dem in Clinton who is talking specifically about their issues, or whether they too were driven to Edwards by his different flavor of "change."

Obviously, Iowa's only one primary in a small state that has historically not ended up supporting the eventual winners, but I'm struck by the "change" message out of Iowa.

We're no longer a country that appears with torches and pitchforks outside the castles of our leaders to voice our displeasure, but in its own way, that was the message out of Iowa. Whether it was the Evangelicals, the Paulites, or the legions of new supporters who showed up at the Dem caucuses, they were all expressing a very passionate desire for "change."

Now if only someone can only figure out what that word means.

More stray Iowa thoughts.

Bill Richardson should have run for N.M. Senator.

I would guess the independents in NH are more excited about voting for Obama/against Clinton than for McCain/Romney.

How low is the Romney ceiling? How many Republicans just won't vote for him?

I don't care if he was "running" or not, Rudy Giuliani should have gotten more that 4%. (His NH supporters are unhappy, too.)

Giuliani's 9/11 Tourettes

Giuliani explaining his position after Iowa.
"None of this worries me - Sept. 11, there were times I was worried," Giuliani said.

Picture of the Day - 3

Everyone stay calm. There's nothing wrong with the plane....

(Mitt Romney jokes with campaign staff members while boarding a midnight charter plane to New Hampshire, Jan. 3, 2008. (AP Photo/LM Otero))


For those of you who look for Iraq/National Security posts, I'll probably get back to it tomorrow. I haven't given it up.

And, I'll do an Iowa metapost later today, but I'm running short on time this morning.

The Iowa "bounce"

With a shorter window, New Hampshire votes in only four days, will there be less of a "Iowa bounce?"

Is the "bounce" based on winning, or is it based on a shift in media tone and increased "free media" time for the frontrunner, both of which would be less with this smaller window?

Huckabee's future

I don't think Huckabee can win in New Hampshire, but he definitely has a strong shot at South Carolina. How does the GOP establishment, who absolutely hates Huckabee, handle him going forward?

How hard do they go after him? Do they spin him as "unelectable" after New Hampshire?

Picture of the Day - 2

(AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

Random post-Iowa thoughts.

While you slept, the campaign staffs moved to New Hampshire.

Did anyone else notice that the CNN and MSNBC magically cut off at Thompson/McCain at 13% and left off Ron Paul at 10%?

The Des Moines Register poll had it almost exactly right.

A reasonable argument that second choice voters went to Edwards.

And, no one cried for Duncan Hunter last night.

Picture of the Day

(Barack Obama claps at the podium at his campaign headquarters after winning the Iowa caucus in Des Moines, Iowa January 3, 2008.(REUTERS/Keith Bedford))

Probably better pictures tomorrow. They're just now coming in.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Clinton talking points

Ben Smith has the Clinton campaign talking points being faxed around the country right now.
We’re going to continue to make the case that in these serious times when America faces big challenges, it will take a leader with Hillary’s strength and experience to deliver real change.

Hillary has the resources to run a national campaign were she will compete across the country in the weeks ahead. This campaign was built for a marathon.

Seriously? Huckabee?

Is this what the GOP looks like when it's stripped of independents? A serious overweighting towards these people?

America wants change

Whether you're crazy right, independent, or left, the message tonight is clear: America wants change. America wants a change from George Bush.

Those crazy caucuses

Rumors at the WaPo that there's a Biden/Obama deal to trade supporters in precincts where Obama is overly strong.

Rumors at Politico yesterday that a similar Obama/Richardson deal was trying to be worked out.

As Biden and Richardson both want to beat each other, one of them is likely to hunt out the same deal with Clinton or Edwards.

Later: Both Biden and Richardson deny this on the record.

The other fun question today: Will Giuliani beat Ron Paul?

Car bomb in Turkey

I think there can be little question that this is the PKK acting in response to the continuing Turkish bombings in Iraq.
A car bomb apparently targeting military personnel killed four people and wounded 68 others Thursday in the Kurdish-dominated southeastern city of Diyarbakir, officials said.

This is the third bombing in Turkey in the last two weeks.

Game Day

(Barack Obama points to the crowd after speaking at a campaign stop Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2008 in Des Moines,, Iowa. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green))

Al Hakim (subtly) repositions himself

If you've been watching the subtle positioning within Iraqi politics, this AP story is a must read. SIIC leader Al Hakim, leader of the main constituent bloc of the Maliki government, has repositioned himself in slight opposition to the Maliki government on the Sunni militias, and gently criticized Maliki on core issues to the broader Shia population, refugees, Shia reconstruction, the empty cabinet seats and generally ineffective government.

It's too broad to excerpt effectively, but if you read this carefully, you get the sense of a big change in a very small step. Al Hakim is obviously feeling pressure from the Shia street over SIIC support for Maliki. (and I assume that sentiment is pushing towards Sadr.)

It's also interesting to note the way he's stringing along the Sunni militias to maintain their "morale." He doesn't want them in the security forces any more than the other Shia, but he must be feeling their "loyalty" beginning to slip away.

Really, it's worth a read.

Predictions on Iowa? I really have no idea.

On the Dem side, I can make a case for any of the top three winning. In my estimation, it comes down to two questions: Does Obama get the big independent/new voter turnout? And do we see "second choice voters" break anti-Clinton?

As a prediction, I'm going to pick Obama because he seems to have the momentum and, my guess, more "second choice" voters, but my sense is that the Clinton campaign is running a far more effective machine rooted more firmly in the traditional Iowa establishment and knowing how to play the caucus game has historically won.

(An underspun element of the Edwards argument is that rural areas are slightly overweighted in the caucus system. Those areas aren't going to see an influx of new caucusgoers, and it's the area he's targeting in his new anti-corporate tone.)

On the Republican side, Romney seems to have hit a hard ceiling of support at around 30%. The key for Romney to win is if the non-Romney vote spreads out among other candidates besides Huckabee. This, I would argue was the goal of his "negative campaign," not specifically to win voters from Huckabee, but to keep the non-Romney vote from coalescing solely on Huckabee.

Update: I changed my mind. I think I'm going to pick Romney. I think the enthusiasm for Huckabee has been fading among those outside the religious right, and there's some evidence that Romney's been pouring even more money into his organization.

(But, let's remember that the GOP is a party where a clear majority still approve of George Bush, and people who are willing to homeschool and willing to go to school board meetings to push creationism will be more than willing to go to caucus.)

And, a pretty funny post about the GOP establishment's horror at the Huckabee movement.

Bill Frist, George Allen, George Pataki, Newt Gingrich, Jeb Bush.....

I gotta wonder how all the past "great white hopes" that were going to save the Republican party in '08 are feeling today as they watch Romney and Huckabee fight it out in Iowa.

Fred Thompson is already planning to drop out

Nothing like having the "drop out of the campaign" story break on caucus day.

(Local residents listen to Fred Thompson, speak during a campaign stop, Thursday, Dec. 27, 2007, in Urbandale, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall))

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

The great brown menace

Take a look at the new Giuliani ad. It's unbelievable.

Limbaugh bombs Huckabee

Needless to say, I didn't listen to the show, but a lot of the Huckabee target audience does....
Rush Limbaugh devoted a large portion of his first show since the holidays to criticizing Mike Huckabee's candidacy and offering a disapproving bottom-line assessment of the former governor....

Picture of the Day - 3

I couldn't decide which photo was more disturbing.

(Mike Huckabee is shaved during a haircut at the Executive Forum Barbershop in Des Moines, Dec. 31, 2007.(AP Photo/Paul Sancya))

Mitt Romney's really deep freakin' pockets

Romney's into his own pockets again.
Mitt Romney said yesterday that he put more of his personal fortune into his campaign during the last three months, but would not disclose the amount until after tomorrow's Iowa caucuses.

The way the reporting works is that money spent through Dec. 31 has to be reported mid-January. Money spent after January 1 is reported in April, long after the nomination will likely be sewn up.

The original Romney blueprint was to win IA and NH on donor money and then heavily spend his own from Jan through March to get the nomination before he had to report.

Is Giuliani teetering?

In case no one noticed, Giuliani has pretty much lost his national lead. Does Giuliani pick up voters as other candidates become less viable? Can he reemerge after being out of the news for a month?

Picture of the Day - 2

Awesome, from Dubuque, per Ben Smith.

Pakistan's whodunnit

Two interesting bits on who may have been behind the Bhutto killing. First the NYTimes,
United States intelligence analysts are not convinced by the evidence offered so far by Pakistani authorities that a militant linked to Al Qaeda was responsible for Benazir Bhutto’s assassination, American officials said Tuesday.

But, buried deeply in an AsiaTimes piece is a different "suspect" and a report of a US response.
On the advice of Sheikh Essa, militants have tried several times to assassinate Musharraf, launched attacks on the Pakistani military, and then declared Bhutto a target.

This nest of takfiris and their intrigues was on the radar of the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the day after Bhutto's killing Sheikh Essa was targeted by CIA Predator drones in his home in North Waziristan. According to Asia Times Online contacts, he survived, but was seriously wounded. Sheikh Essa had only recently recovered from a stroke which had left him bedridden.

I have no idea, but I thought it was interesting.

Political bits

There are roughly 3 million people in Iowa. Less than 250,000 are expected to caucus.

(NYTimes) As part of his final push, "John Edwards says that if elected president he would withdraw the American troops who are training the Iraqi army and police as part of a broader plan to remove virtually all American forces within 10 months."

(AP) As part of her final push, "Clinton has bought two minutes of air time on the early evening local newscasts in every media market in the state." (Also ABC.)

(NYDailyNews) Clinton is arranging babysitters and "day care centers" for caucusgoers?

(Politico) An analysis piece on GOP malaise.

(WaPoblog) All the articles are talking about huge turnout at the Dem events.

(NYSun) Giuliani will try to claim a little of the spotlight by calling for a "surge" in Afghanistan. (Sorry, Rudy. It's all about Iowa today.)

(Politico) Huckabee's flip flop on the ad cost his campaign $150,000 and "portrays a chaotic decision-making process inside the Huckabee campaign."

The NYTimes offers a large explanatory article blaming the misstep on tensions between Huckabee and chief consultant Ed Rollins. (Did Rollins earn his money by planting this story to take the blame?)

Later: Yes. The WaPo credits Rollins with the story.

(CNN) Huckabee explains his not reading the Iran NIE this way, "President Bush didn’t read it for four years; I don’t know why I should read it in four hours.”

And, again, what's the spin if Obama brings in tons of independent caucusers as some polling suggests? Assuming there's no blowout, that could be the biggest storyline out of Iowa.

The growing analysis of a permanent Republican split

There seems to be a burgeoning line of analysis that the splits within the GOP field represent the baseline fractures within the Republican coalition. Huckabee represents the religious, Romney the business, Thompson the low taxers, Giuliani and McCain the national defense.

I don't know that I fully buy the premise that these fractures are as deep or as longstanding as some of these analyses tend to present, but the splits are certainly more evident than they have been in the recent past which I would credit it to a party under pressure, each segment trying to reclaim their slice of "the Reagan legacy" as the core of reenergizing their party.

But what none of them seem to recognize is that Reagan is dead.

Picture of the Day

(John Edwards waves from his campaign bus as he leaves a campaign stop in Waukon, Iowa December 27, 2007. REUTERS/John Gress))

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Kucinich leans to Obama

I just heard on CNN that Kucinich is encouraging his supporters to go to Obama in the Iowa caucuses. Just waiting to hear from Richardson, Dodd, and Biden.

Later: Kucinich statement.

Pick a poll

Politicalwire has a good collection of all the polls showing everybody winning, so if you feel the need to see a poll supporting your candidate in Iowa, here you go.

Picture of the Day

(A pedestrian passes the local campaign offices for Chris Dodd in Nashua, New Hampshire December 27, 2007. (REUTERS/Brian Snyder))

(Sorry, EPM. I don't make the pictures, I just put them up.)

Rumor and fact in Pakistan

Much like the actual mode of Bhutto's death, perception matters as much as reality.
Benazir Bhutto was poised to reveal proof that Pakistan's election commission and shadowy spy agency were seeking to rig an upcoming general election the night she was assassinated, a top aide said on Tuesday.....

Senator Latif Khosa, who authored a 160-page dossier with Bhutto documenting rigging tactics, said they ranged from intimidation to fake ballots, and were in some cases unwittingly funded by U.S. aid.


Also, (WaPo) "Pakistani authorities have pressured the medical personnel who tried to save Benazir Bhutto's life to remain silent about what happened in her final hour and have removed records of her treatment from the facility, according to doctors....."

(CNN) "Minallah told CNN that he was speaking out because the doctors at the hospital were "threatened."

(And the elections will be postponed. New date announced Wed.)

Polling means nothing in Iowa, but.....

Because of the crazy caucus system, with turnout issues and the reallocation of minor candidate voters on the Dem side (19% in this poll), polling in Iowa is highly inaccurate. However, the Des Moines Register poll is something of a conventional wisdom setter.

If this is the accepted CW, Obama is now in a win or die.
The Des Moines Register poll of people likely to attend caucuses on Thursday, put Obama on 32 percent, with the former first lady on 25 percent, a point ahead of former Democratic vice presidential nominee John Edwards.....

One third of those surveyed said they were open to changing their minds before Thursday.

Clips from the Des Moines Register piece.
Sixty percent would be attending for the first time, reflecting the emphasis the campaigns have put on expanding the pool of participants....

A majority of caucusgoers under 35 support Obama, more than three times the support Edwards receives from them and five times Clinton's.....

Clinton remains the favorite of the party faithful, with support from a third of self-described Democrats. However, Obama is the clear choice of caucusgoers who affiliate with neither the Democrat or Republican parties, with roughly 40 percent of them backing him in the survey.

The support from non-Democrats is significant because a whopping 40 percent of those planning to attend described themselves as independent and another 5 percent as Republican.

45% of the caucus goers will be non-Democrat?

Reading this, I am more convinced that the key will be the Obama field operation. How good are the local captains? Can they manage turnout? Will they be able to convince the 19% of minor candidate supporters to reallocate and come and stand with the independents, youth, and Republicans?

What's the spin if Obama wins based on non-Democrats?

It's really all up in the air.

Later: It should be noted that this poll stands in contrast to the majority of polls which have showed a slight but growing Clinton lead. I'm mentioning this one because it carries more weight and sets the media's CW.

That doesn't mean it's more right. It just carries more impact.

The Clinton camp attacks this poll for adopting "an unprecedented new turnout model."

(Repub side, Huckabee 32, Romney 26, McCain 13.)

Political bits

Huckabee gets smashed for his little show yesterday. (AP) Analysis: Huckabee may have gone too far. (Politico) Huck's Scream.

The NYTimes outlines some of the big 527 spending in Iowa.

(Politico) Nader comes out for Edwards, attacks Clinton.

(AP) Dem pushpolling against every candidate.

(WaPo) Clinton and Obama have both raised $100 million.

Monday, December 31, 2007

Picture of the Day - 2

Standing in front of a banner meant to launch his new attack ads in Iowa, Huckabee, in the face of harsh media questions, changes his mind and vows not to attack, but shows the ad anyway.

(Fox) The reporters burst into laughter when Huckabee said he would now show the ad that he said he wasn't going to launch.

(Politico) "After it became clear that he was not going to air the ad on Iowa television, but would still preview it here, the press corps offered a collective laugh in plain recognition of what Huckabee was up to."

(Politico) "Charmaine Yoest, a top aide to the former governor, said after the press conference that she didn't know about Huckabee's decision to not air the ads until shortly before the event and that there hadn't been time to take down the signs."

(CNN) "If the ad ends up airing on Iowa TV stations, it will be because the stations have not yet had a chance to replace it in their schedules, Huckabee said."

And, by doing all this, he got more coverage than he'd run the ad.

(Mike Huckabee addresses a question during a news conference in Des Moines, Iowa, Monday, Dec. 31, 2007. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya))

Picture of the Day

(Barack Obama shows reporters that he is paying cash at a Hy_Vee grocery story, while checking out after buying fruit and cookies Wednesday, Dec. 26, 2007, in Webster City, Iowa.(AP Photo/M. Spencer Green))


(AP) Another suicide bomber targeting a US backed Sunni militia. (Notice we're seeing more bombings targeting the Sunni militias.)

(WaPo) 2007 was the deadliest year for US troops in Iraq. 899 will never see another Christmas.

(NYTimes) "A Kurdish rebel leader in northern Iraq vowed to take the group's battle for autonomy deep inside Turkey if its cross-border airstrikes do not stop."

(Reuters) The results off Maliki's medical tests in London are stated as "reassuring." Still no details released.

The Bloomberg '08 constituency

I don't take Bloomberg '08 very seriously, but there's some kind of meeting scheduled Jan 7 of potential Bloomberg supporters.

What strikes me most is that, beside Hagel, these Bloomberg/unity supporters are about as interesting as wet toast.
Personalities invited to the event among Democrats include one-time presidential hopeful Gary Hart, and former senators Sam Nunn and Bob Graham. Republican guests include Senator Chuck Hagel and former defense secretary William Cohen.

Despite Bloomberg's big money, I just don't see this thing catching fire. "Stop being mean to each other" is not a winning issue.

The NYTimes has a deeper story on a Bloomberg run. Add former OK Sen. David Boren and Henry Kissinger to the list. Supposedly,
One concern among Mr. Bloomberg’s inner circle is whether a loss would label him a spoiler — “a rich Ralph Nader” — who cost a more viable candidate the presidency in a watershed political year. One person close to the mayor, who spoke on condition of anonymity so as not to be seen discussing internal strategy, stressed that Mr. Bloomberg would run only if he believed he could win.

Then, of course, there's this: "Does he want to be president badly enough to sacrifice his zealously guarded personal privacy? (He’s not completely convinced.)"

Thought for a light blogging day.....

Who uses enough Viagra that 20 cents a pill makes it worth dealing with spammers?

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Is Fred Thompson even trying anymore?

Seriously? This is the pitch?
“I’m not particularly interested in running for president," the former senator said at a campaign event in Burlington when challenged by a voter over his desire to be commander-in-chief.

“But I think I’d make a good president," Thompson continued. "I have the background, capability, and concern to do this and I’m doing it for the right reasons.”....

"I am not consumed by personal ambition," Thompson also said Saturday. "I'm offering myself up."

"I'm only consumed by a few things and politics is not one of them."

Was the SNL sketch the turning point?

(Fred Thompson casts a shadow on a banner during a campaign stop, Thursday, Dec. 27, 2007, in Urbandale, Iowa.(AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall))

Dirty politics - Is there anything the GOP won't stoop to?

An anonymous "holiday card" "that falsely claims to be from "the Romney family" and highlights Mitt Romney's Mormon faith was anonymously sent to Republican mailboxes across South Carolina earlier this week."
The mailer, which says it is "Paid for by the Boston Massachusetts Temple," displays a quote from Mormon apostle Orson Pratt saying that God had multiple wives....

The mailing also quotes from the first Book of Nephi, part of the book of Mormon, in which the Virgin Mary is described as "exceedingly fair and white."

Quickhits - Happy "Saddam Day."

(AP) One year ago today, Saddam was executed. (Did someone get the President a cake?)

(BBC) Mansoor Dadullah "fired" by the Taleban? This Dadullah was in charge of military operations in Helmand, Kandahar, and other southern provinces. No reason given. (Maybe it has to do with the two Brits who were recently expelled from Afghanistan for talking with the Taleban in Helmand? Maybe Dadullah was their "target?")

(Telegraph) "Two European diplomats accused of holding secret talks with the Taliban in Afghanistan were thrown out of the country following a complaint by the US."

(NYTimes) Al Qaeda has turned its focus against the Pakistani government and is seeing an unflow of Pakistani fighters. (How can you write this article and not mention the months old Bin Laden tape where he says they will target Pakistan?)

(CNN) "Across her home province of Sindh, protesters outraged at Bhutto's killing burned election offices, where voter rolls and ballot boxes are kept, potentially derailing preparations for the vote, according to media reports."

(AP) "...the country's ruling party said crucial Jan. 8 elections would likely be delayed up to four months."

(NYTimes) Nawaz Sharif makes overtures to the PPP.

(LATimes) The US was providing Bhutto with "intelligence on dangers she faced from militants in Pakistan... the Americans provided security advice on ways her risks could be reduced."

And, the rioting is continuing.

In Iraq, (NYTimes) Suicide bombings tick up a little.

(Same article) "Iraq's leader, meanwhile, flew to London today for what an aide said was a routine medical checkup. Prime Minister Nouri Maliki... decided to take advantage of the recent ebb in violence to make the trip and was expected back within days, said Yasin Majeed, a media advisor."

(AFP) "The son of Sunni leader Adnan al-Dulaimi and one of his guards have been linked to explosives found in a house in Baghdad, Iraqi military spokesman Brigadier General Qassim Ata said on Saturday."

Political bits - Huckabee bites back.

It looks like Mike Huckabee is feeling the damage from the Romney attacks. He starts firing back with an ad saying "enough is enough."

(NYTimes) But maybe he's not so above the fray, "If a person is dishonest in his approach to get the job, do you believe he will be honest in telling you the truth when he does gets the job?,” Mr. Huckabee said at a campaign stop in Osceola, Iowa..."

Here's one of the Romney attacks that's pretty unbelievable. (Politico) Romney sends out a mailer with a Huckabee "Get out of jail free" card.

Meanwhile, Huckabee gets the AP to headline with his attack line, "Analysis: Romney and the candor gap." (5th on the AP's top ten stories right now.)

And, (Politico) the pro-Huckabee 527 "Trust Huckabee" (not coordinated with the campaign, right?) puts up an ad in Iowa that just happens to echo the theme.

(In comparison, (WaPo) it looks like there will be no "truly negative" ads on the Democratic side in Iowa. (Is part of the reason that Dems feel broadly positive towards all their candidates while the Republican candidates field so many negatives?))

Saturdays and Sundays

Sorry for the sloppy "catchall" blogging, but I play tennis Saturday and Sunday mornings, and that tends to eat into blogging time.