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Apart from the color of skin, Sen. Barack Obama also is distinguished by his name, MSNBC.com's Tom Curry notes.  Republican operative Ed Rogers recently caused a stir on MSNBC's Hardball by mentioning Obama's middle name, "Hussein."  In every speech, Obama brings up his membership in the United Church of Christ.  (He also explains that he borrowed the phrase "audacity of hope" from his UCC pastor in Chicago.)  Could he be doing this partly to dispel any mistaken notion that some people might have that he's a Muslim?

Yes, said Michael Fauntroy, who teaches political science at George Mason University and is the author of the new book "Republicans and the Black Vote."  Fauntroy said, "The United Church of Christ is among the more liberal churches in America.  Obama is saying that he's a member of that church to make it known that he's a Christian.  And he is also sending a message to Democrats and leftward people that his policies are guided by a leftward interpretation of faith."

On Hardball at UNC-Chapel Hill yesterday, former Sen. John Edwards called the Iraq Study Group report "a very sobering indictment of what's happening in Iraq right now, and the desperate need to change policy;" said he would quickly withdraw 40,000 to 50,000 troops from Iraq; accurately named the leaders of Canada, Mexico, Iraq, Germany, and Italy, but didn't know the name of the President of South Africa; and said that the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law is "a failure."

Sen. Hillary Clinton will appear on TODAY Monday morning to talk about the re-release of "It Takes a Village" and her possible presidential bid.  The Hill looks at Clinton's latest hire of a "faith guru:" "Observers of Clinton's expressions of faith say religion has always been important to her, that she attended prayer group meetings while first lady, and that she joined a Senate prayer group shortly after winning election in 2000."  The story also notes that Sen. John Kerry "also recently held a dinner at his D.C. home with evangelical leaders and traveled out to California for a four-hour meeting with Rick Warren," author of  "The Purpose-Driven Life." 

(It's not "just" a prayer group that Clinton joined, really.)

The presidential race is over -- at least in DeLay's eyes.  Per the New York Post, at a luncheon sponsored by the conservative magazine Human Events, DeLay predicted that Clinton will win the presidency and that Obama would be her running mate.  DeLay said the victory would be attributed to "vast left wing conspiracy - comprised of liberal groups like MoveOn.org, bloggers and the mainstream media."  More:  "DeLay hyped Clinton's presidential prospects to stir up the conservative base - and to raise ducats for his own new blog and conservative activism site, TomDeLay.com." 

The New York Times profiles the woman who would be Clinton's campaign manager if she decides to run: Patti Solis Doyle -- "a reclusive adviser who is intolerant of leaks, who demands strict loyalty from her staff and who, on those rare occasions that she speaks publicly, measures each word…  In her first in-depth interview about herself and the operation, Ms. Solis Doyle was visibly uncomfortable with the attention." 

Kerry embarks on a nine-day trip to Iraq and five other Middle Eastern countries today.  He said "he hopes to use the regional trip, his first there in nearly year, to meet with political leaders and US troops in Iraq about solutions to the Iraq conflict.  His meetings will include a session with President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, a country the Iraq Study Group recommended should be included in direct talks about the future of Iraq," reports the Boston Globe. 

Kerry celebrated his birthday with... bloggers?  The Boston Herald reports that Kerry "held a bash in Boston for bloggers from as far away as Mississippi and California to wish him well as he mulls another run." 

Joined by a small group of supporters yesterday, Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D) announced his presidential bid in Cleveland.  He said he didn't decide to run until last week.

The Washington Times has some of the rare coverage of Kucinich's announcement, saying that he "raised the stakes for Democratic White House hopefuls yesterday, jumping into the 2008 race with a challenge to his own party -- end the war in Iraq." 

The Hill also reports that Clinton and Rudy Giuliani (R) are fighting over a controversial nuclear power plant located "18 miles from Clinton's home in Chappaqua, N.Y.," which "applied for federal re-licensing last month with a public bona fide from Giuliani, whose security firm works for the plant's owners.  Warnings from lawmakers and local officials in both parties that the plant poses risks to public health and national security are unfounded, Giuliani said," though members of New York's congressional delegation disagree.