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First thoughts

From Chuck Todd and Mark Murray
*** Tempting Fate: Outside the capture (and later execution) of Saddam Hussein, the smoother-than-expected elections, and now possibly the death of Abu Ayyub al-Masri, little has gone right in Iraq for the US since Bush made that famous Top Gun landing on the USS Abraham Lincoln exactly four years ago, with the "Mission Accomplished" banner in the background. And the American public has noticed. Per last week's NBC/Journal poll, majorities said that victory and even stability aren't possible in Iraq. On that day four years ago, did Bush break the rule that most superstitious people, especially sports enthusiasts, know by heart: Don't celebrate until you're sure it's over? By the way, it's May Day around the world. Look for the missile parade photo-ops.

*** Bench Press: It's also not a coincidence that Democrats decided this would be the day they'd send the Iraq emergency spending bill to Bush for his prompt veto, setting up the supplemental showdown between Congress and the White House. Yet the news today is that once the legislation is vetoed, congressional Republicans might be receptive to the idea of establishing benchmarks for the Iraqi government to meet. When Boehner and Blunt start talking benchmarks (binding or not), then you know it must be getting a bit lonely at 1600 Pennsylvania Aveā€¦

*** A GOP in Trouble? Yesterday, in advance of Thursday's Republican debate, we mulled over the GOP's identity crisis. Today, with Iraq in the news, we ask this question: How will Republican candidates win next year -- or even beyond -- by backing a war that's supported by just a third of the public? Bush and GOPers respond that they're doing it out of principle and because it's the right thing to do. But as Goldwater proved, you can't win national elections by principle alone.

*** Xenu and the Galactic Confederacy: Did anyone catch Romney say that Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard's "Battlefield Earth" is one of his favorite books? Maybe it's just us, but Marx's "Das Kapital" or Darwin's "Origins of Species" might have raised fewer eyebrows than Hubbard's book. Will the person who's already defending his faith -- Mormonism -- have to defend another one?

*** The E-Word: The slew of South Carolina endorsements Obama's camp received yesterday -- led by those from Dick Harpootlian and Inez Tenenbaum -- suggest that these folks believe Obama might be the most electable Democrat. Is that true? Out of Clinton, Edwards, and Obama, is Obama the face of the party that these SC Democrats believe will allow them to win statewide elections again?

*** On the Trail: Edwards participates in an AFL-CIO town hall forum in Seattle; Giuliani, in DC, keynotes the Latino Coalition's annual gathering of small business owners; McCain gives a foreign-policy speech at Stanford's Hoover Institution; and Romney is also in California for finance events.