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First thoughts

From Chuck Todd and Mark Murray
*** Caught Between Iraq And A Hard Place: Here we go again. Like they did with Feingold-Reid, Dodd and Edwards are pushing Clinton and Obama to the left on the Iraq supplemental. So far, both front-runners haven't said how they'll vote. Do they vote against it (and risk being branded as not supporting the troops in a general), or do they vote for it (and risk [further] alienating anti-war liberals)? This all seems similar to the 2003 vote over the now-famous $87 billion, which Kerry voted for before he voted against. The difference this time? As we've noted before, Bush and the war aren't nearly as popular as they were in 2003-4.

*** Iow-ay Or The High-away? What continues to have us talking, of course, is the leaked Clinton memo by deputy campaign manager Mike Henry, who proposed that Clinton skip Iowa -- an idea the campaign has since rejected. After reading the memo, there are a few contradictions in it, including the argument Henry makes about skipping Iowa because these small states may not have the influence they had in the past. The contradiction? He argues to campaign in New Hampshire, which is SMALLER than Iowa. So one can't help but see this memo as an attempt to rationalize the possibility of losing Iowa and trying to wiggle out of that scenario. The good news for Clinton, we guess, is that she's certainly lowered expectations a bit. Still, she's Hillary Clinton, and as the national frontrunner, she can't skip any states, particularly one so important in the general. Plus, the Clintons can't ever look over-calculating, and skipping Iowa is over-calculating.

*** More On That Memo: What's interesting is that the campaign is saying that this was the opinion of one senior staffer. Could it be Henry was really the only one arguing against Iowa inside the campaign? Isn't that hard to believe? By the way, is Henry being thrown under the bus? This is a deputy campaign manager, not just any old staffer. As for the memo itself and how it became public and why etc., we'll never know for sure. But the New York Times acknowledges that it got its copy of the memo from a rival campaign. Will the Clinton camp ever email anything to each other again?

*** Back On The Saddle: In a way, Hillary Clinton addressing health care is akin to a Titanic survivor deciding to ride an ocean-liner again, or a baseball closer who blew it in Game 7 getting back on the mound. In each case, that person has the courage to overcome a mistake or tragedy, learn from it, and jump back on the saddle. Clinton is doing that as we publish, with a speech on rising health-care costs at George Washington University, in which she'll unveil proposals that would reduce costs by at least $120 billion per year. But did she learn the right lesson from her health-care failure in the '90s? As Joshua Green wrote in the Atlantic last fall, "Yet it is fair to wonder if Clinton learned the lesson of the health-care disaster all too well, whether she has so embraced caution and compromise that she can no longer judge what merits taking political risks."

*** Let's Get Ready To Ron-ble: Ron Paul -- yes, Ron Paul -- steps into the political spotlight with a press conference at the National Press Club. Appearing with former CIA official Michael Scheuer, ex-head of its Bin Laden Unit, Paul finally punches back at Giuliani after the ex-mayor blasted him at last week's GOP debate for stating that the US presence in the Middle East was responsible for 9/11.

*** On The Trail: Elsewhere today, Brownback campaigns in Iowa; Edwards addresses Alabama's Legislature (although that may get canceled), while his wife gives a speech in Wisconsin; Huckabee continues to do media hits in Texas; Hunter stumps in South Carolina; Richardson raises money in New Mexico; and Romney travels to Florida, where he holds an "Ask Mitt Anything" forum and a media avail later in the day.

Countdown to the Ames Straw Poll: 78 days
Countdown to Election Day 2007: 165 days
Countdown to Iowa: 234 days
Countdown to Tsunami Tuesday: 256 days
Countdown to Election Day 2008: 529 days
Countdown to Inauguration Day 2009: 606 days