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First thoughts

From Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, and Domenico Montanaro
*** Enter Number Eleven? Fred Thompson makes it (more) official. According to a campaign source, Thompson will file his FEC papers officially on Monday June 4. In FEC parlance, Thompson is opening a "testing the waters" committee, a technical term that allows Thompson to forgo filing a detailed report on June 30 -- though once he's an official candidate, he'll have to file retroactively. The June 4 filing will be coordinated with a first-day fundraising blitz with 100-plus "First Day Founders" raising a significant one day sum in order to send a we're-in-the-first-tier message. The campaign tells us the "first day" blitz totals they report will be "cash" actually raised, not pledges. The source didn't dispute the notion that the one-day goal would be north of seven figures.

*** His Advantages: If there was ever a time for GOP candidate to come out of nowhere and compete for the nomination, it's now. According to the most recent NBC/WSJ poll, just 53% of Republicans are satisfied with their presidential choices (compared with 78% of Democrats who say they are). In addition, as Business Week reported, there is plenty of uncommitted GOP Ranger/Pioneer money out there for Thompson to gobble up (many of whom were on a conference call yesterday with Thompson). And what's not to like about a plainspoken Southerner who happens to be famous and who hasn't had ties to Washington or the Iraq war since he left Congress in 2002?

*** His Disadvantages: But how does he make up on lost time in building the same kind of infrastructure that McCain and Romney have built in the early primary states? (Frist and Allen staffer refugees can account for some of the staff deficit but not all.) On the issues, how is he any different than the front-runners? (A recent Washington Post story said his record was virtually identical to McCain's.) And is he attracting GOPers' attention because who he isn't -- rather than who he is? What, in short, makes him any different than Wes Clark was in 2003-4, sans the military medals?

*** Should McCain Worry? The timing of Thompson's entrance is not good for any of the front-runners who are all trying to make a big financial splash this final month of the 2nd quarter. However, the candidate who could be hurt the most is McCain, who has put the most pressure on himself to financially perform after a subpar 1st quarter.

*** A Different Standard? Some of Obama's rivals regularly complain that he's held to a different standard when it comes to his policy proposals. The subhead in today's LA Times on Obama's health-care plan shows their efforts might be paying off: "The Democratic hopeful's proposal lacks specifics but would cut costs while expanding coverage to everyone." But the paper's lead shows those same rivals that maybe Obama does have a lower bar: "Obama on Tuesday offered an ambitious plan to curb healthcare costs and expand insurance coverage, in the latest example of Democratic presidential candidates honing strategies to achieve coverage for all."

*** Punch, Counterpunch: Bush yesterday took a shot at conservative critics who call the Senate immigration plan "amnesty." But check out the cold reception it received. Conservative Paul Weyrich tells the Washington Times that "there are legitimate reasons to oppose this legislation, and I don't think that it behooves the president to call people names or make accusations against them if they disagree with him." More Weyrich: "He is angering people beyond belief to the point that the Republican Party is going to split in two, thanks to him. If this bill passes, the Republicans will not recover from it."

*** On The Trail: Biden continues to campaign in Iowa; Clinton meets with culinary workers in Las Vegas and then holds a town hall there; Edwards visits with Google employees in Mountain View, CA; Giuliani meets with voters in Burlingame, CA; McCain fundraises in Arizona; and Romney spends his day in Iowa.

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