From Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, and Domenico Montanaro
*** Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio?: Yes, we're going to lead with Paris Hilton, but with a twist. Polls showing that strong majorities believe the country is on the wrong track can't be attributed to just Iraq, bickering on Capitol Hill, and frustration with the immigration system. At least to us, there also seems to be loss in faith in American institutions -- whether it's the executive branch (which wasn't able to manage the aftermath of a war and a hurricane), the Congress (whose members are being indicted and thrown into jail), business (in which CEOs are bilking their companies and shareholders), sports (where athletes are doping), the legal system (which allows rich heiresses to leave jail early), religious institutions (whose leaders have gotten caught up in sex scandals) and, of course, the press. None of this is new, but can that faith be restored? Is there a presidential candidate who can do it or at least simply address this? That's been the surprise of the campaign so far, the lack of any candidate attempting to address larger crisis in leadership.
*** Stopped At The Border: At the beginning of the year, passing an immigration bill seemed more than possible. The Senate, which approved the bill last year with 62 votes, had six new Democratic members. The House, which had blocked it, was now in Democratic hands. And passing the legislation would have given Bush his biggest second-term domestic accomplishment. But unless Harry Reid is able to pull a rabbit out of his hat, the bill doesn't appear to be going anywhere. While GOP efforts to campaign against "amnesty" in last year's midterms didn't work in keeping control of Congress -- and certainly didn't help them with the Hispanic vote -- they seem to have deep-sixed this legislation. Oddly enough, the shelving of the immigration bill could actually help McCain. The less the issue is brought up, the better for McCain ... for now.
*** A Long-Term Media Problem? Speaking of McCain, today's coverage in the Post of his campaign losing a fundraiser to Fred Thompson used words like "struggling." The media is ready to pounce on McCain for some reason. He seems to have less room for error than the other three GOP front-runners. He can't miss a fundraising goal or drop too dramatically in polls if he doesn't want to see others using the word "struggling." There's a feeding frenzy waiting in the wings, even after his solid performance in Tuesday's debate.
*** Not A Good Day For Obama: A high-profile clip in the Los Angeles Times says Hollywood's financial love affair with Obama is a "passing fancy." Couple that with the campaign's decision to dump yet MORE Rezko related money. (It's the fourth time that the campaign has shed Rezko cash.)
*** Iowa, You Complete Me: Two days after his campaign announced that it would not participate in the Ames straw poll, McCain travels through -- you guessed it -- Iowa. It brings back memories of when Clinton stumped there immediately after that campaign memo arguing that she skip Iowa got leaked to the press. No matter the challenges the Hawkeye State might pose to the front-runners, they keep coming back. Also today, Brownback holds a presser in Ames to announce his decision if he's going to participate.
*** On The Trail: Elsewhere, Clinton (if her Senate schedule allows it) attends a summit on Latino issues in the Bronx; Dodd is in New York City delivering the commencement address for Cardozo Law School; Edwards makes three stops in New Hampshire, including hosting a town hall meeting; Giuliani is in St. Louis; Obama hosts an "After Hours with Barack and Michelle Obama" fundraiser in Chicago; Richardson raises money in Colorado and New Mexico; and Tancredo is in Iowa.
Countdown to GA-10 Special Election: 10 days
Countdown to CA-37 Special Election: 17 days
Countdown to the Ames Straw Poll: 63 days
Countdown to MA-05 Special Election: 87 days
Countdown to LA GOV election: 133 days
Countdown to Election Day 2007: 150 days
Countdown to LA GOV run-off (if necessary): 161 days
Countdown to Iowa: 219 days
Countdown to Tsunami Tuesday: 241 days
Countdown to Election Day 2008: 514 days
Countdown to Inauguration Day 2009: 591 days