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First thoughts

From Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, Domenico Montanaro, and Carly Zakin

*** The Reviews Are In: Due to the format and the lack of engagement between the candidates, it was hard the judge the performances in last night's Democratic debate. If you twisted our arm, we'd guess Biden, Clinton, and Obama stood out the most to us. The reviews, however, seemed to be unanimous: Clinton had the strongest performance. She won the post-debate spin and the clip war. That was crystal clear this morning.

***VH-1's "Worst Week Ever": Meanwhile, the other consensus from this morning's clips: Bush seems to be done. His immigration bill died in the Senate. Key Republicans are beginning to abandon him on Iraq. And today, Bloomberg writes that Bush will pay a political price if he pardons Scooter Libby or not. Is this the worst week of his presidency?

*** SCOTUS Politics: Well, one good thing for Bush: this week's (and term's) Supreme Court rulings. Elections have consequences, right? For years, the right griped about a liberal and activist Court, and it used that to rally its troops on Election Day. But in this 50-50 Nation (or 52-48 Nation, take your pick), will the Roberts-led Court begin to become a rallying cry for liberals? We did start to see that at last night's Democratic debate.

*** If Hillary's The True Front-Runner, Why…: With the Clinton campaign essentially conceding the 2nd fundraising quarter to Obama, we can't help but ask this question: If Clinton's political victories this month were as great as the campaign (and many in the media) believe, then why did she lose to Obama on the money front? Money isn't EVERYTHING, but it's something. And if Clinton can't turn what has been a strong two months into a financial momentum stopper for Obama, what does that mean for the fall?

*** On The Trail: Clinton has private events in Florida; Edwards raises money there too; Gilmore is in Virginia; Huckabee campaigns in Iowa and holds a conference call with reporters in the afternoon; Kucinich appears on Letterman; McCain has a media avail in Chicago; Obama heads to Minnesota for his campaign kick off there; Richardson raises money in El Paso, TX and Las Cruces, NM; and Romney travels to Iowa.

Countdown to the Ames Straw Poll: 43 days
Countdown to MA-05 Special Election: 65 days
Countdown to LA GOV election: 113 days
Countdown to Election Day 2007: 130 days
Countdown to LA GOV run-off (if necessary): 141 days
Countdown to Iowa: 209 days
Countdown to Tsunami Tuesday: 220 days
Countdown to Election Day 2008: 494 days
Countdown to Inauguration Day 2009: 571 days