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First thoughts

From Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, Domenico Montanaro, and Carly Zakin
*** The Shot Heard 'Round The Political World: This week's spat between Clinton and Obama appears to be over. And a month from now, we'll all have forgotten it. But it did expose -- in public for the first time -- the different attacks the campaigns will use against each other. For Clinton, it was painting Obama as inexperienced ("naïve" and "irresponsible") and as a hypocrite when he punches back ("Whatever happened to the politics of hope?"). For Obama, it was turning Clinton into the status-quo candidate (calling her "Bush-Cheney lite"). Who won? Not to cop out, but it seems both campaigns think they've done good things this week. If anything, the skirmish was analogous to a battle, where one army (Clinton's) senses a vulnerability and charges, then the other army (Obama's) beats it back. And the battle line remains the same as it was before the whole thing started. Although we have to note that Obama seemed to have a bounce in his step in New Hampshire yesterday -- like a boxer who takes a punch and realizes, hey, wow, I CAN take a punch.

*** Abandon Ship, Abandon Ship: Fred Thompson is lucky that most political reporters this week have been focused on the Clinton-Obama spat. Because the last 24 hours in his non-campaign have been chaotic, to say the least. There was a point yesterday when it seemed Thompson was losing a staffer an hour. Apparently, every single staffer that decided to leave called a reporter or a blogger to give their version of "Jeri Thompson is micro-managing things too much." Lots of eye-rolling among those following this story. Perhaps the good news for Thompson is expectations for his actual candidacy are starting to drop -- like a rock among some.

*** So Who's The Front-Runner? As NBC's David Gregory pointed out on TODAY, the front-runners might not be the candidates who are leading in the national polls. In fact, a new KCCI/Research 2000 polls shows Edwards and Romney ahead in Iowa.

Video: New Iowa poll shows Dem and GOP shake-ups

*** Back On The Hot Seat: Congressional Democrats are not giving up on their campaign to oust Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. And the White House should be aware that every time Gonzales appears on the Hill to defend himself, more Republicans seem comfortable criticizing him as well. Gonzales has already defied political death before, so who knows. But when the head of the FBI is disputing your accounts, that can't be a good thing.

*** Another Day, Another Forum: This morning, Clinton, Edwards, Kucinich, and Obama speak (individually) to the National Urban League's conference in St. Louis. All the GOP presidential candidates were invited, but none of them will make an appearance, although Huckabee attended a private reception there last night. After the conference, Clinton participates in an economic policy town hall at West Virginia State University and then speaks at the National Beauty Culturists' League Convention in Virginia; Edwards speaks at the College Democrats of America Conference at the University of South Carolina; and Obama hosts a "rural issues forum" in Iowa.

*** On The Trail: Elsewhere, Brownback is in Iowa; Dodd also stumps in the Hawkeye State, where he meets bicycling registrants at the Ride Across Iowa (note: he's not riding 12 miles like Edwards did yesterday); Giuliani travels to Dallas; Huckabee speaks in Philadelphia; McCain raises money in New York City and then attends a minor league baseball game in Greenville, SC; Richardson is in New Hampshire, and Romney campaigns in Iowa. The candidates' wives are busy as well: Elizabeth Edwards makes three stops in New Hampshire, while Jackie Dodd and Mary Brownback are in Iowa.

Countdown to the Ames Straw Poll: 15 days
Countdown to MA-05 Special Election: 38 days
Countdown to LA GOV election: 85 days
Countdown to Election Day 2007: 102 days
Countdown to LA GOV run-off (if necessary): 113 days
Countdown to Iowa: 170 days
Countdown to Tsunami Tuesday: 192 days
Countdown to Election Day 2008: 466 days
Countdown to Inauguration Day 2009: 543 days