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First thoughts

From Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, Domenico Montanaro, and Carly Zakin
*** How Things Change: A year ago, a handful of potential Democratic presidential candidates (Hillary Clinton, Evan Bayh, and Tom Vilsack) attended the centrist Democratic Leadership Council's annual meeting in Denver. But this time around, not a single one has traveled to Nashville to speak at this year's conference, which continues today. On the flip side, most of them will participate this weekend at the YearlyKos convention, sponsored by the liberal political blog DailyKos.

*** The Center Didn't Hold: While not a single Democratic hopeful will speak to the DLC, the famous spouse of the front-runner -- Bill Clinton -- addresses the group today this afternoon. It was Clinton, of course, who once chaired the DLC and embodied many of its principles during his presidency. But as Noam Schieber put it in a Saturday New York Times op-ed, the DLC appears to have outlived its usefulness. Once a needed counterweight to the liberal excesses of the '70s and '80s, the DLC found itself on the wrong side of the Iraq war (its founder and staff backed Joe Lieberman's independent bid last year). What's more, a March NBC/WSJ poll (for the first time ever in the survey) showed a majority of respondents want an activist government. Will pendulum keep leaning toward the left come November 2008? The Democratic candidates seem to be betting the White House on it. However, of the current '08 field, Hillary Clinton may very well be the DLC candidate.

Video: None of the candidates attending Dem. Leadership Council meeting

*** The 3-Million-Dollar Man? Per NBC's Joel Seidman, Fred Thompson's "testing the waters" committee must file with the IRS by tomorrow to reveal -- for the first time -- some of his fundraising efforts for "Friends of Fred Thompson, Inc.," the Nashville based "527" political organization he formed in early June. Though the filing will provide records for only one month of funds raised, plus a list of contributors, it will somewhat lift the veil of mystery of Thompson's fundraising abilities. Will the amount be able to stop the flow of bad news for Team Fred (which includes staff defections, questions about his abortion record, and attention to his wife's role in his campaign)? Maybe not. NBC's Kelly O'Donnell reported last week that the tally will be around $3 million.

*** So You Say You've Got Experience: Newsweek's Wolfe writes about last week's Clinton-Obama spat and delves into something we're surprised some of the foes of Clinton and Obama haven't brought up yet: Whether either one of them really has a lot of foreign policy experience. "Both Clinton and Obama have called on foreign-policy heavyweights to educate them on the issues and help shape their approach to world affairs. But neither candidate would bring much in the way of hands-on foreign-policy experience to the Oval Office. Their efforts to promote their credentials can seem strained."

*** Living History: On Sunday, the New York Times front-paged letters that Hillary Clinton exchanged with a friend while in college. These letters are both revealing -- and not -- at the same time. They are revealing in that she comes across as, get this, a typical college liberal of the time. In the article, the Clinton camp acts as if it doesn't care for this type of coverage. But one can argue that it helps continue to make her three dimensional, which only helps. The tidbit, though, that she asked for copies of these letters wasn't surprising. The Clintons never like to be surprised.

*** On The Trail: Giuliani stumps in New Hampshire; McCain hits fundraisers in Pittsburgh and DC; Obama holds a town hall in Cedar Rapids, IA before traveling to Dallas for a fundraiser; Richardson raises money in New Mexico; Tancredo campaigns in Iowa; and Fred Thompson has a closed-press fundraiser in DC.

Countdown to the Ames Straw Poll: 12 days
Countdown to MA-05 Special Election: 35 days
Countdown to LA GOV election: 82 days
Countdown to Election Day 2007: 99 days
Countdown to LA GOV run-off (if necessary): 110 days
Countdown to Iowa: 167 days
Countdown to Tsunami Tuesday: 189 days
Countdown to Election Day 2008: 463 days
Countdown to Inauguration Day 2009: 540 days