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First thoughts

From Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, Domenico Montanaro, and Carly Zakin 
*** Hillary's Surge: As we've said before, Hillary Clinton has had quite a run in the presidential campaign so far. And the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll backs that up. She now has a 21-point lead over Obama in the Democratic horserace (43%-22%) -- up from her 14-point lead back in June (39%-25%) and her five-point lead in April (36%-31%). In addition, she leads Giuliani in a potential general election match-up, 47%-41%, when those numbers were essentially reversed back in March. And in this latest poll, a whopping 74% say that at least 24 straight years of Bushes and Clintons in the White House won't be much of a consideration when they vote. 

*** Positives And Negatives: Another question in the poll shines light on what has worked for Clinton -- and what remain her potential problems. By a 53%-22% score, respondents say they feel positive about her experience and competence; by 44%-29%, they feel positive about her values and character; and by 42%-28%, they feel positive that Bill Clinton is her husband. But then the obstacles appear: By a 39%-30% margin, they feel positive about her warmth and compassion; by 38%-31%, they feel positive about her personality and style; and by just 33%-32%, they feel positive about her positions on the issues. And speaking of the issues, 46% view her as a liberal versus 35% who see her as a moderate.

Video: Hillary Clinton leads Democrats at 43%

*** More, More, More: That's just a tiny glimpse into the new NBC/WSJ poll that comes out today. For more on the survey -- which has plenty of questions on the 2008 presidential race, Iraq, the economy, and other issues (like Michael Vick!) -- tune into NBC Nightly News or click onto MSNBC.com at 6:30 pm ET.

*** Obama As Jack Bauer? The biggest benefit for the Clinton camp in the new NBC/WSJ poll is that the chattering class will use the results to bolster the idea that Obama has been stagnant -- at least nationally. But the candidate has some good news to tout in a recent New Hampshire poll. Also, Obama gives a counterterrorism speech this morning that puts him in the political spotlight. In the speech, per excerpts, he implicitly counters an argument that Clinton made in June: that America is safer today than it was before 9/11. "Because of a war in Iraq that should never have been authorized and should never have been waged, we are now less safe than we were before 9/11." Another opportunity to make Clinton's position seem like the Bush position? Obama, moreover, will also call for deploying at least two additional brigades to Afghanistan (yet stresses that the solution there is also political and economic). And he challenges Pakistan to make progress in closing the terrorist camps in that country. "If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and President Musharraf won't act, we will."

*** What's Worse: A $400 Haircut -- Or This? Mayor Bloomberg, welcome to presidential scrutiny! The New York Times has one of those stories that could haunt the candidate-to-be for longer than some think (and could have more legs than any other story today). Bloomberg is driven via SUV to a specific subway stop so he can take an express to City Hall. "On mornings that he takes the subway from home, Mr. Bloomberg is picked up at his Upper East Side town house by a pair of king-size Chevrolet Suburbans. The mayor is driven 22 blocks to the subway station at 59th Street and Lexington Avenue, where he can board an express train to City Hall. His drivers zip past his neighborhood station, a local subway stop a five-minute walk away. That means Mr. Bloomberg -- whose much-discussed subway rides have become an indelible component of his public image -- spends a quarter of his ostensibly subterranean commute in an S.U.V."

*** On The Trail: Elsewhere, Clinton is in DC; Dodd appears on FOX's O'Reilly Factor; Edwards, in California, speaks in the Silicon Valley Leadership Group's "Road to the White House" speaker series and then raises money in San Francisco; Kucinich is in DC; Huckabee is in Iowa; McCain holds a town hall in Palo Alto, CA; Richardson fundraises money in New Mexico; Romney campaigns in New Hampshire; and Fred Thompson raises money in California.
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