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Oh-eight (R): He said what about Hezbollah?

More on Sunday's 90-minute GOP debate: Each candidate will get 60 seconds to answer questions and 30 seconds for follow-ups. Also, there will be no opening or closing statements and no audience questions. And there will be two commercial breaks in the first hour and no commercial breaks in the last half hour.  

Bloomberg News notes that two of three GOP front-runners are starting to distance themselves from Bush on Iraq. "With pessimism growing about the ability of a troop injection to overcome Iraq's sectarian violence, Romney … and other Republicans who embraced the plan are gingerly laying the groundwork for a possible shift away from White House appeals to stay the course." Giuliani "says the administration's fixation on Iraq has been a distraction in the war against global jihadism. In a July 19 interview with USA Today, he said efforts to battle al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters in Pakistan and Afghanistan are suffering because 'America is too consumed by Iraq.'"

The Minneapolis Star Tribune previews the GOP convention, using this week's RNC meeting as the backdrop. And it notes the possibility that a brokered convention is as high as it's been in decades.


The stronger Clinton looks on the Democratic side is good news for Giuliani, right? Remember two years ago when many in the chattering class thought Clinton's general election strength (or weakness) would be the deciding factor in Iowa. Perhaps it's Giuliani's relative strength (or weakness) that will decide his fate in the GOP primary. The former mayor writes an op-ed in the Boston Globe, calling for a "free market cure for U.S. health care system." He uses all of the conservative buzz word phrases like "expanding individual choice," "tax cuts, not tax hikes," "empowering patients…not bureaucrats," "free-market solutions, not socialist models" and that the "system is being dragged down by decades of government-imposed mandates." He proposes tax-free Health Savings Accounts with tax breaks of $15,000 for families and $7,500 for individuals -- as he laid out earlier this week in New Hampshire.

MCCAIN: The AP calls McCain's newfound support for a scaled down immigration proposal that would not include a path to citizenship "an about-face."

ROMNEY: Former Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson gives Romney some advice on what he should say when he gives his Kennedy-like Mormon speech.

Romney said in Iowa that he's "most disappointed" in his own party's ethical mishaps and "proposed stripping federal employees convicted of official misconduct of their government pensions," writes the Des Moines Register's Tom Beaumont. Romney added that he could beat Hillary Clinton in a general election and that he's better on health care. "One big difference is my health care plan got passed, and hers didn't."

Romney is lucky the press has been kicking around Obama this week – otherwise his statement below about Hezbollah would be receiving A LOT more attention. "At a town hall meeting in Iowa last Friday, Mitt Romney offered an eye-catching twist on his usual stump speech when he held up Hezbollah as a model for the effectiveness of using social services as a way to win hearts and minds. 'Did you notice in Lebanon what Hezbollah did? Lebanon became a democracy some time ago. And while their government was getting underway, Hezbollah went into southern Lebanon and provided health clinics to some of the people there and schools. And they built their support by having done so,' Romney said. 'That kind of diplomacy is something that would help America become stronger around the world and help people understand that our interest is an interest toward modernity and goodness and freedom for all people of the world.'"

Romney's camp "sought to add context," saying Romney "did not intend to praise Hezbollah but was simply expounding on a proposal he made in April for a "second Marshall Plan" to strengthen the "democratic underpinnings" in places vulnerable to Islamic extremism.

The irony in this statement? Had a Democrat candidate said that, the RNC and all of the leading GOP candidates would have jumped on the candidate as being supportive of terrorists.

F. THOMPSON: According to a New York Times analysis, most of the money Thompson has raised to date was new for the campaign cycle. Of the money he raised that came from donors who had given to other candidates, Thompson received the most money from Romney contributors, a mild surprise since there had been speculation he'd cut more into McCain's donor base or even Giuliani's.