From Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, and Domenico Montanaro
*** Rove's Exit: NBC's Kelly O'Donnell confirms a Wall Street Journal report that Bush's longtime friend and political adviser Karl Rove will resign, effective August 31. Rove, in fact, will speak to TV cameras today before the president departs to Crawford, TX at approximately 11:35 am ET. His resignation comes on the heels of a just-published Atlantic Monthly cover story detailing his political rise and fall. "The Bush Administration made a virtual religion of the belief that if you act boldly, others will follow in your wake. That certainly proved to be the case with Karl Rove, for a time," the article concludes. "But for all the fascination with what Rove was doing and thinking, little attention was given to whether or not it was working and why." A few other thoughts: Check out who got the story -- not a reporter, but the WSJ's editorial page editor. Discuss! (Rove's MSM revenge?) Also, his every move will be examined come September, as everyone will wonder whom Rove might secretly help in the GOP primaries. By the way, who had Gonzales staying longer than Rove in their White House staffing exodus office pool?
*** Huck Of A Story: In terms of surprises at a straw poll that Romney was destined to win, Huckabee was it. He actually received more votes than he bought, a noble feat in the straw poll. Huckabee's campaign tells First Read they didn't rent one bus, and they remind us that the Club for Growth was up with attack TV ads all week. So not only did he have very little in paid media this last week, he was the only one dealing with negative ads. His second place finish is not just a shot in the arm for him, but it's a real devastating blow to Brownback, who wanted to make a statement with a strong second-place showing. Huckabee is now first among the second-tier candidates, and he's making a strong case for first-tier inclusion, if only he could raise more serious money. However, he still needs 10 times the number of votes he received in the straw poll to finish in the top-three in the actual Iowa caucuses. A final thought to chew on: How strong would Huckabee's candidacy be right now if he had assembled a top-flight fundraising and GOTV operation at the time Romney was doing?
*** Other Ames Observations: As for Romney, he won by enough to avoid embarrassment. Most importantly, in Iowa, his victory will be a boost, because Iowa Republicans do take the winner of the straw poll seriously, even if some in the national media will question its relevance since the other front-runners didn't participate. Also, don't get carried away on turnout -- the Iowa GOP did a much better job of checking for Iowa IDs than in years past. Brownback did the most overt negative campaigning (after the Club for Growth). Does that mean negative campaigning backfired? For a party-type atmosphere, possibly. Then again, it could have contributed to the lower turnout.
*** So Long, Tommy: We also saw our first casualty after the straw poll: Tommy Thompson, who kept his pledge to drop out if he didn't finish first or second. Thompson's candidacy was underwhelming from the start and for longtime watchers of the former governor -- that was a surprise. His record in Wisconsin and his ambition led a lot of us to believe he'd be a better candidate. Thompson, in fact, may have damaged his status in Wisconsin, ever so slightly. He doesn't seem like the juggernaut he once was (good news for Feingold/Kohl and the next Dem GOV nominee?). As for others who may drop out: What about Brownback? Does he rethink his candidacy, since he spent the second most money on the straw poll, yet finished third? Tancredo and Paul strike us as candidates who won't ever quit (Paul's fervent support over the internet, though, didn't' get him better than fifth). Hunter? He actually aired a TV ad before the straw poll. Will he rethink?
*** Hillary's A Drag? If not for the Rove and Ames news, this AP story by Ron Fournier might be garnering the most attention today: As the party's nominee, Hillary Clinton could be a drag on House and Senate Democratic candidates, especially those from red states. "A Democratic congressman from the West, locked in a close re-election fight, said Clinton is the Democratic candidate most likely to cost him his seat." There's also this: "A strategist with close ties to leaders in Congress said Democratic Senate candidates in competitive races would be strongly urged to distance themselves from Clinton." Remember, in fact, that the Clintons' own successes haven't always translated into successes for the Democratic Party: Despite Bill's two wins in '92 and '96, the Democrats lost control of Congress during his presidency (and lost Senate seats both times he was on the ballot), they were unable to win it back until last year, and they lost the White House in the race to succeed him. Is what's good for the Clintons necessarily good for the Democrats?
*** Primarily In 2008: Iowa and New Hampshire have both confirmed over the weekend they'll pick dates that keep both events in 2008. Look for Saturday affairs (possibly Jan. 5 and Jan. 12, respectively), with Mon. Jan 7 and Thurs. Jan 10 as two other potential dates. But bottom line: Circle Jan. 5 or 7 for Iowa, and Jan. 10 or 12 for New Hampshire.
*** On The Trail: Clinton has a conversation with rural Nevadans and then spends a day working with SEIU nurse Michelle Estrada in Henderson, NV; Dodd and Edwards both campaign in Iowa; McCain is in South Carolina; Obama stumps in New Hampshire; Richardson raises money in New Mexico; and Romney holds a town hall and media avail in Elko, NV.
Countdown to MA-05 Special Election: 21 days
Countdown to LA GOV election: 68 days
Countdown to Election Day 2007: 85 days
Countdown to LA GOV run-off (if necessary): 96 days
Countdown to Iowa: 153 days
Countdown to Tsunami Tuesday: 175 days
Countdown to Election Day 2008: 449 days
Countdown to Inauguration Day 2009: 526 days