From Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, and Domenico Montanaro
*** Flying Blind: NBC/WSJ pollster Peter Hart (D) tells First Read that the revision of the primary calendar -- moving Iowa forward to the first few days in January -- is really the most important political event that has happened in the past few months. From his point of view, it changes the entire rhythm of the political cycle in a way that cannot be fully appreciated, maybe not until after the nominating contests are over. Hart says it would be interesting to re-play many of the past caucuses if they were held on January 5th or 7th; his guess is that Dean would have won in 2004, and that Reagan would have defeated Bush in 1980. Perhaps most significant of all is that no one will know who's up and who's down right before Iowa. No self-respecting polling company, he says, does polling between the 20th and 25th of December. So we very well might have no idea how Iowa will break until after the results are in. If Hart's right and the leader before Christmas is the leader on Caucus day, does that make the window between Thanksgiving and December 20 the three most important three weeks of the primary campaign?
*** On The Media Couch: Today, the Karl Rove story has that feel of "everything's been said, just not everyone has said it," meaning that Rove will be on the media couch all week. The thing that is going to burn the current occupant in the Oval Office is that Rove's exit is being used as the definitive proof that Bush is a "lame duck." It's an obvious observation and, frankly, unavoidable. But no doubt it's ticking off Bush and those folks who remain in the West Wing. One other Rove note: What the made him different from every other modern political savant-like adviser (whom the media fawned over, at times TOO much) was that he decided to accept a formal role in the White House after electing his client. Ultimately, was that a good idea?
*** Searching For The Next Rove: The question now turns to: Who becomes the next famous -- or, depending on your political views, infamous -- political operative? Clinton's Mark Penn or Mandy Grunwald? Obama's David Axelrod? Edwards' Joe Trippi or Elizabeth Edwards? Giuliani's Tony Carbonetti? Romney's Alex Gage? Bloomberg's Sheekey? The answer, of course, will be determined by which presidential candidate wins on November 4, 2008. But as the New York Times' Nagourney asked last month, just how important are these uber-strategists anyway? "There is little doubt that consultants … are an integral part of defining who the candidate is and presenting the candidate's ideas to the public," he wrote. "But consultants are not the candidate. And for all the attention paid to them, they rarely, if ever, determine whether a candidate wins the election." That said, the media will anoint one or more of these folks to legendary status, deserved or not, and will have this debate about their importance all over again, same time next term.
*** Did You Know That Rove Was A Dwight Schrute Look-Alike? Speaking of Rove, don't miss this 1972 Dan Rather report on Nixon's re-election campaign, which comes courtesy of NBC political analyst Charlie Cook (who apparently loves YouTube). About three-quarters of the way in, Rather interviews a young, bespectacled, and big-haired Karl Rove, who talks about the GOP youth vote. This belongs in a political museum. Enjoy.
*** A Day With Hillary: NBC's Andrea Mitchell spent the day with Hillary Clinton yesterday and pressed her on recent questions that were being raised about her electability, particularly by Republicans. Clinton: "I don't think that's what they want at all. I think that -- you know, they play a lot of games. And I'm well aware of that. But I know that -- I'm gonna run a winning campaign. And I think they know I'm gonna win a running campaign." Asked about the Ron Fournier AP story claiming Democrats are nervous about Clinton leading the ticket, Clinton: "Well, I'm ahead, and I'm winning and I'm gaining support everywhere I go. And I don't think I have any right to anybody's vote. I have to earn every vote, and that's what I'm doing everyday; going out and talking about what I would do as President, reaching out to people. What I have found is that in a campaign I have a real chance for people to be disabused of a lot of the stereotypes and the caricatures about me." Also… per her campaign, look for Clinton to touch on the same themes in her Iowa speech today that she's airing in her new TV ad; the "invisible" mantra is one we should expect to hear all week long (if not longer).
*** Stumping In Iowa: If you're a presidential candidate, chances are that you're in Iowa today. Clinton hits Dubuque and Council Bluffs; Dodd travels to Adel, Boone, and Fort Dodge; Edwards makes six stops in the state on his "Fighting for One America" bus tour; McCain, in Des Moines, gives a soap box speech at the state fair; and Richardson does the same. New Hampshire and South Carolina might be driving the primary calendar, but Iowa is still the candidates' No.1 destination.
*** On The Trail: Elsewhere, Giuliani gives an immigration speech from Aiken, SC. And Romney holds an "Ask Mitt Anything" town hall and a media avail in Oklahoma City before heading to Grand Prairie, TX to attend Sean Hannity's Freedom Concert.
Countdown to MA-05 Special Election: 20 days
Countdown to LA GOV election: 67 days
Countdown to Election Day 2007: 84 days
Countdown to LA GOV run-off (if necessary): 95 days
Countdown to Iowa: 152 days
Countdown to Tsunami Tuesday: 174 days
Countdown to Election Day 2008: 448 days
Countdown to Inauguration Day 2009: 525 days