From Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, and Domenico Montanaro
*** She Said What? As we mentioned before, perhaps the biggest story so far in the Democratic presidential contest has been Hillary Clinton's steady evolution from a hawk on the Iraq war to a dove. That transformation, in fact, has coincided directly with her rise in the national polls. But speaking yesterday at the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention in Kansas City, she said something that might raise some Democrats' eyebrows: that some elements of the troop surge are working. Per the New York Times, "'We've begun to change tactics in Iraq, and in some areas, particularly in Al Anbar Province, it's working," [she said]... 'We're just years too late changing our tactics. We can't ever let that happen again. We can't be fighting the last war; we have to be preparing to fight the new war.'" Of course, she isn't the only Democrat who has said the surge is producing some results (see Carl Levin's statement), but can the Democratic presidential front-runner say this? Will she be alone among the Democratic presidential candidates to praise parts of the surge?
*** More VFW Politics: McCain followed Clinton yesterday in addressing the VFW convention. While she received a tepid, polite reception, he got plenty of applause. The same thing will probably occur today when Obama (who opposes the Iraq war) and Fred Thompson (who supports it) speak at the confab. What will Obama say about the surge? Somehow, we think it will be a bit different than what Clinton said. Before he addresses the VFW, Obama holds a conference call with reporters announcing the endorsement he's picking up from freshman Rep. Patrick Murphy (D), an Iraq war vet who opposes the war.
*** Worst Presidential Rollout Ever? Speaking of Thompson… If his campaign rollout couldn't get any worse -- see the Gucci shoes moment courtesy of Fox News -- the campaign has lost another senior staffer, this one from the communications shop. And now there's a new FEC complaint claiming the candidate-to-be abused the "testing the waters" rule. But Thompson gets a fresh chance to prove he can give a good speech when he addresses the VFW convention. It should be a friendly audience that enjoys his aw-shucks approach. He's got a low bar of expectations to meet today. Can he exceed that bar?
*** Cuba Libre: A month ago, Obama's response to how he'd deal with world dictators created the first true skirmish of the Democratic campaign. Today, he returns to the topic (in a way) by penning an op-ed in the Miami Herald that calls for unrestricted travel rights for Cuba Americans to Cuba, as well as normalized relations with a post-Castro Cuba -- if it begins to make some democratic changes. How will this policy play in Florida? Does it help him win over some second- and third-generation Cubans who want to visit their family members in Cuba more often? Or will the policy fire up the more conservative Cubans to fight Obama and hurt the Democrats in a general in the key swing state of Florida? Of course, Obama's policy doesn't seem that unpopular -- after all, who is opposed to engaging a Cuba that's making democratic progress or allowing Cuban Americans to visit their relatives? But he's the first presidential candidate, to our knowledge, to say this.
*** He Sells Sanctuary: Romney's up with a new radio spot that one could argue is the first semi-negative attack ad by a major candidate. The ad doesn't mention Giuliani by name, but it attacks New York City for being a "sanctuary city" for illegal immigrants.
*** The Campaigner-In-Chief Returns: One of the more interesting political stories in the run-up to last year's midterm elections involved every time an unpopular President Bush traveled to purple states (like Ohio and Pennsylvania) to raise money and campaign for Republican candidates, most of whom ended up losing on Election Day. Bush -- with even lower national approval ratings than he had before the midterms -- returns to electoral politics in the purple (yet still Dem-leaning) Minnesota, where he raises money at a closed-press event for vulnerable Sen. Norm Coleman (R), who's up for re-election next year. Before this evening's fundraiser, Bush holds a media avail in Canada with the leaders of Canada and Mexico. And then he heads to Minnesota attend a briefing on the collapsed bridge in Minneapolis.
*** On The Trail: Elsewhere, Biden is in Iowa; Clinton is down in Chappaqua, NY; Dodd, in DC, meets with Federal chair Ben Bernanke and Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson about the stock market's fluctuations, especially regarding the problems in the mortgage market; Huckabee campaigns in South Carolina; Obama heads to New Hampshire after speaking at the VFW convention; and Romney stumps in Las Vegas and Reno, NV.
Countdown to MA-05 Special Election: 13 days
Countdown to LA GOV election: 60 days
Countdown to Election Day 2007: 77 days
Countdown to LA GOV run-off (if necessary): 88 days
Countdown to Iowa: 145 days
Countdown to Tsunami Tuesday: 167 days
Countdown to Election Day 2008: 441 days
Countdown to Inauguration Day 2009: 518 days