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First thoughts

From Mark Murray and Domenico Montanaro
*** Another Exit: Alberto Gonzales' resignation yesterday is just another reminder that, one by one, the most controversial members of the Bush Administration and the GOP have left the building -- or are about to leave. DeLay. Hastert. Rove. Now Gonzales. And in 17 months, Bush and Cheney will join them. These departures have allowed Democrats to rejoice in news conferences and press releases. But the Democrats shouldn't celebrate too much: They won last fall's midterm elections in large part simply because they weren't Republicans. Moreover, some of the Democratic presidential candidates -- most notably Hillary Clinton -- have campaigned against Bush, Cheney, and Rove as much as they've campaigned against their rivals for the Dem nomination. What happens when they don't have these people to kick around anymore?

VIDEO: President Bush denounces the treatment of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

*** My Own Private Idaho? Another Republican who might be leaving soon is Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho. Yesterday, Roll Call reported that Craig "was arrested in June at a Minnesota airport by a plainclothes police officer investigating lewd conduct complaints in a men's public restroom," and that he pleaded guilty to it (a misdemeanor disorderly conduct charge) in August. Craig then released a statement after the story broke. "At the time of this incident, I complained to the police that they were misconstruing my actions. I was not involved in any inappropriate conduct," he said. "I should have had the advice of counsel in resolving this matter. In hindsight, I should not have pled guilty. I was trying to handle this matter myself quickly and expeditiously." Whatever the case, the question -- as the Cook Political Report's Jennifer Duffy said on TODAY -- is not whether he'll run for re-election next year. It's whether he decides to serve out the remainder of his term.

*** Between Iraq And A Hard Place: A day after Gonzales announced his resignation, after Roll Call reported on Craig's arrest, and after several of the presidential candidates discussed cancer and Hurricane Katrina, the political news -- as it almost always does -- returns to Iraq. At 1:00 pm ET, Bush gives yet another speech on Iraq, this one from Reno, NV at the American Legion convention. (Will he once again invoke Vietnam?) Meanwhile, the anti-war group Americans Against Escalation in Iraq hosts about 60 town hall "Take A Stand" events tonight at which they'll ask GOP congressmen if they will vote to change the course in Iraq. (Only one congressman, Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va., decided to show up at one of these forums, and that forum occurred last week.) At the same time, anti-war groups will be holding more than 500 candlelight vigils across the country, including one at the Capitol reflecting pool in DC.

*** The Tour de Iowa Continues: It's the GOP's turn to participate at the LIVESTRONG presidential cancer forum in Grand Rapids, IA, moderated by Lance Armstrong and MSNBC's Chris Matthews. Brownback (who is a cancer survivor) and Huckabee (whose wife had cancer) are the sole participants. But Romney addresses the Susan G. Komen For The Cure 10th Annual Mission Conference in Arlington, VA. (Brownback, Clinton, Edwards, Giuliani, Richardson, and Elizabeth Edwards are addressing the group via video.)

*** On The Trail: Elsewhere, Biden, in Davenport IA, holds a press conference in response to Bush's Iraq speech; Edwards and Kucinich address the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, which is meeting in Florida; McCain appears on The Tonight Show; Richardson campaigns in Iowa; and Romney (after his address in the DC area) attends a fundraiser in Atlanta.

*** And It's Another Super Tuesday: For more on these events and issues -- and much, much more -- tune into MSNBC for the channel's all-day political coverage. Anchoring Super Tuesday will be MSNBC's Chris Jansing, MSNBC's Tamron Hall, NBC's Tim Russert (who will interview top advisers to the Clinton, Obama, and Edwards campaigns), NBC's Natalie Morales, MSNBC's Contessa Brewer, MSNBC's Tucker Carlson, MSNBC's David Shuster, and MSNBC's Joe Scarborough.

Countdown to MA-05 Special Election: 6 days
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Countdown to Iowa: 138 days
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Countdown to Election Day 2008: 434 days
Countdown to Inauguration Day 2009: 511 days