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Oh-eight (R): Newsweek cover boy

A few more thoughts on how little has changed in the Republican contest since the end of June, especially regarding the question marks floating over their campaigns… Giuliani continues to lead in the national polls, but can this socially moderate New Yorker truly win the GOP nod? Romney's millions of dollars in TV ads have paid off in Iowa and New Hampshire, but can the former one-term governor Massachusetts win the typically decisive contest of South Carolina? Fred Thompson -- finally -- jumps into the race officially on Thursday, but does he resemble Wes Clark more than he does Ronald Reagan? Will McCain have enough money in the bank to compete against his rivals? And why didn't Huckabee ever do more organizationally and financially to compete for the nomination?

Here's the New York Times' man/woman-on-the-street piece about the GOP race: "Interviews with dozens of Republicans across the country this Labor Day weekend found that despite the already lengthy campaign, which started almost a year ago, many candidates have made either no impression or a negative one, and many voters are still chewing over their options… By and large, those interviewed said they still supported Mr. Bush, but they were deeply ambivalent about the war in Iraq, leaving them ambivalent in turn about their party's presidential candidates, most of whom have so far stuck close to Mr. Bush on the matter." Overall, Giuliani comes out looking the best of the GOP field with these folks.

GIULIANI: The New York Daily News previews Giuliani's speech in Mississippi today -- in an area devastated by Hurricane Katrina -- where he will "highlight his plans on emergency preparedness, an issue some see as his greatest strength -- and others among his biggest vulnerabilities." One of the items he'll unveil is a program called ReadyStat "aimed at shortening the 72 hours it often takes the feds to mobilize their response to a major disaster."

In addition to this speech, his campaign today unveils a Web site makeover, which is going to be refreshed with some new features -- so we've learned. They'll be launching our social network sites with a new feature called "Running with Rudy." It will provide a behind the scenes, insider's look at the campaign. The "Running with Rudy" feature is what the campaign is most excited about, frankly.

HUCKABEE: He said he would be a strong opponent against Clinton. "Hillary is a strong, strong candidate, much stronger than a lot of Republicans want to accept," Huckabee said. "But the reality is that if we put someone up whose views on some of the issues that rally our base don't rally our base, then we're going to be in big trouble."

HUNTER: The California congressman won a Texas straw poll.

MCCAIN: Remember John McCain? Remember John Weaver? Well, the adviser speaks out for the first time, but seems content not to settle scores.

THOMPSON: Fred Thompson is featured on the cover of the latest Newsweek, as the magazine anticipates his effect on the GOP race, and whether his critics in Washington are correct when they say that Fred just doesn't want it bad enough. After a fairly exhaustive account of his life in both Washington and Hollywood, Holly Bailey seems to conclude that Thompson just might be tougher than he has appeared so far while "testing the waters."

Some of his soon-to-be opponents have already begun criticizing him for his late entry into the race and his decision to schedule his announcement in conflict with the New Hampshire debate. The AP quotes Mitt Romney as saying, "Well, I guess the only comment I'd make to Fred Thompson would be: Why the hurry? Why not take a little longer to think this over? From my standpoint, if he wants to wait until January or February, that would be ideal."

This morning, the campaign announced that GOP communications strategist Karen Hanretty is its new deputy communications director. New communications director Todd Harris is uniting the old Schwarzenegger team….

By the way, did Thompson adviser Mary Matalin inadvertently add fuel to the Fred is lazy fire by noting on "Meet the Press" that Thompson was better served appearing on Leno than at tomorrow's debate in New Hampshire?