From Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, and Domenico Montanaro
*** Obama On Iraq: A day after getting a handful of minutes to speak, er, question Petraeus -- and after talking with NBC's David Gregory on TODAY earlier this morning -- Obama gives a speech today on Iraq from Iowa. In it, per the campaign, he will outline his plan for ending the war in Iraq, which includes pulling out combat troops at a pace of one or two brigades every month, to be completed by the end of next year. Yesterday, while talking at, er, grilling Petraeus and Crocker, Obama said: "I have to say, and this hasn't been commented on, I think that we should not have had this discussion on 9/11 or 9/10 or 9/12. Because I think it perpetuates this notion that somehow the original decision to go into Iraq was directly related to the attacks on 9/11." Yet as a rival campaign points out to First Read, if that's true, why is he giving an Iraq speech today on September 12? Still, this is Obama's next best chance to emphasize what the campaign believes is a real difference between him and Clinton on the top issue in the primary.
*** The Hsu Keeps Dropping: When the Clinton campaign announced on Monday night that it was returning the $850,000 Norman Hsu had raised, it appeared that the story was over, right? Well, not quite… The New York Times reports today that the Clinton campaign, per an adviser, will try to get most of the money back -- if it came from the donors' own bank accounts, and not from Hsu or another source. So is it really returning the money when the campaign seeks to get it back? Also, the Politico notes that bulldog Rep. Henry Waxman "has promised to ask the National Archives for documents relating to President Bill Clinton's Office of Political Affairs… [That] could mean fresh scrutiny and publicity for long-forgotten meetings and presentations during the Clinton administration" -- which could be another headache for the Clinton campaign.
*** A Lot Of Finger-Pointing Going On: One can only imagine the finger-pointing going on inside the Clinton fundraising machine. It's never been a happy team of folks as there was some infighting over control and strategy early on. Nothing has been easy on the Clinton fundraising front. While they've raised impressive money, they've only found themselves "keeping up" with Obama, which of course is not how it was supposed to be. And now with the Hsu fiasco, don't be surprised if some who felt as if they weren't being listened to will push to get their way. With just 18 days to go before the end of the third fundraising quarter, this controversy couldn't be coming at a worse time.
*** One New Yorker Up, The Other One Flat-lining: Despite the Hsu story, Clinton keeps soaring in the polls. A brand-new Washington Post/ABC poll has her maintaining her double-digit national lead over Obama, while Bloomberg/LA Times shows her leading in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina. On the GOP side, meanwhile, the Post/ABC poll finds Giuliani out in front -- but losing ground to Thompson. Moreover, the Bloomberg/LA Times survey shows him trailing Romney in Iowa and New Hampshire, and Thompson in South Carolina (although he's just a few points behind, within the margin of error in NH and SC). But Giuliani flat-lining in the national polls probably says more about Thompson. Despite Beltway insiders nitpicking every little detail about Thompson's announcement tour (the staff departures, his different statements on Osama bin Laden, saying that he often doesn't attend church), Thompson has gotten a nice bounce since officially jumping into the race. Of course, Thompson got a similar bounce in June, dragging Giuliani down a bit and then Giuliani floated back up. Will this bounce stick? And what does it mean for Romney, who may have more at risk with the rise of Thompson? Maybe that explains the phonyfred.com Web site?
*** Get Ready For Another Poll: Is Clinton the overwhelming national front-runner? Is Thompson truly catching up to Giuliani? How do Americans view the surge? And do voters view this VERY early presidential contest as a positive or a negative? For answers, watch NBC Nightly News beginning at 6:30 pm ET -- or click on to MSNBC.com at the same time -- for the results of the latest NBC/Wall Street Journal poll.
*** The Monster Mash: The eight Democratic presidential candidates participate today in the Yahoo!/Huffington Post/Slate Mashup, an online forum moderated by PBS's Charlie Rose. There will be additional questions from online readers and viewers. But candidates will not interact
*** On The Trail: Elsewhere today, Dodd appears on Countdown with Keith Olbermann; Giuliani campaigns in Akron, OH; Huckabee raises money in Beverly Hills; McCain, in Iowa, continues on his "No Surrender" tour; Paul campaigns in Southern California; Richardson fundraises in Texas; and Romney is also in Texas, where he speaks to the Midland County Republican Women's Club and then raises money in Dallas and Houston. Also, Elizabeth Edwards appears on Rachel Ray.
Countdown to LA GOV election: 38 days
Countdown to Election Day 2007: 55 days
Countdown to LA GOV run-off (if necessary): 66 days
Countdown to Iowa: 124 days
Countdown to SC GOP primary: 129 days
Countdown to Tsunami Tuesday: 146 days
Countdown to Election Day 2008: 419 days
Countdown to Inauguration Day 2009: 496 days