From Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, Domenico Montanaro, and Julia Steers
HANOVER, NH --
*** Hillary's final hurdle? So far this campaign season, Clinton has cleared -- at least right now -- three important hurdles: 1) the past Clinton baggage; 2) questions about her gender; and 3) her Iraq war vote. But her Democratic rivals now are focusing on what may be her final hurdle: electability. Yesterday, when he endorsed Obama, former Iowa Democratic Party chairman Gordon Fischer touched on this when he said that Obama had the best chance of winning the White House and helping downballot candidates. Also, in reference to President Bush's comment that Clinton will win the Democratic nomination, a Dodd spokeswoman said: "I can understand why the President would want Senator Clinton to be the nominee." Ouch. Of course, Democrats -- right now -- believe that Clinton is the most electable candidate. In this month's NBC/WSJ poll, 54% of Democratic voters said Clinton has the best chance of defeating the Republicans in 2008. But dig a bit deeper in the poll and you'll notice a ceiling for Clinton. For instance, when matched up against the least known major GOP candidate (Huckabee), Clinton nabs just 50%.
*** Bill's power: Just how powerful is Bill Clinton? It appears, according to the Politico, that he helped kill a GQ article by Atlantic Monthly writer Joshua Green that wasn't all that friendly to the Clinton campaign. Whether it's helping rack up congressional endorsements for his wife, preventing labor groups from endorsing other candidates, or even helping to kill negative stories, this is Bill's real power in this race: leverage.
*** Land to the rescue: A week after James Dobson criticized Thompson, Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention comes to Thompson's defense. Land tells CBN's Brody: "I've received phone calls and emails from Southern Baptists about Senator Thompson. They are all furious at Doctor Dobson. They just feel that first of all there was a mischaracterizing of his positions. Do I wish that he supported the marriage protection amendment? Of course I do. To say that he is for 50 different views of marriage in 50 different states is a gross mischaracterization of his position. Secondly, do I wish that he attended church every Sunday? As a Baptist pastor, of course I do. But does that make him a person of unbelief? That's harsh and unwarranted." Land's likely support for Thompson has been on display for months. Dobson may have a large audience, but Land (a Southerner) may be a more important ally in a GOP primary.
** Let the Borat jokes begin: The Giuliani campaign is raising money in Kazakhstan from Americans living there.
*** Trouble for the Dems? Before tomorrow's Democratic debate on MSNBC, moderated by NBC's Tim Russert, we're taking a look at some potential problems for Democrats in 2008, even though they're in better position than they've been in years. Yesterday, we looked at some cautionary data regarding independents (a must-win group for Democrats and a group that's BIG here in New Hampshire). Today, we examine some of the disenchantment with the Democratic-controlled Congress. Per this month's NBC/WSJ poll, only 23% approve of Congress' job. More importantly, the Democratic Party -- for the first time in nearly a year -- has a net-negative rating on the feeling thermometer (34% positive/38% negative). "Dissatisfaction with Congress has dragged down the image of the Democratic Party," pollster Neil Newhouse (R) told First Read. Of course, the GOP's rating is even worse (31% positive/47% negative). And, by a 47%-35% margin, voters say they prefer a Democratic-controlled Congress to a GOP-controlled one.
*** Meet the new boss, same as the old boss? Still, did voters expect more change from a Democratic Congress? Yes, it did pass a minimum-wage hike and has been a check on the White House. And, yes, Bush has thwarted much of what the Democrats have wanted to do. But the facts are this: Gridlock, party infighting, and the Iraq war all continue. The Democratic front-runners are promising change. But with Congress unable to deliver on change -- so far -- could such a message end up falling on deaf ears?
*** Another labor cattle call: It wasn't too long ago that a handful of labor unions -- including SEIU, the Carpenters, the Farm Workers, and the Teamsters -- broke away from the AFL-CIO and formed their own federation, Change To Win. The reason for the split: Those unions though the AFL was too focused on politics and not enough on organizing. Well, today Change to Win gets a dose of politics when Obama, Edwards, and Clinton (in that order) address the group in Chicago. This front-runner cattle call comes just a day after the United Auto Workers -- an AFL member -- went on strike against GM.
*** On the trail: Elsewhere, Biden is in Boston; Huckabee is in Arkansas, where he attends the commemoration ceremony of Central High's 50th anniversary of integration; McCain is in Texas, where (among other things) he participates in a roundtable discussion on Israel in Houston; Obama, after addressing Change to Win, campaigns in Portland, ME; and Romney raises money in California.
*** Another "Super Tuesday": For more on these things -- and much, much more -- tune into another round of MSNBC's all-day Super Tuesday political coverage.
Countdown to LA GOV election: 25 days
Countdown to Election Day 2007: 42 days
Countdown to LA GOV run-off (if necessary): 53 days
Countdown to Iowa: 111 days
Countdown to SC GOP primary: 116 days
Countdown to Tsunami Tuesday: 133 days
Countdown to Election Day 2008: 406 days
Countdown to Inauguration Day 2009: 483 days