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First thoughts: Match game

From NBC's Chuck Todd and Domenico Montanaro

*** Match game: Edwards has struggled to remain in the so-called top tier of Democratic candidates ever since Clinton and Obama both doubled and then tripled Edwards fundraising over the last 9 months. Well, that struggle became even greater yesterday with the campaign's decision to accept matching funds. While the campaign is desperately spinning that this decision means they'll have $20 million to spend at the start of the year, it means the campaign has no long-term strategy. They are going for a quick knockout blow.
 
*** Knock down, drag out: But Clinton and Obama both will have the resources to drag out this contest if necessary. Edwards has foreclosed that option because accepting matching funds means accepting a fundraising and spending limit that the campaign will likely reach by the end of January. It's exactly what happened to him in '04. He ended up having to pick and choose where to play after the early states. This decision will make it easer to dismiss Edwards as a first-tier candidate, particularly when both Clinton and Obama triple his fundraising... again Sunday.
 

*** Clinton vs. Clinton: One of the developing stories from Wednesday night's debate is Clinton v. Clinton. Or more specifically, the growing demand the media and the Clintons' opponents are putting on the frontrunner to distinguish herself from the FPOTUS. Bill Clinton added some fuel to the fire yesterday by answering a question that his wife didn't answer at the debate. On the issue of donor transparency, Bill Clinton both answered the question and provided a loophole around disclosure saying he anticipates disclosing all donors to his various foundations (including the library) but only beginning in the future. They will not go back in time and release those donors.
 

*** Expectations, expectations: This week seems to be a day where everyone on the GOP side is trying to re-calibrate expectations, and it should be no surprise since Sunday is the last day of the 3rd quarter fundraising period. It all started earlier this week with Giuliani when he let go of his finance chair (potential sign that he'll report an underwhelming number for a frontrunner?).
 

*** Re: Slipping? Then there's the Romney campaign memo, which is trying to explain away why they won't budge in the national polls despite still polling well in Iowa and New Hampshire. Also, don't miss the fact that the Romney camp seems to embracing the idea that Giuliani has caught them in New Hampshire. They'd love to make a New Hampshire victory more meaningful again.
 

*** A tale of two knives: Speaking of expectations, we're curious to see by how much Thompson outraises McCain this quarter. Does he double him or are the two much closer? The two may seem like allies, but are both going in opposite directions on policy. McCain is sharpening his policy knife, drawing real distinctions with the rest of the field. Meanwhile, Thompson is still struggling on issues. He appeared stumped again in Tennessee on a local issue. How long can Thompson get away with not knowing about controversial local issues?
 
*** On the trail: Clinton and Obama participate in the Congressional Black Caucus' issue forum in DC. Clinton appears at 9:00 am ET, Obama at 1:15 pm ET. Romney speaks to the Council for National Policy in Salt Lake City; Dodd speaks in Iowa on rural economic development; Edwards speaks on economic fairness and attends a bluegrass concert in New Hampshire. He also holds a low-dollar fundraiser with a local plumbers union in Ohio; Giuliani and Gravel campaign in California; Huckabee delivers a foreign policy speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and raises money in DC. He'll also be playing bass guitar with a local rock band, Mama Kicks, in New Hampshire; Obama delivers Howard University's Opening Convocation address; and Paul campaigns in Massachusetts.
 
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