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Oh-eight (R): Giuliani's spotlight grows

GINGRICH: The New Hampshire Union-Leader reports on Gingrich's decision not to run for president. " 'I am not going to consider running for President,' Gingrich said at the closing session of the American Solutions three-day workshop. 'I am going to stay committed to being a citizen leader.' His announcement came just two days after he said he would consider a bid if supporters pledged $30 million by November."

Did the former speaker really only find out on Friday night that McCain-Feingold regulations prevented him from both exploring a run for president and oversee his American Solutions (which is a 527)?
NBC-NJ's Mike Memoli asked Mike Huckabee about Newt's decision:
"In a way I'm not surprised. I think that his focus is on policy, not politics. I have great respect because there's no one who probably generates more innovative ideas in America in either party than Newt Gingrich. And putting his full focus on those ideas that the rest of us can capture and run with is probably a better use of his time."
In a Sunday interview on ABC, Gingrich reiterated that McCain-Feingold was to blame.
GIULIANI: A coalition of conservative leaders is threatening a third-party challenge if Giuliani is the GOP nominee. Over the weekend at the Council for National Policy, three key leaders, James Dobson of Focus on the Family, who is perhaps its most influential member; Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council; Richard A. Viguerie, the direct-mail pioneer; and dozens of other politically oriented conservative Christians, discussed the option. "Almost everyone present at the smaller group's meeting expressed support for a written resolution stating that "if the Republican Party nominates a pro-abortion candidate we will consider running a third-party candidate," participants said.

The participants said that the group chose the qualified term "consider" because it had not yet identified an alternative candidate, but that it was largely united in its plans to bolt the party if Mr. Giuliani, the former New York mayor, became the nominee. The participants spoke on condition of anonymity because the Council for National Policy meeting and the smaller meeting were secret, but they said members of the smaller group intended to publicize the resolution."
Gary Bauer, a Christian conservative political advocate, who was a Republican primary candidate eight years ago, said that, speaking by phone to the meeting, he urged the group to proceed with caution. "I can't think of a bigger disaster for social conservatives, defense conservatives and economic conservatives than Hillary Clinton in the White House," Mr. Bauer said.
The third-party threat is something that's getting a lot of press today. 
The Los Angeles Times reports "the religious right has yet to unite behind a Republican, heightening concerns among evangelical leaders that social liberal Rudolph W. Giuliani will capture the party's nomination."
Salon goes further and headlines that the "religious right may blackball Giuliani." Michael Scherer's lead: "A powerful group of conservative Christian leaders decided Saturday at a private meeting in Salt Lake City to consider supporting a third-party candidate for president if a pro-choice nominee like Rudy Giuliani wins the Republican nomination.
"The meeting of about 50 leaders, including Focus on the Family's James Dobson, the Family Research Council's Tony Perkins and former presidential candidate Gary Bauer, who called in by phone, took place at the Grand America Hotel during a gathering of the Council for National Policy, a powerful shadow group of mostly religious conservatives."
Conservative talk show host Chuck Baldwin calls Giuliani "everyone's worst nightmare." 
But conservative blog, Power Line, doesn't buy the Salon article. 
Politico's Martin looks at the first month of the fall for Giuliani and concludes the former NYC mayor had himself one good start to the fall campaign. Giuliani "exploited a series of opportunities to thrust himself into the spotlight in recent weeks and snatch attention away from the long-awaited entry into the race of" Thompson. 
Meanwhile, the NYT looks at the last two weeks of Giuliani on the trail and finds some rough patches. On the change in his fundraising team, the NYT notes "Perhaps more troubling than the staff shakeup, however, was the way it was handled. The first public word of her leaving came when one Giuliani aide leaked word that Ms. Dunsmore was fired, which several campaign aides said was flatly untrue.
One person close to the campaign said the poor handling of the matter was due in part to the natural growth of the campaign team and the natural tensions that resulted as the lines of authority shifted."
New York Mag's John Heilemann has another profile of sorts on Giuliani's campaign: "Giuliani remains a highly problematic candidate, just not in the ways that so many assume. The received wisdom has always held that Rudy would make a formidable general-election contender yet a prohibitively weak one in the Republican primaries. Eight months into the campaign, however, it strikes me that the reality might prove precisely the opposite -- that Giuliani may be the candidate most in tune with the GOP primary electorate, but that the very qualities that have served his cause best so far would cripple his chances in the general. ... Giuliani's campaign has not been replete with Sister Souljah moments, and far from challenging the NRA, he engaged in some flip-floppery, disowning the lawsuit he filed as mayor against gun manufacturers. On immigration, too, he has thrown his transmission into reverse. ... That Giuliani has suffered so little for his heresies owes much to the ineptitude of his rivals. Consider the kid-glove treatment of the horror-cum-burlesque show that is Rudy's personal life. The other day, Romney attempted to score points here—but instead of going for the jugular, he lunged for the capillaries, observing that "when it comes time to run against Hillary Clinton," the Republican nominee will need "to bring all their family together as I have on the campaign trail."
Thomas Friedman doesn't say it, but he comes close, to writing against a Giuliani presidency. "We can't afford to keep being this stupid! We have got to get our groove back. We need a president who will unite us around a common purpose, not a common enemy. Al Qaeda is about 9/11. We are about 9/12, we are about the Fourth of July -- which is why I hope that anyone who runs on the 9/11 platform gets trounced." 
Will Giuliani eventually struggle with married woman voters? The L.A. Times takes a look. 
The New Hampshire Union-Leader becomes the latest to hit Rudy for the phone call bit. The editorial says Giuliani is either "rude" or he's rude and thinks the NRA's convention "is a bunch of rubes." It also points out that he's on wife No. 3.
Giuliani's connection to a plan to change California's Electoral College delegates has expanded. Paul Singer, a fundraiser for the Giuliani campaign, revealed himself as the chief financial backer of the Take Initiative America campaign, seeking to proportion the state's electoral votes by congressional district, to help Republicans. Singer and associates have donated $182,000 to Giuliani's campaign, and have leased jets to the campaign. Giuliani aides say the effort is completely independent from the campaign.
Here's a video take from the "Real Rudy" group on Giuliani.

At the American Solutions event, Huckabee "called the cost of health care the single greatest economic driver in American society," reports the New Hampshire Union-Leader. The system fails because it "focuses on addressing health problems at the end stages of a life, instead of preventing them before they become so expensive."
Huckabee told a Christian youth group that his faith makes him humble.
MCCAIN: McCain did an interview with the religion web site, BeliefNet and two comments, one on Mormonism and one on Islam, deserve full inclusion today. McCain on a Muslim president: "It doesn't seem like a Muslim candidate would do very well, according to that standard. I admire the Islam. There's a lot of good principles in it. I think one of the great tragedies of the 21st century is that these forces of evil have perverted what's basically an honorable religion. But, no, I just have to say in all candor that since this nation was founded primarily on Christian principles.... personally, I prefer someone who I know who has a solid grounding in my faith. But that doesn't mean that I'm sure that someone who is Muslim would not make a good president. I don't say that we would rule out under any circumstances someone of a different faith. I just would--I just feel that that's an important part of our qualifications to lead.
"People are raising similar concerns about Mitt Romney's Mormonism, which some consider to be outside the Judeo-Christian tradition. I believe that the Mormon religion is a religion that I don't share, but I respect. More importantly, I've known so many people of the Mormon faith who have been so magnificent. I think that Governor Romney's religion should not, absolutely not, be a disqualifying factor when people consider his candidacy for President of the United States, absolutely not."
McCain also was asked if he'll go through a ritual Baptism now that he regularly attends a Baptist church. "I've had discussions with the pastor about it and we're still in conversation about it. In the meantime, I am a practicing Christian."
McCain contacted BeliefNet after the interview to clarify his remarks: "I would vote for a Muslim if he or she was the candidate best able to lead the country and defend our political values." 
McCain took his retraction on the Muslim president comment a step further: "The senator did not intend to assert that members of one religious faith or another have a greater claim to American citizenship over another," the spokeswoman, Jill Hazelbaker, said. "Read in context, his interview with BeliefNet makes clear that people of all faiths are entitled to all the rights protected by the Constitution, including the right to practice their religion freely. He also observed that the values protected by the Constitution, by which he meant values such as respect for human life and dignity, are rooted in the Judeo-Christian tradition. That is all he intended to say to the question, America is a Christian nation, and it is hardly a controversial claim." 

Campaigning in New Hampshire, McCain "said he's satisfied with his campaign's financial health."
At a BBQ in New Hampshire, a "casually dressed" (see baseball cap) McCain talked about Iraq. 
McCain drew a crowd of 300 in New Hampshire. 
PAUL: Paul "drew an eclectic mix of more than 500 supporters -- young and old, Libertarians and anti-war Democrats, independents and conservative Republicans," the New Hampshire Union-Leader reports.
The Concord Monitor: "To attend a Ron Paul event is to see where some disaffected Democrats and Republicans have turned. … The conclusion of Paul's speech elicited a reaction worthy of a rock concert." But not all were from New Hampshire. "Surrounding the park, cars sported license plates from throughout New England." 
Boston Globe: Paul brought the whole family.
ROMNEY: Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick lashed out at Romney over SCHIP, calling Romney "a nice fellow, but a shameless candidate."

The candidate is the Newsweek cover boy with the headline: "A Mormon's journey." The main piece is not flattering. Some highlights:
"From the start, Romney made clear that questions about his faith were out of bounds, and from the start, his faith was all anyone wanted to talk about. ... Apart from an innovative plan to provide universal health care, Romney's single term as governor was in many senses a disappointment. Unable to work with the Democrats, he instead chose the TV camera as a governing partner. ... The Mormon question loomed larger than any other over Romney's young campaign. As governor, he had demonstrated he was not interested in imposing the doctrines of his faith on the people of Massachusetts. ... Romney and his campaign wanted to deal with the Mormon question quickly and move on. The Massachusetts experience taught that Mitt the Mormon lost elections and Mitt the turnaround artist won them. In the first weeks of the campaign, Romney sat for lengthy interviews on his faith with The New York Times and USA Today; if the campaign could make the Mormon factor a tired story line, reporters would have no choice but to write about something else. ... So what kind of president would Mitt Romney be? It often seems that Romney himself doesn't know. More disturbing, he is also unwilling to truly look to his own history for the answer. Asked by NEWSWEEK how he is most like his father, Romney saw only an opportunity to recite a familiar talking point about his own style as a manager, noting that George "did not just ask for opinions but for thoughtful analysis and data." Everything his family has lived through—religious persecution, the traversing of a continent, a noble tradition of service and the depths of political disappointment—it all pales in comparison with data. This is the man who in the great wisdom of political insiders is seen as congenitally presidential? ... In fairness, it is true that Romney has the stuff of great presidents somewhere inside him."
THOMPSON: NBC-NJ's Adam Aigner-Treworgy reports from Des Moines that Fred Thompson begins his second official tour of the Hawkeye State today with a four-city trip that will bring him to cafés and shops in Newton, Marshalltown and Iowa Falls before a dinnertime visit to University of Northern Iowa. Accompanying him on the first day of the tour will be country music star and former Tennessee resident John Rich of the band Big and Rich. Complete with a "Vote Fred '08" custom-made Gibson guitar, Rich will probably play his version of Johnny Cash's "I Walk the Line," which features the refrain "Fred walks the line." Rich singing Cash on the campaign trail? Maybe Thompson is trying to hint at his third quarter fundraising numbers.
Radio Iowa's Henderson chronicles her journey to get Thompson to answer some reporter questions. According to her, the campaign promised a quick press avail after he did his tour of the Iowa Christian Alliance annual banquet. Well, the candidate didn't keep his press staff's promise. One can't help but wonder if Thompson's folks were worried (just a tad) that he'd muff some local issue (a la Tennessee and Florida). 
Notes the Rocky Mountain News: "Thompson Meeting Skepticism." Subhead: "Former senator fails to galvanize GOP's core voters."
Washington Post's Kurtz looks at the difference of press coverage Thompson is getting nationally vs. in the local papers.
The Boston Globe is beginning a series of profiles on the entire '08 field. Sunday's inaugural article was on Thompson and focused on an early crisis in his life -- when he got his girlfriend pregnant before he turned 18. "Yet Thompson's personal crisis wound up turning around his life and - in a twist that still stuns some of those who remember him as lackadaisical Freddie - put him on the path to being a contender for the Republican presidential nomination. The teenage wedding thrust Thompson, the son of a little-educated used-car dealer, into the middle of his wife's erudite family. Searching for a way forward, Thompson began to listen to his wife's grandfather, Pap."

Sunday apparently was "Thompson profile day" as the NYT also ran one. This article focused on Thompson's political career. Here's an excerpt we'll hear more about. AEI's Norm Ornstein, a Congressional scholar who worked closely with Mr. Thompson on several government reform measures, said that while Mr. Thompson took his job seriously, "the Senate as a whole bored him."
"He was perfectly happy to go to hearings and vote and all of that," Mr. Ornstein added, "but if 6 or 7 rolled around and you were going to have a session where there wasn't a lot that was going to get done, he was happy to get out of there."