*** Plenty of warts: Perhaps it's only fitting that Sam Brownback announces he's dropping out of the presidential race -- with a press conference in Topeka, KS at 4:45 pm ET -- on the very day that the Republican presidential candidates begin addressing the Family Research Council's Values Voter Summit in DC. So far, Christian conservatives have been
unable to rally around any of the GOP candidates, even someone like Brownback who should have been a natural fit. To them, Giuliani (abortion, gay rights), Huckabee (lack of money), McCain (past scuffles with the Religious Right, campaign finance reform), Romney (Mormon faith, evolving position on social issues), and Thompson (scant church attendance, Dobson's criticism) all seem to have warts.
*** The lineup: But all of the GOP candidates get their chance to impress the gathering conservatives. This morning, McCain, Brownback, Paul, and Thompson (in that order) speak at the confab (yes, Brownback is still scheduled to speak). Hunter goes in the afternoon, and Romney and Tancredo give their addresses tonight. Giuliani and Huckabee take their turn on Saturday morning. And with the group's straw poll, we'll have an opportunity to gauge which candidates did impress.
*** Rudy's rise…: It's probably safe to say that Rudy won't be their top choice. But that isn't the campaign's goal. Instead, it's to survive -- like Giuliani did after he addressed the NRA a few weeks ago (although we're assuming that Judi won't call him in the middle of tomorrow's speech). His remarks will cap what so far has been another solid week for the GOP front-runner, which included rave reviews from his address at the Republican Jewish Coalition, the endorsement from Texas Gov. Rick Perry, and a new National Journal column today by NBC political analyst Charlie Cook, who admits -- a reversal from earlier in the year -- that Rudy very well might be the guy to beat.
*** … And Mitt's stumble? One of the reasons why Giuliani's prospects are looking up, Cook writes, is because Romney's prospects are looking down: "Romney's lurch to the right
by saying things he would never have said three or four years ago, juxtaposed with Giuliani's insistence on pretty much sticking to his guns, even on some positions unpopular with many in the party, makes Rudy look like the leader and Mitt the pandering pol." Still, if there's any GOP candidate who is best positioned to get the support from evangelicals, it might very well be Romney. That's why his address tonight before the group will be something to watch. And according to excerpts of his speech, he appears to take this veiled swipe at Giuliani: "We're not going to beat Hillary Clinton by acting like Hillary Clinton."
*** "Forget it, Jake. It's Chinatown": So how did Clinton raise so much money from rather poor residents in New York's Chinatown? It's something today's Los Angeles Times tries to figure out. Many of the donors were hard to track down, and the ones the paper did talk to didn't seem to tell them a story that started with, "I just love Hillary Clinton." The campaign has raised more money than any campaign in history, but we have to ask: What are they thinking? Who pushed the envelope needlessly on this one? Do they need the money THIS bad? If reporters can easily watchdog this stuff, can't someone on the campaign?
*** Is NH in December a ruse? Reading Bill Gardner's mind is going to get us in trouble, but has anyone thought that his signals that New Hampshire could hold its primary in December is a way to make the eventual date -- say January 8 -- more palatable to everyone? Think about it: Now that December might be an option, is ANYONE going to complain if Gardner sets the date on Jan. 8, when the DNC had originally set the contest for the 22nd? He ends up a hero, right? The guy that saved the calendar from a mess. Plus, the two state parties in N.H. are pressuring Gardner big time on January, floating the idea that they could let a Dec. primary be a beauty contest, which in turn would lead to candidates skipping it.
*** 50-50 on Jindal getting 50%: On Saturday, Louisiana voters head to the polls to elect a new governor to succeed retiring (and unpopular) Gov. Kathleen Blanco (D), whose re-election prospects were wiped away by Katrina. The man she narrowly defeated for the job back in 2003 -- Rep. Bobby Jindal (R) -- is the overwhelming favorite to replace her. The only question is whether Jindal surpasses the 50% needed to avoid the run-off in a field including several other candidates like Walter Boasso (D) and John Georges (I). Louisiana native Charlie Cook says it's 50%-50% whether he breaks that threshold. And if he does, Cook cautions against reading too much into that, especially when it comes to the Democrats' statewide prospects after the exodus Katrina produced. Still, if Jindal does top 50%, many folks (particularly those Republicans interested in targeting Mary Landrieu in 2008) will examine those Katrina-ravaged New Orleans precincts to see just how down the Democratic base vote was.
*** On the trail: Biden campaigns in Iowa; Dodd is in New Hampshire; Edwards picks up the California SEIU's endorsement and appears on Bill Maher's HBO show; Giuliani is in Miami; Gravel addresses the Brevard Democratic Executive Committee in Cape Canaveral, FL; Huckabee stumps in New Hampshire; McCain raises money in Florida; Obama holds a rally at Arizona State University; Richardson is in Iowa; Romney visits Iowa; and Tancredo campaigns in New Hampshire.
Countdown to LA GOV election: 1 day
Countdown to Election Day 2007: 18 days
Countdown to LA GOV run-off (if necessary): 29 days
Countdown to Iowa: 76 days
Countdown to New Hampshire: 81 days
Countdown to Michigan: 88 days
Countdown to SC GOP primary: 92 days
Countdown to Florida: 102 days
Countdown to Tsunami Tuesday: 109 days
Countdown to Election Day 2008: 382 days
Countdown to Inauguration Day 2009: 459 days