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First thoughts: One month out

From Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, and Domenico Montanaro
*** One month out: Now that the Iowa caucuses are exactly one month away, it wasn't surprising that we saw another wild weekend. A new Des Moines Register poll had Obama and Huckabee -- yes, Huckabee -- leading their respective fields; probably not unrelated, Clinton went on the attack, and the Romney campaign announced that the former Massachusetts governor will give his Mormon speech on Thursday; McCain picked up a coveted endorsement from the conservative New Hampshire Union Leader's editorial page; and LSU (which has lost two games) and Ohio State (which lost just a few weeks ago) will face each other in perhaps the least-anticipated college football championship game in ten years. (With the expedited primary calendar, we're now not too disappointed we're going to miss the bowl games…) How wild was the weekend? No one is talking about Friday's hostage situation… It's also worth pointing out that few were talking about Edwards and Thompson…

*** It's all about trust…: Perhaps the most interesting news over the weekend was the Des Moines Register poll showing Obama leading Clinton among women, 31%-26%. Also: "Thirty percent of Democratic caucusgoers viewed Sen. Clinton as either mostly or very unfavorably, behind U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio and former Alaska Sen. Mike Gravel. She topped the list of candidates whose nomination would be one of the biggest disappointments at 27 percent." This is just our educated guess, but it appears that women have shifted away from Clinton on the trust issue. Ask former DCCC Chair Rahm Emanuel about the importance of "trust" female voters. And that's why the Clinton camp went on the offensive over the weekend, trying to paint Obama as something he's not -- on campaign finance and health care.

*** On the attack: But it just wasn't campaign finance and health care. The Clinton camp also went after Obama on the issue of ambition, questioning his statement over the weekend that he's not running for president "to fulfill some long held plans." A Clinton research document pointed out -- from friends, family, and teachers -- that Obama has thought about running for president. But how does Team Clinton look on the attack here? This is certainly not Iowa Nice. The Clinton campaign is dropping the hammer in press releases, but we still don't know if she'll do it in paid media. She talked about fighting back as "fun," which camp Obama used as example of her running a "textbook" campaign.

*** Here it comes: As for Romney's Big Speech on Thursday, a Romney adviser told First Read months ago that the speech would be in December. The thinking was, do it when it counts. (That said, another Romney adviser told Beliefnet.com last week that the speech wouldn't come until next year or the general election.) Will it work? According to an AP article in August, there are some big differences between the speech JFK gave in 1960 and the one Romney will give on Thursday. For starters, when Kennedy ran, 28% of the country was Catholic versus the 2% the Mormon voting populace is today. Moreover, when father George Romney ran in 1968, his Mormonism didn't garner much attention. But that's likely because most evangelicals were Southern Democrats -- not Republicans -- back then. Romney's speech on Thursday will either work, making him look like a leader and he stops the Iowa bleeding. Or it doesn't, and he continues to fade, making a run at becoming this year's Phil Gramm or Howard Dean.

*** The survivor? We can't believe we're saying this, but the idea of McCain as last man standing in the GOP field is suddenly not so crazy. The thinking behind this is: 1) Huckabee wins Iowa, but there is no way the Republican Party hands the nomination to Huckabee; 2) Rudy's next three weeks are as brutal as last week; and 3) Thompson doesn't catch fire. If those three things happen, then McCain becomes a stronger possibility, right? In fact, does anyone else see the parallels between this year's BCS and the GOP race? No one seems to want to be No.1. But, eventually, someone has to play for the title -- er -- nomination. Before this year, no two-loss team had been in the national title game. If there is any candidate that looks like a two-loss team, it's McCain.

*** Rudy catches a break? Speaking of Rudy, however, is there anyone happier than Giuliani about the fired up Clinton vs. Obama storyline, as well as the announcement that Romney will give The Speech on Thursday? Suddenly, there just isn't enough media to go around to keep up the developing feeding frenzy on Rudy… Still, don't miss the renewed fire in the New York City press corps to get everything out there AGAIN. Giuliani campaign continues to answer these charges with two words: "old news." But is it old news to voters in Iowa and New Hampshire that he conducted an extramarital affair a few years ago? Sure, he eventually married her, but...

*** On the trail: Almost everyone is in Iowa today: Biden gives a talk on Iran and foreign policy in Iowa City; Clinton attends "take your buddy to caucus" events throughout the state; Dodd has a town hall in Des Moines; Edwards hits community meetings in Waterloo, Fort Madison, and Burlington; Huckabee campaigns in Des Moines and Johnstown; Obama holds a roundtable in Des Moines; and Richardson stumps in the state. Elsewhere, Giuliani delivers remarks in Greensboro, NC; McCain and Romney are in New Hampshire; and Thompson, in DC, has a roundtable with three pro-business trade associations: the National Federation of Independent Business, the National Restaurant Association, and Associated Builders and Contractors.

Countdown to Iowa: 31 days
Countdown to New Hampshire: 36 days
Countdown to Michigan: 43 days
Countdown to Nevada and SC GOP primary: 47 days
Countdown to SC Dem primary: 54 days
Countdown to Florida: 57 days
Countdown to Tsunami Tuesday: 64 days
Countdown to Election Day 2008: 337 days
Countdown to Inauguration Day 2009: 414 days

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