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Oh-eight (R): Papa was a preacher

A Marist poll shows Romney maintaining his lead in New Hampshire at 29% -- while McCain and Giuliani are tied at 17%, and Huckabee sits at 11%.

HUCKABEE: The New York Times front-pages Huckabee's preacher past. "Now Mr. Huckabee is running for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination, his campaign shaped by his two decades as an evangelical pastor and broadcaster. While he says he is running based on his career in the Arkansas governor's mansion, not the pulpit, he has grounded his views on issues like abortion and immigration in Scripture, rallied members of the clergy for support, benefited from the anti-Mormon sentiment dogging a political rival and relied on the down-to-earth style he honed in the pulpit to help catapult him in the polls."

"Mr. Huckabee risks scorn from secular voters for defending the biblical creation story against Darwin, but faces accusations from some fellow Christians that he is soft on a range of issues, including liberal thinking in his own denomination. His candidacy has renewed the debate over the place of religion in public life… As a preacher and a politician, Mr. Huckabee said in an interview, he has pursued the same goal: improving lives. 'For me it was never an either or,' he said of his dual careers. 'The realm you do it in is less important than that you do it.'"

NBC/NJ's Carrie Dann reports on how the Huckabee folks are trying to clean up the fact that the former Arkansas governor admitted he didn't read -- or know about -- the Iran NIE. Echoing Huckabee's CNN interview yesterday, Iowa State Director Eric Woolson also blames his boss's blank looks Tuesday night on a packed campaign schedule. Woolson says that the governor was up at 5:00 am that morning after a paltry few hours of sleep, and he said that he didn't know whether or not the traveling staff routinely briefs the candidate during the day at all.

Woolson said that the rigors of a campaign can create a bubble that makes it hard to keep track of the news of the day. "When I'm working, I'm doing THIS," he said, gesturing to the foot-high stacks of paper strewn around his desk in his Des Moines office last night. "You're not in a place where you're gathering information."

He went on to say that it's the candidate's staff -- and not the governor himself -- who's to blame for Tuesday's oops. "He's too polite to say it," he said, "but I think it's more a reflection of us not doing our jobs."

MCCAIN: Curt Schilling, fresh off a second World Series title with the Boston Red Sox, made his pitch for McCain in New Hampshire last night, praising the Arizona senator's integrity and saying the nation could use a dose of his straight talk, NBC/NJ's Mike Memoli reports.
"I'm tired of hearing politicians speak in the broadest and most general terms they can possibly speak," Schilling told a packed auditorium at the Derryfield School. "If anyone running for the office of president tells you they have all they have all the answers, they're lying. It is beyond any one person. We need a man or a woman -- we need a man leading a team of people that we believe in."

In an interview with the Boston Globe, McCain was described as "guardedly optimistic" on Iraq. "I'm not ready yet to set a deadline and I'd like to at least give them another in a series of opportunities to show some progress," McCain said of the prospects there. But he was critical of the country's political structure. "They've got something like 41 ministers in their government," McCain said. "Who designed that? They ought to take that guy out and shoot him."

ROMNEY: The Boston Globe reports that reaction has been mixed on Romney firing his lawn service company. "Union leaders and advocates for immigrants criticized Mitt Romney yesterday for railing against illegal immigrants while employing a lawn company that used them at his home. But some business owners were sympathetic to the former governor, saying the immigration system is broken and hiring legal help for low-skill tasks can be nearly impossible."
The Boston Globe writes an editorial on Romney firing his lawn service company. "Romney will suffer from more political jabs and jokes. But the serious issue is how ugly the immigration issue has become." More: "As for Romney, he should return to his earlier support for the kind of comprehensive immigration solution that Senators John McCain and Edward Kennedy proposed this year. It could have helped him and his landscapers. But it failed, exactly because of the type of demagoguery in which Romney has been engaging. Now he, the country, and 12 million desperate immigrants have been left in the lurch."

THOMPSON: Per the Columbia State, "Thompson told a crowd of more than 150 packed into Lexington's Flight Deck restaurant that the [NIE] report has been politicized. Afterward, Thompson said he doubted the U.S. could negotiate with Iran, as the report concluded. 'That depends on Iran," Thompson said. "But there's nothing in their history to indicate that they are prepared to renounce any future nuclear weapons programs. We have to deal with the reality that we're confronted with.'"