From Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, and Domenico Montanaro
*** Obama's tough press day: Rezko is EVERYWHERE today. The Clinton campaign always wondered what it would take for the media to cover this story nationally. Well, have the candidate utter the words "slum lord" in a debate and voila. It's easily Obama's worst free press day of the campaign. It's also a bit ironic, too, given that the Clintons have had many more problematic donors than Obama (Hsu, Gupta, Chung, Denise Rich, those donations to the Clinton Library). Then again, the point of the Clintons pushing Rezko is to make Obama look like just another politician who got caught up with a questionable donor. And if the Clintons can prove Obama's no better than them then they can beat him on other points. It's also worth asking why Rezko, and not Wal-Mart, is getting all the play today. The Clintons -- at least in the short term -- won the spin war after a debate that looked like a draw to us. Meanwhile, the Obama folks are pushing the two Clintons vs. one Obama story, and it's getting its share of pickup. But nothing like Rezko today.
*** Hill's reliance on Bill: Speaking of Bill Clinton, Maureen Dowd has a C.W.-setting column today on the idea that Hillary's relying so much on Bill. Is it good for the first potential woman president to be relying on her husband so much to do the campaign dirty work? Her decision to leave South Carolina and leave it to Bill to keep Obama honest in the state shows the enormous advantage the two of them have right now on the trail. But is this reliance on Bill good for Hillary's long term, particularly if she ends up the nominee? And is anyone looking at the Clinton-vs.-Obama war and concluding that it might be good for Obama should he become the nominee (because it toughens him up, etc.) but bad for Clinton should she become the nominee (because of the Bill stuff and the fact Obama's criticisms will end up used by the GOP)?
*** Adios, Fred: After finishing third in Iowa, sixth in New Hampshire, and third in South Carolina, Fred Thompson dropped out of the GOP race yesterday. "I have withdrawn my candidacy for President of the United States," he said in a statement. "I hope that my country and my party have benefited from our having made this effort. Jeri and I will always be grateful for the encouragement and friendship of so many wonderful people." When political scientists, pundits, and future candidates look back on Fred's candidacy, they will point to the three-month gap from June 1 (when he first created his "testing the waters" committee) to September 5 (when he officially got into the race). During that time, political opponents and the press were able to create several negative impressions of Thompson (lazy, old, worked for pro-choice groups), and the political limbo made it difficult for him to fight back. Thompson always had a lot of upside -- we particularly remember a focus group among GOP voters in Richmond, VA, who were very receptive to his candidacy -- but he never seized it.
*** No money, mo' problems: Huckabee's lack of money and organization is finally catching up to win. To put it simply, he's running of out of money. Some aides are now working for free; the campaign is no longer providing transportation for the traveling press; and now the New York Times is reporting that he won't be running TV ads in Florida. Question: If he can't run ads in Florida, how will he compete on Tsunami Tuesday? That said, every Republican candidate -- sans Romney -- seems to have some issue with money. While McCain is proving he can raise it again (picking up a cool million yesterday), he still had to leave the Florida campaign trail to go to New York for an event, which is not ideal. (By the way, why isn't McCain having more success over the internet?) And remember that Giuliani also cut staff payroll to stay alive. Romney's the only guy without money troubles -- unless you count the stock market, which may be serving as a double hit on the Romney sons' inheritance since dad is spending so much of his own dough on the campaign.
*** On the trail: Continuing her February 5 journey, Clinton raises money in Hackensack, NJ and holds rallies there and in North Bergen, NJ; Edwards, in South Carolina, rallies in Bennettsville, Lancaster, and Gaffney; Giuliani campaigns in Florida, hitting Estero and Naples; Huckabee attends an evening rally in Fort Lauderdale, FL; McCain, also in Florida, has an economic roundtable in Orlando; Obama is in South Carolina, stumping in Rock Hill, Sumter, and Dillon; and Romney is in Florida, where he campaigns in Sarasota and Tampa. Also, Bill Clinton campaigns for his in South Carolina, visiting Charleston, Kingstree, and Myrtle Beach.
Countdown to SC Dem primary: 3 days
Countdown to Florida: 6 days
Countdown to Tsunami Tuesday: 13 days
Countdown to Election Day 2008: 286 days
Countdown to Inauguration Day 2009: 363 days
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