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The march to Ames
By Mark Preston
CNN Political Editor
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Three months ago, political junkies were looking at August 11 as a watershed moment in the race for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination. It would be a day when the GOP field would be winnowed, perhaps a front-runner established and each of the candidates would stake out positions to distinguish themselves from one another.
Then John McCain and Rudy Giuliani announced they would skip the event, Fred Thompson arrived on the scene as the great unannounced candidate and McCain's campaign literally imploded. McCain and Giuliani cited financial reasons for their decision to bypass the straw poll. A few weeks later, we learned why McCain was opting out - he had no money. As for Thompson, well, he continues to "explore" a White House bid and will not play in Ames on Saturday.
So, will the GOP straw poll matter? Of course it will. A couple of 2nd and 3rd tier candidates might abandon their quixotic bids if they have a bad showing. A strong performance by one of the lower tier candidates coupled with a weaker than expected showing by odds-on-favorite Mitt Romney could spur questions about the former Massachusetts governor's presidential bid. And loyal Republican caucus goers will get a better sense on this hot August day about who they might support when the temperature dips below freezing in January.
For now, Iowa caucus goers are frosty on the current slate of candidates, according to a Washington Post/ABC News poll released on Sunday. Only one-fifth of Republican caucus-goers responded that they were "very satisfied" with the current slate of GOP candidates. Romney, who has spent the most money and time organizing in the state, leads the pack with 26 percent and is followed by Giuliani, who rings in at 14 percent. McCain has dropped to the single digits, while the yet-to-officially announce Thompson checks in at 13 percent.
The nine candidates had a chance Sunday to make a mark and separate themselves from the pack in a presidential primary debate broadcast on ABC's "This Week." They failed. While Romney and Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kansas, did spar over abortion, there was very little meaningful disagreement over major issues such as Iraq. There was a united willingness to distance themselves from President Bush and most of the stinging criticism (save for the Brownback-Romney exchange) was directed at Sen. Barack Obama, D-Illinois. At the end of the 90 minute exchange, arguably it was Obama who was the true winner.
* Meanwhile, with "candidate fatigue" apparently setting in, reporters are starting to and in many cases continuing to analyze what role their spouses will play in the campaign and in the White House if elected president.
* And what was all that shooting in Manchester this weekend? Check it out in Political Hot Topics.
Edwards to talk up trade
By Sasha Johnson
CNN Senior Political Producer
WASHINGTON (CNN) – Former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards will unveil what aides are calling a "new, transformational approach to how this country thinks about trade" in a speech he is scheduled to give later this morning.
In remarks to be delivered in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Edwards calls current trade policies a "bad for working Americans," and says when "Washington" evaluates trade deals the main question asked is "is it good for corporate profits."
Keeping with his theme from Saturday's YearlyKos convention, aides say Edwards will "continue to make the case that lobbyists in Washington exert too much influence and it's time for the Democratic Party to reject their contributions."
Trade issues will be a focus for Edwards this week. He will join the other Democratic presidential candidates at the AFL-CIO's forum on Tuesday night in Chicago.
* President Bush and Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai hold an 11:25 a.m. ET press availability at Camp David.
Also on the Political Radar:
Several of the major Republican and Democratic presidential candidates spend the day in Iowa pressing the flesh with these influential first-in-the-nation caucus goers:
* Former Sen. John Edwards, D-North Carolina, delivers what is being billed as a "major policy speech" at IBEW Local 405 in Cedar Rapids. CNN Senior Political Producer Sasha Johnson reports that it will focus on trade.
* Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, delivers a speech to the Cedar Rapids Rotary at 1 p.m. ET and afterwards holds a media availability.
* Former New York City GOP Mayor Rudy Giuliani holds several events in the state including a 10 a.m. ET stop in Webster City, a 2:30 p.m. ET event in Clear Lake and a 3:40 p.m. ET event in Mason City.
* Sen. Barack Obama, D-Illinois, has a 12 p.m. ET event in Le Mars and makes a 4 p.m. ET stop in Sioux City.
* New Mexico Democratic Gov. Bill Richardson has a 9:30 a.m. ET event in Storm Lake, an 11:30 a.m. ET stop in Lake View, a 1:30 p.m. ET event in Carroll, a 3:45 p.m. ET stop in Audubon, a 5 p.m. ET event in Atlantic and an 8:45 p.m. ET stop in Council Bluffs.
* Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kansas, has a 9:15 a.m. ET event in Atlantic, a 12:15 p.m. ET book signing in Urbandale, a 1 p.m. ET in Des Moines, a 3 p.m. ET stop in Ames followed by a 5 p.m. ET coffee break in Ames and a 6:15 p.m. ET house party in the Ames. At 7 p.m. ET he has a meet-and-greet in Story City and closes with a 9:15 p.m. ET coffee in Earlham.
* Meanwhile, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is in Florida. He has an 11:30 a.m. ET address in Melbourne followed by a 2:15 p.m. ET "Ask Mitt Anything" forum in Daytona and a 5:30 p.m. ET "Ask Mitt Anything" forum in Tampa.
* Congress has adjourned for its August recess.
Political Hot Topics
(Today's top political stories from news organizations across the country)
GOP candidates haggle over Iraq, health care: Republican presidential hopefuls bickered over abortion, insisted Democrats lack the resolve to defeat terrorists and, at times, tried to distance themselves from President Bush during their first Iowa debate Sunday. Quad-City Times: Link
Candidates inch away from Bush: Republican candidates for president took some subtle and some overt steps away from President Bush on Sunday during the first Iowa debate of the 2008 campaign. Des Moines Register: Link
In Debate, Republicans Make the Case for Staying in Iraq: The leading Republican presidential candidates said yesterday that the military escalation in Iraq appeared to be restoring stability, and they berated their Democratic counterparts for advocating an end to American involvement there. New York Times: Link
Republican hopefuls debate abortion, war: Mitt Romney yesterday said his greatest mistake in life is that he used to be pro-choice on abortion, as he defended himself against attacks from fellow Republican presidential candidates. Washington Times: Link
Democrats Targeted In GOP Debate: The Republican candidates for president used a nationally televised morning debate to mock Democrats on foreign policy, taxes and health care while sparring with each other over abortion and the administration's anti-terrorism efforts. Washington Post: Link
GOP candidates gang up on Democrat Obama: Barack Obama had the distinction Sunday of being the most-talked-about Democratic presidential candidate during the debate by candidates seeking the Republican nomination for the presidency. Des Moines Register: Link
Iowa Republicans Are Not Thrilled With Presidential Field: As the Republican presidential candidates gather this morning in Des Moines for their fourth debate, Iowa GOP voters are expressing limited enthusiasm for the field of current and potential aspirants, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll. Their views appear to be a microcosm of GOP sentiment across the country and point to a wide open battle for the nomination. Washington Post: Link
Yepsen: Straw poll might mean more than you think: In the 1980 Republican presidential caucus campaign, Tennessee Sen. Howard Baker said one function of the Iowa caucuses was to "winnow the field" of candidates. By that he meant Iowa caucus-goers in both parties take presidential campaigns with large numbers of candidates and cut the field to a more manageable size for voters in other states to consider. For Republicans, the Iowa scythe comes out Saturday. Des Moines Register: Link
Straw poll may buoy 2nd-tier hopefuls: Thousands of Iowa Republicans will travel to Ames on Saturday to chow down on barbecue and deliver the first ranking of GOP presidential candidates. Omaha World-Herald: Link
Clinton-Obama Tensions Spill Into the Senate: They work in the same building. They slog through the same rigorous travel schedule. Along the way, they often cross paths several times a day. But Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama have barely spoken to one another – at least in any meaningful way – for months. New York Times: Link
In '08 race, a little leg may go a long way: In March, an aspiring Republican presidential couple — Rudolph W. and Judith Nathan Giuliani — appeared in a fashion layout in Harper's Bazaar that accompanied an interview with Mrs. Giuliani. The most striking thing about the feature, a coming-out of sorts for Judith Giuliani, was their pose.
Sitting on the arm of her husband's chair, eyes closed, she tipped her head down, caressed his face and planted a kiss that looked like a precursor to something steamier. "Rudy's a very, very romantic guy," Judith Giuliani told the magazine. "We love watching 'Sleepless in Seattle.' Can you imagine my big testosteronefactor husband doing that?" Los Angeles Times: Link
The Rise Of Jeri Thompson: On a hot Saturday in June 2002, Fred D. Thompson married his second wife, Jeri Kehn, in an unventilated Congregational church in her home town of Naperville, Ill. Kehn, in a Valentino gown, was a 35-year-old media consultant for a Washington law firm; Thompson, a 59-year-old U.S. senator from Tennessee. "I think he will be a calming influence, and she will be good for him," Kehn's mother, Vicki Keller, said at the time. Washington Post: Link
Not-So-Hidden Power: Presidential candidates always make a big deal of the advice they get from their wives. Ronald Reagan told voters that Nancy was his closest adviser; Bill Clinton said Hillary was so crucial to his team that electing him would be a "two-for-one" deal. On the trail, John Edwards and Barack Obama showcase their smart, outspoken spouses. Politicians seem to think it humanizes them—and increases their appeal to women voters—to come off as just a little henpecked. Fred Thompson has his own version of the shtick. Speaking at a fund-raiser last week, he introduced Jeri Kehn Thompson as "my campaign manager—oh, I mean my wife." Newsweek: Link
Drawing Fire, Judith Giuliani Gives Her Side: It has not been an easy few months for Judith Giuliani. Her rollout to the public received rocky reviews from the political class, Republicans included. A series of negative articles about her shopping habits, marital past and supposedly testy relations with campaign staff followed. Her appearances alongside her husband, Rudolph W. Giuliani, grew suddenly scarce — and some analysts suggested that she keep it that way. So it was perhaps no surprise that at a recent lunch in downtown Manhattan, Mrs. Giuliani offered this self-assessment: “When it comes to politics, I’m new to this.” New York Times: Link
'A girl from the South Side' talks to Mary Mitchell: Are they black enough? Michelle Obama says that's an issue for society, not just a problem for her husband. Chicago Sun Times: Link
Analysis: Hillary dances to defend Bill: Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton is running for president on her husband's White House record, and it's a strategy that cuts both ways. The New York senator and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, constantly remind voters of the nation's economic prosperity in the 1990s and his record on the environment, college aid and family medial leave. Press releases from the campaign often include sentences that start, "Under the Clinton administration ..." "Yesterday's news was pretty good," Bill Clinton said last month in Iowa while campaigning with his wife. But yesterdays' news isn't always easy to explain today. Associated Press
Bloggers Give Clinton a Mixed Reception: Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York walked into the lion's den here Saturday, drawing applause as well as boos and hisses from an audience of progressive bloggers during a presidential candidates forum in which she became the target of sharp criticism from several of her Democratic rivals. Washington Post: Link
Clinton gains respect at gathering of bloggers: Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton faced a convention Saturday of 1,400 politically influential online activists who don't particularly like her. Yet she emerged from the presidential forum here at the Yearly Kos convention with a little more respect – if not love – from the liberal bloggers. S.F. Chronicle: Link
Obama feels Utah's love: A drive-by greeting organized by a few Barack Obama supporters turned into a major open-air rally that drew hundreds of cheering admirers Sunday. Salt Lake Tribune: Link
Romney yet to connect with S.C. Republicans: Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney holds a clear lead over his GOP rivals in Iowa and New Hampshire. But for some reason, Romney hasn’t been able to connect with S.C. voters — a key primary state in Romney’s bid to gain his party’s nomination. The State: Link
5 questions with U.S. Sen. John McCain: Contrary to most pronouncements, Republican presidential hopeful U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said last week that “everything is fine” with his 2008 S.C. primary campaign. The State: Link
Some in party fear GOP is straying on social issues: Some national Republican Party officials worry that their party is moving away from its conservative stands on social and religious issues in preparation for the 2008 elections. Washington Times: Link
Single-issue groups skew dialogue, some say: Special-interest groups are planting themselves like cornstalks in Iowa, hoping their ideas will take root in the state that hosts the first-in-the-nation presidential caucuses. Des Moines Register: Link
One soccer goal: recruit Democrats: Nevada state Assemblyman Ruben Kihuen, clad in a brand-new royal blue jersey with matching shorts, stepped onto a neighborhood soccer field here Thursday evening and launched a new front in the battle for the political loyalties of this city's rapidly growing Latino community. Los Angeles Times: Link
Candidates duel over Georgia's black votes: If you're a black political leader in Georgia, the past few months have made Caller ID essential to your peace of mind. It's been one of the few ways to duck the long, demanding calls from Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and their top ambassadors. Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Link
Rothenberg: And the Senate Race Is On in South Dakota: I have had an almost-finished column sitting on my desk since the end of June. It’s not that I couldn’t finish it. I just decided to put it on hold, indefinitely. Roll Call (Subscription required): Link
GOP eyes California's electoral pie: California GOP strategists, seeking to reshape the electoral map in their party's favor, plan to begin raising money this week for a ballot initiative they hope will help a Republican win the White House in the 2008 election. Los Angeles Times: Link
Bush Signs Law Widening Reach for Wiretapping: President Bush signed into law on Sunday legislation that broadly expanded the government’s authority to eavesdrop on the international telephone calls and e-mail messages of American citizens without warrants. New York Times: Link
Karzai hopes summit will thaw relationship with Pakistan: Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf will meet with one of his prominent critics, Afghan President Hamid Karzai, this week to discuss efforts to battle militants who have established a haven in Pakistan. Musharraf has been the target of intense criticism since a U.S. intelligence assessment reported last month that al Qaeda and Taliban insurgents were operating freely along Pakistan's porous, mountainous border with Afghanistan. Karzai, appearing on CNN's "Late Edition," said he will meet with Musharraf after his talks with President Bush on Sunday and Monday in Camp David, Maryland. CNN: Link
Congress recesses amid Democratic achievements: After months of being flogged for accomplishing little, Democrats who control Congress headed into a summer recess having passed several high-profile bills from raising the minimum wage to bolstering U.S. security and expanding children's health care. Their top priority - ending the Iraq war - remains frustratingly unfulfilled. But the Democrats who took over in January were able to go home early on Sunday for a monthlong break having won more support in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives for bringing combat troops home by early next year, marking a significant turnaround from last year. Reuters
Panel to Probe Floor Uproar: Despite intense partisan rancor over a disputed House vote last week — which delayed activity in the chamber and prompted a rare Saturday session on the eve of the August recess — House lawmakers agreed Friday evening to establish a select committee to review the incident. Roll Call (Subscription required): Link
Rep. John Boehner plots comeback for Republicans: John Boehner has had his share of bad breaks. One of the worst happened in November, when the Democratic Party's sweep of Congress cost him his job as House majority leader. Plain Dealer
GOP donors here hold back: The Upstate may have the most votes, but the Lowcountry has voted more heavily by checkbook so far in the 2008 presidential campaign. Greenville News: Link
GOP gets fired up at fundraiser: Yesterday's Manchester Republican Committee fundraiser was a blast. Literally. GOP boosters got the chance to fire machine guns in exchange for a $25 contribution. About 300 people came to the Pelham Fish & Game Club to shoot tommy guns and M16s at bowling pins three feet in the air. They raised between $2,000 and $2,500, split between the Manchester GOP and the club. Concord Monitor: Link
Candidates line up to visit Jon Stewart: Four presidential candidates are lined up to visit Jon Stewart on "The Daily Show" over the next three weeks as Comedy Central's satirical news review ramps up its "Indecision 2008" coverage. Associated Press: Link