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« Pre-Debate Poll Shows Clinton Solidifying Lead | Blog Home Page | Romney's New Massachusetts Dilemma »

Morning Thoughts: SCHIP On The Shoulder

Happy debate day. As the Democratic candidates wind their way to Hanover, New Hampshire, and as Republicans (minus the four front-runners) prepare to make their way to Baltimore for tomorrow's turn at the microphone, here's what Washington is watching:

-- The House last night passed the compromise State Children's Health Insurance Program by a wide 265-159 margin. While Speaker Nancy Pelosi immediately sent out a release praising its passage, the margin was short of a veto-proof majority, meaning Democrats have to do something to get President Bush to back away from his veto threat. In the Senate, a veto-proof majority exists.

-- Both the House and Senate are in session today, continuing the long road to appropriations passage, as the end of Fiscal Year 2007 draws to a close on Tuesday.

-- Democrats keep the pressure on Republicans on Iraq, as the Senate Appropriations Committee gets a shot at Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte and outgoing Joint Chiefs Chairman Peter Pace, as they testify in support of President Bush's FY08 supplemental request for war funding. Committee members include war opponents Robert Byrd, Patrick Leahy, Tom Harkin, Dianne Feinstein and Jack Reed, all of whom will take their shots.

-- Off the Hill, General Motors and the United Auto Workers reached a deal to end their two-day strike, shifting $51 billion into a union trust fund for retirees' health care. The brief walkout, the first nationwide strike against GM in thirty years, brought statements of support from every Democratic campaign, but as Ben Smith points out, it's lucky for Dems the action only lasted two days. Presidential candidates would not have been able to walk picket lines in Detroit, thanks to the four legitimate early primary states who made candidates sign a pledge saying they wouldn't campaign in Michigan or Florida. Still, with GM plants in 30 states, candidates would have had plenty of opportunities to picket their hearts out.

-- In other union news, former Sen. John Edwards still can't convince the Service Employees to back him. At a board meeting in Chicago on Monday, SEIU again declined to endorse their favorite son, or any preferred offspring, for that matter. A majority of board members favored Edwards, though together they do not represent 60% of the union's members. The union backed former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean in 2004 and stuck by the governor through the end of his campaign.

-- The exodus has begun: With four months to go before the first votes are cast, Delaware Sen. Joe Biden is sending virtually his entire campaign staff to Iowa, reports The Fix. Yet another candidate, that means, is banking on a great showing in Iowa; Biden just becomes the first to visibly confirm it. He joins John Edwards, Bill Richardson (to some extent), Sam Brownback, Tom Tancredo and Mike Huckabee (notwithstanding Huckabee's trip to New Hampshire later this week) in betting it all on Iowa. The Hawkeye State, unlike many other early states who find their status threatened, is only getting stronger.

-- Speaking of Richardson, in an incredible play to the Netroots, the governor is now running an ad featuring three prominent lefty bloggers (see the ad here). "The media is silent," the ad begins, scratching behind the proverbial ears of every Netroots activist watching television. The ad dropped yesterday, and begins running in some New Hampshire markets today, after columnist David Brooks asserted that bloggers can tell you "almost nothing" about the future of the Democratic Party. The article has probably flooded Brooks' inbox, while bloggers from around the Netroots scream bloody murder.

-- Back to the ads for a minute: USA Today reports that running ads in the primary, already a big business so early in the season, is only going to get moving faster. It's likely, the paper reports, that campaigns will spend more than $100 million on television during the primary. That's a spicy meatball.

-- Keep an eye on this one: The Washington Post picks up on the idea that outgoing Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns is abandoning his post just as the farm bill comes before Congress. Johanns foe Hal Daub, a former Omaha Mayor and member of Congress, already criticized the Secretary for not sticking it out (2nd release down), as has the Nebraska Democratic Party. If the argument sticks, Johanns' Republican primary opponents, and his Democratic general election opponent, if he gets that far, will hammer away as much as possible.

-- Good Move Or Bad Move Of The Day: Offered an interview with President Bush, National Public Radio said thanks, but no thanks. The White House had urged NPR to let top political analyst Juan WIlliams, who is African American, interview Bush on the 50th anniversary of the Little Rock 9 school desegregation. NPR was upset that the White House had tried to pick their own interviewer, while Williams told Howie Kurtz he was "stunned by the decision to turn their backs on [Bush] and to turn their backs on me." The interview will air instead on Fox News. Good move? Bad move? At least it was a gutsy move.

-- Today On The Trail: Barack Obama holds one of the few pre-debate events when two Peterborough residents throw him a house party this morning. Rudy Giuliani sits down with Iraqi President Jalal Talabani today in New York, followed by two events in New Jersey, while Mitt Romney is still in California holding "Ask Mitt Anything" forums in Long Beach. Also today, the third annual Clinton Global Initiative opens in New York, hosted by former President Bill Clinton.