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Morning Thoughts: Threatening Retirements

Happy Thursday morning. Today, we find out what a new $5 bill looks like when the Treasury Department unveils the new design at 9:30. Other, lesser stories moving today:

-- The Senate, still considering the Defense Authorization bill, yesterday defeated Sen. Jim Webb's amendment to define the amount of time servicemembers must stay home after deployment in a combat zone. The bill went down with just 56 votes, four short of the 60 needed to end debate, as Webb and co-sponsor Chuck Hagel (R-NE) were unable to swing the votes necessary from Republican moderates to get it passed. Sen. John Warner (R-VA), who had supported the measure when it first came up in July, voted against it this time after conversations with the White House and Defense Department.

-- The House is on to the FAA Reauthorization Act, while the House Intelligence Committee holds a rare open session with National Intelligence Director Mike McConnell and assistant Attorney General Kenneth Wainstein, to discuss the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Visitors, make sure you're there for the 8:30 am security sweep.

-- In the eleven days left until the third quarter fundraising deadline, candidates are getting nervous about their numbers. Marc Ambinder, always the master predictor, throws out some numbers, including his guess that Bill Richardson "could" beat John Edwards this quarter. Question: After a number of shoddy debate performances, lackluster polling numbers and no real momentum, where is Richardson's money coming from? One theory: His commercials are brilliant, and his poll numbers rival, in some cases, Edwards'. Is Richardson the anti-Edwards?

-- While Norman Hsu cost Hillary Clinton several hundred thousand dollars, much of which she tried to get back after returning it, Hsu isn't the only bundler in trouble with the law. Edwards bundler William Lerach, of the law firm Lerach Coughlin, appeared likely to face criminal charges after his firm came under indictment. Now, the bundler who raised $78,000 for Edwards has reached a plea deal with prosecutors that would send him to jail for a year. Edwards released a statement in May supporting the firm in a case against the SEC.

-- Unless John McCain pulls off a miracle, 2008 will be the first year in generations in which neither party's nominee has military experience. Making matters bad for the GOP, the party has lost its historical edge when respondents are asked which party they trust most when handling the war on terror and Iraq. So is Rudy Giuliani right to be attacking Hillary Clinton for her questioning of General David Petraeus? Dick Polman says no.

-- Another Republican House member is out. Rep. Jerry Weller (R-IL), who recently has undergone scrutiny for land deals in Nicaragua, will step down after seven terms, according to two sources of the Chicago Tribune. Weller's district, to Chicago's south and southwest, is one of the fastest growing in the country, and GOPers can't be happy of having to defend it: President Bush beat Al Gore here by just two percent, and took out John Kerry by a slightly healthier 7%.

-- The news of Weller's open seat is no good for the GOP, but this one could be even worse: Rep. Chris Shays (R-CT), the lone Republican left in the Northeast's House delegation, has threatened to retire unless he is given an assignment as the ranking Republican member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. The maverick, who has barely survived his past several races, represents a district that voted for Gore by 10% and for Kerry by 6%. Shays' chief of staff said Shays hadn't actually threatened to retire, he had simply responded to a question posed by a reporter.

-- Least Welcome News Of The Day: Eighteen Republicans and four Democrats made Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington's third annual "Most Corrupt Members of Congress" report, out yesterday. They include retiring Reps. Weller, Duncan Hunter and Rick Renzi, perennial inclusion Jack Murtha and a few members, including Reps. John Doolittle, Tom Feeney, Don Young and Heather Wilson, Democrats are targeting in 2008. Senators Larry Craig (R-ID) and David Vitter (R-LA) won "dishonorable mentions" for their recent, well, publicity. (h/t: Political Wire)

-- Today On The Trail: Democrats participate in an AARP "Divided We Fail" forum in Davenport, Iowa, that will appear on Iowa Public Television. Except Obama; this is the first forum the Illinois Senator is skipping in order to run his own campaign. Three big Republicans hold nothing more than press availabilities today, as Mitt Romney shows up at the Oakland County, Michigan, airport; Fred Thompson is at Love Field in Dallas; and Rudy Giuliani, fresh off the jet lag, is in Reston, Virginia, just outside the Beltway. Mike Huckabee and Sam Brownback are in South Carolina, where both campaigns have room to grow, and former President Bill Clinton will sit down with the Daily Show's Jon Stewart tonight.