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« Morning Thoughts: Fundraising Gets Weird | Blog Home Page | Netroots Take On Cornyn »

Morning Thoughts: Trouble For Obama, Edwards?

Nearly October and Fall still hasn't quite arrived in Washington. And with fewer than 72 hours to go until the third quarter fundraising deadline, the candidates are starting their final pushes.

-- No major action expected in either the House or the Senate today. In the administration, President Bush delivers remarks at a climate change conference at the State Department, while Vice President Cheney addresses the Council for National Policy in Salt Lake City, then raises money for newly-appointed Senator John Barrasso in Teton Villiage, Wyoming. Finally, the Congressional Black Caucus holds their annual Legislative Conference, where members and guests will hear from Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, as well as freshman Sen. Jim Webb.

-- Democrats are secretly breathing easier this morning, as backers of a controversial initiative to award California's electoral votes by Congressional District have given up. The plan, which would have conceivably given Republicans as many as 20 of the state's 55 electoral votes, has suffered from internal arguments, a lack of funds and resignations, reports the Los Angeles Times, which broke the news. Two other states, Nebraska and Maine, split their electoral votes, though neither are ever seriously contested. Had Republicans who backed the electoral initiative succeeded, the party would have been looking at a much easier path in 2008.

-- For one Democrat, today is going to bring a lot of questions that will send the campaign off message. Former Senator John Edwards yesterday said he would accept public financing for the Democratic primary, a change from his previous plan to raise and spend amounts not subject to the FEC's spending limits. The campaign's point of view: Adhering to spending limits draws an important distinction between Edwards and the two free-spending front-runners. The immediate reaction from other campaigns: Stick a fork in him; Edwards is done. The spending limits, they say, will mean Edwards gets to spend less on advertising in Iowa than New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson already has spent. Really, can you get by with just $1.48 million in Iowa (FEC limits here)?

-- It's amazing to see the following sentence, comparing Edwards' fundraising to Clinton's and Obama's: "Edwards raised just $23 million in the first six months of the year," writes AP's Nedra Pickler

-- Edwards spent some of yesterday defending his wife, who has no qualms taking on Clinton, Obama, or really anyone in her path. But Elizabeth Edwards, John's biggest fan and closest advisor, isn't the presidential spouse who wishes she hadn't said something she did. That honor falls to Michelle Obama. "Iowa will make the difference," Obama said, according to the LA Times. "If Barack doesn't win Iowa, it is just a dream." Wait, did she just say Obama, running third in the latest RCP Iowa Average, had to win the Hawkeye State? That's pretty far off the reservation.

-- Campaign manager David Plouffe, though, said the same thing without saying the same thing in a memo to supporters this week. While polls have Obama running behind, Plouffe argues that the campaign will benefit from a "hidden vote," meaning youth and others who don't typically vote in primaries. Those voters, pollsters know, don't actually vote in most primaries, so the pollsters set up "screens" to weed them out of samples. Plouffe may be right, Obama may have a great deal more support than he shows in public polls. But there's a reason pollsters say youth and others don't vote in primaries: They don't, typically. For any campaign to rely on a population like that to win a primary can be very dangerous. Obama's New Hampshire director, Matt Rodriguez, stayed behind at the debate site yesterday to encourage students to register their friends to vote for his guy. Does this mean Obama's camp knows he's having trouble with older voters?

-- On the GOP side, major evangelical leaders are not only frustrated with the lack of a consensus social conservative among Republican front-runners, they're beginning to get frustrated with each other, reports the Washington Times. American Values founder Gary Bauer has criticized statements from Focus on the Family President James Dobson, who doesn't think Fred Thompson is a Christian, while Family Research Council President Tony Perkins downplayed any rift. Redeem the Vote chief Randy Brinson, of Montgomery, Alabama, said the lack of a consensus was coming from Washington-based evangelical groups, who had a symbiotic relationship with economic conservative groups and therefore wouldn't back former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, a Southern Baptist minister.

-- What if you throw a debate and the guests of honor don't show? Well, six Republican candidates who did show up to the PBS debate last night in Baltimore tried to out-do each other by lobbing bombs at the four front-runners who skipped the show. The front-runners have been criticized by party strategists for abandoning the minority vote, and now they have a chance to remedy the situation: Univision and the University of Miami are offering GOPers another shot to address Hispanic voters, after an originally-planned September 16 forum was called off due to lack of interest.

-- One of those front-runners has a little more brushing up to do if he's going to perform well in his first debate, in Michigan in October. After botching questions on Terri Schiavo and drilling in the Florida Everglades, former Senator Fred Thompson admitted yesterday he was unaware a federal judge had ruled Tennessee's lethal injection procedures were unconstitutional. The Senator, who made the death penalty a centerpiece of his campaign in 1994, was also unaware that the Supreme Court said it would take up the question of whether the procedure in neighboring Kentucky violated the Eighth Amendment protection against cruel and unusual punishment. Thompson needs to lock himself in a room with newspapers from the last year if he wants to protect himself from what could be a fatal stumble in his first debate.

-- Endorsement Of The Day: The day after winning the backing of Hollywood mogul Rob Reiner, the world learns that Sen. Clinton is also picking up the support of former Democratic nominee George McGovern. McGovern will announce his support in Iowa City on October 6th, he confirmed while sitting in a barber shop in his home town of Mitchell, South Dakota.

-- Today On The Trail: Huckabee delivers a foreign policy address at the Center for Strategic and International Studies today in Washington, while Obama delivers the convocation at Howard University, also here in DC. Clinton and Obama are also, as noted above, addressing the CBC legislative conference. Sen. John McCain is in Detroit to address the 2007 Hispanic Business Expo; he later holds a town hall in St. Clair Shores, Michigan. Ex-Gov. Mitt Romney will address the Council on National Policy, though not with Cheney, in Salt Lake City. Ex-Mayor Rudy Giuliani will continue a California swing in Los Angeles and Yountville. John Edwards is still swinging through New Hampshire, and Richardson is raising cash in Florida.