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« SCHIP Will Never Die | Blog Home Page | What Not To Ask »

Morning Thoughts: Someone's Moment

A beautifully clear Tuesday morning here in Washington. Politics Nation is headed to Philadelphia today, so stop by Pat's or Geno's -- we'll sample both. And, as one top GOP staffer advised us last night, we won't ask for swiss cheese. Here's what Washington is paying attention to today:

-- The Senate will begin roll call votes on the Amtrak Reauthorization bill this morning, and could take up the latest version of SCHIP, while the House tackles internet taxes and small business contracting. This morning, President Bush met with House Republicans at the White House.

-- Politics Nation will be gorging on cheese steaks in advance of the DNC-sanctioned Democratic debate taking place tonight on the campus of Drexel University, in the city of brotherly love. There will be little love lost tonight, though, if Barack Obama makes good on his promises to challenge Hillary Clinton more directly. Still, as Rick Klein pointed out yesterday, this is the third time in recent months that Obama has promised a more direct challenge to Clinton. The first came as early as August, while the most recent happened on CNN's Situation Room, in early October.

-- The media certainly wants a fight, and headlines today are forecasting a real battle. But the weekend New York Times interview previewing the battle raised two questions. "He certainly telegraphed that punch, which isn't always the best way to do this," Clinton backer Steve Elmendorf told The Hill. Is this Obama's way of attacking without actually attacking? The audacity, perhaps, of a head fake? Then, Elmendorf finishes the quote: "Time is running out, and they clearly know that." Have Obama's people just waited too long?

-- Meanwhile, one candidate is actually hitting Clinton with clear, sharp attacks that could gain traction, if anybody paid attention to him. Iowa is becoming more and more important to ex-Sen. John Edwards, but he seems to be losing steam there, according to the latest RCP Iowa Average. In early April, Edwards was at 31.3% and led the field. Today, he's down to 21.3%, trailing Clinton and Obama and on an obvious slope. For Edwards, tonight marks a likely turning point: Either he steps up and competes with both fellow front-runners or he descends into tedious whining. Watch how much time the MSNBC moderators give him; that's likely the deciding factor: The more time he has to make his point, the better chance he has of making it.

-- Just four presidential candidates have already spent more than $8.7 million on Iowa television ads, reports Ad Age's Ira Teinowitz. Barack Obama and Mitt Romney have doled out about $2.6 million each -- as much as John Kerry did during the whole 2004 cycle -- while Bill Richardson is at $1.9 million and Hillary Clinton is at $1.6. The kicker: With so much money, Obama, Clinton and others will dump so much money into the Hawkeye State that Christmas advertising from local businesses will be elbowed out.

-- In what will perhaps be the best show on television tonight (yes, we know the debate's on, but still...) Texas Rep. Ron Paul heads to the Tonight Show with Jay Leno at Leno's Burbank studios. The appearance will certainly boost Paul's fundraising, which has been going at an impressive pace: He's raised $2.4 million this month alone, according to his website, which updates donations in real time. The LA Times notes that already, Leno has hosted presidential candidates 11 times. Still, no Rudy Giuliani and no Hillary Clinton. They're both Letterman fans.

-- Mike Huckabee is in the midst of his latest boomlet, and this time, he may be converting the opportunity. David Yepsen today gives him a "Reagan-like spirit" and suggests the former guv could actually win the Iowa caucuses. The New York Sun suggests he may be the GOP's dark horse this year, and the latest RCP Iowa Average shows him just over half a point out of second place. How's that translating in the money race? Marc Ambinder says pretty well: He's pulled in $700,000 online this month, a much faster clip than his first and second quarter pace, and about $5,000 a day better than the third quarter. Could this boomlet actually pan out?

-- Bad Headline Of The Day: "Thompson, in rare trip to state, promises more visits." So heads the Concord Monitor after Fred Thompson filed for the Granite State primary ballot yesterday in just his second visit. With just over two months before primary day, Thompson celebrated the grand opening of his Manchester headquarters and belted out this gem, by way of explaining his absence: "Every time you're somewhere, that means you're not somewhere else."

-- Today On The Trail: Paul is in Burbank and Democrats are in Philadelphia tonight. Before he gets to Drexel University, Bill Richardson heads to Concord to file for the primary. For the rest of the GOP, John McCain joins Jewish leaders for a forum in New York, Mitt Romney is in Chicago, where he holds a press availability, Rudy Giuliani participates in an NFIB conference call, and Fred Thompson announces new endorsements in Sacramento.