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« Dems Win Mississippi! | Blog Home Page | Obama Still Fresh Face To Many Iowans »

Morning Thoughts: Veto This

FAIRFIELD, IOWA -- Politics Nation had no need for an alarm clock this morning. The train that rolled through town, apparently very slowly, judging by the number of whistle blasts, took care of an alarm's normal duty. Still, we wouldn't have minded had the train come, say, after four a.m. From the campaign trail, here's what's on the minds of Beltway insiders today:

-- The Senate meets today to vote on the president's veto of the Water Resources Development Act. The veto was overridden in the House earlier this week, and because WRDA earned more than 80 votes in the Senate, the upper chamber is expected to find the votes necessary and follow the House's lead. The House, meanwhile, is gearing up for a tax fight. The Rules Committee today will formulate the procedure under which the Alternative Minimum Tax relief proposal, which passed out of the Ways and Means Committee recently, will be debated on the floor.

-- A Politics Nation theory: John Edwards' biggest problem is not Hillary Clinton; it's Barack Obama. Edwards needs to cast himself as the Anyone But Clinton default candidate, a spot held at the moment by Obama. We're anticipating Edwards targeting Obama in some significant way, and he took a shot yesterday in Newmarket, New Hampshire. Edwards, writes the Nashua Telegraph's Kevin Landrigan, says it takes a fighter to battle special interests, not a unifier, as Obama describes himself. Obama, meanwhile, has begun mentioning Edwards at least once in town hall visits around Iowa. Is his campaign preparing to return fire?

-- The expectations game is fully at work now. Obama, in a video interview with CBN's David Brody, says he doesn't necessarily have to win Iowa to win the nomination. Obama's money, unlike most other Democratic candidates, can carry him through to February 5th states, but in a sense he's right: Conventional wisdom is that Edwards must win Iowa and that Clinton can put away the nomination with a win here. But Obama? Expectations have yet to be set, though anything but a win certainly makes the rest of the race exceedingly difficult.

-- Pat Robertson's decision to back Rudy Giuliani has candidates and Republican activists from all corners talking, and it's given some of the Mayor's opponents license (as if they needed it) to attack. Like Barack Obama's implicit indictment of Hillary Clinton as politics as usual, Mitt Romney has a common refrain on Giuliani: "I don't think the Republican Party will choose a pro-choice, pro-gay civil union candidate to lead our party" (that from NBC/NJ's Erin McPike). Around town, Gary Bauer's not surprised and Laura Ingraham is not happy with the reasoning behind the pick. And Mike Huckabee, the GOP's nice guy who's been bypassed of late by top conservative leaders, actually took a shot at Robertson: "I think that it's pretty disearteneing to see that it's not necessarily based on people that you say, 'Gosh, these guys really have the right principles.'"

-- Giuliani's week was looking great yesterday. Today, not so much. Giuliani has refused to answer questions about friend and former New York City Police Chief Bernie Kerik beyond an Associated Press interview earlier this week. He'll get more questions today, when Kerik is likely to be indicted on fraud, corruption and conspiracy charges by a suburban New York grand jury, writes the New York Times. The image of a close confidante being led away in chains is exactly the opposite of what Giuliani wants, especially as he makes his final push toward the nomination.

-- Iowa caucus-goers won't head to the polls until January 3rd, but at the moment, Hillary Clinton is leading the Democratic race. The measure: Not polls, not money, but in actual delegates to the Democratic National Convention. Of the more than 800 members of Congress, party leaders and other top officials who get automatic invites to Denver, 159 are backing Clinton, reports the New York Times. Obama runs second, with 59 delegates. Party leaders and elected officials don't always get it right -- a 2004 survey showed Howard Dean outpacing John Kerry among PLEOs. But a number is a number, and right now, Clinton is ahead. Oh, unless you count undecideds. Then they're ahead, by a nearly 2-1 margin over Clinton. Still, in a close election, super delegates become exceedingly important.

-- The Election '07 hangover has passed, but ruminations about larger implications are still rolling in. The real target of all the wonderings: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who faces re-election next year in a state that just handed its Republican governor a 20 point loss. As The Fix notes, McConnell is already up on television for a race more than a year away -- and one for which he has yet to attract an opponent. McConnell is spending $117,000 on a 60-second ad in Louisville and Lexington. Remember that no Democrat has won a statewide federal election in Kentucky since Bill Clinton in 1996, and Wendell Ford won big in 1992. Since then, McConnell's seat mate Jim Bunning has faced two nail-biter elections, but has pulled it out both times. Is McConnell in trouble? It certainly looks like he thinks so.

-- Frenchman Of The Day: Bonjour, Mme. Clinton? C'est Nicolas. During his trip to Washington this week, French President Nicolas Sarkozy had a busy schedule, but he had no trouble shoe-horning in 15 minutes to call Clinton. Sarkozy, one source told the Washington Post, wanted to get a lay of the political land. He's already met with Barack Obama and John McCain as well.

-- Today On The Trail: We're on the trail with Obama, who meets residents in Fairfield, Chariton, Ottumwa and Knoxville. Bill Richardson is in Manchester, Concord and Portsmouth, while Hillary Clinton is in North Conway and Somersworth, New Hampshire. Joe Biden will give a speech at St. Anselm, in Manchester. On the GOP side, Mike Huckabee is in Cedar Rapids before heading to Owosso, Michigan, for a fundraiser. John McCain holds an event in Jackson, Michigan, while Rudy Giuliani meets reporters in Dubuque then meets voters in Cedar Falls, before flying out to Las Vegas to deliver a speech.