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Strategy Memo: Edwards Returns

Good Thursday morning. Any idea what all the cable networks will be focused on today? "Hello, Senator Edwards' booker?" Here's the rest of what Washington is watching today:

-- The House will take up a bill to appropriate supplemental funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, along with some money for domestic spending, while the Senate could start to vote on the conference committee's report on the farm bill, a report that passed the House with limited opposition. President Bush, on his first full day in Israel, visited Masada this morning and will address the Knesset today, before meeting with Quartet Representative and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

-- But the big news today is John Edwards, the former candidate and one-time Iowa front-runner who stood on stage in Grand Rapids, Michigan last night to offer some very kind words for Hillary Clinton before announcing his endorsement of Barack Obama. In the heart of Reagan Democrat country, Edwards talked about working-class issues, and the healing between Obama and white working class voters begins. Expect Edwards to get out on the campaign trail a lot for Obama in the coming months to start doing that repair work.

-- Edwards' support drives another nail in Clinton's coffin in a meta sense, but practically, he doesn't even officially bring the 16 delegates already named to Edwards-backing seats at the convention. They're free to vote for whomever they like, though given the number of ex-Edwards supporters who have migrated to the Obama campaign it's pretty likely they will be in his corner too. Notice that Edwards waited until after his state's primary; he likely couldn't have helped Obama, not only because of Obama's large margin in North Carolina but also because Edwards, who only ran once in the state, doesn't have much of an organization there. Still, more than Joe Andrew or George McGovern or Roy Romer, Edwards' backing has an air of finality, and of the party coalescing around the winner, about it.

-- Practically speaking, Edwards' was on the second-most important nod bestowed upon Obama yesterday. NARAL Pro-Choice America also gave the young senator their blessing, with the president of the abortion rights group saying they were backing the candidate who would likely win the Democratic nomination, again while praising Clinton. It's the first major women's group to abandon Clinton, and it's another sign that the Washington establishment is deciding that the race is over. (For more, check out The Fix's extensive look at the reasoning and timing behind an Edwards nod)

-- NARAL's backing of Obama prompted an angry reply from more than a dozen Clinton-backing female members of Congress, who in an evening press conference called the endorsement all kinds of ugly names. Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz said she felt "abandoned," while California Rep. Jane Harman called it a "betrayal," per Politico. EMILY's List President Ellen Malcolm issued a strongly-worded statement blasting NARAL, as Marc Ambinder writes. The endorsement's real fallout: Strife in the abortion-rights community, and further rending of the Democratic fabric.

-- Over on the GOP side, look for this story to be repeated ad nauseam: A John McCain aide is in trouble for lobbying connections. McCain has already lost two aides over their ties to the repressive regime in Myanmar, and now the Wall Street Journal reports that campaign manager Rick Davis had helped a Ukrainian political party that had the support of Vladimir Putin, the former Russian president who had a habit of meddling in nearby countries' elections. McCain, meanwhile, has publicly voiced support for the incumbent party of Viktor Yuschenko. Davis still owns a portion of the lobbying firm, Davis Manafort, but he's not earning any income, a spokesman reports. With former lobbyists involved in McCain's campaign, this story is going to return.

-- Meanwhile, McCain has designated one aide as his top attack dog already. Former chief of staff Mark Salter, frequently referred to as the senator's alter ego, has honed his skills in the art of the attack memo, and the Journal, profiling him today, suggests that could be a prelude to a campaign not inclined to pull punches. If Salter is pushing for an aggressive line against Obama, McCain is going to hear about it, and from a voice he trusts. How influential is Salter in McCain's inner circle? Three campaign aides who had quit smoking took up their habits again thanks to time spent around him.

-- Buyouts Of The Day: As the deadline for accepting a buyout from the Washington Post passes today, expect a few more names to leak out. But few could compare with yesterday's news, both in the news and entertainment divisions. On the funny side, sportswriter Tony Kornheiser, an ESPN and Washington staple, will take the buyout, he announced on his show yesterday. On the serious side, David Broder will too, as Politico reports. The man long called the dean of the Washington press corps will become a contract writer after 2008.

-- Today On The Trail: Obama is down today, spending time in Chicago. Clinton has a town hall meeting in Bath, South Dakota, before heading out west to California for a fundraiser. McCain has a major speech ready for Columbus, Ohio, and he will end the day in Washington.