On a week that ended with a focus on President Bush's colon and Hillary Clinton's breasts, Mitt Romney stumbled into an inter-party spat over body parts and appropriateness, criticizing Barack Obama's words but ignoring (not realizing?) the substance of Obama's positions on sex-ed in kindergarten.
By the end of the week, Romney was the target of some rough national press coverage, although it remains to be seen whether the activists to whom Romney targeted his message are as criticial. For the first time in a while, the press blew air into the Romney-as-flip-floper storyline despite a yeoman's effort by Romney's alter ego, Eric Fehrnstrom, to defend the candidate.
Ann Romney's solo tour of South Carolina drew big crowds and excellent press coverage. She introduces her husband as a "Yankee governor with Southern values."
My how the political times have changed. When Republicans used to accuse Democrats of being disloyal, Democrats would whine about the charge and generally slink away. Ben Smith is spot on -- the Pentagon has given Hillary Clinton an enormous opportunity to engage the Democratic base by suggesting that any talk of a timetable assists the enemy.
John Edwards ended his poverty tour to a mix bag of coverage. The national media seemed to report on the politics of the poverty. The local coverage was better. And at the end of the week, four news organizations featured a story about how Edwards is defining the terms of the policy debate for the Democratic presidential nominees. It's more true for domestic issues like health care and poverty than it is for Iraq, but this is a storyline that Edwards's team has been pushing for a while now. Edwards began to air a new ad in New Hampshire featuring wife Elizabeth, who vouches for Edwards's toughness as a leader. And Elizabeth, in an interview with Salon, provoked Rube Goldbergian interpretations by suggesting that Clinton was both running to be the first female president but failed to fully leverage that position to stump on behalf of women's causes.
Rudy Giuliani stumped for two whole days in Iowa; Barack Obama stumped through Iowa and New Hampshire. Speaking of: on a rainy, humid day, Obama drew 500 to Sunapee, NH.
We learned that Fred Thompson plans to announce his candidacy after labor day, that he plans to announce his fundraising totals at the end of the month, and that his name will be on the straw poll ballot in Ames. Records showing he lobbied for an abortion rights group were released. Some of Thompson's allies are looking more closely at his record as a result. And how can a guy with a "testing the waters" committee allow his supporters to say things like this? Rep. Zack Wamp: " I see right now the plans being put into place for the 60 days after the announcement It's been like drinking out of a fire hose. You see people being added to this team every week. He's doing everything a presidential candidate would do without being in the race."
A poll showing Bill Richardson's New Hampshire gains brought cheer; the campaign released a new ad on Iraq.
Lede of the week
Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama said Thursday the United States cannot use its military to solve humanitarian problems and that preventing a potential genocide in Iraq isn't a good enough reason to keep U.S. forces there.
The author is Phil Elliott of the AP in New Hampshire.
Monday, CNN, YouTube and Google put on some kind of debate at the Citadel in Charleston, SC. On Tuesday, John Edwards campaigns in South Carolina. On Wednesday and Thursday, the Democrats attend the National Urban League convention in St. Louis. Fred Thompson raises money in Alabama Saturday, Massachusetts Monday, and Texas Thursday. Rudy Giuliani is in California on Monday; McCain is in Iowa on Monday and Tuesday. The rest of his week is mostly political: he's in NH on Wednesday and Thursday. Romney's schedule is tba.