Monday Morning Quarterback: No More Mr. Nice Guy

Fall-out from Al Gore’s Nobel Peace Prize, sharpening attacks between leading candidates in both parties, questions about Fred Thompson, and the big debates next Sunday on both the Republican and Democratic sides, are likely to feature in the upcoming week ahead in presidential politics.


The big news will be the release of financial specifics from all the campaigns. While all the candidates have revealed fundraising numbers for the third quarter, with plenty of spin involved, their financial reports are actually due on the 15th. This week we’ll learn more with regard to campaign “burn rates,” geographically targeted spending, and cash on hand.

Al Gore’s win of the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday, which he shares with the scientific Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, ignited a firestorm of press speculation about a late entry into the Democratic presidential race. I don’t expect it, given the satisfaction of most Democrats with their current field and the great gig that Gore now has as a celebrity global statesman, but that isn’t stopping the press and activists from speculating. Gore’s Nobel will bring a greater focus on the environment to the Democratic race: less so the Republican primaries, where only John McCain and Rudy Giuliani among the top candidates have spoken particularly of their sharing of the majority view on climate change.

Knives are sharpening on the GOP side, with Giuliani and Mitt Romney going at it over taxes. Each claims he is a true tax-cutter and his rival is not. That will continue, with Giuliani have closed in on Romney’s once big lead in New Hampshire. Romney probably just took a serious misstep when he declared that he is the only candidate who represents “the Republican wing of the Republican Party.” Giuliani and McCain are gleefully pointing out the various changes in his positions since he was running for senator and governor in Massachusetts.


It’s getting harsher on the Democratic end, too, with John Edwards and Barack Obama increasingly criticizing frontrunner Hillary Clinton. Obama, given his “politics of hope” positioning, hopes, so to speak, that Edwards does most of the nasty work of attacking Hillary. And Edwards is doing the job, hitting her campaign for its ties to lobbyists and for her vote to declare Iran’s Republican Guard a “terrorist” organization, saying she’s helping pave the way to war in Iran as she did in Iraq.

Obama will also make hay this week of Hillary’s flip-flop on another Iran-related matter, that of negotiating with the regime. Hillary called Obama “naive” for saying he’d talk with Iran without preconditions. But late last week in New Hampshire, she told a voter that she would, too.

Missing from the bipartisan sharp elbows brigade is Fred Thompson. In fact, some questions are emerging about his level of personal campaigning. While Giuliani, Romney, and McCain were much in evidence last week around the country, Thompson’s major event was last Tuesday’s debate in Michigan.

There his performance was certainly adequate, but hardly overwhelming in the manner that his early billing as a conservative savior suggested. Considering that he was the only guy on stage with a SAG card, the veteran actor was surprisingly nervous at the outset, though he settled down and delivered boilerplate conservative themes with confidence.


But Thompson cancelled out of campaigning in New Hampshire the weekend just past. He’s only campaigned in the first-in-the-nation primary state once since declaring his candidacy last month on The Tonight Show, and people are starting to talk about that.

The former Tennessee senator and Law & Order star appears on Fox News today and speaks to the Conservative Party of New York tonight. Later in the week, he’s scheduled to be on the trail in Washington, Georgia, and Florida.

The Republicans should show up next weekend at the Family Research Council’s Values Voter Summit in Washington. With right-wing religious leaders like James Dobson expressing dismay about the top Republicans, including Thompson, and threatening a third party bid if Giuliani is the nominee, they seem to have some shoring up to do on the social right.

Next Sunday, the Democrats will debate again in New Hampshire, where Hillary clearly enjoys a sizable lead over Obama. That will be a key moment in the effort to derail her.

The Republicans are scheduled to debate next Sunday also, in Florida. This will be the rescheduled debate with questions from citizens via YouTube. Stay tuned to see if Mitt Romney’s worst nightmare comes true and if a snowman indeed asks him about climate change.



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