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Monday Morning Quarterback: Action in Manhattan

With a new public poll in California showing him tied for second with Fred Thompson and John McCain, just six points behind the still frontrunning Rudy Giuliani, Mitt Romney is spending five days campaigning this week in the Golden State. It’s the first long campaign swing in California, a pivotal primary next February 5th, for the former Massachusetts Governor, who leads in Iowa and New Hampshire but continues to lag in national polls.

Among other things, including the obvious goldmining, er, fundraising every day, Romney is doing three “Ask Mitt Anything” town hall meetings in California as he campaigns around the state, the first of which was Sunday in Orange County. There he was asked by the mother of a Marine how much longer he has to spend in Iraq, to which he replied that he wants to grow the Army by 100,000 to stop long deployments of existing forces. Romney ends up in the state capital Sacramento on Thursday.

While Romney is making a concerted strategic move on Giuliani’s turf in California, the week ahead in presidential politics belongs largely to the meta-issues of Iran and climate change. And the latest presidential forums in both parties. The Democrats, who will make a pilgrimage to the biggest national labor federation besides the AFL-CIO, the Change To Win coalition, comprised mostly of the most liberal unions in the land. And the Republicans, who will mostly be absent from a black-oriented forum hosted by liberal talk show host Tavis Smiley at Morgan State Universty.

Everyone’s favorite Iranian fanatic, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is in the US this week to address the UN General Assembly and a gathering at Columbia University, where the university president helpfully added that he would invite Hitler to speak. Which is one way of putting things in perspective, though many suspect that Iranian politics is more complex than that.

He’s already provided ample kindling for a political firestorm by requesting an escort to Ground Zero, the site of the late World Trade Center in New York. As he must have expected, Republican candidates tripped over one another to denounce the proposed move, with former New York Mayor Giuliani of course in the forefront. Yet he still plans to go there himself. Clearly he knows what he is provoking in American domestic politics.

Although Fred Thompson has moved closer to him in national polls — and Romney is taking a shot at his lead in California — Giuliani had a mostly very good week last week. He won the London sweepstakes with a high profile trip to the UK in which he delivered the inaugural Margaret Thatcher Atlantic Bridge lecture — he declared that Iran must not be allowed to go nuclear — and received the Margaret Thatcher medal of freedom from the former prime minister herself. He also had a high-profile meeting with Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown, met privately with former Prime Minister Tony Blair to confer on the Middle East with the new Middle East envoy, and fielded questions from Winston Churchill’s grand-daughter.

A decidedly bigger haul than Fred Thompson garnered when he ventured to London in July. Yet Thompson, and John McCain, did notably much better than Giuliani at the end of the week when the top Republicans all appeared before the National Rifle Association.

Giuliani, like Romney, as it happens, was an advocate of gun control. Both men promoted new views. But they reportedly did not go over all that well. Especially so for Giuliani, who promoted lawsuits against gun manufacturers.

Needless to say, Giuliani is happy to get the focus back on national security matters, courtesy of the obliging President Ahmadinejad.

As it happens, the top Democrats have also denounced the notion of Iran developing nuclear weapons — even left-leaning John Edwards, who ran as something of a centrist in 2004 — so they’ll be chiming in this week as well.

But amidst all the drumbeats on Iran, at least one of the nation’s most senior military leaders wants to cool it a bit.

Admiral William Fallon, commander of U.S. Central Command — General David Petraeus’s boss and former commander of the Pacific Fleet — told Al Jazeera on Sunday that he does not believe the US will go to war with Iran, and that the “constant drumbeat” of war is counter-productive.

The other meta-issue of the week is climate change.

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, the popular centrist California Republican, kicks things off Monday morning with an address to a special session of the United Nations on climate change. The Terminator will promote his landmark California plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through the combination of market mechanism of a cap & trade system, technological innovation, and baseline regulations. Schwarzenegger was personally invited by UN Secretary-General Ban ki-Moon when the former South Korean foreign minister visited California early this summer to gather ideas for a forthcoming UN summit on climate change later this year in Bali.

When President George W. Bush learned of the UN climate change session this week in New York, he pulled together his own meeting for later in the week of selected emitters of greenhouse gases.

Pressured by a host of factors, including Schwarzenegger — one of the keynoters of the 2004 Republican national convention, who helped deliver the pivotal state of Ohio to Bush that November — Bush’s administration at last acknowledges that the greenhouse effect is real and that it is causing climate change. They just want to take a voluntary approach toward dealing with it. They may not stand up too well this week.

Another president is getting in on the climate change act this week, once again. Also on tap is the annual meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative, hosted in New York by former President Bill Clinton, coinciding with the UN General Assembly as it does every year. Climate change will figure prominently there, as well. Expect some announcements there, as well as from the UN and from environmental groups, on new technology, green tech investments, and various studies.