Banking on Dodd says Chris Dodd raised more money than any other presidential candidate in the last quarter of 2006:

"All told, employees of financial-services firms contributed more than $1 million of Dodd's total. The Senate banking panel 'is a juice committee,' said Craig Holman, a lobbyist for Public Citizen, a Washington group that supports tougher ethics laws. 'The industry feels the pressure to give because this is the chairman with oversight over their business affairs.'

"Dodd, 62, said in an interview that he has long-standing ties to members of the financial community. 'This is not a newfound relationship,' he said. 'These people know me best. They've worked with me. I've worked with them. We've been in agreement on various issues; we've been in disagreement on various issues over the years.' "

"She's not like what you have read"

"She charmed the pants off me."

- Arnie Arnesen, hardly the Clintons' No. 1 fan, describing to The Telegraph's Kevin Landrigan a recent encounter with Hillary Clinton in Washington.

Landrigan reports: "During their 15-minute conversation, Clinton marveled at Arnesen’s 'edgy' fashion wear and spoke in detail about a speech Arnesen had given during her failed 1992 campaign for governor. 'She said things that a girlfriend would have said,' Arnesen said. 'She even made me think twice. She’s not like what you have read.' "

Re: litmus test

Here is one socially conservative Republican who will not be in Rudy Giuliani's camp:

"By advocating abortion on demand and same-sex unions," writes Terry Jeffrey, editor-at-large of Human Events, "Rudy is . . . defacing the institution that forms the foundation of human civilization. That is not conservative."

Jeffrey's piece, which does not include the words "war," "terror" or "Iraq," responds in part to a pro-Giuliani piece we linked to late last month.

Obviously he does not buy the argument explored here, here, here and here.

It's getting late early this year

In an online chat today, Dan Balz of The Washington Post suggested the "early" start to the 2008 campaign isn't all that early:

"Campaigns are not starting that much earlier, although the attention to them is more intense than in the past. . . . You cite George H.W. Bush not announcing until November 1987, but the reality is that the 1988 campaign had a very, very early start, particularly among the Republicans. Michigan Republicans staged a contest in the summer of 1986 that got all the major candidates involved. The 1992 campaign got an unusually late start because the country was a war at the beginning of 1991 and for months after, Bush 41 was extraordinarily high in the polls. The story of 1991 was the various prominent Democrats who decided to take a pass on the campaign. The 2004 campaign started very early. I remember being in Iowa in mid-January 2003 at an event where Sen. Kerry drew about 500 people and later that night three Democratic candidates appeared at a county Democratic fundraiser.

"It SEEMS early this time because some of the candidates -- Sen. Clinton, Sen. Obama, Sen. McCain, Mayor Giuliani -- are very, very well known and command more media attention. Also this is a very important election, which means more people are paying attention earlier. And as you suggest, the cost of campaigning has risen dramatically now that most serious candidates have decided not to abide by the spending limits set by the FEC. That means they have to raise far more money this year than most candidates have tried to do in the past."


Tommy vs. Tom

USA Today's Susan Page moderated a mini-debate last week between former Wisconsin governor Tommy Thompson, a Republican, and former Iowa governor Tom Vilsack, a Democrat. Regarding Iraq, Thompson isn't confident that President Bush's new plan will work but favors giving it a chance. Vilsack says, "The president's escalation plan is about to make a big mistake even bigger."

A party man

Hotline says Rudy Giuliani is running as a Republican. As recently as last week his paperwork seemed to leave in doubt whether he would run as an independent.

Re: the war

Regarding a pro-victory litmus test for Republicans, Bill Kristol is naming names:

"Some seven GOP senators are said to be wavering between the Democratic resolution and the McCain Graham-Lieberman alternative supporting Gen. Petraeus and the troops. They are Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Sam Brownback of Kansas, Norm Coleman of Minnesota, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, John Sununu of New Hampshire, and George Voinovich of Ohio. Alexander, Coleman, and Sununu are up for reelection in 2008. Some or all of the seven may still choose to stand with the president and the troops, and to give Petraeus a chance. This would leave the Democratic resolution short of the 60 votes needed to end debate. . . .

"Republican senators up for reelection in 2008 might remember this: The American political system has primaries as well as general elections. In 1978 and 1980, as Reagan conservatives took over the party from détente-establishment types, Reaganite challengers ousted incumbent GOP senators in New Jersey and New York. Surely there are victory-oriented Republicans who might step forward today in Nebraska, Virginia, Oregon, and Maine -- and, if necessary, in Tennessee, Minnesota, and New Hampshire -- to seek to vindicate the honor, and brighten the future, of the party of Reagan."

Doug Lambert expands on his thoughts on the subject here.

Joe Scarborough sees a different threat to the Reagan legacy - GOP infighting:

"At some point, GOP senators and congressmen need to understand that this war is no longer a battle between Republican war heroes and Democratic '60s hippie freaks. The lines have now been blurred by Bush’s bungling war strategy. Now we find ourselves in a fight between war heroes and war heroes. Former secretaries of Navy and former Vietnam POWs. Conservative Republicans and protectors of the president.

"That may not be so bad for George W. Bush in the short run, but it is a disaster for Republicans in 2008 and beyond. Conservatives had better wake up before all the gains made by Ronald Reagan and the 1994 Revolution are lost. The clock is ticking."


The war, not abortion?

In the oversimplified way that politics gets explained, the Republican base -- that is, the voters said to hold the most sway in selecting the party's presidential nominee -- care most about abortion. No pro-choice Republican, the thinking goes, can make it to the general election.

There are problems with this analysis, not the least of which is that few voters care about only one issue. Another is that, particularly in New Hampshire, there are a significant number of Republicans who vote in primaries who are also pro-choice. Anyway, people invariably vote for candidates with whom they do not agree on a given issue -- and sometimes do so even when that issue is abortion.

That said, if you're going to make one issue a stand-in for all others, abortion is a pretty good one. In general, Republicans who do not call themselves pro-life will be more likely to break ranks on other core issues than those who embrace the label. One reason Mitt Romney is trying so hard to persuade people that he is now a pro-life candidate is because he wants to send the message that on a broad range of issues -- from taxes to national security to the role of judges -- he can be trusted to come down on the right side of things.

If Rudy Giuliani indeed runs for president, he will also have to make the case that on a broad range of issues he will come down on the right side -- the Reagan side, if you will. He will not, however, use abortion as a stand-in. It will be the fight against terrorism.

The old way of thinking -- which isn't dead yet -- is that Giuliani cannot pull it off. He is pro-choice, not to mention sufficiently liberal on a range of social issues that he's been compared to Barney Frank.

But what if abortion is trumped by the war?

Because President Bush was unchallenged within his party in 2004, the 2008 presidential election is the first in which Republicans are choosing a post-9/11 nominee. They happen to be doing so at a time when polls find a majority of the country opposed to the president on Iraq. With a number of Republicans in Congress looking like increasingly unreliable allies in the war on terror, some in the party fear the legacy of Reagan hangs in the balance.

Suddenly there are socially conservative Republicans, including here in New Hampshire, wondering aloud whether they can overlook Giuliani's social-issue stands because they feel so strongly that he has the necessary outlook on national security.

John McCain, too, is finding support from Republicans who in the past have recoiled from his stances on immigration and campaign finance and his willingness to make deals undermining some of Bush's judicial nominees. What is it that compels the Republican base to give McCain a second thought?

"The war," explains Gilford Republican Doug Lambert. "That's the thing that matters most above all else to me."

In a sentiment that may apply equally to Giuliani, Lambert adds: "Another point to ponder -- could it be that McCain's 'maverick' ways, those which repulse conservatives like me, might cause enough 'moderates' to vote for him as opposed to the Democrat? Even people mad at Bush, I'd bet. As I said, the war's the main thing for me, and electing a Democrat is almost synonymous with losing it. Electability is important. 'But Doug, what about your principles?' Yeah, I still got 'em, but they'll be safer without a Democrat in the Oval Office."

The dynamic is fascinating. Because two candidates perceived as being absolutely committed to the war on terror are also "squishy" on some core Republican issues, they may be remarkably positioned to win over the party base and the general electorate.

Of course, that's only true if the war has trumped all other issues and if either Giuliani or McCain runs an effective campaign. No matter how many GOP primary voters see national security as their priority this time around, they'll still need significant persuading to back candidates who in other years they would have dismissed out of hand.

(As for the general election, if the national mood is sufficiently sour on Iraq in particular, or a muscular foreign policy in general, no amount of squishiness on the part of a Republican may be enough to defeat the Democrat. Of course, this raises another interesting possibility: Could a Democrat be sufficiently anti-war to overcome being pro-life and win the nomination -- and thus stand a better chance in the general election? We can leave that one for when/if such a candidate announces...)

UPDATE: Here is an online poll positing that Giuliani and Hillary Clinton are the nominees and a "solid conservative" runs a third-party campaign. For whom would you vote? (HT: Hotline)

Capital Beat extra: Clinton visit is off

Hillary Clinton won't be visiting New Hampshire this weekend. The planned trip - which would have been Clinton's first visit to the Granite State in more than a decade - was postponed due to a family illness, said Karen Hicks, Clinton's national field director. Former president Bill Clinton's stepfather is sick, she said.

Earlier today, Clinton's campaign announced that she would hold a town hall-style event Saturday afternoon at Concord High School. On Sunday, Clinton had planned to attend an invitation-only breakfast for about 100 Democrats in Keene.

No date has been set for the rescheduled trip, Hicks said. Clinton is scheduled to speak at the New Hampshire Democratic Party's 100 Club fundraiser in March.

Look for more information in Thursday's Concord Monitor.

- Sarah Liebowitz

UPDATE: NH Dems now looking to fill their Saturday afternoon can instead go check out the Draft Obama rally in Manchester. (Not that he really needs drafting at this point.) Or they can rest up for Joe Biden's visit Monday by reading the Biden blog.

First in the Nation

Today's Monitor editorial responds to E.J. Dionne's column on the presidential primary calendar. Meanwhile, readers weigh in here.

What do you really think, Joe?

Joe Biden doesn't care for what Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama or John Edwards has to say about Iraq, and he doesn't mind saying so. From The New York Observer:

"To hear him tell it, Hillary Clinton’s position is calibrated, confusing and 'a very bad idea.' John Edwards doesn’t know what he’s talking about and is pushing a recipe for Armageddon in the Middle East. Barack Obama is offering charming but insubstantial fluff. And all of them are playing politics. . . .

"The targets of Mr. Biden’s criticism, whether out of shock, indifference or a calculation that it would be unwise in this case to meet fire with fire, declined to respond in kind."

UPDATE: Biden today on his Democratic opponents: "I think they're all great. I think I'm better."

What's old is new again

Drew Cline notices how many Republican candidates want to be the next Reagan. I'm reminded of how, four years ago, all the Democrats wanted to be the next McCain. (The real one probably isn't mentioning that in this year's GOP campaign.) And there's always someone who wants to be the next Lincoln. And he might, unless, of course, this guy beats him to it.

UPDATE: Someone who attended one college class with Barack Obama calls him the next George W. Bush. (He doesn't mean it as a compliment.)

New heights of irresponsibility?

In Iowa Sunday, Hillary Clinton termed what she called President Bush's attempt to leave the situation in Iraq for his successor "the height of irresponsibility."

In March 2003, speaking to the antiwar group Code Pink, Clinton set the bar elsewhere:

"Here at home, this administration is bankrupting our economy, forcing us to make the worst kinds of false choices between national and homeland security, which they don't fund, and between security and everything else, which they don't want to fund. So you have me 100 percent on that. And it is absolutely wrong - it is wrong that for the first time in American history, we have a president who is talking about leading this country to war and wanting to cut taxes at the same time. That is the height of cruel, arrogant irresponsibility."

The quote starts at the 13:28 mark on a 15-minute YouTube clip. In the run-up to the quote, Clinton listens as a member of the group argues the United States should not take it upon itself to remove Saddam Hussein, that it should be the job of nations in the Middle East. Clinton replies that she learned from the examples of Kosovo and Bosnia that the United States could not wait for others, than the United Nations could not be counted on, that American leadership is necessary to get the world to take on difficult problems. Clinton allowed that it would be better to have more countries involved but made clear that, in the case of Saddam, "we have to disarm this man."

Gingrich on victory

Color Newt Gingrich unconvinced that President Bush's new way forward in Iraq is sufficient: "We have a strategy that relies on the Iraqis' somehow magically improving their performance in a very short time period. Yet the argument for staying in Iraq is that it is a vital American interest. If we are seeking victory in Iraq because it is vital to America, then we need a strategy that will win even if our Iraqi allies are inadequate. We did not rely on the Free French to defeat Nazi Germany. We did not rely on the South Koreans to stop North Korea and China during the Korean War. When it mattered to America's vital interests, we accepted all the help we could get, but we made sure we had enough strength to win on our own if need be."

Evil men and impulsive women

A Fox News clip on YouTube includes video of Hillary Clinton's joke about "evil men" in Iowa over the weekend. The nominees for which men she had in mind include bin Laden and other terrorists; Ken Starr and others who battled her husband; and her husband himself. But maybe her original joke was intended only for her female audience -- regarding the "evil" men they've all known.

Now that the clip has been replayed and analyzed all over the place, what her original idea was doesn't matter as much as how others are interpreting it. Coincidentally, there was an interesting piece in Sunday's Washington Post about why Clinton may find it hard to win the presidency on the strength of a gender gap (Headline: "You've come a long way, maybe"). The writer is a retired professor of women's studies. Here's an excerpt:

"In every election, there's a chance that women will be the decisive force that will elect someone who embraces their views. Yet they seem never to have done so, and I've never seen a satisfactory answer as to why. My own theory is that women don't decide elections because they're not rational political actors -- they don't make firm policy commitments and back the candidates who will move society in the direction they want it to go. Instead, they vote on impulse, and on elusive factors such as personality."