Winnowing the field, pundit-style

Stop pouting, Charles Krauthammer says: "Republicans have 4 1/2 good presidential candidates. All five would make fine Cabinet members: Romney at Treasury, Thompson at Justice, McCain at Defense, Giuliani at Homeland Security, Huckabee at Interior. All the team needs now is to pick a captain who can beat Hillary."

I can name the nominee in two notes, Fred Barnes replies: "With the first voting just nine weeks away, only two candidates--Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney--have credible scenarios. In that sense, the Republican campaign has become a two-man race, Rudy vs. Mitt. John McCain and Fred Thompson may not like this. They have scenarios, too, but theirs aren't terribly credible."

UPDATE: Bill Kristol favors the anything-can-happen model.

Edwards's emphasis on poverty

Visiting with Monitor editors and reporters this week, John Edwards said it was central to his vision for the presidency to address economic inequality in the United States. "I do not believe it is okay in the United States of America to have 37 million people living in poverty, and I think that we need, desperately need, a president who will say that to America and call on Americans to show their character."

Audio excerpts from the interview are posted here. The Monitor's news coverage of the interview is here.

Donors in diapers?

So reports The Washington Post:

"Elrick Williams's toddler niece Carlyn may be one of the youngest contributors to this year's presidential campaign. The 2-year-old gave $2,300 to Sen. Barack Obama. . . . Asked about the Williams family giving, Obama spokesman Bill Burton said, 'As a policy, we don't take donations from anyone under the age of 15.' After being asked by The Post about the matter, he said the children's donations will be returned. . . .

"A supporter of former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, Susan Henken of Dover, Mass., wrote her own $2,300 check, and her 13-year-old son, Samuel, and 15-year-old daughter, Julia, each wrote $2,300 checks, for example. Samuel used money from his bar mitzvah and money he earned 'dog sitting,' and Julia used babysitting money to make the contributions, their mother said. 'My children like to donate to a lot of causes. That's just how it is in my house,' Henken said."

The story notes FEC regulations establish "a three-step test to determine whether a contribution is acceptable: It must be made with the child's money, the parent cannot reimburse the child for making the donation and the contribution has to be knowing and voluntary."

Fred mans the border

Fred Thompson released a "border security and immigration reform plan" today. Among other policy preferences, he emphasizes what he calls "attrition through enforcement":

"Reduce the number of illegal aliens through increased enforcement against unauthorized alien workers and their employers. Without illegal employment opportunities available, fewer illegal aliens will attempt to enter the country, and many of those illegally in the country now likely will return home. Self-deportation can also be maximized by stepping up the enforcement levels of other existing immigration laws. This course of action offers a reasonable alternative to the false choices currently proposed to deal with the 12 million or more aliens already in the U.S. illegally: either arrest and deport them all, or give them all amnesty."

Regarding legal immigration, he says: "We must continue to welcome immigrants and foreign workers who come to our country legally, giving priority to those who can advance the nation's interests and common good. Immigrants and foreign workers who play by the rules need to be rewarded with faster and less burdensome service, not delays that last years." He calls for reducing "the scope of chain migration by giving family preference in the allocation of lawful permanent resident status only to spouses and minor children of U.S. citizens, and no one else (no siblings, no parents, no adult children, etc.)."

Trail mix

Catching up with recent reporting and commentary in the Monitor . . .

From Lauren Dorgan's look back at Mitt Romney's 1994 U.S. Senate campaign against Ted Kennedy:

"By most accounts, Romney was not only outmuscled but outsmarted in an election marked by fiery debates and hardball advertisements. In the end, Kennedy partisans overtook the telling of Romney's story, using striking workers in advertisements to paint him as a corporate raider rather than a job creator.

"Analysts from both sides of the aisle said what happened then is probably crucial to the disciplined campaign Romney runs today: Momentum is illusory. When pushed, push back hard. Predict the question and know your answer. Family matters. Start raising money early and keep at it.

"Romney also learned two things that sent him back to politics.

" 'He liked being a candidate and hated losing,' said Todd Domke, a Republican political consultant from Massachusetts who watched the Kennedy-Romney race from the sidelines."

The full story is here.

From Melanie Asmar's coverage of Mike Huckabee's appearance at Concord High School last Friday:

"Mike Huckabee practiced something yesterday that he takes every opportunity to preach while on the campaign trail, something that sets him apart from the other Republicans in the crowded primary field: the importance of music and arts education. The 52-year-old candidate, who plays in his own band, opened a talk at Concord High School with the music of blues great Robert Johnson. . . .

" 'I've been playing guitar since I was 11,' he said at the end of a three-song set. 'And I never got that good at it, so I had to find something else to do, and that's why I ended up in politics.'

"That's not exactly true. After playing in a band in high school, Huckabee attended a small Baptist college and began filling in as preacher at a church. That turned into a full-time gig, and Huckabee went on to be president of the Arkansas Baptist Convention, an organization nearly 500,000 strong. It wasn't until he was 37 that he entered politics, winning a special election for lieutenant governor.

"Three years later, Huckabee became governor of Arkansas. Once there, he pushed hard for music and arts education. In 2005, he helped pass a law that requires elementary schools to offer 40 minutes per week of music or art. High school students must take half a year of art or music to graduate.

"Those policies aren't without their critics. School officials in Arkansas have complained that they were given no money to implement them. Teachers nationwide say there's barely enough time to teach the reading and math required by the federal No Child Left Behind law, let alone music or art.

"But Huckabee argued yesterday that creativity is important - even crucial - to a quality education, a refrain not usually heard from conservative Republicans. Tomorrow's economy will be a creative one, he said, and it will depend on people who learned in school how to flex the right sides of their brains."

The full story is here.

From Mike Pride's column on Huckabee:

"Huckabee is just the kind of candidate for whom the New Hampshire primary purports to exist. He's a little-known governor with a small bankroll. His only hope is to sell himself directly to the public. To run this kind of personal campaign, a candidate must come across as genuine, smart and experienced. Check, check and check. . . .

"But New Hampshire isn't the Bible Belt. Voters in this live-and-let-live state tend to be suspicious of those who mix religion and politics, such as the Republican pastor-politician Pat Robertson. In 1988, Robertson gave the establishment a fright by finishing second in Iowa. He actually ran ahead of Vice President George H.W. Bush, the eventual nominee and president. In New Hampshire a few days later, Robertson took less than a 10th of the vote and couldn't even beat Pete DuPont. . . .

"There are many issues on which I disagree profoundly with Huckabee. Despite those differences, I find him intriguing and wonder why his party, with its big southern base, pays him so little heed. One of his well-heeled rivals may emerge as a stronger candidate than any appear to be now. Then again, maybe not. While New Hampshire Republicans wait and see, they owe it to themselves - and to the state's primary tradition - to lend Huckabee an ear."

The full column is here.

Joe Biden: in his own words

Democrat Joe Biden was online today fielding questions from Washington Post, Concord Monitor and Cedar Rapids Gazette readers. The full transcript is here. A few excerpts:

Does the newly enacted law dealing with an Iranian paramilitary group authorize the president to use military action? I understand that you voted against this move.

"No, the amendment does not authorize the president to go to war with Iran, but I voted against it for one simple reason; this administration can't be trusted not to twist its words into a justification for war. That's what they did with the 1998 Iraq Liberation Act, with the 2002 authorization to use force in Iraq, and what they do every day in claiming that the executive branch has more power than the Constitution gives it."

[More on this vote here and here.]

On how many votes (in the Senate) it would take to stop the Iraq war:

"It is true, we could refuse to bring up a budget, not even have a vote. But that would also mean there would be 166,000 troops in Iraq which would require at least 1 year to withdraw them all - being left without adequate protection, including those Mine Resistant Vehicles, which I led the fight to fund and that are only now getting to the troops in Iraq. I want to get the troops out of Iraq just as much as you do, but I don't want to leave them high-and-dry as they leave."

What are your thoughts on the expansion of the executive branch that has happened in the past six years?

"This administration has abused the Constitution more than any administration in modern history, and I predict that over the next several years, we are going to learn just how much they have trampled on our constitutional rights and distorted our treaty obligations. . . . You can rest assured I will reverse the erosion of our constitutional rights and adherence to the international treaties we sign."

Clinton's cash

The Los Angeles Times has joined the Wall Street Journal on the Hillary Clinton fundraising trail.

Back in August came this:

"One of the biggest sources of political donations to Hillary Rodham Clinton is a tiny, lime-green bungalow that lies under the flight path from San Francisco International Airport. Six members of the Paw family, each listing the house at 41 Shelbourne Ave. as their residence, have donated a combined $45,000 to the Democratic senator from New York since 2005, for her presidential campaign, her Senate re-election last year and her political action committee. In all, the six Paws have donated a total of $200,000 to Democratic candidates since 2005, election records show. . . . It isn't obvious how the Paw family is able to afford such political largess. Records show they own a gift shop and live in a 1,280-square-foot house that they recently refinanced for $270,000. William Paw, the 64-year-old head of the household, is a mail carrier with the U.S. Postal Service who earns about $49,000 a year, according to a union representative. Alice Paw, also 64, is a homemaker. The couple's grown children have jobs ranging from account manager at a software company to "attendance liaison" at a local public high school. One is listed on campaign records as an executive at a mutual fund."

Now comes this:

"Something remarkable happened at 44 Henry St., a grimy Chinatown tenement with peeling walls. It also happened nearby at a dimly lighted apartment building with trash bins clustered by the front door. And again not too far away, at 88 E. Broadway beneath the Manhattan bridge, where vendors chatter in Mandarin and Fujianese as they hawk rubber sandals and bargain-basement clothes. All three locations, along with scores of others scattered throughout some of the poorest Chinese neighborhoods in Queens, Brooklyn and the Bronx, have been swept by an extraordinary impulse to shower money on one particular presidential candidate -- Democratic front-runner Hillary Rodham Clinton. Dishwashers, waiters and others whose jobs and dilapidated home addresses seem to make them unpromising targets for political fundraisers are pouring $1,000 and $2,000 contributions into Clinton's campaign treasury."

Ron Paul in 60 seconds

From this radio ad:

"What do these so-called Republican frontrunners for president support? Amnesty for illegal aliens -- like liberals. Out of control spending -- like the Democrats. Nation-building overseas? Wasn't that Bill Clinton's policy? Flip-flopping on the issues? What's Republican about any of that? . . . The Republicans are losing because they did not keep their promise to end big government at home and nation-building overseas. . . . Ron Paul follows the Constitution -- not the lawyers, not the lobbyists, not the latest poll."

A fate foretold?

This photo from early September made this news pretty much inevitable. More here, here and here. [The photo, by Jim Cole of the New Hampshire AP, ran in its original context here.]

UPDATE: Brownback makes it official.

Senator Who?

In his online chat this afternoon, John Edwards was asked this:

Des Moines, Iowa: With so many great Democratic candidates this year, I am having trouble deciding who to caucus for. How do you distinguish yourself from Sens. Clinton and Obama?

Edwards answered, in full:

"One important difference between Sen. Clinton and me became clear in recent weeks. There was an important vote in the United States Senate on whether or not to declare the Iranian Revolutionary Guard a terrorist group. We've all seen George Bush and Dick Cheney rattling the sabre on Iran, and we've seen this before in the lead-up to the Iraq war. So when the Senate voted, it was crucial not to give George Bush even an inch. Because we've seen with this President that if you give him an inch, he'll take a mile. I learned that lesson the hard way.

"Senators Biden and Dodd deserve credit -- they voted no. Sen. Clinton voted yes. And I wonder, 6 months from now, if George Bush moves militarily against Iran, are we going to hear from her again 'If only I knew then what I know now?'

"But bigger than that, the American people made clear in November of 2006 that they want change. To bring about real change - universal health care, energy transformation, ending poverty in America - we must take on a system in Washington that is broken, corrupt and rigged against the interests of regular people."

Edwards chose not to mention Obama, let alone to describe, as asked, how he distinguishes himself from the Illinois senator. For the record, here is the vote, on the sense of the Senate regarding Iran, to which Edwards referred. (It was a topic at this debate.) Obama did not cast a vote.

UPDATE: If you want to compare Edwards 2007 with Edwards 2003, here is the transcript from his online chat four years ago, when he took questions on manufacturing jobs, the Bush tax cuts, tort reform and the Confederate flag.

John Edwards: in his own words

Democrat John Edwards was online today fielding questions from Washington Post, Concord Monitor and Cedar Rapids Gazette readers. The full transcript is here. A few excerpts:

On No Child Left Behind:

"I would radically overhaul No Child Left Behind. First, the federal government should meet its funding responsibilities for NCLB, which George Bush has completely ignored. Second, no child ever learned anything from filling in bubbles on a cheap, standardized, multiple-choice test. Or, as a friend of mine likes to say, 'You don't make a hog fatter by weighing it.' We need to expand the criteria for evaluating the progress of the students, including evaluation of analytical and critical thinking skills. We need to involve the teacher in the evaluation process much more extensively. We should measure the progress of each individual child from the beginning of the year till the end of the year, as opposed to for example, one group of fourth graders against another group of fourth graders."

What are the major differences between your health care plan and Hillary Clinton's plan?

The most important difference between our health care plans is that I'm actually willing to take on the broken system in Washington to make sure we finally get universal health care. I don't believe you can sit down at a table with drug company and insurance company lobbyists and negotiate your way to universal care. They are dead set against this, and it's going to take a president who can take them on and beat them, and that's what I've been doing my whole life. . . . When I am president, I am going to submit legislation to Congress that says if you don't pass universal health care by July of this year, then you and members of my administration are going to lose your health care. There's no reason that politicians in Washington, D.C., should have health care when the American people don't. They work for you."

How will you a run against a Republican promising tax cuts?

"When I'm on the stage with the Republican nominee in the fall of 2008, I will go at all these issues directly. I will say to voters, If you want the war in Iraq to continue, vote for him. If you want this war to end, you should vote for me. If you like what you're paying for health care, you should vote for him, because they will continue the broken system. If you want real health care reform that will drive down costs and cover everyone, you should vote for me. If you believe that tax breaks should be focused on the richest Americans, and somehow it will benefit everyone, you should vote for him. If you believe we need a fair tax system, where we reduce the tax burden on the middle class and lower-income workers, you should vote for me. If you believe we should finally value work, and not just wealth in America, you should vote for me."

Up next: Joe Biden.

Dennis Kucinich: in his own words

Democrat Dennis Kucinich was online today fielding questions from Washington Post, Concord Monitor and Cedar Rapids Gazette readers. The full transcript is here. A few excerpts:

Would you grant telecom services immunity from being prosecuted for illegal wiretapping?

"No. The thing that amazes me about all this is that Verizon -- which, according to the information that I have, provides services to Capitol Hill -- you'd think members of Congress would be more interested in the kinds of information they've been providing, if only for the sake of their own privacy, if they don't care about the privacy of the American people."

If the American Civil Liberties Union and other extreme liberal organizations are successful in completely removing all mention of God from our government and our schools, will that have a negative effect on America?

"I want it known that I don't speak to any interest group about matters of faith. I also want you to understand that unlike others, I believe in separation of church and state. At the same time, I do not believe that when our founders crafted a government that provided for separation of church and state that they meant to exclude spiritual principles from the governance of the United States. In the Declaration of Independence, with the words "we hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" that's not just a statement of statecraft. There's a profound spiritual awareness there of the equality of all people, of a sense of transcendence, of the sanctity of life and liberty and of the importance of individual freedom. So there is a place for spiritual values in the governance of our nation. Peace is a spiritual value. Health care and education for all are spiritual values. In Matthew 25 we see that we are encouraged to perform temporal acts of compassion and mercy -- there is a constant intermingling of the spiritual and the material worlds in all expressions of government, and there should be -- you need look no further than the dollar bill, and the inscription "in God we trust," the obverse side of the seal of the United States, with the eye of providence looking over the U.S. Anyone who is deeply spiritual understands that spiritual principles must not be decoupled from the purpose of our nation, and at the same time we can and must protect the cardinal principle of separation of church and state. There is no contradiction in this."

Although you have a rock star/cult following, you must admit that you have no real chance of becoming president. What is your ultimate goal in making this run?

"I think the question isn't whether I have a chance. The question is whether peace, health care, jobs for all has a chance. Everyone participating in this chat, everyone reading it, needs to ask what this election means for them. If it means not staying in Iraq until 2013, then perhaps people should consider my plan to leave Iraq immediately and employ an international peacekeeping force. If you want peace in the world, consider that I'm the only candidate who rejects war as an instrument of foreign policy. This isn't just about Iraq or Iran, this is about a president wise enough to work with leaders in the world to avoid conflict. While I wouldn't hesitate to defend our country, I've shown more than any other candidate that I understand the difference between defense and offense."

Next up: John Edwards.

Yale vs. Harvard, 1973 vs. 1991, Clinton vs. Obama

What can the law school experiences of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama tell us about the kinds of candidates they are and the kinds of presidents they'd be? In New York magazine, John Heilemann looks back at Clinton's Yale years and Obama's Harvard years and concludes:

"What Yale taught Clinton was the limits of radicalism, the necessity of working inside the system, the legitimacy of seeking and wielding power. The experience hardened her, disabused her of the lure of utopianism, made her conscious of the inevitability of compromise—both personal and political. But it also fired her ambition and enflamed her hubris. She left Yale more dedicated than ever to the cause of societal change, and confident of her own ability to direct it. For Obama, Harvard had almost precisely the opposite effect. It deepened his sense of skepticism and already considerable self-containment, and buttressed his almost Burkean view that institutions are only changed very slowly. . . . His wariness toward identity politics was reinforced. And so was his belief that the old ideological divisions and polarities were irrelevant and counterproductive. That progress would require dealing with, not demonizing, conservatives. That conciliation isn’t tantamount to mealymouthed accommodation—it’s the highest of civic virtues."

Heilemann adds: "The divergences of style have also marked their performance as candidates, and here it is Obama who has suffered by comparison. At Yale, Clinton learned that politics is a fight, not a mediation or a seminar or a campfire sing-along of 'Kumbaya.' And this seems to be a rudimentary insight that Obama has yet to grok. The historian John Milton Cooper once described the campaign that pitted Teddy Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson as a contest between a warrior and a priest—and this dichotomy has recurred all throughout the history of Democratic primaries, as the journalist Ron Brownstein has argued. In 1968, Hubert Humphrey was the warrior, Eugene McCarthy the priest. In 1984, Walter Mondale was the soldier, Gary Hart the prelate. And now Clinton and Obama are enacting these archetypes all over again, with the former promising to fight on behalf of America’s 'invisibles,' offering strength and battle-testedness more than eloquence, and the latter remaining detached and professorial, offering vaguely to change our politics but failing to explain how."

UPDATE: In today's Washington Post, Monitor alum Alec MacGillis observes: "Obama faults a broken system in Washington for failures that many Democratic voters attribute simply to having the other side in power. By contrast, Clinton more directly exploits Democrats' feelings of resentment."

Mike Gravel: in his own words

Democrat Mike Gravel was online today fielding questions from Washington Post, Concord Monitor and Cedar Rapids Gazette readers. The full transcript is here. An excerpt:

Actuaries tell us that if you or Sen. McCain were each nominated for President, the selection of the vice presidential running mates would be very, very important. Who would you select as your running mate?

"I'm not prepared to release that information -- and you're quite right, but the actuaries are very much in my favor right now. I've got a better chance of living to 90 than you do. That's the way the actuaries work -- because I'm from French Canadian stock, I'll live in my 90s unless I get sick. I only intend to serve four years anyway. I won't use the office of the president to make money, I'll use it to help the American people become accustomed to their new role in making laws. It's unfortunate from a political point of view that we're unlike many other cultures in not revering experience and wisdom. At this point in life I'm not motivated by ambition or greed, I'm motivated to help the American people become partners in their government."

Why are you so angry all of the time?

"Well, the reason why I'm angry, first, is that your tax dollars are being used to kill people. I hope that would make you angry too, because it's tragic. I'm also very human and I hope you recognize at these debates where you see me that I"m getting an unfair proportion of time. If you didn't get treated fairly, you might get angry too. I'm trying to control my anger because it works against me, because I don't look presidential. When I become president, I will be presidential, but I will be angry when I see injustice."

Up next: Dennis Kucinich, John Edwards and Joe Biden.

McCain and Clinton: two visions of foreign policy

Continuing its series of position papers from presidential candidates, Foreign Affairs gives space in its current issue to John McCain and Hillary Clinton. From the summaries:

McCain: "America needs a president who can revitalize the country's purpose and standing in the world and defeat terrorist adversaries who threaten liberty at home and abroad. There is an enormous amount to do. The next U.S. president must be ready to show America and the world that this country's best days are yet to come and be ready to establish an enduring peace based on freedom."

Clinton: "The next U.S. president will have a moment of opportunity to reintroduce America to the world and restore our leadership. To build a world that is safe, prosperous, and just, we must get out of Iraq, rediscover the value of statesmanship, and live up to the democratic values that are the deepest source of our strength."

We linked to earlier pieces from Rudy Giuliani and John Edwards here and from Mitt Romney and Barack Obama here.