Here’s what you need to know from another news-packed week in the 2008 presidential race:
1) It’s the second week that not-so-good news from John McCain’s camp leads the presidential race. McCain gave a major and mostly well-received speech at the Virginia Military Institute, forcefully laying out why the US must not retreat from Iraq. The speech came as critics continued to attack his view of the Iraq situation as unrealistic and high-profile attacks in Iraq continued as well. Beyond Iraq, the campaign is cutting staff positions after raising much less money in the first quarter than expected. While the campaign is downplaying the moves right now, no campaign at this point should be in a position where it has to make “funding adjustments.”
2) Fred Thompson appeared to move closer to a likely presidential bid this week, revealing that in 2004 he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma, a form of cancer. “I have had no illness from it, or even any symptoms. My life expectancy should not be affected. I am in remission, and it is very treatable with drugs if treatment is needed in the future—and with no debilitating side effects,” Thompson explained. The announcement is unlikely to affect his chances if he decides to run, but the mere fact that he’s coming clean about his health is a sign that he’s looking to.
3) Helping fuel the nascent bids of Thompson and Newt Gingrich, concern remains high on the Republican side about its presidential field. The lead quote in an article arguing just that in the New York Times this week broadly summarizes the issue: “My level of concern and dismay is very, very high,” said Mickey Edwards, a Republican former congressman from Oklahoma who is now a lecturer in public policy at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton. “We don’t have any candidates in the field now who are compelling.” It’s not a good story line for the GOP, even if Roger Simon thinks Republicans might not be as unhappy as the Times thinks. bogus.
4) Former NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani, whose cultural views are out of line with the Republican base, has come up with a clever way of dodging cultural issues on the campaign trail: He touts his support of states’ rights and says most cultural issues should be left up to the states. The gambit was tried out this week while he was campaigning in Alabama—the question was whether the state should fly the Confederate flag. “We have different sensitivities and at different times we’re going to come to different decisions, and I think that is best left to the states,” he replied. Let’s see how far this answer, which can apply to abortion, separation of church and state, school prayer, and more, takes him.
5) Barack Obama won a straw poll of support from MoveOn.org activists on the Iraq issue this week, which is hardly surprising, as is the news that Hillary Clinton finished fifth out of seven in the poll. The vote came after an online town-hall meeting with the candidates on the Iraq issue, and the one interesting nugget was found by Hotline’s crack team: Of the MoveOn.org members who actually watched the presentation, Obama finished behind Bill Richardson and John Edwards: “Do voters like Obama more than they like his positions?”
6) John Edwards is continuing his campaign to be the candidate of regular people. He’s kicking off a tour of the rural south, beginning with his birthplace in South Carolina, and spent a day this week “walking in the shoes” of a member of SEIU. The service employees’ union, led by firebrand Andy Stern, has said that it wants each candidate to spend a day working alongside one of its members to experience what life is like for working Americans. On Thursday Edwards, who has made poverty his pet issue and has edited a new book on the subject, was the first to tackle the challenge.
7) DNC chair and former Vermont governor Howard Dean this week was in Denver, the site of the 2008 presidential nominating convention, where he’s trying to head off major union unrest. Colorado’s Democratic governor vetoed a bill that would have made it easier to organize workers; the unions, who supported the governor and promised to ease the convention into town, are in near rebellion. While Boston had similar issues almost up to the 11th hour of the 2004 convention, Denver and Dean must settle this if they want to have a smooth convention.
8) In the department of bad news for Republican chances in the electoral college, Virginia’s Senator John Warner turned in a first-quarter fundraising report that shows him raising just $500 toward a reelection bid in 2008—a number so low it almost assures that he’s not planning to run again. Such a move would open the Virginia field to Tom Davis on the Republican side and Mark Warner on the Democratic side, among others. Mark Warner, the former governor, is still very popular in the state and would make it difficult and expensive for the Republicans to win either the senate seat or the state in the presidential race. Swinging its 13 electoral votes into the “toss-up” category might mean the difference come November 2008.