Ron Paul

The Friday Political Thread: The Week Everything Changed Edition

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The week in brief…

– Blackwater USA went on trial before the House Committee on Oversight and Government reform and came off looking like vaudeville villains. Rep. Darrell Issa looked worse.

– Larry Craig lost an appeal in his cruising sting case but refused to quit the Senate. Newsweek talked to your friend and mine Gov. Butch Otter (R-Idaho).

– Barack Obama told a reporter in Iowa that he started wearing a flag pin after 9/11 but took it off when he thought it was a "substitute for true patriotism," kickstarting the stupidest kerfuffle of this campaign—possibly of any campaign, ever. Melissa Underwood got comment from the rest of the '08 campaigns and discovered that none of the other candidates cared much about pins.

The big issues…

Five by Five. Four years ago George W. Bush released his fundraising numbers for the third FEC quarter: $49.5 million. This week the top four Republicans released their numbers:

Rudy Giuliani—$11 million
Mitt Romney—$10 million
Fred Thompson—$9.3 million
John McCain—$6 million

That's a combined $36.3 million from the party that holds the White House, compared to $59.2 million from the top four Democrats. This was the stage for Ron Paul's shocking $5.1 million fundraising haul, which included a $500,000 online money drive in the last week of September that ended up raising $1.2 million—shades of Howard Dean. Media phenom Mike Huckabee failed to capitalize on his Ames Straw Poll surprise, so like Bob Hoskins in the cab at the end of The Long Good Friday, Republicans are slowly coming to accept their fate: Paul will be their outsider candidate. After Iowa, he'll be the only second-tier candidate with the cash to keep competing and appearing at debates. They won't shake him at least until March, when he has to decide whether to seek another term as a congressman from Texas. Yes, other marginalized candidates have battled on long after the rest of their tiers dropped out (think Keyes), but never in a field as fractured as this one.

Hillary's Surge, and Obama's.
Everybody saw the Washington Post poll giving Hillary Clinton a 33-point primary lead. Drudge led with it for about 12 hours. The voice-of-God spin came from Clinton backer Rep. Tom Petri (D-Wisc.): "It's all over but the voting." That's a nice way of putting it as voting is a sort of integral part of the primary process. And on that score, Obama's actually… in a pretty good position. Look at Pollster.com's summary of the polls in Iowa. Since the start of the year he's risen from the low teens to the low twenties. Hillary's risen in tandem—a little less growth, but with a higher starting point. Both candidates are taking from the pathetic John Edwards (whose biggest headlines this week came when his wife picked a fight with Rush Limbaugh). Now, if it's caucus night and Edwards' campaign is tracking the numbers and figures it's not going to win, who does it tell its supporters in the smaller caucuses to go over to? It's not like Edwards has never thought about this: In 2004, he entered a pact with Dennis Kucinich to share caucus support if one of them faltered.

If Obama passes Hillary in Iowa and wins the caucus, as seems completely possible, the national polling leads won't mean as much. But they won't mean nothing. The most important factoids from the Post poll are her strengthening numbers among Democrats who want an "electable" candidate and the declining number of Americans who'd "never" vote for her. (I should probably add that I share Ana Marie Cox's bias: These "Hillary the unstoppable Godzilla-like frontrunner" stories are dull.)

Below the fold…

– Townhall.com's Matt Lewis talks with the Paul campaign and finds it raised 70 percent of its cash online.

– Jay Roberts takes a scenic ramble about the digital quarters of Ron Paul nation.

– Deanna Darr checks in with Larry Craig's long-time allies. Many of them are sticking with him.

– This isn't news, but unless you're especially tidy you probably have stuff in your freezer that's acquired higher sentience than John Gibson.

– Matt Continetti catches John McCain recycling a seven-year old joke about Alan Greenspan.

– Steve Moore laments the fading salience of tax cuts with voters.

– David Brooks bemoans the GOP's retreat from Burkean conservatism. I like this Brooks better than the one who wrote "The Collapse of the Dream Palaces."