The Friday Political Thread: Extra-Stimulated Edition


The real action is tomorrow in South Carolina, but here's a quick wrapup:

Quote of the week

"Shame on you!"—Former President/respectable person Bill Clinton telling a CNN reporter to STFU about the race issue. It's unclear whether he said this before or after cutting a radio ad asking blacks to vote for his wife.

The week in brief

– The Democrats paid tribute to Martin Luther King by holding their ugliest-ever debate. We learned that Hillary Clinton started Wal-Mart, Barack Obama is a slumlord, and John Edwards is a wimp among wimps.

– The Republicans held a mostly colorless debate in Florida.

– Ron Paul scored the endorsements of Gary Johnson and Don Luskin and raked in $1.8 million in a MLK Day moneybomb.

– Dennis Kucinich teleported out of the presidential race.

– The FISA retroactive rolled on, and Chris Dodd pledged to filibuster retroactive immunity after the Senate defeated a measure that would have stripped it.

Fact-checking Rudy. Byron York does a hell of a service reporting what actually happened to the Rudy Giuliani campaign over this past month. Giuliani's campaign manager spins that the early primaries were not really winnable and York stands his ground:

Yes, Giuliani's rivals were strong in those states. But Giuliani was, at times, strong, too. According to the RealClearPolitics average of polls, he was second in Iowa as late as the first of October. He was second in New Hampshire as late as the first of December. He was leading in Michigan as late as mid-December. And he was tied for the lead in South Carolina at the same time. All those competitive positions were gone by the end of December.

The Giuliani strategy was to come in second or third in the very early states, and ad spending in those states reflects it. How they've gotten away with arguing that Rudy wanted a Florida showdown all along, I don't quite know.

Paul's Resilience.
After Fred Thompson left the race, Ron Paul's campaign site ran a triumphant image of the five remaining candidates: Paul, Mitt, Rudy, Mac, and Huck. The next day USA Today ran a cover story on the race showing… everyone except Paul. The candidate's 2nd place finish in Nevada has done nothing to break him into stories on the race, and it's virtually certain that, without Thompson and Hunter doing latrine duty, Florida will give Paul his first last-place finish.

The upside is that he still has millions of dollars—more than Huckabee—and his support in the Feb. 5 states isn't being influenced at all by the war at the top of the ballot. Rasmussen (which overestimated Paul's finish in New Hampshire) puts him at 12 percent in Georgia, a state where libertarians have usually fared well, thanks in part to the influence of radio icon Neal Boortz. Campaigners in smaller states like Montana and Alaska feel good about replicating the Nevada finish and racking up delegates. But the once-promising California primary, where delegates are awarded by congressional district, looks like less fertile ground. Polling in the Bay Area shows John McCain with a solid lead and Paul only in high single/low double digits.

Below the fold

David Frum pokes at a wobby stool.

Brad Warthen thinks Obama's young, grassroots organization will be the story out of South Carolina, if he wins.

Phil Klein witnesses the birth of Mitt Romney, populist.

And in case we're starting to lose track of what's really important, I turn Politics and Prog over to Geddy Lee and company.