WASHINGTON – The following is a new feature from FOXNews.com's political unit offering readers updates and the lowdown on newsmakers looking at their 2008 presidential prospects.
15:45:51 EST The Republican National Committee releases the first of what promises to be a virtual torrent of paper statements criticizing New York Sen. Hillary Clinton. The first, called "Hillary's Screenplay," attacks her seemingly "scripted" live web chats.
14:48:28 EST Rev. Al Sharptonis on Capitol Hill meeting with congressional leaders and possible 2008 presidential candidates. After a sit-down with Clinton, Sharpton wouldn't rule out a presidential run of his own, saying if no candidate "picks up a strong agenda," he would entertain the idea.
14:36:08 EST Fact Check: In today's speech on universal health care, Illinois Sen. Barack Obamasuggests that 46 million Americans have no health care. That's not the case. Instead, some 46 million Americans have no health insurance.
13:20:10 EST Asked about Vice President Dick Cheney's claim this week that there have been enormous successes in Iraq, Delaware Sen. Joe Biden responds: "No one really listens to him anymore. ... No one takes him seriously."
12:41:07 EST Arizona Sen. John McCain adds Alabama Rep. Spencer Bachus as the campaign's Southeast co-chairman. Bachus, the ranking Republican on the House Financial Services Committee, is a good "get" for McCain. While he has a perfect conservative record on some issues like abortion, McCain's fiscal conservatism is often questioned by the party faithful. The post also puts Bachus — and, by extension, McCain — in contact with some serious money men on Wall Street and K Street
12:37:19 Sen. Clinton holds a nearly 20 point advantage over Obama in a new Time poll, leading the Illinois senator 40 percent to 21 percent. But Obama's numbers have room for improvement. His favorability numbers are much better than Clinton's, and just 51 percent said they knew enough about him to form an opinion compared to 94 percent who said the same of Clinton. Among Republicans, McCain edges former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, 30 percent to 26 percent.
12:19:07 Obama pitches universal health care at Families USA's annual health conference, saying, "In the 2008 campaign, affordable, universal health care for every single American must not be a question of whether, it must be a question of how. We have the ideas, we have the resources, and we must find the will to pass a plan by the end of the next president's first term."
— California Rep. Duncan Hunter officially launches his presidential campaign in Spartanburg, S.C. In his speech, Hunter emphasized border security, making a play for fellow long-shot candidate and House colleague Tom Tancredo's niche vote, but it's not likely to make much difference. Facing at least five candidates in his own party with better name recognition and more money, Hunter is on the fringe of the GOP roster. His strategy? Play to the right wing of the party on red meat issues like border security and abortion — Hunter reintroduced anti-abortion legislation on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade this week, and focus on South Carolina, which has voted for the eventual nominee in every GOP primary since 1980.
— New York Sen. Hillary Clinton tops all Democrats in a new Quinnipiac poll of New Jersey voters, but it's not all good news from Clinton's next door neighbor. Clinton topped Illinois Sen. Barack Obama 30 percent to 16 percent, but trails former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani by 7 points in a head to head match-up, and is in a virtual tie with Arizona Sen. John McCain, trailing by a single point. Independents favor Giuliani by a 10-point margin and even 19 percent of Democrats picked Giuliani over Sen. Clinton. Meanwhile, on the Republican side, Giuliani leads McCain 39 percent to 21 percent, with Newt Gingrich running third at 11 percent.
— The Hollywood power machine may be backing away from Clinton and embracing Obama. According to The Los Angeles Times, DreamWorks studio executives including Steven Spielberg wrote 700 political donors asking for $2,300 per person to attend a fundraiser with Obama at the Beverly Hilton next month followed by a more exclusive gathering for big donors at movie mogul David Geffen's Malibu mansion. Jeffrey Katzenberg is already endorsing Obama and the Illinois senator has big fans in stars George Clooney, Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, Oprah Winfrey and Oliver Stone.
— The Democratic National Committee is already turning out press releases attacking the record of top GOP presidential candidates John McCain, Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney. Buried in the dark recesses of the two parties' headquarters, "opposition researchers" have begun tapping their rich databases and compiling shelf upon shelf of video of every candidate, fully logged and cross referenced by computer for rapid-response attack ads and more. Every since 2000, when both the RNC and DNC let FOX News Chief Political Correspondent Carl Cameron into those research offices, no cameras have ever been allowed in the room again. But The Hill reports a print version of what the DNC is doing these days and notes Democrats have an early lead in the race to define their opponents.
— Sen. Clinton is finally set to visit Iowa this weekend, months after former Iowa Democratic Party Chairman Rob Tully told FOX News that party members were asking "Where's Hillary?" Des Moines Register columnist and guru of Iowa politics David Yepsen has some advice for Sen. Clinton on how to win there, including some obvious suggestions like visiting more often to the state she hasn't been to since 2003. Other suggestions: get out of that "celebrity candidate" bubble and move to the left on the issue of Iraq.
— New York City Journal Columnist Steven Malanga says all the conservative hand-wringing over Giuliani needs to stop. He writes that the former New York mayor "ran New York with a conservative's priorities." Despite social positions on abortion and gay rights that are more liberal than many of his Republican counterparts, Malanga says Giuliani's record of keeping citizens safe, shrinking government and promoting personal responsibility should resonate with conservatives.