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.
16:30 EST Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney wins support from South Carolina leaders as he moves forward with his exploratory process. Among the community activists backing Romney were former Gov. James B. Edwards, former Rep. Tommy Hartnett and Republican National Committeewoman Cindy Costa.
09:20 Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani's exploratory committee announces that former New Hampshire Republican Committee Chairman Wayne Semprini will serve as Giuliani's New Hampshire chairman.
09:05 Arizona Sen. John McCain's presidential exploratory committee announces that Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins will serve as co-chairs of the senator's exploratory committee in Maine and House Republican Leader Josh Tardy will serve as vice chair.
Meanwhile, Hotline reports Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling also endorsed McCain on the "Dennis and Callahan" radio show. "I'm actually kind of excited about the fact that I think Senator McCain is going to do something official here, and he's going to be the man I'm going to back as we move forward here, for sure, in this next round," Schilling said.
— New York Sen. Hillary Clinton was a smash success in Iowa over the weekend. Big crowds turned out to hear her explain why she'd make a good president. She said she regretted that President Bush "misused" the authority granted to him in Iraq, called on the president to extricate U.S. troops from Iraq before he leaves office and laid out universal health care as a key component of her policy agenda, without giving specifics of a plan. Clinton may have garnered the most headlines with what she says was a joke. The senator got a lot of laughs for suggesting that her background left her well-equipped to deal with "evil and bad men," which several in the audience thought may have been a reference to her husband. Sen. Clinton later dismissed any attempts to read into the line, saying, "I get a little funny and now I'm being psychoanalyzed."
— Illinois Rep. Rahm Emanuel, who engineered the Democrats' majority win in the House as chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said last year that he was supporting Sen. Clinton in 2008, a decision made before home state Sen. Barack Obama entered the race. Emanuel's brother, Hollywood super agent Ari Emanuel, is throwing a big fundraiser for Obama in February, and several prominent Chicago-area Democrats have already endorsed Obama. But Emanuel doesn't appear to be wavering. Syndicated columnist and FOX News contributor Robert Novak reports that he will soon formally endorse Clinton for president.
— Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee launched his campaign on NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday, announcing that he'll form a presidential exploratory committee. The Republican candidate had a chance to try out his stump speech later that day at the National Review Institute's Conservative Summit in Washington, where Huckabee said that, despite a crowded 2008 field, "There’s still room for someone who is southern, a conservative and has a governor’s experience."
But rumblings about Huckabee's conservative credentials have already begun. The Club for Growth, a 527 group that often attacks Republicans for not being fiscally conservative enough, says it will release a report on the GOP candidates, adding that Huckabee is a good place to start raising questions due to doubts about his conservative background.
— Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani made his first big trip to New Hampshire this weekend, and it certainly had a presidential feel — with one big exception. Giuliani spoke to a gathering of Manchester Republicans and even hit the streets to glad-hand potential voters. But he didn't once ask those voters for their support in 2008, a move that did not go unnoticed in the highly sensitive world of New Hampshire presidential politics. Giuliani's campaign insists that he's serious about running, telling FOX News that he's hiring 30 to 50 staffers in the coming weeks, and that the campaign is putting together a schedule of 40 separate fundraisers. The Manchester Union Leader has more on Giuliani's visit to the state.
— Illinois Sen. Barack Obama visits New Orleans for the first time since forming a presidential exploratory committee to take part in a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee field hearing and a bus tour through areas damaged by Katrina. In his prepared remarks, Sen. Obama says, "I know, despite great odds and incredible challenges, that New Orleans is still a place of hope. But what I don't know, and what I hope to find out today, is whether we in the federal government are doing our part to help the people of New Orleans rebuild."
— Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Joseph Biden says his non-binding resolution condemning the president's plan to send more troops to Iraq won't embolden the enemy — the only thing heartening the terrorists and insurgents in Iraq is "the failed policy of this president, going to war without a strategy, going to war prematurely." He also told ABC's "This Week" that, if it were put to a vote, only 20 percent of senators were likely to support the president's plan.
— A new Des Moines Register poll shows that two-thirds of Iowa voters believe America is ready for a black president, while a smaller majority — 55 percent — believe the country is ready for a female president. In bad news for New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, just 40 percent say voters are open to choosing an Hispanic president.
— Arizona Sen. John McCain and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney have already been battling for money and endorsements in South Carolina, but there's been a surprising lack of movement on the Democratic side in the early primary state. The State newspaper reports that southern Democrats are merely keeping their options open.