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.
12:49:33 EST A new Quinnipiac poll in Florida continues the good news-bad news trend for Sen. Hillary Clinton, who holds a commanding lead over her fellow Democrats in the state, but would lose to GOP favorite Rudy Giuliani. Clinton tops Illinois Sen. Barack Obama 49 percent to 13 percent, while Giuliani leads John McCain 29 percent to 23 percent.
11:28:44 EST Contributions from financial services companies that he oversees as head of the Senate Banking Committee propelled Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd to the top of the fundraising heap at the end of 2006. Bloomberg News reports Dodd raised $3 million from September to December, largely from employees of Citigroup, Morgan Stanley, and American International, pushing him past even Democratic frontrunner Clinton.
— Hillary Clinton kicks off a big fundraising push this week. The Washington Post reports the New York senator hosted 70 top donors at her Washington home on Tuesday night, securing commitments from each to raise at least a quarter of a million dollars for her presidential campaign. On Wednesday, Clinton holds a strategy session for some 200 "Hillraisers" at a D.C. hotel, each of whom is expected to raise $25,000 this year.
— Republicans are acknowledging Clinton's status as the prohibitive favorite for the White House, and the fear and loathing that prospect generates within the party is contributing to some of the blasé attitude toward GOP candidates. The Politico reports that Republican leaders have been forced to sacrifice some of their ideological principles to support candidates like Arizona Sen. John McCain and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who they think are the party's best hope to beat Clinton. Some top GOP strategists also speculate that a Clinton candidacy will be a rallying cry for conservatives who harbor strong dislike for the former first lady and will unify the party.
— Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney was to deliver a policy speech on Wednesday at the Detroit Economic Club titled "A New Vision for America: Winning the Global Economic Challenge." As the one candidate who comes from the world of business, Romney will attempt to stake out territory with fiscal conservatives who make up a large portion of the GOP donor base. Aides say he'll take strong positions on tax cuts, free trade and issues such as manufacturing that resonate in Michigan, but will flesh out details at a later date.
— An informal poll of New Yorkers found some negative reactions to Rudy Giuliani and his wife Judith kissing on the cover of Tuesday's New York Post. While 59 percent said the image was "cute and cuddly," 41 percent said they found it "distasteful." Reaction on the street ranged from "unpresidential" to "strange and inappropriate."
— African-American leaders are singing Barack Obama's praises, saying doubts about the Illinois senator's popularity among the black community are unfounded. The New York Observer reports that iconic New York Rep. Charlie Rangel even says Obama has a chance to be a "hero" among African-Americans. But Rangel is backing Obama rival, Sen. Clinton, who is fighting tooth and nail not to concede the black vote.
— John McCain announced the support of Ohio Rep. Steven LaTourette one day after Romney unveiled seven new supporters on Capitol Hill. While the small endorsements aren't likely to mean much in terms of primary votes, Romney and McCain have been duking it out for supporters in the House. Romney, the Washington outsider, needs to show that his appeal stretches inside the Beltway, while as the establishment candidate, McCain needs to demonstrate that he has strong backing inside the halls of Congress.
— McCain has become a harsh critic of General George Casey, the former top U.S. commander in Iraq, who he blames in part for a failed military strategy. McCain voted against Casey's nomination for Army chief of staff in the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday. But on previous nomination fights, McCain has said the president should be able to have the team he wants — and that he's voted for nominees with whom he disagreed with based on that principle.
— An online controversy over Edwards hiring of outspoken bloggers Amanda Marcotte and Melissa McEwan to run his Internet team has hit the mainstream media. The New York Times reports that the Catholic League has called on Edwards to fire the two women over allegedly anti-Catholic slurs each made separately on their Web logs. Earlier this week, right-wing bloggers made an issue of Marcotte's history of inflammatory posts, including one on the Duke rape case which have since been scrubbed from her blog at Pandagon.net.