A.M. Politics

Rudy Giuliani says he'll stop accepting paid speaking engagements that earn the former New York mayor as much as $100,000 per appearance. Instead, the campaign said, "He is committing the time and energy necessary to getting his message out across the country." Giuliani made the announcement the same day he delivered one of those lucrative speeches in San Diego, and while he will not take on any new speaking dates the campaign plans to ask the Federal Election Commission whether he should accept payment for Wednesday's speech as well as upcoming engagements already on his calendar.

— Giuliani is standing by the president's plan to send additional U.S. combat troops to Baghdad, but criticized the handling of some aspects of the war (such as the de-Baathification process and going in with what he said were too few troops in 2003) without mentioning President Bush by name. He also offered a new explanation of his past marital difficulties on Iowa Radio — saying he's a human being who has made mistakes.

— Illinois Sen. Barack Obama has spent more on congressional trips than any other senator who took office in 2004, spending nearly $28,000 on taxpayer-funded fact-finding visits to the Middle East, Africa and the former Soviet Union. The Associated Press reports that figure may be high for a freshman senator, but Obama is the only member of the class of 2004 on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which examines international issues. What's more, Obama does not accept trips funded by private groups. Including those figures, Obama spent less than Oklahoma freshman Republican Tom Coburn, whose travel adds up to nearly $29,000.

— Newsweek reports that next week's annual meeting of National Religious Broadcasters in Florida will feature top GOP candidates courting the support of influential Christian evangelicals, any of whom could play the role of kingmaker in a Republican field bereft of a "true social conservative" who appeals to the party's base.

— Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Hain issued an unusually early endorsement in the U.S. presidential race, backing New York Sen. Hillary Clinton. Hain, a member of the Labour Party, met with Clinton this week, saying she was "formidably briefed on Northern Ireland and an extremely impressive interlocutor." The London Telegraph reports Hain also met with Arizona Sen. John McCain, but clearly backed McCain's Democratic rival and cheered the Democrats' gains in the 2006 elections. Last month, Hain ripped the Bush administration as "the most right-wing American administration, if not ever, then in living memory," calling it a failure.

— Former President Bill Clinton is hosting a major fundraiser for wife Hillary on March 18, raising the question of how the campaign will utilize his popularity, celebrity and political acumen on the campaign trail.

— At Real Clear Politics, George Will chronicles the long-shot presidential ambitions of California Republican Rep. Duncan Hunter, who hopes to be the first member of the House elected president since James Garfield in 1860. He plans to appeal to the conservative constituency as the most conservative Republican candidate, and is relying on the importance of retail politics — shaking hands and talking face to face —- in early primary states like New Hampshire to overcome his lack of name recognition.

Tom Vilsack's campaign announced that the former Iowa governor will appear on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno on Thursday night. Any publicity is good publicity, but it can't help to have this photograph, which the Des Moines Register says they've been asked for by Leno's producers, displayed on national television.