Eye on '08: Candidates Tie Their Fortunes to Iraq's

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

By Aaron Bruns




The following is a new feature from's political unit offering readers updates and the lowdown on newsmakers looking at their 2008 presidential prospects.

Breaking News

14:13:50 EST will launch a TV ad against Arizona Sen. John McCain to run in New Hampshire and Iowa. The liberal group unveils the ad next Tuesday, ripping McCain for "leading the charge in escalating the disaster in Iraq."

13:43:12 EST A YouTube user has unearthed footage from the 1994 debate between Massachusetts Sen. Ted Kennedy and aspiring Senator Mitt Romney, in which the future governor talks about supporting Roe v. Wade, distances himself from Reagan and comes out in favor of gay rights.

12:28:46 EST Both Mitt Romney and John McCain are already lining up support, but The Hill reports the former Massachusetts governor "was the first to reach out to House Republicans last year, taking advantage of some conservatives' 'anybody but McCain' mentality." But Romney is also battling perceptions that he's only recently come to his conservative views on abortion and gay rights.

12:26:11 EST Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack calls on Congress to block funds for a troop surge in Iraq. He told The Associated Press "Congress basically made a mistake by giving [President Bush] a blank check at the beginning of this process. Now they are basically saying you don't get a second blank check."

11:52:24 EST New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson announces he has secured a 60-day cessation of hostilities between the Sudanese government and rebel leaders in Sudan's Darfur region to allow for a new political process under the Darfur Peace Agreement and the auspices of the African Union and the United Nations. If all parties follow through, the A.U. and U.N. will convene a peace summit on March 15 under the framework of the agreement.

11:30:32 EST 2004 presidential candidate and potential 2008 player Wesley Clark, a former NATO commander, appears at a press conference with New York Sen. Chuck Schumer and others to "call on President Bush to heed the will of the American people, listen to the advice of his generals and offer a new plan that will change course in Iraq and bring that war to a close."

11:19:00 EST The New York Post reports Rudy Giuliani's spokeswoman Sunny Mindel won't comment on the former mayor's position on Iraq, saying only, "He very much looks forward to hearing" the president's speech Wednesday night.

10:54:00 EST Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback met with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and other senior Iraqi officials on Tuesday. He offered no comments on the troop surge directly, but released a statement saying, "While we cannot make a precipitous withdrawal, we can transfer more security responsibility to the Iraqis and reduce the threat to American troops." He's also written some short observations about his trip.

10:15:00 EST Rep. Duncan Hunter, ranking Republican on the House Armed Service Committee reconfirmed his commitment to building a border fence. Speaking to FOX News, Hunter said 250,000 illegal immigrants are in U.S. jails at a cost of $2 billion annually. The cost of incarcerating them would pay for the fence.

A.M. Top Stories

Mitt Romney released a statement backing President Bush on the Iraq U.S. force surge, saying, "I support adding five brigades in Baghdad and two regiments in Al-Anbar province. ... This effort should be combined with clear objectives and milestones for U.S. and Iraqi leaders."

Meanwhile, a small group of activists in Massachusetts have come to the former governor's Romney's defense after Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback announced the endorsement of several mostly unknown state conservative leaders who questioned Romney's conservative credentials. The group circulated a letter, obtained by The Boston Globe, touting Romney's "pro-family" record.

Missouri Gov. Matt Blunt, an early Romney supporter, reveals he's not interested in being Romney's running mate should he win the GOP nomination, saying he and Romney are just good friends.

— Massachusetts Sen. Ted Kennedy says he's still planning to back John Kerry if he decides to run, saying, "He's going to make his mind up very soon." He also offered up a line to MSNBC's Chris Matthews about Romney, who once challenged Kennedy for his Senate seat. Referring to Romney's comments on abortion, Kennedy said Romney "isn't pro-choice or anti-choice. He's multiple choice."

— Five announced and potential candidates will be in the same room Wednesday as the Senate Foreign Relations committee meets to hold hearings on where the country stands in Iraq. Delaware Democratic Sen. Joseph Biden chairs the panel, but panel members include Democratic Sens. Chris Dodd, John Kerry and Barack Obama and Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel. They will meet again on Thursday when the panel grills Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

— Meanwhile, Newsday has picked up an Associated Press report on the many and diverse business holdings from which former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani will have to divest himself before a presidential run — as well as the personal and professional baggage he carries into a bid for the White House.

The New York Times reports that New York Sen. Hillary Clinton will base her campaign not in New York, but in Washington, D.C. Advisers tell the paper that having a Washington headquarters makes the most practical and financial sense, but several expressed concern that "it could reinforce her image as a Washington insider... and increase the possibility of leaks to the press corps."

The New York Observer points out that Arizona Sen. John McCain's 2008 chances — as well as those of John Edwards, who has become his most vocal critic among the White House hopefuls — are inextricably linked to the success or failure of the Iraq surge, which McCain supports and Edwards opposes.