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.
16:11:33 EST Mike Huckabee says if he's still a second-tier candidate by September, he'll seriously rethink whether to continue his presidential run. Huckabee says the Iowa straw poll in August will be a litmus test for his candidacy, and he'll have to do better than expected there to boost his chances in a crowded '08 field. The conservative former Arkansas governor is likely to take some votes away from the more socially liberal frontrunners, but he could split votes among the "true conservative" tier consisting of Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback, ex-Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore, California Rep. Duncan Hunter and others.
15:50:01 EST Sen. Trent Lott, a backer of Arizona Sen. John McCain, e-mailed supporters to pay tribute to the legacy of Ronald Reagan on the anniversary of the 40th president's birth. Lott writes: "During his time as a prisoner of war, stories of Governor Reagan and his loving wife, Nancy, spread through the Vietnamese prison camps, giving hope to John and others that their pride in America was not misplaced." He added: "While our freedom and democracy is still challenged, John McCain knows that our resolve, like Ronald Reagan's, must remain steadfast."
14:30:18 EST Family Research Council President Tony Perkins has joined a chorus of conservative Republicans blasting Rudy GIuliani, telling the Christian Broadcasting Network that most Americans don't yet realize that Giuliani's positions on abortion, gun control and gay rights are "far outside of the mainstream of conservative thought."
13:56:44 EST Mitt Romney will officially launch his candidacy on Feb. 13 in Detroit, Mich., his home state. A campaign official tells FOX News that the former Massachusetts governor will follow up the announcement with a whirlwind trip to Iowa, South Carolina and New Hampshire before traveling back to Boston for a massive fundraiser on Feb. 15.
13:31:40 EST The first Republican poll released since Rudy Giuliani stepped forward to announce his 2008 intentions shows the Republican frontrunner leading John McCain, 27 percent to 19 percent. However, the Rasmussen poll shows the former New York City mayor's support has dropped two points since last week.
11:10:26 EST Illinois Senate President Emile Jones Jr. isn't backing off his call at a Democratic National Committee gathering this weekend for black Democratic activists to support Sen. Barack Obama over some opponents (read: Sen. Hillary Clinton) who may have given them their jobs. Asking Chicago Sun-Times Columnist Lyn Sweet: "How long do we have to owe before we have an opportunity to support our son?" Jones said, "I know that Barack Obama is our son and he deserves our support." Some who heard Jones' original remarks, including Clinton supporters, told the Politico they were offended and others point out that Obama himself endorsed Chicago's white mayor, Richard Daley, over two African-American candidates.
10:48:00 EST Obama holds a press conference on his bill to withdraw all combat troops from Iraq by March 31, 2008, saying that the issue of Iraq "stands outside of politics." Obama says he's not throwing out proposals to score political points, and that any presidential politician has a "sacred duty" to lay out the best possible policy for the well-being of U.S. troops.
10:31:08 Romney's campaign announced five new supporters in the House — further evidence that he's mining the body for endorsements and doing so much more aggressively than his GOP competitors. The new Romney supporters are Reps. Rodney Alexander of Louisiana, John Linder of Georgia, Ralph Regula of Ohio, Bill Shuster of Pennsylvania and Mike Simpson of Idaho. Meanwhile, Arizona Sen. John McCain announced the endorsement of Florida Rep. Ric Keller.
— Rudy Giuliani's chief fundraiser Anne Dickerson will be taking a "lesser role" with the campaign, after losing the secret "campaign playbook" for 2008 that was subsequently leaked to the media. Dickerson, a top fundraiser for President Bush in 2004, was the odds on favorite to take over as the former New York mayor's finance director. The New York Daily News reports she'll remain with the campaign as a consultant.
— Mitt Romney became the GOP frontrunner by raising more than $7 million via campaign committees in states with no limit on contributions. But utilizing the Federal Election Commission loophole may have cost the former Massachusetts governor nearly $2 million — the amount of money left over in the committee coffers when he filed for president. The Politico notes that declaring his candidacy put Romney under the jursidiction of federal election law, keeping the $1.9 million he'd raised under state law but had yet to spend off limits to the campaign.
— John Edwards has joined New York Sen. Hillary Clinton in declaring that he'll bypass public funding for both the primary and the general election, according to USA Today. With candidates expected to raise $100 million by the end of the year to be competitive, no serious candidate is expected to use public financing for his or her campaign.
— Arizona Sen. John McCain held a fundraiser in Texas Monday and Romney holds one Tuesday. Giuliani was in Houston raising money at a fundraiser with oil magnate T. Boone Pickens last week. The Houston Chronicle reports that the GOP frontrunners are after big bucks in the longhorn state and are tapping more than just energy and oil dollars.
— Barack Obama said he's committed to stop smoking in 2007. The Illinois senator faces an "ironclad demand" from his wife that he not succumb to the stresses of the campaign, according to The Chicago Tribune. "I've been chewing Nicorette strenuously," he said of the smoking cessation gum. Besides Michelle Obama's objections to the practice, the American people haven't elected a smoker president since Franklin Roosevelt.
— The Associated Press profiles Obama's days growing up in Hawaii, while The Chicago Tribune reports that conservative critics are highlighting the Black Value System of Obama's church, which calls for members to be "soldiers for black freedom." Obama notes the document also stresses commitment to God, family, work ethic and self-discipline. "Those are values that the conservative movement in particular has suggested are necessary for black advancement," he said. "So I would be puzzled that they would object or quibble with the bulk of a document that basically espouses profoundly conservative values of self-reliance and self-help."
— Barbra Streisand is hedging her bets in 2008. The liberal star of stage and screen says she likes the Democratic field so much that she's donating money to Clinton, Obama and Edwards.GIuliani