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Pure Horserace: A Small Price To Pay

In an earlier edition of Pure Horserace, we looked at the significance of the presidential candidates' financial disclosure statements, focusing especially on how the source of one's wealth can help enhance, or contradict, the image a campaign hopes to project to voters.

If any candidate would be aware of that reality beforehand, it would be Hillary Clinton. Notably, she filed for an extension when disclosure statements were originally due in May — and now we may have some idea of why.

A large part of the assets controlled by Clinton and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, were previously tied up in a blind trust the Clintons have held since 1983. Its investments were unknown to the Clintons until this April when, according to The Associated Press, the Office of Government Ethics instructed them to open the trust — and the Clintons, evidently, didn't like what they saw.

The investments included companies that are often vilified by Democrats: Big Oil, pharmaceutical manufacturers, News Corp. — the owners of Fox News Channel — and Wal-Mart. The trust, including those problematic investments, ended up being sold off for cash.

Liquidating those assets will cost the Clintons dearly in capital gains taxes, but keeping them could have resulted in a much steeper political price, opening Clinton up to attacks from not only the Republicans who love to hate her, but also from her Democratic rivals for the nomination — though we suspect John Edwards, with his hedge fund wealth, may have kept quiet.

Clinton has already endured accusations of a conflict of interest thanks to her service on Wal-Mart's board of directors from 1986-92, even though that was long before the retailer became the left's symbol of corporate expansionism gone awry. Keeping investments in Wal-Mart, especially now that Clinton has joined others in criticizing the company, would have created an instant controversy her campaign wouldn't want. — David Miller

The Conviction Behind The Conversion: Earlier this week, John McCain's campaign circulated a video of Mitt Romney from 2005 in which Romney, then governor of Massachusetts, said he supported maintaining the state's relatively liberal abortion laws — even though he claims he began to oppose abortion in November 2004.

Romney has already claimed his remarks were taken out of context, but that was unlikely to be his only defense. And, coincidentally or not, he was seen today defending his recent opposition to abortion before the National Right to Life's annual convention in Kansas City, Mo.

Romney argued that his current views, and not how long he's held them, should matter most. "I know that it is not time, but conviction that unites us," he said.

The crowd frequently applauded during the speech, according to The Associated Press, but not everyone in attendance was pleased. "I'm somebody who's been consistent," said Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback, a longshot contender for the nomination. "I've been fighting this fight for a long time, and I believe in it and I think it's the central social (and) moral issue of our day." — David Miller

Seen It All In A Small Town: It was John Mellencamp who sang about the charms of the rural communities that dot states like Iowa, but it's Brownback who's taking the sentiment to heart. Brownback is one of the Republican presidential candidates still committed to participating in the state party's straw poll in August — and he's not going to miss a chance to gather support.

Brownback's campaign has announced that he'll embark upon a four-day, 27-town journey through Iowa, starting Monday. The Des Moines Register points out that 20 of the towns Brownback and his family will be visiting have populations of 15,000 or less. As a senator from Kansas, Brownback has relied on a breakthrough in Iowa to keep his hopes alive. But can he rally enough support from these small communities to do it? Vaughn Ververs

If Video Killed The Radio Star … Next month, 2008 officially becomes the YouTube election when the do-it-yourself Internet Web site teams up with CNN to host a very unique Democratic presidential debate. For the first time, anyone in America (or around the world, for that matter) can submit the questions they want answered by presidential candidates by posting them on YouTube.

The Web site is already accepting questions here. And look out professional debate moderators: Some of the questions are already as good as any we've heard asked at debates in the past. Vaughn Ververs

The Veep-inator? Arnold Schwarzenegger for vice president? That's an interesting question raised by billionaire Warren Buffet in the latest issue of Time magazine (thanks to the Los Angeles Times for pointing this out). Buffet points out that the Constitution requires only that the president be born in the U.S., leaving open the possibility that the Austrian could serve in the second slot on an independent ticket headed by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Sounds like a juicy story but also a far-fetched possibility considering everything that would have to fall into place first. Sure, it's a celebrity culture — but would the California Republican governor really want to campaign on the idea of putting Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi a "heartbeat" away from the presidency? Still, The Associated Press reports today that Bloomberg is visiting New Hampshire this weekend. The mayor says it's a social call, but it will continue to spur speculation.

Update: An alert Pure Horserace reader alerts us to the 12th Amendment to the Constitution which states, "no person constitutionally ineligible to the office of President shall be eligible to that of Vice-President of the United States." So Schwarzenegger is Constitutionally barred from becoming vice president. Vaughn Ververs

Clear Choices: Veteran Democratic strategist Anita Dunn tells CBS News' Brian Goldsmith that primary voters in her party are being presented with three very different candidates among the big three. "The three Democratic candidates seen as being the top-tier candidates are three extraordinarily different candidates who are taking three very different paths. Each one is the best path for them, and that's one of the reasons this race is so interesting," says Dunn. Check out today's Political Player for more.

Editor's Note: Pure Horserace is a daily update of political news as interpreted by the political observers at Click here to sign up for the e-mail version.

By David Miller and Vaughn Ververs

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