Friends of Fred Thompson, the "testing the waters" organization for the actor and former Tennessee senator, is required to file its first financial disclosure report with the IRS by midnight tomorrow. While we'll all have to wait until the end of the third quarter to find out all the details of who's been giving how much, we'll at least be able to see the size of his take thus far.
CBS News deputy political director Steve Chaggaris reports the size of Thompson's bankroll may be less impressive than some earlier expectations. After having set a $5 million goal, some close to the effort say the total could be much lower. Thompson will raise a little last-minute cash at a big-dollar fundraiser in Washington on Monday night.
Thompson announced the formation of the group on June 1 amid much fanfare and excitement in some corners of the Republican Party. Since that time, Thompson has seen his poll numbers rise in both early states and nationally. But recently that momentum has been threatened by some reports questioning Thompson's conservative credentials and an internal shakeup inside the organization.
While he continues to say he's close to making a final decision, Thompson is not expected to formally announce his candidacy until closer to September, giving him one more month of "testing the waters" and several fewer weeks of glad-handing in Iowa and New Hampshire. — Vaughn Ververs
Neck-And-Neck In Florida: While Thompson waits to formally enter the race, his poll numbers continue to put him in the upper tier of the GOP field. A new Mason-Dixon poll out of Florida has him hot on the heels of Rudy Giuliani, trailing the former New York mayor by just three points, 18 percent to 21 percent. John McCain came in a distant third with just 11 percent and Mitt Romney, who has achieved some level of buzz in the Sunshine State, mustered 7 percent among likely GOP primary voters.
On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton maintains a healthy 31 percent to 17 percent lead over Barack Obama. — Vaughn Ververs
Winner-Take-Some? For more than a decade, Maine and Nebraska have stood out from the other 48 states in one subtle way — they apportion their presidential electors proportionally, instead of the winner-take-all format used by the rest of the country. But a third state, North Carolina, appears ready to join this small club.
According to the Associated Press, the North Carolina State House tentatively agreed last week to change how the state doles out its electoral votes. A final vote is expected this week on the legislation, which has already passed the state Senate and is supported by Democratic Gov. Mike Easley. If it becomes law, North Carolina would adopt the same system used by Maine and Nebraska: Two electors (representing the state's two U.S. senators) would go to the overall winner of the state. The remaining electors would be chosen by determining who carried each of the state's 13 congressional districts.
Maine and Nebraska are both small states with relatively little political diversity — despite using the proportional method, neither has split their electoral votes in the recent past. But while North Carolina is a right-leaning state that's voted Republican in the past seven presidential elections, it has several pockets where Democrats dominate. In fact, the party controls six congressional seats. That means that if the 2008 general election is coming down to the wire, the Democratic nominee may end up campaigning hard in North Carolina — or at least parts of it. — David Miller
An Idea Whose Time Has Come? It's a popular parlor game inside the Beltway every four years to come up with "new" campaign strategies that are unlikely to ever be adopted. The more popular suggestions to candidates include the "run-as-a-ticket-in-the-primaries" theme, wherein it's imagined that a candidate for the nomination would name his or her running mate before the primaries begin.
Another oft-repeated idea is for a nominee to roll out his or her cabinet in advance of the November election. Neither of these ideas has ever gotten serious consideration among the actual campaigns for a variety of reasons. Try vetting an entire cabinet while simultaneously running a national campaign, for example. But one candidate says he's willing to give it a go.
Campaigning in New Hampshire, Bill Richardson said he would unveil the names of who he's considering for the cabinet before the general election, according to the Manchester Union-Leader. He also promised that list would include some Republicans — but not too many. "I'm not going to overdo it," he said. Richardson, who has seen his campaign rising in Iowa and New Hampshire, still has an uphill climb to win the nomination but is often mentioned as a potential vice presidential pick — but not until the primaries are over. — Vaughn Ververs
Broadening The Issue: Tom Tancredo has been described as a one-issue candidate with his laser-like focus on stopping illegal immigration. But in Iowa over the weekend, the Colorado congressman said the country faces more foreign threats than immigration. At a campaign stop in Waukee, Tancredo said China and "radical Islam" rank alongside illegal immigration as troubling problems to address.
Tancredo said trade policies with China have helped protect the communist government there, which has in turn began a military buildup. "China is not just an economic threat," he said, "it is also a military threat.' Tancredo also said U.S. troops in Iraq should be moved to strategic locations in the Middle East to allow for surgical strikes in trouble spots throughout the region.
Like most of the lower-tier candidates, Tancredo has emphasized Iowa as the state where he could make a mark and has had a fair amount of success, mostly because of his immigration stance which is popular among many Republicans. The strength of his message and campaign will be put to the test in the Aug. 11 straw poll, which could be a make-or-break moment for some campaigns. — Vaughn Ververs
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By Vaughn Ververs and David Miller