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Starting Gate: 80% Of Success Is Just Showing Up

(AP Photo/Steve Ruark)
It's not as though there needs to be more of these presidential debates and forums but sometimes the candidates simply need to show up. The Republican Party won't quickly recover from the decisions of the big four – Rudy Giuliani, Fred Thompson, Mitt Romney and John McCain – to not participate in last night's PBS debate.

On the other hand the event, focused on urban issues, received far more attention than it would have if those front-runners had chosen to attend. In some ways that's the problem facing the GOP when it comes to minority voters: Show up and engage and you get little credit for it; skip it and you'll be raked over the coals.

The no-shows aren't just hurting themselves, however, they're hurting the party as a whole. Practically speaking, the GOP candidates are focused on winning their party's nomination, and that means primary voters in places like Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina at the moment. Very few of those voters are minorities living in big cities. But their snub is unlikely to be forgotten in the general election, regardless of who the nominee is. And, while the GOP is not going to nab a substantial share of the black vote under the best of circumstances, ignoring any minority group doesn't make it any easier to woo others – especially Hispanics, who represent the fastest growing segment of the electorate.

Money, Money, Money: John Edwards has decided to accept public financing for his campaign, and it's already causing a lot of folks to weigh in on the consequences. It's going to help in the short term because he'll get an influx of cash at a crucial moment – right before the voting begins in January. But, his campaign will have to abide by spending limits (less than $1 million in New Hampshire and $1.5 million in Iowa) that will leave him at a competitive disadvantage compared to the unlimited funds Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama will be allowed to raise and spend.

The reality is that Edwards needed to take this step. He has found success on the money front by traditional standards -- it's likely that with his third quarter total, he'll have raised about $30 million this year – Clinton and Obama could well hit the $100 million mark by the end of this year. But the decision puts his campaign in a box – the perception of a campaign in need could further hurt his ability to ask for contributions and it would put him at a real disadvantage should the nomination fight drag out through multiple states.

California Effort Dumped: The Los Angeles Times is reporting that the effort to put an initiative on the California ballot which would award the state's electoral votes by congressional district has been abandoned: "the proposal … is virtually dead with the resignation of key supporters, internal disputes and a lack of funds."

The effort had drawn extreme criticism from Democrats who saw it as an under-handed attempt to keep all 54 of the state's electoral votes out of the Democratic column – and possibly swing the election to the GOP nominee. California has been a Democratic lock since 1992 and shows no signs of moving out of that column anytime soon but Republicans could nibble away at the total by winning some reliable congressional districts.

Around The Track

  • Democrats sense they may have found a rebuttal to the MoveOn "Betray Us" ad with Rush Limbaugh's comments calling U.S. soldiers who oppose the war in Iraq "phony soldiers."
  • With the top candidates absent, Mike Huckabee is getting high marks from important quarters for his performance at last night's debate.
  • Check in with Horserace later today for a look at Obama's New York rally where he took a little jab at Clinton's baseball rooting habits: "Your Senator of New York wasn't clear about the Yankees. … I know who I am rooting for, the White Sox! I know my team!"
  • Seven soldiers who participated in a John McCain event violated Pentagon rules, reports the Boston Globe.
  • Stories like this in the Des Moines Register won't do much to help Edwards' attempt to be the populist candidate in the race: "A total of 107 Iowa homeowners were foreclosed upon by subprime mortgage companies owned by Fortress Investment Group while Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards was associated with the equity company, court records show."
  • Make sure you check out the Sovern Nation, for must-read campaign coverage from KCBS reporter Doug Sovern. It's chalk full of news from the Golden State, trivia, analysis and a lot of fun. Don't miss Sovern's send-up of the primary calendar crunch – "Super-Cali-Tex-A-Listic-York-A-Zona-Docious!"
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