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Starting Gate: Changing Season

Change is all the rage these days. We're hearing it more and more in statements like this: "It's time for change in Washington and that change must begin with us." Or this: "We all know Americans want change." Or this: "We've got to send a message to politicians in Washington that we are better than that."

And that's just what Republican presidential candidates are saying about the government their party has run for the better part of that past six years. What used to be a cautious line to straddle has become an all-out campaign slogan for at least one candidate.

In speeches, ads and an "open letter" aimed at Republican primary voters, candidates like Mitt Romney are talking change. Not happy with how things have gone? "The blame, we must admit, does not belong to just one party," Romney says. "If we're going to change Washington, Republicans have to put our own house in order. We can't be like Democrats – a party of big spending. We can't pretend our borders are secure from illegal immigration. We can't have ethical standards that are a punch-line for Jay Leno. When Republicans act like Democrats, America loses."

It's no secret that Republicans are running in a very dicey environment, as would-be successors to an unpopular president. An AP report from the Michigan Republican Leadership Conference this weekend summed it up: "How candidates handle the 800-pound elephant in the room now could have implications beyond the primary. Privately, Republican strategists agree their nominee will lose next fall if the general election is a referendum on Bush. They say GOP candidates are wise to distance themselves from the president now, given his unpopularity among the public at large."

Conventional wisdom holds that, while President Bush is unpopular among the nation at large, he retains the loyalty of many of the GOP primary voters who will be selecting the nominee. Go too far toward sounding like Democrats, the thinking goes, and you risk getting burnt.

But that is changing. Romney won a straw poll at the with 39 percent of the 979 votes cast. Not surprising given Romney's home-state status there. But look who came in third – anti-war Republican Ron Paul. In his press conference last week, President Bush predicted he would be a "strong asset" to the GOP nominee in 2008. Candidates like Romney appear to disagree – and not just in private anymore.

The Stealth Candidate? Is there a hidden vote for Barack Obama that isn't showing up in the polls? That's what Obama campaign manager David Plouffe argued in an e-mail over ther weekend. Chicago Sun-Times' Lynn Sweet has the details. Here's one excerpt: "First, young voters are dramatically less likely to have caucused or voted regularly in primaries in the past, so pollsters heavily under-represent them. Second, young voters are more mobile and are much less likely to be at home in the early evening and thus less likely to be interviewed in any survey. Third, young voters are much less likely to have a landline phone and much more likely to rely exclusively upon cell phones, which are automatically excluded from phone surveys. So all of these state and national surveys have and will continue to under-represent Barack's core support – in effect, his hidden vote in each of these pivotal early states."

The Columbia State's Lee Bandy sees the signs as well: "In South Carolina, Obama has put together a high-tech and grass-roots get-out-the-vote campaign unmatched by anything seen in the state before. Obama is organized in all 46 counties. Much goes on outside of the public eye or, as campaign organizers are fond of saying, below the radar." But when will all that hidden support show up on the radar?

Evan Almighty:Hillary Clinton's campaign is touting another "major national endorsement" to come today. According to the Politico, it's Indiana Senator Evan Bayh who will join the lengthy list of Democratic office holders to back Clinton. The Midwestern moderate considered running for the Democratic nomination last year and is almost certain to be on the list of possible running mates for any of the current candidates.

"V" For … CBS News' Joy Lin reports, Mike Huckabee fans have been guessing for days now on the mystery behind Sept. 24, or "V-Day," hyped without explanation on the official Mike Huckabee Around The Track

  • President Bush offered Republican presidential candidates some words of advice in his press conference last week and now he's making some electoral predications in a new book by political reporter Bill Sammon. Excerpts of "The Evangelical President" appear in the Washington Examiner
  • and, like his political adviser Karl Rove, the president sees Clinton as the likely Democratic nominee. "She's got a national presence and this is becoming a national primary," Bush says.

  • Following a scolding by the New York Times' Public Editor over the now-famous MoveOn "Betray Us" ad, the anti-war group announced it would be paying an additional $77,000 to the paper. MoveOn had been charged a discount rate for the full-page ad, something that the paper now calls a mistake. Certainly MoveOn got more than it paid for with the ad – in more ways than one.
  • Florida Democrats announced they will proceed with a January 29th primary despite threats from the DNC to strip delegates for the nominating convention. "The 4 million Florida Democrats will be enfranchised," Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz said, according to the AP. "We will make sure Florida Democrats have a voice and
    that voice will be heard." Ball is in your court, Mr. Dean.
  • The Boston Globe looks at Obama's role in dealing with health care in the Illinois state Senate, noting that it: "illustrates how Obama, during his eight years in the Illinois Senate, was able to shepherd major legislation by negotiating competing interests in Springfield. … But it also shows how Obama's own experience in lawmaking involved dealings with the kinds of lobbyists and special interests he now demonizes on the campaign trail."
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