John McCaslin

Awaiting 'none'

J.B. Poersch, executive director of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, got a kick out of a new Associated Press presidential poll that shows "none of the above" beating out all of the declared Republican candidates.

"How dysfunctional are Republicans right now?" he wonders.

Only straw

Suddenly the 2008 race for the White House isn't premature anymore, with the Iowa Republican straw poll set for this Saturday — albeit minus a prominent pair.

Unfortunately, former New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani and Arizona Sen. John McCain have opted out of the straw poll, the traditional warm-up to Iowa's presidential nominating caucuses. Mr. McCain jumped ship only after Mr. Giuliani declined participation, the former's recently resigned national campaign manager, Terry Nelson, announced to the chagrin of Iowans.

"It is clear that the Ames straw poll will not be a meaningful test of the leading candidates' organizational abilities. So we have decided to forgo our participation in the event," Mr. Nelson said.

Regardless, armchair political warriors can watch the proceedings from Ames, Iowa, in their entirety on C-SPAN starting at 12:30 p.m., with the speakers, in order: former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, Rep. Tom Tancredo of Colorado, Chicago businessman John Cox, Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, Rep. Duncan Hunter of California, former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson and Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas.

Need intelligence

While Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York and her Democratic presidential opponent Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois continue to hammer each other on how best to tangle with the axis of evil, a top Republican candidate has declared that neither Democrat exercises sound judgment.

"They are dangerously out of touch when it comes to defending the homeland," former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney says of the two Democrats, who each voted last Friday against bipartisan reform of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which passed 60-28.

Mr. Romney considers the Patriot Act "perhaps our most effective new tool," pointing out that Americans' "most basic civil liberty is the right to be kept alive."

The key to effective homeland security, he explains, "is intelligence, finding the attackers before they attack, gathering and analyzing tips, monitoring suspects, wiretapping, surveillance, all of the tools associated with intelligence work."

Lions for Lambs

John McCaslin

John McCaslin is a contributing columnist on and author of Inside The Beltway: Offbeat Stories, Scoops, and Shenanigans from around the Nation's Capital .

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