WASHINGTON -- Strategists for Mitt Romney's Republican presidential campaign were actually pleased that fast-rising Mike Huckabee moved ahead of Romney in the Rasmussen poll in Iowa, eliminating surprise if Huckabee finishes first there in the Jan. 3 caucuses.
A Huckabee victory in Iowa would kill Romney's plans to win the first two 2008 tests in Iowa and New Hampshire, followed by sweeping the board in all other primary states. Instead, the contest for the nomination could extend through the Feb. 5 primaries, with Rudy Giuliani given a chance in the high-population state primaries that day.
The consolation for Romney strategists is that a Huckabee win in Iowa would no longer be a shock that could stampede the process.
Old pro Democrats who had been in awe of Sen. Hillary Clinton's perfect campaign believe she made her first serious blunder last Monday by indicating to CBS's Katie Couric that her election as president is inevitable.
When Couric inquired "how disappointed will you be" if she does not win, Clinton replied: "Well, it will be me." "Clearly," the CBS anchor persisted, "you have considered" the "possibility of losing"? "No, I haven't," said the senator. "So you never even consider the possibility?" "I don't. I don't."
A footnote: Bill Clinton, campaigning for his wife in Iowa the next day, stunned Democratic insiders when he claimed he had opposed the Iraq war "from the beginning." In fact, shortly after the U.S. invasion of Iraq, the former president declared: "I supported the president [George W. Bush] when he asked the Congress for authority to stand up against weapons of mass destruction in Iraq."
DELISTING KOREAN TERROR
The new Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda, a polite gentleman of the old school in contrast to his recent predecessors, on his recent visit to Washington did not urge President Bush to keep North Korea on the terrorist list as the Japanese Foreign Office recommended.
The state department's attempts to dissuade North Korea from developing nuclear arms involve possible removal of Pyongyang from the list of nations that support terror. Tokyo opposes that because of North Korea's abduction of Japanese citizens.
The Foreign Office had wanted Fukuda to raise the abduction issue with Bush. However, the president pre-empted the prime minister as their bilateral meeting began by expressing U.S. concern about the abductions.
COST OF GRIDLOCK
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Oversight Board last Monday sent Congress an unusual report listing consequences of its failure, before leaving town for Thanksgiving, to pass legislation easing unintended impact of the alternative minimum tax (AMT) on middle-income taxpayers.
Paul Cherecwich, IRS Oversight Board chairman, urged "quick action" after the lawmakers return Dec. 4 "to mitigate" the risks. Continued congressional gridlock, he said, could delay as many as 37.7 million tax refunds totaling $87 billion.
Cherecwich warned that the delay could cause "taxpayers who have been filing electronically [to] revert to paper filing," preventing the IRS from issuing refunds within the 45-day statutory limit. He also cited "the risk of both deliberate and unintended non-compliance" by taxpayers caused by the delays.
Contrary to published reports, there is zero possibility that Mississippi's Republican Gov. Haley Barbour will name 70-year-old retired federal Judge Charles Pickering to the Senate vacancy created by Sen. Trent Lott's impending resignation.
Barbour feels Mississippi's tradition is for U.S. senators holding their seats for many years, not temporary seat warmers. Judge Pickering's 44-year-old son, Rep. Chip Pickering, would be the leading prospect to be selected if he had not announced he would leave Congress because of his family's needs.
Mississippi is unique in electing only four senators over the last 64 years. James O. Eastland and John C. Stennis were in the Senate for 35 and 42 years respectively. Of their successors, Thad Cochran has been in office 29 years and Lott will have served for 19 years.