Gingrich, Thompson, Clinton: Key Political Notes

Newt Gingrich
Newt Gingrich

Here are notes of interest from the political front. The first one on Newt Gingrich is from a breakfast meeting I attended this week with other journalists.

--The former Speaker sees a bleak Republican outlook but keeps a potential 2008 candidacy alive. Promoting his “American Solutions” campaign for governmental reform, Gingrich rated Clinton’s chances at winning the Democratic nomination “in the high 90s” and Democrats’ chances of winning general election at 80%. He praised Clinton’s toughness, noting “She has not caved in to” by apologizing for Iraq war vote. Aides will spend October gauging financial support. Gingrich says a viable race would require at least $30-million in pledges considering Romney’s deep pockets. Though most Republicans expect him not to run, some believe he’d step in if Thompson flops.

--From Fred Thompson's late entry into the presidential race: The ex-Tennessee senator is focusing on cash and shrugging off complaints. Touting his recent bump in national polls, advisers say Thompson will eschew most public events for another week in favor of private fundraisers. But one says his third-quarter take will be “nowhere close” to $20 million bar set by Romney camp. Dell founder Michael Dell, a Republican donor, was absent during Thompson’s fundraising visit to Austin, including tour of company’s plant. Among conservative Christians, Focus on the Family’s Dobson has lately questioned Thompson's acceptability; Thompson hasn’t committed to attend next month’s Values Voter Summit where Dobson will be feted.

--From the health care debate that Hillary Clinton jump-started this week with her plan: Republicans are soon joining in. McCain plans to roll out “comprehensive approach” on Oct. 11 including changes in tax code, regulations, and government programs. Though weeks away from presenting his version, Thompson is expected to propose tax breaks for small businesses and individuals to buy insurance. Echoing Giuliani, Thompson would let consumers buy insurance across state lines in search of best deal. “Health care’s never been prominent in a Republican primary like it is this year,” says a Thompson aide, noting increased business interest. One sign that's true: a new Kaiser poll finds that among Republican voters, health care competes with immigration as second priority after Iraq.

--From the ongoing debate over how the U.S. and the rest of the world should respond to climate change: Bush will meet with international environment ministers next week. Emerging economies like China are holding back from stronger greenhouse-gas curbs without more sign of U.S. interest. The Global Leadership For Climate Action, including former heads of state and business leaders from 20 countries, is already looking toward the next administration in setting its goal of reducing emissions 30% by 2020.

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