Washington "Scuffles" Providing Political "Shuffles"


I can't help noticing the dramatic difference between the political and government parts of my beat these days--complete gridlock in Washington and turbulent action on the 2008 campaign trail.

In the capital, Democrats and Republicans are fighting over literally everything--the budget, energy legislation, a fix for the out of control Alternative Minimum Tax. President Bush is issuing veto threats left and right, while Democratic Congressional leaders must decide whether to risk the wrath of their liberal base and accept his terms on the war and nearly everything else. It's a predictable and depressing picture.

By contrast, the presidential campaign is producing an extraordinary series of twists and turns whose ending no one knows. Among Democrats, Barack Obama has surged in Iowa and elsewhere, but Hillary Clinton retains formidable strengths and John Edwards can't be counted out.

On the Republican side, Mike Huckabee has rocketed from nowhere to the front of the pack in Iowa and faces new scrutiny, while Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani are in the process of learning how resilient their candidacies are. And you can't yet count out John McCain, who still could win New Hampshire.

Of course, there's a connection between the two phenomena I am discussing. Because the whole country has noticed that Washington doesn't work, there's tremendous interest in the presidential contest--but uncertainty within each party about the right candidate nominate. The week will bring another step on the road to discovery, with Des Moines Register debates of Republicans on Wednesday and Democrats on Thursday.

I'll be in Iowa all week and will keep you posted on what happens next.

Questions? Comments? Write to politicalcapital@cnbc.com.