Looking Ahead (Already)
While all eyes will be focused in New Hampshire for the next eight hours, there's already evidence that the presidential campaign is moving on.
* Sen. John McCain's (R-Ariz.) campaign launched a South Carolina "Truth Squad" today with the express purpose of "counter[ing] any negative and misleading attacks targeted at John McCain," according to a release announcing the group. While South Carolina Adjutant General Stan Spears, a McCain endorser, argued that the group was formed after a series of dirty tricks in Iowa last Thursday, it's hard not to see the group as a reaction to the 2000 South Carolina primary campaign when anonymous attacks savaged McCain and played a major role in his ultimate defeat.
In addition to Spears, state Speaker of the House Bobby Harrell, Seventh Circuit Solicitor Trey Gowdy and state Attorney General Henry McMaster will serve on the truth squad. "Our goal is to set the record straight," said McMaster. "As soon as one of these negative attack ads goes up on the air or hits the mailboxes, we'll let the voters know the truth."
If McCain wins New Hampshire and Michigan, South Carolina could again be a pivot point in his campaign. His aides point out that unlike in 2000, McCain has the support of a majority of the party establishment and his chief rival will not be a well-funded candidate like George W. Bush but rather the insurgent former Gov. Mike Huckabee (R). Still, McCain's stance on illegal immigration and the distrust with which he is still regarded by many of the party's most conservative voters pose a real challenge.
* The Culinary Union -- the biggest and most powerful labor group in Nevada -- will formally announce their endorsement at 11 a.m. -- pacific time -- tomorrow morning. Two Fix sources here in Washington paint the endorsement as a done deal for Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.) and Jon Ralston, the man who knows Nevada like no other, agrees.
If the Culinary goes with Obama the action immediately installs him as the favorite in the state's Jan. 19 caucus. As it did in a number of early voting states -- New Hampshire being the most obvious example -- Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's (N.Y.) campaign started out with the superior organization in Nevada but seems likely to be eclipsed by Obama's momentum.
Should Obama pull out a win in New Hampshire tonight, the Culinary endorsement could mean that Obama is positioned to make a clean sweep of the pre-Feb. 5 states -- Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina -- a stunning achievement that seemed impossible as recently as a month ago.
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