Mexico could be a factor

An unexpected factor in the presidential election this year might not come from a primary. Instead, Mexico President Felipe Calderon might play that role. Calderon’s mid-February visit to the United States could set the stage.

He is scheduled to meet with immigration reform leaders in New York, Los Angeles, Boston and Chicago. Calderon will reveal at that time his strategy for approaching policymakers concerning migrant rights. He will also meet with key legislators on the issues. In these encounters, he could become a factor in the U.S. election.

Rise of the jackal pack

While channel surfing for the latest in the series of blah-blah Democratic presidential debates the other night, I came upon what was obviously an old rerun on Animal Planet and could not tear myself away from the bizarre sight: I witnessed two jackals going after each other, clawing and snapping, while an almost unseen Carolina grouse harmlessly flapped its wings.

Media’s love affair with McCain

One of the curiosities of American politics is the media’s ongoing infatuation with John McCain. A bit of this is based on things such as McCain’s opposition to torture (unfortunately, we can no longer treat opposing torture like opposing child molestation, i.e., something one assumes is standard equipment in a presidential candidate rather than a luxury upgrade). Yet most of the journalistic love affair with the Republican senator from Arizona is based on other factors.

Rudy’s rise and fall

Sure, he has his flaws, and he is out of sync with some long-revered positions of his Republican Party. But Rudolph Giuliani brings a mightily impressive resume to his race for president of the United States, and it is something on the order of crazy that he has fallen so quickly and so far from his standing as GOP front-runner.

Fred Thompson drops run

Faltering Republican Presidential candidate Fred Dalton Thompson is dropping out of the race after dismal showings in all primaries held to date. Thompson’s campaign began notifying news media Tuesday afternoon that a statement was imminent.

Thompson, in Tennessee to care for his ailing mother, did not appear himself to announce his withdrawal. Instead, a formal statement was sent out stating that Thompson was, in fact, dropping out.

The former Senator and actor entered the race amid loud hoopla that he was a conservative hope for the party, but his campaign never jelled.

Obama takes on the Clintons

Barack Obama wasn’t kidding when he said he would start speaking out more aggressively against the Clintons.

From his first answer at a highly acrimonious debate Monday night, the Illinois senator went after the first couple of Democratic politics with a tenacity he had not shown before in his campaign of hope. He drew quick return fire from Hillary Rodham Clinton, who is pointing her campaign toward Super Tuesday Feb. 5 when more than half the Democratic delegates are at stake.

Rudy trails on home turf

Former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani is trailing in the race for the Republican presidential nomination even on his home turf of New York state, a new poll showed on Monday.

The WNBC/Marist poll ahead of the February 5 primaries in New York showed 34 percent of registered Republicans support John McCain, compared to 23 percent for Giuliani. Among Republicans likely to vote, McCain kept his 34 percent support, while Giuliani was tied in second place with Mitt Romney at 19 percent.

McCain on the road in Florida

Republican John McCain wooed Cuban-American voters on Monday and banked on the support of their leaders to help his presidential campaign win the state that gave President George W. Bush his narrow victory in 2000.

McCain swept into Miami after his big win Saturday in South Carolina, the first contest in the U.S. South as voters choose candidates for the November presidential election. On January 29, Florida hold the next big Republican contest.

Huckabee cuts back on expenses

Battling to stay competitive after his weekend loss in South Carolina, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee is taking new steps to save money, including no longer scheduling planes and buses for journalists trying to cover his presidential campaign.

Huckabee said he will continue to campaign in Florida on a shoestring budget, but added that he may pull out of the state before its Jan. 29 Republican primary if his prospects look dim.

Democrats get down & dirty

Democratic presidential rivals Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama accused each other of repeatedly and deliberately distorting the truth for political gain Monday night in a highly personal, finger-wagging debate that ranged from the war in Iraq to Bill Clinton’s role in the campaign.

Obama told the former first lady he was helping unemployed workers on the streets of Chicago when “you were a corporate lawyer sitting on the board at Wal-Mart.”

Moments later, Clinton said that she was fighting against misguided Republican policies “when you were practicing law and representing your contributor … in his slum landlord business in inner city Chicago.”

Obama seemed particularly irritated at the former president, whom he accused in absentia of uttering a series of distortions to aid his wife’s presidential effort.

“I’m here. He’s not,” she snapped.