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Economics Experts Join Romney's PAC

By Dan Balz and Zachary A. Goldfarb
Wednesday, November 29, 2006

He hasn't even formed his presidential exploratory committee, but Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R) has already signed up an economic brain trust to advise him, led by two former chairmen of President Bush's Council of Economic Advisers.

R. Glenn Hubbard, dean of the Columbia University Graduate School of Business, and N. Gregory Mankiw, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, have agreed to join Romney's political action committee, committee spokesman Jared Young said yesterday. Hubbard and Mankiw will play key roles in the governor's presidential campaign if he decides to run -- a decision that is widely presumed.

A third member of Romney's new economic team is Cesar Conda, who previously served as domestic policy adviser to Vice President Cheney.

Hubbard chaired Bush's economic council from 2001 to 2003 and was succeeded by Mankiw, who served until 2005. Mankiw stirred up a controversy for the president in 2004 when he said the outsourcing of jobs was "probably a plus" for the U.S. economy in the long run. Many economists agreed with that view, but the comment revealed Mankiw's lack of political instincts.

Hubbard said he was attracted to Romney as someone who believes in modest government and who tries to use government to solve problems in a businesslike way. "Given the problems we have, having somebody with a strong business background and a good worldview on the economy is a good thing," he said.

Romney also announced this week that he has recruited Warren Tompkins, a veteran South Carolina Republican strategist who was a regional co-chairman of Bush's reelection team, as an adviser for the Southeast.

It's a Party, and Obama's Coming

Among potential Democratic presidential candidates, Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) offered another signal that he is seriously thinking about running by accepting an invitation to speak in New Hampshire on Dec. 10.

Obama will headline a New Hampshire Democratic Party celebration of the party's across-the-board state victories earlier this month.

While advisers say a decision from Obama on whether to join the 2008 race probably won't come before the end of the year, the first-term senator is actively weighing his options. He has been holding regular meetings with key advisers, seeking advice from outside strategists in key states and fielding calls with offers of help if he decides to run.

Obama advisers are reportedly debating whether to move quickly to set up a presidential campaign operation and begin organizing in states such as Iowa and New Hampshire, or to wait until sometime next year and plot out a more unconventional campaign.

Warm Feelings for a Lucky Few

With a presidential race on the horizon, seven American politicians -- led by former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani (R) and Obama -- have reason to be happy: Americans have "warm" feelings toward them.

The quarterly "thermometer" poll by Connecticut's Quinnipiac University asks voters to rate their feelings toward individual politicians on a scale from 0 to 100.

With a rating of 64.2 for Giuliani and 58.8 for Obama, the two prospective 2008 presidential candidates lead a pack that includes Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) at 57.7, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice at 56.1, former president Bill Clinton at 55.8, Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (D-Conn.) at 52.7 and New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg (R) at 51.1.

Rounding out the top 10 are former Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.), Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) and Gov. Bill Richardson (D-N.M.). President Bush ended up in 15th place, with a rating of 43.8, and Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.), who is considering another run for the White House, finished last in the field of 20 with a rating of 39.6.

The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 2.4 percentage points. The interview of 1,623 registered voters nationwide was conducted Nov. 13-19.

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