The Afternoon News

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Early Exit: Mike Allen and Jonathan Martin, [Politico]: "Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) is bowing to realism and plans to drop out of the presidential race on Friday, Capitol Hill and campaign sources said. ... Brownback, who is expected to run for Kansas governor in 2010, has a following among Christian conservatives that will make his endorsement eagerly sought by the remaining GOP presidential candidates."

Tug of War: Alan Fram, [AP]: "Giuliani and Thompson are each backed by about one-fifth of conservatives, with an equal share undecided and the rest spread among other candidates. Thompson has a slight edge over Giuliani--with undecideds close by--among right-leaning voters like Southerners, strongly loyal Republicans and people who attend religious services at least weekly."

Mark His Words: Chuck Todd, [MSNBC]: "In response to various questions from reporters about electability and Giuliani, [Clinton strategist Mark] Penn took pains to emphasize that they are solely focused on running an 'all-out' primary campaign. Penn added that what's working in the primary just happens to be working with general election voters as well, apparently."

UNimpressed: Jim Davenport, [AP]: "Republican White House hopeful Mitt Romney called the United Nations a failure on Thursday and said he would support a new coalition of the free nations of the world."

The Real "Real Conservative": Craig Crawford, [Congressional Quarterly]: "White House contender Fred Thompson ... plans to get tough on the other leading contenders in a debate to be aired on the Fox News Channel this Sunday. Word from the Thompson camp is that the actor and former Tennessee senator will use the event in Orlando, Fla., to push his new campaign theme that he is the 'real conservative.' "

--Ben Crair

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