An explosion ripped through a military base near Aleppo in northern Syria July 23, killing 15 Syrian soldiers and dozens of Iranian engineers. Summer temperatures of up to 122 degrees Fahrenheit caused an ammunition dump to "cook off," the Syrian government said.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich hasn't been getting as much attention as he likes lately. So he's told a few folks he'll run for president if he can raise $30 million by the end of November.
My advice to Newt is to buy lottery tickets. But wealthy supporters of former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani should consider helping Mr. Gingrich out.
Most of the political news over the weekend came from the biennial gathering of Michigan Republicans on Mackinac Island.
The confab was more important than it's been in the past, because of Michigan's decision to move it presidential primary up to January 15. Only the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary will be held earlier.
A straw poll was conducted, in which 979 of the more than 2,000 attendees voted. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney won with 39 percent. Arizona Sen. John McCain was second with 26 percent. Libertarian nutcake Ron Paul bested Mr. Giuliani for third, 10.8 to 10.6 percent.
The Romney victory in the straw poll was unsurprising. His father George was a popular governor in Michigan, and Mr. Romney paid the way for many people to attend the Mackinac conference.
Sen. McCain's showing was surprising. He doesn't have the money to buy his supporters a cup of coffee, but it's apparent there is still a lot of affection for him among Michigan GOP activists. Sen. McCain won the presidential primary in 2000.
Because they can so easily be stacked by those with deep pockets or distorted by nutbars (yes, Ron Paul supporters, I'm talking about you), straw polls tend to be poor indicators of overall popular sentiment. But Mr. Romney's margin roughly tracks with the most recent poll of Michigan Republicans, taken by the American Research Group in the first week in September. In that poll Mr. Romney had 39 percent of the vote to Mr. Giuliani's 13, Sen. Thompson's 12, and Sen. McCain's 9.
While most of the political news over the weekend emanated from Mackinac Island, the most interesting news was from a poll Democratic pollster Celinda Lake took for the Latino Policy Coalition of 31 House districts represented by freshman Democrats. The poll showed Rudy Giuliani leading Hillary Clinton comfortably in them.
"Giuliani takes 49 percent to Clinton's 39 percent, while the former mayor's lead over (Sen. Barack) Obama is far smaller, 41 percent to 40 percent," reported Chris Cillizza and Shailagh Murray in the Washington Post Sunday. (The poll was taken in August.)
Mr. Giuliani has been running within the margin of error with Sen. Clinton in national polls, the only GOP candidate to do so. The Celinda Lake poll in slightly left-leaning swing districts suggest he might be stronger against her than those other surveys indicate.
In these Democratic districts, the Lake poll found, 45 percent of respondents had a favorable opinion of Hillary Clinton, 48 percent an unfavorable one. By contrast, Mr. Giuliani's ratings were 53 percent positive, 33 percent negative.
The Lake poll strengthens the principal argument for Rudy, that he's the Republican with the best chance to win in November. But he must win the nomination first, which is what makes Mr. Gingrich's potential candidacy so interesting.
We have in effect semifinal matches between Mr. Giuliani and Sen. McCain for the more moderate GOP vote, and between Mr. Romney and Mr. Thompson for the more conservative vote. A Gingrich candidacy would split the conservative vote in the early primaries further.
Since I'm for Rudy, that's reason enough for me to be excited about a Gingrich candidacy.
But I have a less cynical reason.
If Newt were nominated, he'd have no chance to win the general election. But he has the best ideas in politics, and he expresses them well. It'd be great in a presidential debate to have Newt expound on this, that or the other, and have the other candidates, say, in effect: "What Newt said."
Debates will be critical for Sen. Thompson, whose performance so far has been underwhelming for many erstwhile supporters.
The most fascinating disconnect is between the fairly comfortable leads Gov. Romney enjoys in polling in Iowa, New Hampshire and Michigan, and his poor performance in national polls. He has only 8.5 percent in the Real Clear Politics average, to Mr. Giuliani's 27.8 and Mr. Thompson's 22.5.
Will Mr. Romney's numbers go up when he starts advertising outside of Iowa, New Hampshire and Michigan, or will his leads in those states shrink when other candidates start advertising there? Stay tuned. The Iowa caucuses are only about 90 days