Newt: I diddled while Clinton burned; Update: Is Fred Thompson in? Update: Hillary 46, Brownback 41

It’s the same strategy lawyers use in having their own witnesses confess to bad deeds on direct examination instead of waiting for it to come out in cross. Makes it look like contrition, even though it isn’t. But at least we know now he’s thinking seriously of running. Otherwise, why admit it in the first place?

I don’t think he stands a chance. The media hates him and the public is weary of polarizing figures, which explains 90% of Obama’s appeal vis-a-vis Hillary. Plus, as the face of the 1994 GOP takeover, Newt is a symbol of Republican hegemony. That’s why we love him, and that’s also why the public at this particular point in history is going to be skittish.

If anyone benefits from this announcement, I’d say it’s Romney. The more the public finds out about Giuliani’s and Gingrich’s peccadilloes, the more comparatively attractive Mitt becomes. If his camp’s willing to play dirty, I’d expect them to go after McCain’s indiscretions and make the case even clearer to morals voters that there’s only one choice for them among the major candidates.

Then again, Mitt’s got bigger things to worry about.

Moran’s got a solid rundown of Newt’s problems including the notorious fact about him filing for divorce while his wife was hospitalized with cancer, which, incredibly, makes Rudy’s breakup with Donna Hanover at a press conference only the second-tackiest marital crackup on the GOP side. And speaking of Rudy, Reuters has a stupid hit piece on him out today quoting New York leftists still traumatized by their time in the Giuliani gulag. They’d better sob louder if they want to drown out the boost this will give him.

Update: A white knight emerges! I’m receptive, seriously.

Former Senate Majority Leader Howard Baker (R-Tenn.) is contacting powerbrokers in the Republican Party to build support for a 2008 presidential campaign by his one-time protégé, former Sen. Fred Thompson (R-Tenn.)…

Thompson has told allies in recent days that he is exploring seriously a bid for president in 2008 in response to what he has described as strong encouragement from Republicans dissatisfied with the current slate of candidates.

Update: Man, conservatives hate Hillary. I know we all know that, but damn.