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— DIANE CLEHANE

Timing is everything. Just ask Hillary Clinton. If we’d come a day earlier we would have dined with Karl Rove. (Well, okay, we’d have been in the same room.) Our spy says the sight of ‘Bush’s brain’-turned-Fox commentator at table five had the joint buzzing (or was it hissing?). In any event, politics were still very much front and center today. My pal producer Beverly Camhe introduced me to Patricia Duff who had just yesterday hosted a lunch at the Friar’s Club with Paul Begala for her political think tank, The Common Good. According to Beverly, who says joining Patricia’s group has been “life-changing,” Paul told the crowd that he’s all but certain Barack Obama will win the Democratic nomination. Since Paul is a Hillary supporter his prediction carries some heft. Patricia, who has also hosted Henry Kissinger and economic advisor Robert Hormats, is sure to have more heavy hitters hold forth on all things presidential in the coming months. Check it out yourself. After all, you can’t spend all your free time watching Gossip Girl no matter what New York says

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Kathie Lee Gifford, Hoda Kotb, Eduardo Verastegui, Sean Wolfington and his lovely wife Ana, Kathie Lee’s right-hand gal Christine Gardiner and my new pal Today show producer Brian Balthazar. Seems those new BFFs Kathie Lee and Hoda have a regular Wednesday date to take in a matinee and then talk about it on Today the next morning. Today the girls were off to see Crybaby. Tune in tomorrow to catch their review.

2. Nick Simunek

3. Ron Delsener and John Eastman

4. Stan Shuman with a fellow we didn’t recognize …

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