ABC News' The Note: First Source for Political News

Party executive director Jean Hessburg tells ABC News that they hope to bank 100,000 absentee voters in this first round — and more than 200,000 by the end of October. (The unions will help the party chase those voters.)

Absentee voting in Iowa isn't as easy as 2002 — a voter then literally could scrawl a request on a used cocktail napkin to get a ballot sent home — but it's a cornerstone of the Democratic Party's field strategy. Hessberg is convinced that banking these votes can help erase that traditional (and cultural) Republican advantage on election day — registered Republicans tend to vote at a higher rate than Democrats.

Boosted by ACT, union efforts and 501(c)3 groups, the Democrats have narrowed the registration gap in Iowa to about 11,000 voters, and Hessberg said she expects that gap to be zero by the end of the year. Democrats are signing up voters at four to five times the rate of Republicans, she claims.

Of course, all this moves the denominator . . . while early voting moves the numerator.

The other key September states to watch for no-excuse early and absentee balloting: Arizona — Sept. 30, and South Dakota (for its Senate race), Sept. 21.

The Republicans know all this, of course. They're about to conduct out their second voter registration mass-mailing. Around the time of the GOP convention, they sent out hundreds of thousands of absentee ballot reminders.

The politics of Hurricane Frances:

The Wall Street Journal takes a look how the hurricane season has affected the politics of Florida.

"As a result, the outcome in the state, which President Bush won by a scant 537 votes in 2000, could hinge on whether voters are satisfied with federal aid to hurricane-affected areas — and, perhaps more important, whether large numbers of voters in Republican bastions are too distracted by the storm's aftermath to boost the party's turnout."

"'Turnout is key to the presidential election in Florida," says Lance deHaven-Smith, a professor of public administration at Florida State University in Tallahassee. The so-called Republican horseshoe, from Naples north to Interstate 4 and down to the affluent communities on Florida's eastern coast, is where three-fourths of the state's Republican are concentrated. That area was hit twice by the storms, which could dent the turnout for Mr. Bush, says Mr. deHaven-Smith."

Perhaps — but, based on our own reporting, Republicans in Florida say there's plenty of time between now and election day for people to recover enough to vote, and the rapidity and efficacy of the federal response is helpful to the president.

Jeb Bush may call the state legislature into special session to deal with the economic impact of the twin hurricanes. LINK

Will his popularity boost help his brother? LINK

Adam C. Smith of the St. Petersburg Times looks at the sticky situation the hurricanes have put the presidential candidates in — though the president's is a little better than his challenger's. LINK

"Today, President Bush flies into Southeast Florida to survey Frances relief efforts and tout billions of dollars in coming federal aid. He gets to act presidential, but he stands to gain politically."

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