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7 days until the Republican convention 71 days until election day


The big political moment of the day comes when the president speaks at a press availability this morning in Crawford, gets the expected Swift Boat question, and decides in both tone and substance how to answer.

So, while we wait to see what those remarks do for the velocity and vector direction of all this, let's review the bidding on the story both campaigns claim (with some credibility) that they would like to see go away, and yet are powerless — so far — to stop:

—What the Los Angeles Times wrote last Tuesday is more true — not less true — after a weekend of reporting by several serious news organizations:

"What military documentation exists and has been made public generally supports the view put forth by Kerry and most of his crewmates — that he acted courageously and came by his Silver Star, Bronze Star and three Purple Hearts honestly. This view of Kerry as war hero is supported by all but one of the surviving veterans who served with him on the two boats he commanded." LINK

"None of the critics quoted in the ad actually served on the boats with Kerry. Some of them also have given contradictory accounts and offered conflicting recollections."

—There is no sign that the controversy has fundamentally affected the race (There is no dramatic change in the horserace number … ), but plenty of feeling that it can erode Kerry's credibility and tarnish his war record.

—This blind quote in the New York Times from a Democrat "close" to the Kerry campaign is very key: "When you're basically running on your biography and there are ongoing attacks that are undermining the credibility of your biography, you have a really big problem."

—There are smart Democrats who think this is all horrible for Kerry; there are ones who think an eventual backlash against the president and a focus on Kerry's war record will be good in the end. And there are smart Republicans on both analytical sides as well.

—There is no evidence that the Bush campaign is orchestrating the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, and the known ties between them are significantly less close than between John Kerry's campaign and the 527s supporting him.

—The traditional media has shown no capacity to resist the story — for a week and counting this stuff has been the dominant narrative of the presidential race.

—In the days left before November, name all news organizations who will devote more space and time to the health care proposals of President Bush and Sen. Kerry than to Senator Kerry's war record. (The answer: none.)

—If John Kerry can't build a campaign organization that can de-fang 250 guys spending a million bucks, how good a president could he possibly be?

—The greatest political effect all this will probably have on the outcome of the election is to give the conservative base many reasons to get all riled up in hating John Kerry the way the left hates George Bush — and, as Matthew Dowd will tell you, firing up the base is the way this election will be won.

—Undermining ONE of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth charges — such as William Rood did — does not undermine them all. The reporting on Rood by many news organizations over the weekend — painting him as repudiating all the charges being made after "dramatically breaking his silence" — was embarrassing.

—Kerry's truthfulness is significantly more in question on the Cambodia "issue" than it is on any of his medals, which is why the anti-Kerry group returns to Cambodia whenever its credibility is challenged.

—The traditional media can never cover this story in enough volume to satisfy Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh.

—Bob Dole knew exactly what effect his statements would have on keeping the story alive.

—Kerry and his campaign have been inconsistent on the question of whether President Bush's National Guard record should be and will be an issue in this race.

— The unwillingness of the Bush capaign and the White House to directly answer questions focused on the CONTENT of the Swift Boat Veterans attack on Kerry's war record (rather than their view of 527s) should ashame and embarrass the whole nation -- despite reporters' best efforts.

—Is the president getting ready to change his posture? The Boston Globe 's well-wired Anne Kornblut, with an intriguing Houston dateline, says this, "Republicans are divided over how Bush should respond, with some officials fearful that his failure to condemn the ad keeps the president in a defensive stance and could reinforce allegations that Bush operatives are actively supporting the attacks on Kerry."

—If President Bush is so upset about the failure of McCain-Feingold to stop all 527 advertising (as he claims he thought the law he signed would do), why doesn't he propose some new First Amendment restrictions that he would be willing to sign into a new law?

—If the terrain switches to Kerry's protest-era statements, the story will be kept alive even longer, and Kerry's capacity to win the "truth" war will be more limited.

—The new Bush ad going after John Kerry on taxes is almost certainly more likely to work, now that Kerry's "trouble with the truth" reputation has been stoked by the Swift Boaters.

—The effectiveness of the counter attack by veterans who support Kerry has yet to be measured. The Kerry campaign has more waves of veterans coming out today to support Kerry and is making sure local stations in key states have access to their new real and Internet ads.

—For what is the "mainstream" press a bigger sucker — accusations that the president and Karl Rove are engaged in a secret smear, or anything involving John McCain? (It's a close call, but marry them up, the Kerry campaign knows, and you have something potentially potent!!)

—Kerry having to spend general election money on ads in August to combat the SBVfT is not that big a deal — given the amounts involved — but it ain't nothing, either.

—We'll wait to see if, as expected, the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth go up with their new ad in three new states tomorrow, and Kerry matches them with HIS new ad.

—Look for Kerry to give a big speech in New York tomorrow; for Thursday's poverty and health insurance numbers; the Republicans continue to try to finesse their platform contretempts under the media radar; more Iraq developments; and for cable TV and talk radio to ignore everything but Swift Boats.

—If you were distracted by the Swift Boat story and failed to read the following articles over the weekend, you made a big mistake:

A. Ron Brownstein in Sunday's Los Angeles Times about the president's efforts to win by turning out the base. LINK

B. Same paper, same day, Maria LaGanga and Matea Gold on the focus shifting to Kerry's anti-war activities. LINK

C. The Washington Post 's Ceci Connolly on the president's plans for health care. LINK

D. Ed Chen in Saturday's Los Angeles Times going back and painstakingly interviewing the steelworkers who had a private town meeting in Ohio with President Bush recently. LINK

(Ed Chen is an amazing reporter.)

President Bush holds that morning press conference (not live, and pool only) in Crawford, TX following a 9:55 am ET closed meeting with Vice President Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Richard Myers.

This will be the first time Bush has held a press conference since Kerry asked him to denounce the Swift Boat Veterans for the Truth ad last Wednesday.

On the day new overtime rules he has criticized go into effect, Sen. John Edwards is expected to hit President Bush for the third day in a row over the Swift Boat Veterans for the Truth ads, claiming a connection between the president's campaign and the group and asking Bush once again to denounce the ads.

Edwards holds town halls in Racine and Oshkosh at 11:00 am and 3:00 pm ET, respectively, and a rally in La Crosse at 8:30 pm ET.

Edwards is also expected to continue to talk about the new overtime regulations, aided today by a noon press conference featuring AFL-CIO President John Sweeney and Sen. Tom Harkin criticizing the changes.

Following the meeting in Crawford, Cheney flies to Missouri, where he will campaign tomorrow.

Sen. Kerry is down all day in Boston. His campaign files its FEC complaint today.

Week ahead:

Tomorrow, as the United States holds its first military tribunals since WWII at Guantanamo Bay, President Bush remains at Crawford while Kerry is in New York City and Philadelphia. Kerry's Gotham City speech is going to be a Big Deal.

Cheney is in Missouri, Edwards is in Ohio, and Teresa Heinz Kerry is in West Virginia. also hosts a major fundraiser at New York City's Hammerstein ballroom hosted by Janeane Garofalo featuring Al Franken, The Roots, and Moby.

On Wednesday the Pentagon releases its report on prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib. President Bush remains at Crawford while Cheney barnstorms Pennsylvania in a bus. Kerry is in Philadelphia and Green Bay before heading to Minneapolis, and Edwards is in Ohio and Oklahoma.

On Thursday President Bush returns to the trail with three New Mexico rallies, including one in Las Cruces, where Edwards will be just a few hours later. Kerry campaigns in Minneapolis before heading to California.

And on Friday Bush is in Miami for a rally.

Swift Boat Veterans for Truth: morning show wrap:

Questions about Sen. Kerry's war record were still front and center on the morning shows. The stories appear to have more elements that are positive for Kerry than they did last week — though the topic's continued dominance is taking attention away from issues Kerry would prefer to focus on.

Today's stories featured former Sen. Dole's Sunday charge (which ABC's Jake Tapper smartly pointed out was, in part, factually flawed), Kerry's new ad charging "smears" and "lies," Ken Cordier being dismissed by the Bush campaign after appearing in a "Swift Boat" ad, two vets stepping forward to support Kerry's version of events, and Edwards calling (once again) on Bush to take the ads down.

CNN's Kelly Wallace said Kerry is scheduled to give a speech tomorrow in which he will try to bring the focus back on the issues while staying on the offensive on the Swift Boat charges.

Roll Call 's Morton Kondracke said on "Fox and Friends" that the net political effect of the story has been negative for Kerry since he is now a "hero with a question mark."

Swift Boat Veterans for Truth: political implications:

The Wall Street Journal 's John Harwood and Jeanne Cummings write that Kerry was "hurt" by the Swift Boat Veterans ads, is trying this week to blunt a possible pre-convention bounce for President Bush, and that the Bush campaign was "embarrassed" by a Florida Republican flyer advertising a Swift Boat Veterans rally and by the resignation of a Bush-Cheney volunteer who appeared in the second Swift Boat ad. LINK

"Polls suggest the attacks by the group 'Swift Boat Veterans for Truth' have harmed Mr. Kerry significantly, whittling the four- to five-percentage-point lead the Democratic nominee built following his party's convention last month. A CBS News poll released late last week showed Mr. Kerry leading Mr. Bush by 46% to 45%, down from 48% to 43% earlier. . . . . But without a quick halt in the erosion, Kerry aides face the prospect that the president could emerge from the Republican convention with a national edge heading into the election homestretch."

The New York Times ' Adam Nagourney made this key point in Saturday editions: LINK

"For one thing, this was no ordinary issue, since it was so central to Mr. Kerry's candidacy. For another, it was no ordinary time, coming right after his convention. And finally, one Democrat said, even if the White House was not behind the attacks, stories questioning Mr. Kerry's account of this central moment in his biography had the effect of reinforcing a main line of Republican attack — that Mr. Kerry was not trustworthy."

Today, Nagourney and Jim Rutenberg get that "Democrat close to the [Kerry] campaign" to give this dire synopsis: "When you're basically running on your biography and there are ongoing attacks that are undermining the credibility of your biography, you have a really big problem." LINK

The duo also Note that in the midst of criticizing Kerry and saying he owed answers and an apology to veterans on CNN this weekend, Sen. Dole said Kerry has "the edge" in the Electoral College and battleground states.

Maureen Dowd used her splashy Sunday column to take President Bush and Karl Rove to task for allowing others to do their fighting. LINK

Ditto Joe Klein:

"The Swifties' ability to dominate the news with incendiary nonsense is, I believe, a direct result of Kerry's unwillingness to dominate the news with tart, controversial substance by challenging the president on Iraq."LINK

Howard Kurtz writes that the Kerry campaign's new ad reflects "anxiety and astonishment" over the Swift Boat Veterans ad. LINK

In his Sunday Boston Globe column, Thomas Oliphant makes the argument that John O'Neill and the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth may backfire and end up hurting George Bush and not John Kerry. LINK

A sampling of conservative opinion columnists on Kerry and Vietnam, listed in order of decreasing frequency of phone contacts with Karl Rove (Note: that's a joke):

Michael Barone: LINK


Bob Novak: Ok, well, he's moved on to another subject: BRAC and North Korea: LINK

John Leo: LINK


Thomas Sowell: LINK

(liberals and Vietnam)

Key weekend stories: LINK and LINK and LINK

Swift Boat Veterans for Truth: what's next:

The New York Post is WRONG. There is nothing "new" about the documentary, "Brothers in Arms." It is the hour-long documentary made last year. LINK and LINK

The Washington Post 's Romano and Nakamura quote the co-chair of Wisconsin Vets for Bush calling the Swift Boat Veterans ads "un-American." LINK

Josh Marshall re-read Bob Dole's autobiography and discovered that Dole was once the victim of a self-inflicted wound, too. LINK

Newsweek's Evan Thomas and T. Trent Gegax look at the "hostile fire" between the SBVfT and Senator Kerry — Senator Kerry is personally involved in the fight-back strategy — he himself choosing the words "dirty tricks" to describe the Bush team's involvement — and looks at the facts in the Vietnam veteran's favor.LINK

Re: the new Kerry ad: "The campaign is not purchasing new advertising time for the commercial, but is instead rotating it with another ad it began running last week in Wisconsin, Ohio and West Virginia that features a former Green Beret who was saved by Kerry in Vietnam," reports Matea Gold of the Los Angeles Times. LINK

Anne Kornblut gets in the SBVft controversy with her full account of the charges back and forth. If you feel you've missed some of it, read this Boston Globe report and you'll be all caught up. LINK

Kornblut seems to have this by herself: "In California, the Santa Clara County Republican Party included a posting from the Swift Boat group on its website."

The New York Post 's Deb Orin once again chatted with the folks at "HCD Research and Muhlenberg College Institute of Politics" and found the experts there to say the first response ad from team Kerry with Rassmann was not all that effective. In addition, Orin reports the analysts believe the first Swift Boat Veterans for Truth ad is more effective than the second. LINK

We still have deep doubts about the "methodology" of this voodoo.

ABC News Vote 2004: Bush-Cheney re-elect:

ABC News' Karen Travers reports that the Bush-Cheney '04 campaign will go up with a new ad today, "Taxing our Economy," which attacks Sen. Kerry for votes on middle class tax cuts during his Senate career.

The ad will run on national cable and in local markets in "most of the target states," a campaign official said this morning. There will also be a radio version of this ad in select local markets.

You can view the ad here:

The BC04 campaign is taking advantage of these last few days it has to dip into its $240 million war chest, before the start of the Republican Convention. After the convention, the campaign will accept $75 million in federal money for the general election season — money the Kerry campaign took at the end of July after the Democratic convention.

The campaign has three other ads currently in rotation, continuing its heavy ad blitz in August. This is the sixth television ad from BC04 this month.

Last month, the campaign released five TV ads and two radio ads, spending $38.3 million on media — the most BC04 has spent on ads since its initial media launch in March when it spent $40 million.

The BC04 campaign is also up with three other ads. "Intel," an ad slamming Kerry on his record on intelligence spending and his attendance record on the Senate Intelligence Committee, is still up in select local markets in 19 states and on national cable.

The campaign is also airing two spots on national cable and during Olympic programming that do not focus on Sen. Kerry. "Victory," the campaign's Olympic-themed ad that features the flags of Iraq and Afghanistan and Notes that there are "two more free nations" in this years Games, has drawn criticism from Iraqi athletes. One Iraqi soccer player was quoted in Sports Illustrated last week as saying of the president: "He can find another way to advertise himself."

Victory is also airing in over 250 fitness clubs on ClubCom.

The other ad airing on national cable and during Olympic programming is "Solemn Duty," which features the president talking about Sept. 11 and terrorism.

On to the new ad:


President Bush: I'm George W. Bush and I approve this message. Voice Over: Now Kerry promises … John Kerry: We won't raise taxes on the middle class. Voice Over: Really? John Kerry's voted to raise gas taxes on the middle class … 10 times … He supported a 50 cent a gallon gas tax increase. Higher taxes on middle class parents … 18 times. He voted to raise taxes on Social Security benefits. 98 votes for tax increases. There's what Kerry says and then there's what Kerry does.

We'll watch how the Kerry campaign deals with these golden oldies.

The New York Times ' Elisabeth Bumiller Notes that President Bush isn't expected at this point to spend a single night in New York during the convention. LINK

Bumiller writes that one reason for the quick visit to the Big Apple is Republicans concern that the president not be seen as exploiting Sept. 11. But "That doesn't mean Mr. Bush and other convention speakers won't mention it, and often, from the podium."

"'You can't not have it,' said Matthew Dowd, a senior political adviser to Mr. Bush. 'It would be like Roosevelt not talking about Pearl Harbor.'"

Warren Vieth looks at the lack of the "Vision Thing" that has some conservatives worried about a second-term agenda from President Bush. LINK

"The lack of specifics has rattled some conservatives. Like his father 12 years ago, they say, Bush needs to articulate a bold domestic agenda, or risk losing the election by seeming out of touch with voters' pocketbook concerns."

Bob Hillman profiles Vice President Cheney in the Dallas Morning News, Noting "his deep roots in conservative Republican politics make him a linchpin in the president's all-out efforts to bolster his political base."LINK

USA Today has a brief on the meeting at the ranch today. LINK

Ron Brownstein of the Los Angeles Times on Sunday Noted in a must-read the exceptional attention (in advertising and presidential campaign visits) the President's re-election team has paid and continues to pay to the Republican base and not undecided voters. LINK

"But the Bush campaign's strategy is focused much more on the possibility that the race will be decided primarily by mobilizing the party faithful in closely fought states, not persuading swing voters."

"'Motivating Republicans this year is as important, or possibly more important, than reaching the persuadable voters,' said Matthew Dowd, the Bush campaign's chief strategist."

"Indeed, Dowd said one of the campaign's top goals is to ensure that Republicans cast as large a share of November's vote as Democrats. Typically, Democrats outnumber Republicans in presidential elections."

Republican National Convention: politics and platforms:

The New York Times Adam Nagourney got on Sunday's front page with his peek at what President Bush will present to the nation during the Republican National Convention. The story is chock full of goodies including the prominence of such themes as "compassion" and Sept. 11. A detailed second term agenda (though no specifics were provided to back that up) is said to be on the way too. LINK

The New York Times ' Carl Hulse writes that the moderate Republicans with primetime Republican convention speaking slots "worry about their real influence in a party dominated by conservatives at a time when the ranks of House moderates are thinning and an activist group zeros in on candidates it brands RINO's, Republican in Name Only." LINK

Republican platform committee chairman Bill Frist predicts his party's platform will oppose amnesty for illegal aliens. "I believe it likely there will be a strong statement against amnesty," the Senate Majority Leader told Ralph Z. Hallow of the Washington Times . LINK

Republican National Convention: protests:

The New York Daily News reports Yellow taxi drivers plan the week of the GOP convention won't be all about the Benjamins. In fact, many are planning to take off. LINK

USA Today 's Charisse Jones has some data for you to crunch your delegate-to-journalist-to-law-enforcement-to-protestor ratios. LINK

USA Today has a rundown of protests and demonstrations. LINK

The New York Times ' Jennifer Steinhauer and Diane Cardwell wrap the latest in the unfinished negotiations between the city and the umbrella protest organization, United for Peace and Justice. LINK

The court cases come to a head this week, of course.

The New York Post 's Stefan Friedman reports about a possible plot of former prisoners "with ties to the 1970s radical Weather Underground" may be planning to cause havoc during the convention. LINK

Starbucks and McDonalds prepare for anarchists! LINK

Republican National Convention: potpourri

Is Sen. Clinton to become the responder-in-chief during convention week? "Party insiders said that aides to Clinton were engaged in 'intensive talks' over the weekend with Kerry's representatives about the role she is expected to play," reports the New York Post 's Fred Dicker. LINK

David Norcross' dual roles as lobbyist and chair of the RNC's convention committee caught the attention of the New York Times ' Michael Slackman even though there is nothing illegal about Norcross serving in both capacities simultaneously. LINK

Look at all the free stuff you can get if you are a Republican delegate headed for New York. LINK

The New York Post looked at the economic lessons learned from Boston upon which New York hopes to improve its financial take for the four day gathering. LINK

The New York Times ' Ian Austen Notes the warm welcome a group advocating for marijuana law reform has unexpectedly given the Republicans. LINK

Hot off the presses from a RNC press release: "Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie and Bill Harris, CEO of the 2004 Republican National Convention, today announced a second group of entertainers who will perform in New York City during the 2004 Republican National Convention. Country music superstars Brooks & Dunn, Grammy Award-winning Country singer Lee Ann Womack, Latin Grammy Nominee Jaci Velasquez, Grammy Award-win ning rock band Third Day, the inspirational Gracie Rosenberger, rock band Dexter Freebish, Country star Darryl Worley, and Grammy Award-winning Donnie McClurkin join a previously announced lineup of entertainers who will take the stage at Madison Square Garden."

Note to Mayor Bloomberg and Ed Skyler: a Boston Globe survey found that Mayor Menino got high marks. LINK

Republican National Convention: the media:

The Sheekey Bridge is about to experience tens of thousands of journalistic feet traipsing back and forth across Eighth Avenue.

But, as you no doubt recall, New York's original plan for 2004 would have already put the Sheekey bridge to a test had the city won both political conventions this year as Mayor Bloomberg had wanted.

What would the bridge have looked like for the Democratic convention, you ask? The Note obtained an exclusive look at a rendering from the 2002 host city bid submitted by New York to the DNC and the blue wrapped walkway full of Democratic pride would clearly have been the centerpiece of the Democratic convention much as the current incarnation will be the focal point of next week's activities.

Here is your exclusive look at a rendering from the 2002 host city bid submitted by New York to the DNC: LINK

A brief reminder to our fellow convention covering journalists: You know what today is, right? Of course you do! It's the fist day you can pick up your credential for the "Official Media Welcome" party to be held Saturday night at the Time Warner Center.

So, head on over to the Hotel Pennsylvania at 33rd & 7th to pick up your credential because without it, you aren't getting in!

ABC News Vote 2004: Bush v. Kerry:

The Wall Street Journal 's Chris Cooper has a boffo look at the efforts to get soldiers serving in Iraq to vote and writes that, based on anecdote and a single, loose poll, "some unease over the post-war occupation of Iraq suggests that Democratic nominee Senator John Kerry might have his own following among the rank and file, even if the upper ranks remain a Republican redoubt."LINK

The New York Times ' Steven Greenhouse leads his preview of new overtime rules by citing Kerry and union critiques and reports that the AFL-CIO will hold a news conference today claiming the rules are a gift to corporations "that will cut the paychecks of millions of Americans." LINK

The Los Angeles Times' Ron Brownstein laments the campaign's focus on the past and hopes for a debate about the future will emerge. Be sure to Note Brownstein's reporting on the president's convention speech breaking ground and his heads up about the Census Bureau report due out this week. LINK

ABC News Vote 2004: Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin:

Boca Pointe is the Florida of Florida: LINK

The Washington Post 's John Harris writes that the serious infighting within the Ohio GOP "could become a factor at the national level if these voters conclude that Republicans are the party of entrenched power in both Washington and Columbus." LINK

ABC News Vote 2004: battleground employment:

The Los Angeles Times' Maura Reynolds sketches the battleground state job picture.

"The states hit the hardest in July were Michigan and Missouri, where Bush and his Democratic challenger, Senator John F. Kerry of Massachusetts, have been campaigning avidly. Missouri lost 51,800 jobs, a drop of about 2%. Michigan lost 24,500 jobs, or about half a percent." LINK

Greg Ip's take on the numbers is somewhat more positive, although he focuses a little more on job losses since 2000:

But he also has this nice, if somewhat obvious, Florida/Ohio comparison:

"Mark Zandi, chief economist at, a West Chester, Pa., firm specializing in state and local economic analysis, said Florida's job market likely will continue to do well while Ohio's and Michigan's will remain weak between now and Election Day. Florida, he said, is about to receive a $20 billion influx of insurance money and state and federal disaster aid as a result of Hurricane Charley. Meanwhile, 'Ohio and Michigan are very dependent on the domestic auto industry, which is struggling to hold onto sales and jobs.'"

ABC News Vote 2004: casting and counting:

"In all, whether by mail or in person, 19 percent of Americans already plan to vote early this fall, according to a survey by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press. That number could reach 25 percent or even higher with the push in coming weeks, experts say," The New York Times reported on Sunday. The campaigns, parties, and outside groups are well aware of the early/absentee vote phenomenon and planning (to excruciating detail) accordingly. LINK

Again: accusations that Theresa LePore designed a confusing ballot … LINK

Dan Keating's Sunday Washington Post story on what actually happened with missing votes in New Mexico suggests potential problems this year, and what would have happened had Don Evans decided to challenge the results there to match Gore's Florida effort. LINK

ABC News Vote 2004: battlegrounds:

Lynn Bartels of the Rocky Mountain News Notes a surge of nearly 91,000 newly registered voters in Colorado in recent months. Republicans still have a 180,817-vote lead in the state. LINK

David Broder, in Beaver Island, MI, wrote in Sunday's Washington Post that Bush needs lots of help in that part of the state … and that the campaign is turning "ugly." LINK

The Driving Votes caravan paid a visit in Kansas City this past weekend on its road trip across the country. LINK

The Kansas City Star reports of soldiers returning home from Iraq and the family struggles that follow. LINK

While campaigning in his native Pennsylvania, Gov. Vilsack described the presidential contest in Iowa thusly: It "is as close as fuzz on a tick's ear." LINK


The AP Notes officials in four states Virginia, Maryland, Illinois and Missouri have denied Ralph Nader access to state ballots for an insufficient amount of signatures — though Nader's campaign says it ain't over. LINK

Confirming the Nader campaign's optimism, Craig Gilbert of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel previews the Nader Factor's new ad and reports Wisconsin Democratic Party chair Linda Honold will "scrutinize" Nader's petitions to make sure the names are valid. "If he can get on the ballot legally, that's great. But we want to make sure the people of the state of Wisconsin actually want him on the ballot." LINK

Despite setbacks, things are looking good for Nader to appear on most of the battleground ballots.

Tyler Whitley of the Richmond Times-Dispatch writes Nader has reason to hope he'll make the ballot in Virginia. "A spokesman for Attorney General Jerry W. Kilgore said yesterday that his office made the decision that denied Nader a spot on the ballot based on misleading information provided by the State Board of Elections." LINK

A new study by the Center for Responsive politics found Republican gift-giving represents only about 4 percent of the $1.5 million Nader has raised. LINK

The politics of national security:

The Washington Post 's Dan Eggan calls Sen. Pat Roberts' promise to unveil legislation that would break up the CIA "radical." LINK

ABC News Vote 2004: the Senate:

"The Democratic race for U.S. Senate has seen its first large-scale negative ad, with U.S. Rep. Peter Deutsch attacking former University of South Florida President Betty Castor for her handling of a terror suspect. The television ad running since Saturday in Tampa and Orlando markets opens with a black screen and two voices whispering about the secret no one in the Democratic primary is supposed to talk about: front-runner Castor's biggest vulnerability, former USF engineering Professor Sami Al-Arian." LINK

McGreevey: what's next:

The Washington Post 's Finkel and Faler wrap Sen. John Corzine's comments yesterday in which he walked the thin line between respecting Gov. James McGreevey's decision to delay his resignation and putting himself forward as the alternative candidate. LINK

Pataki: what's next:

Fred Dicker of the New York Post almost feigns surprise when he writes of George Pataki's potential presidential ambitions for 2008. LINK

TODAY'S SCHEDULE (all times ET):

—9:55 am: President Bush holds his annual meeting with his Defense Policy and Program Teams and holds a press conference afterwards, Crawford, TX —10:00 am: Homeland Security Undersecretary Frank Libutti testifies before the House Financial Services committee about the 9/11 Commission report and the financing of terrorist organizations, Washington, DC —10:00 am: The Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee holds a hearing about the 9/11 Commission report with representatives from the commission, the FBI, the Terrorist Threat Integration Center, and the ACLU, Washington, DC —10:00 am: The Brennan Center for Justice, the Center for Voting and Democracy, Common Cause, and others hold a press conference at the National Press Club to release a report claiming the Commission on Presidential Debates "undermines democracy," Washington, DC —10:00 am: Former Gov. Howard Dean, Rep. Robert Wexler, and candidate for Palm Beach County supervisor of elections Dr. Arthur Anderson speak about electronic voting at Studio 54 Banquet Hall, Lake Worth, FL —11:00 am: Sen. John Edwards holds a town hall at Memorial Hall, Racine, WI —12:00 pm: AFL-CIO President John Sweeney, Sen. Tom Harkin, and workers who say they are losing their overtime under new regulations holds a press conference outside the Labor Department, Washington, D.C. —12:00 pm: Gov. Dean and former Attorney General Janet Reno attend a rally for U.S. Senate candidate Betty Castor at the Harriet Hillman Gilmore Theatre, West Palm Beach, FL —1:00 pm: Attorneys for unemployed African-Americans hold a news conference to announce a lawsuit alleging employment discrimination by the Florida Republican Party, the RNC, and Bush-Cheney '04 at the National Press Club, Washington, DC —3:00 pm: Mrs. Heinz Kerry speaks at the AFL-CIO Coalition of Labor Union Women Conference, Columbus Convention Center, OH —3:00 pm: Sen. Edwards holds a conversation with voters at Delta Family Restaurant, Oshkosh, WI —3:55 pm: Vice President Cheney arrives at the airport, Kansas City, MO —6:30 pm: Laura Bush participates in the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center public dedication, Cincinnati, OH —6:30 pm: The National Press Club, Newseum, and Freedom Forum's First Amendment Center host a First Amendment panel discussion at the National Press Club featuring journalists and media experts discussing press freedom, credibility, and journalists' responsibility, Washington, DC —8:30 pm: Sen. Edwards holds a rally at Riverside Park Fountain, La Crosse, WI