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Yesterday, America's most influential political journalist who doesn't bring make up on the campaign trail interviewed the person in charge of planning and executing the President's re-election strategy.

The Associated Press' Ron Fournier did an interview with Karl Rove at some point Thursday, and the most succulent fruit was buried deep inside the AP's new poll story -- with numbers suggesting a smallish Bush-Cheney resurgence in the horserace, even as John Edwards was being brilliantly unfurled.

"The conditions for a Bush victory are all there -- a strong economy, an improving position in the global war on terror and a growing sense that there are sharp and clear differences in values between the two campaigns," Rove told Fournier.

For months, the Bush campaign has said that this election is about national security and the economy, and all of a sudden, the dyad has become a three-legged stool -- with the addition of values.

Does this have to do with the naming of Edwards and the Kerry campaign's push on the values front?

We leave that to greater minds than ours.

Such things are hard to measure, but yesterday felt to some of us like the most intense day of the presidential campaign so far.

And today, this weekend, and next week are going to be big too.

Today, the President plans to escalate the values fight with a speech in Pennsylvania, some new print and broadcast ads, and serious surrogate work (read those muscular talking points . . .). This follows on the new BC04 TV ad unveiled yesterday and some strong POTUS and FLOTUS words on values. Jenna Bush is on Air Force One this morning . . .

The Kerry-Edwards ticket has already hit back on the values issue today, pre-butting the President at a morning Manhattan event, with John Edwards taking the lead.

The Edwards rollout continues -- having already achieved the morning success of getting the Kerry, Edwards, and Heinz adult children on both GMA and Today -- with Sunday impacting hard with newsweekly covers and a passel of serious newspaper interviews, along with "60 Minutes."

With the Kerry campaign planning a media conference call with its high command this morning, then, the Edwards rollout is now competing with the values fight for media attention.

And last night, after the network newscasts and right-on newspaper deadlines, KE04 did something that could fade away or could become the top political story of the day.

If a Republican presidential candidate, running against an incumbent Democrat, appeared with his newly-minted extremely conservative running mate in front of a packed house of fat cat donors in the capital of the GOP base at a fundraiser at which, say, country and western stars and conservative entertainers attacked the president in personal, mocking, and disrespectful ways, its pretty likely that the press would be in high dudgeon.

The coverage of last night's Radio City event in print has some elements of this, but not enough for the Bush campaign. And the TV coverage has largely ignored it.

Although the Kerry campaign and the DNC did not allow the event to be recorded by news organizations, the words of Chevy Chase, Whoopi Goldberg, and others are out there for all to read.

Although a Kerry spokesman has said that the Democratic ticket doesn't necessarily agree with everything that was said, does anyone believe that the President would be let off the hook that easily if the situation were reversed?

Of course, national security is front and center too, with the reports about bin Laden and a terror threat; the release of the Senate Intelligence Committee report on pre 9/11 events; the Atta-Cheney churning; and, most of all in some ways, Democrats suspicions that the Bush Administration will use terrorism warnings to enhance the President's re-election prospects (suspicions that will receive a sympathetic media ear all year).

While we wait to see where this all goes, there are an usually large number of must-reads today for you to look at:

-- USA Today's Judy Keen and Jill Lawrence have what we think is the first Edwards interview since he was picked, and look at the "values" competition that began in force yesterday with the new Bush ad and the Democrats' potty-mouthed Hollywood fundraiser at Radio City. LINK

-- Adam Nagourney's lay of the land about Sen. Edwards' appeal to rural and independent voters in the New York Times. LINK

--The New York Times' Dick Stevenson on the Bush camp painting a picture of Sen. Kerry as out of step with voters' values. The definition wars continue. LINK

--The debate over whether Sen. Kerry should opt out of public financing for the general election, as outlined by the New York Times' Jim Rutenberg and Glen Justice. Whether the idea is insane depends on where you stand. For their part, the Bush campaign says they have no plans to opt out, according to spokeswoman Nicolle Devenish, but the story points out that BC04 could pull the trigger on a change after Kerry has already committed. LINK

-- Carla Marinucci's look at the financing of the Nader-Camejo campaign in the San Francisco Chronicle. LINK

--Carl Hulse's look at the Senate taking up gay marriage and what it means to the election year in the New York Times. LINK

-- The New York Times' Ralph Blumenthal reports that "Military records that could help establish President Bush's whereabouts during his disputed service in the Texas Air National Guard more than 30 years ago have been inadvertently destroyed, according to the Pentagon." Among the records destroyed -- and for which no back-up paper copies could be found -- are payroll records covering three months in 1972 and 1973 during which questions about the President's National Guard service in Alabama have been asked. LINK

"There was no mention of the loss . . . when White House officials released hundreds of pages of the President's military records last February in an effort to stem Democratic accusations that he was 'AWOL' for a time during his commitment to fly at home in the Air National Guard during the Vietnam War."

--The Washington Post's Al Kamen on Sen. Kerry's pre-convention schedule and the pinch-hitting Secretary of State Colin Powell did for Glenn Kessler in Indonesia. LINK

-- The Washington Post's Robin Wright and Glen Kessler on Sen. Edwards' foreign policy ideas and record -- an incredibly favorable portrait of the Senator as a young politician on these issues. LINK

-- Whether you agree with the New York Times' Paul Krugman or not, he distills the tax-cuts-versus-health-care-expansion argument down quite nicely today. LINK

Ralph Nader and Howard Dean will debate today at the National Press Club at 2:00 p.m. ET. ARE YOU READY TO RUMBLE?

President Bush barnstorms through Pennsylvania on a bus tour today, stopping for an "Ask President Bush" event in Kutztown (11:00 am ET), a speech at Lapp Electrical Service in Lancaster in which he is expected to extend his criticism of Kerry and Edwards' "values," (3:25 ET), and a rally in York (6:10 pm ET).

Sens. Kerry and Edwards are traversing the country meanwhile, beginning with two fundraisers in the same place (Pier 94 in New York) this morning, followed by an airport hanger rally in Beaver, W.Va. (1:15 pm ET), and another rally at the National Hispanic Cultural Center in Albuquerque, N.M. (8:00 pm ET).

In Washington, Ralph Nader and former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean debate at 2:00 pm ET. In a different kind of drinking game, Nader has asked his supporters to donate $5 each time Dean uses one of 10 phrases, including "Florida 2000."

Today was the deadline for Ralph Nader to register for the Nevada ballot; Nader's campaign submitted 11,000 signatures, twice the required number, yesterday.

And today in Hollywood, Fla., the Democratic National Committee's platform committee begins a two-day hearing to approve the draft of the 2004 Democratic Party platform.

Over the weekend, President Bush is in Washington, D.C. On Sunday at 4:00 pm ET, he'll spend a little time taking in a T-Ball game on the White House lawn. Sens. Kerry and Edwards start their Saturdays with speeches to UNITE and LULAC in New Mexico before heading to Edwards' home state for a Raleigh rally. On Sunday they attend church together in Raleigh before ending their buddy film rollout and heading to Boston and Washington, respectively. Don't expect Edwards back on the trail again until mid-week.

ABC News Vote 2004: Kerry-Edwards '04:

Despite the focus on Sen. Edwards' appeal in the South, his biggest strength may be his appeal to rural and independent voters in battlegrounds outside the region, the New York Times' Adam Nagourney writes.

It's all about the margins -- even a small percentage of voters in rural areas, not to mention independents, could make the difference. And Nagourney throws in a couple of interesting quotes from Republican pollster Tony Fabrizio that outline some of the reasons why President Bush may have been a little cranky the other day -- even though we'd caution against buying into the "magical transformation" line pushed by party officials.

"'He appeals to the Southern moderates, who in the past may have voted for the Republicans,' Mr. Fabrizio added. 'He's got a populist message, so it can go to union members; a sizable number of union members might have voted for George Bush. I think Edwards is appealing to female voters.'" LINK

The Washington Post's Jim VandeHei reports "Sen. John F. Kerry and President Bush escalated a fight Thursday over values that is increasingly coloring the election-year debate heading into the national conventions." LINK

The Boston Globe's Raja Mishra looks at why the Kerry-Edwards visit to the battleground state of Florida yesterday was so important. "Half-a-dozen crucial voting blocs are scattered up and down the state: blue-collar conservatives in the Panhandle, a diverse group of Latino neighborhoods in and around Miami, middle-class suburban and exurban communities in the center of the state, a massive veterans population on both coasts, and seniors everywhere. Even Cuban-Americans, once solidly GOP, could be within Kerry's reach." LINK

Kerry and Edwards tell Florida that "every vote is going to be counted" this year even if they have to send Jack and Emma Claire, who are reportedly very good at math "down there to help those Republicans in West Palm Beach count those votes," the AP reports. LINK

The Chicago Tribune's Jeff Zeleny wraps KE04's visit to Florida, where Sen. Kerry stoked a little anger over the voting and vote counting process in the Sunshine State, and the BC04 TV ad launching in North Carolina. LINK

The New York Times' Jodi Wilgoren wraps the star-studded fundraiser that raised a whopping $7.5 million for the Kerry campaign and the DNC. LINK

Kerry-Edwards get by -- and a get $7.5 million richer -- with a little help from their strictly A-list celebrity friends. And John Edwards has a new pet name from Whoopi Goldberg -- "kid." LINK

The New York Post's Deb Orin reports on last night's Radio City bash, where, believe it or not, some celebrities said not-so-nice things about the President. LINK

New York Daily News headline: "Stars Burn Bush." LINK

"The battle between John F. Kerry and Washington's mainline business groups ratcheted up yesterday, when the Kerry campaign assembled a half-dozen executives to declare their support for the Democratic ticket, even if a former trial lawyer has second billing," reports the Washington Post's Jonathan Weisman. LINK

Matea Gold of the Los Angeles Times Notes the Jack and Emma Claire frequent mentions, "As Kerry barrels around the country on his debut run with Edwards, he invokes the North Carolina senator's two youngest children nearly as much as he talks up their father." LINK

"Intended or not, the playful antics of Emma Claire and Jack reinforced the campaign's broader message of optimism."

Special Note: Sen. Kerry knows how to make animal-shaped pancakes.

The Los Angeles Times took to Robbins, N.C. to check out Sen. Edwards' "small town," which he often references in campaign speeches. "What Edwards does not mention in these speeches is the deep vein of Republicanism that runs through his hometown. Edwards did not carry the county, Moore, in his run for the U.S. Senate; in Robbins, the town that formed his political identity, he won 394 to 267." LINK

The Boston Herald ties Sen. Kerry to Ken Lay. "Kerry and Teresa Heinz Kerry reported more than $250,000 in Enron stock ownership before the firm's 2003 collapse. Kerry also was forced to return a campaign contribution from an implicated Enron executive." LINK

"And Heinz Kerry served on a charity board with Lay, even after he was implicated in the alleged fraud, records show."

Brian McGrory observes in the Boston Globe that the vice presidential nominee search process shows signs of a new man in Sen. Kerry, who he describes as being an "intellectual sieve" beforehand. "It was a most un-Kerry moment at the end of a most un-Kerry journey." LINK

Knight Ridder's Tom Fitzgerald thinks that Kerry has loosened up on the trail since Edwards came on board. LINK

The Raleigh News & Observer's Rob Christensen writes about how Edwards is handling his new role -- with Christensen even using an Ed McMahon metaphor. LINK

John Edwards' secret weapon: Elizabeth Edwards. LINK

A preview of the Kerry-Edwards visit to New Mexico today by the Albuquerque Journal. LINK

The Raleigh News & Observer's John Frank and Barbara Barrett preview Saturday's rally in Raleigh. LINK

A Note exclusive: only because we are firefighting buffs did this next bit of news prick up our ears: The Ohio DNC/Kerry-Edwards Victory 2004 Campaign will open its new headquarters in a converted firehouse (Station 17) at 2300 West Broad Street in the Hilltop neighborhood of Columbus. The DNC informs us that Engine 17's first crew was African-American. The opening is Saturday, at 10:00 am ET. LINK

The open field next to the office space is tailor-made for all sorts of things.

This is, in short, boffo space.

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

As we Noted above, in a significant strategy shift, the Bush-Cheney '04 campaign has introduced a third major issue into the election dialogue -- values/family priorities -- with a new ad that questions Sen. Kerry's stance on these issues, ABC News' Karen Travers reports.

For months now, the campaign has maintained that the two biggest issues in this election would be national security/war on terror and the economy. With this ad, the campaign adds a new element (values) that up until now has not been at the forefront of the campaign's strategy and communication.

The strategy shift introduces a new angle to criticize the Kerry/Edwards ticket -- communications director Nicolle Devenish told reporters that the ticket has "more distance from the values and priorities of mainstream Americans than any ticket in the history of the Democratic Party."

The new ad, "Priorities," will go up today on national cable and local markets. The ad is aimed at starting a dialogue with the American people leading up to the Democratic convention about the priorities of American families, Devenish said.

Watch for newspaper ads, surrogate verifiers and new lines in speeches.

The New York Post's Deb Orin Notes that the new BC04 ad criticizes Kerry for voting against the Laci Peterson law. LINK

The New York Times' Dick Stevenson reports "President Bush's re-election campaign stepped up its effort Thursday to portray Senator John Kerry as out of step with the values of most voters, kicking off a new round in a drive to define him on its terms before he finishes introducing himself to the country on his." LINK

USA Today's Judy Keen and Jill Lawrence chime in. LINK

The AP's Pete Yost marks President Bush's 30th visit to the Keystone State. LINK

Spotting the President in the Lehigh Valley will be tough, due to road closure and security restrictions. LINK

Spotting protestors will be easy, however. LINK

More local coverage: LINK and LINK

"Bush stumping on friendly Pa. turf today," reads the Denver Post-Gazette. LINK

The entire Molinari family disagrees with Al D'Amato about Dick Cheney. LINK

Jim Barnes in National Journal castigates Matt Dowd's extremely . . . shall we say . . . pessimistic polling memo . . . either it's transparently an attempt to set the bar SO low . . . or an indication that the BC04 political family is in trouble. Check out the blind quotes from . . . wait, they're not blind. Don Sipple: "In my view, they are running kind of a minimalist campaign . . . which is kind of damning." There are some blind quotes, too -- an ex-speechwriter (not too many of those, so guess) and a former member of Bush 41's team.

National Journal's James Kitfield assesses President Bush's foreign policy to date. It's a long read, but worth it. Check out the promises-versus-reality box on page 2163.

The Washington Post's Peter Slevin and Dan Morgan report "46 Republicans in Congress joined Democrats to declare that rules banning the personal shipment of such items as clothing, deodorant and seeds to Cuba went too far." LINK

The Boston Globe on the FLOTUS' trip to Boston today. LINK

Dan Thomasson in Cincinnati Post writes that he thinks charisma (Edwards) trumps experience (Cheney). LINK

The Los Angeles Times' Ed Chen looks at the political impact of Ken Lay's case on the Bush campaign. LINK

ABC News Vote 2004: Bush-Cheney v. Kerry-Edwards:

The AP's Ron Fournier writes up the new AP poll "The poll found Bush slightly leading Kerry 49 percent to 45 percent with independent candidate Ralph Nader at 3 percent. The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points." LINK

"The Bush-Kerry matchup was tied a month ago. Nader has slipped slightly since May, when he had 7 percent."

Knight Ridder's Ron Hutcheson writes about a new Pew poll that showed high voter engagement even before the transfer of power in Iraq and Kerry's selection of Edwards. LINK

The Washington Times looks at the importance of the military vote to both candidates through results of the Battleground Poll. "The poll confirms that, so far, Sen. John Kerry's status as decorated Vietnam War veteran has given him no boost in this military vote." LINK

The Washington Times' Curl looks at the Bush-Cheney push-back on the claim that Sen. Edwards will help the Democratic ticket in the South. LINK

As only he could, the New York Post's Bill Hoffman has a piece about a poll where 51 percent said Bush has better hair than Kerry. LINK

Washington Post fashion maven Robin Givhan weighs in on the tickets' tresses. LINK

The suspense is over: the New York Post ed board thinks the Kerry-Edwards ticket is too liberal. LINK

ABC News Vote 2004: ad traffic summary, week of July 5-9, 2004:

The Kerry campaign launches seven new ads on the heels of their big Edwards announcement. The Bush campaign responds by airing an ad featuring Sen. McCain for just a few days and then launches another new ad questioning Kerry's leadership...and tossing some old ads in the Tar Heel State for the first time. The Human Rights Campaign airs an ad in D.C. only to lobby against a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. The ad features video footage of every president's swearing-in ceremony since Roosevelt, except Truman's and Nixon's, showing presidents promising to "preserve" the Constitution.

Here's what's on the air for now . . . 1 Bush ad criticizing Kerry's leadership airing nationally, and two questioning his decision making airing in North Carolina only. 7 brand spankin' new Kerry ads airing nationally in the battleground states, including one featuring the new Kerry-Edwards team, and one older Kerry ad airing only in Virginia. 1 anti-Bush ad by the Human Rights Campaign urging against a federal same-sex marriage ban airing only in D.C. 1 anti-Bush ad by the Media Fund regarding health care costs airing in Ohio and Nevada only. 4 ads by the New Democrat Network continuing to promote Hispanic unity behind the Democratic party airing in Arizona, Colorado, Florida, New Mexico and Texas. 0 ads out by MoveOn.org. 0 television ads by the anti-Nader groups, but one new radio ad ready to hit the air in Miami, Philadelphia, D.C., Portland, and Madison, Wis.

Edwards in the battleground state media:

Writing in the Arizona Republic, Robert Robb Notes that "if Edwards is unqualified to be vice president in 2004, Bush was unqualified to be president in 2000. Yet Republicans blast away, blissfully mindless of the devastating logical implication of their attack." LINK

The running mate overtures extended by Sen. Kerry's campaign to Sen. John McCain amounted to a "dialogue that went on for some time," Jim Johnson told the Arizona Republic yesterday. How long, Mr. Johnson? "It was around for a while." LINK

The Marion (Ohio) Star registers its disappointment with the Edwards pick: "D'oh! Kerry ignore Star online poll, taps Edwards instead of Homer," reads the paper's headline. LINK

Sen. Edwards may be most valuable for the Democrats among young voters, writes Benjamin Roode in the Columbus Dispatch. One 19-year-old tells Roode, "'Older candidates are set in stone about how to run the presidency,' she said. Edwards 'is ready to break that down and change it up in a positive way.'"

The KE04 siblings on the morning shows:

Two Heinzes, two Kerrys and an Edwards sat down with ABC's Claire Shipman on "Good Morning America" and with NBC's Katie Couric on the "Today Show" to speak about the personal side of their fathers.

Asked on ABC if the two families have been drawn together by a sense of shared tragedy, Cate Edwards said that she and Chris Heinz have discussed those losses with each other but that the losses are "private" and that they have bonded "regardless of that."

The Heinz-Kerry clan then chimed in to say that when Jack, Cate's little brother, "talks about Oreos . . . that's what bonds us."

Andre Heinz recounted his joy at seeing "the two little ones," Jack and Emma Claire, in the pool at the Heinz family estate, saying it reminded him of his childhood.

"They are great," said Andre Heinz, "and Cate as you can see is fantastic."

Asked about his "quirky" mother, Teresa Heinz Kerry, on NBC's "Today Show," Chris Heinz said "quirkiness runs in the (Heinz) family which insulates these fine women."

Chris called his mother a hard worker who speaks what's on her mind and said of his mother, who was born in Africa, that he looks "forward to the day when there is a first generation American in 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue."

Vanessa Kerry said on "Today" that the two biggest misconceptions about her father are that he's aloof and that he doesn't know his own mind. Vanessa said she's proud that her father doesn't look at issues as "black and white" but rather that he considers all sides of an issue.

During their appearance on the "Today," Katie Couric played a "new ad" cooked up by Jay Leno for the Kerry-Edwards campaign which aired last night on the "Tonight Show." It shows Kerry and Edwards touching, holding and looking fondly at each other to the strains of "You are So Beautiful to Me."

John Kerry joked about all this at his first event this morning.

The New York Post's Error:

The New York Daily News on Rupert Murdoch's role in his paper's Dick Gephardt-for-veep fiasco "elusive exclusive." LINK

The New York Times on the same. LINK

ABC News Vote 2004: battleground states:

The Chicago Tribune's Tim Jones opens an really interesting ongoing look at the battleground of Missouri, laying out some of the Show-Me State's history, demographics and importance, given its status as a "decidedly purple" state that he Notes President Bush has 17 times since taking office -- and "it's not because he likes the weather." LINK

Attention print reporters and television news producers who are wondering how many stories they can get out of Ohio this year:

"And every four years, opinion here commands special attention because Missouri voters have picked every presidential winner since 1900--except in 1956, when their unerring ballot magic deserted them and they supported, by an electoral eyelash, Adlai Stevenson over President Dwight Eisenhower."

"Missouri is so often right in presidential elections because Missouri is so much like so many parts of America. It mirrors the nation--one part Dixie, one part industrial Detroit, a bit of Great Plains conservatism and a dash of the get-the-government-off-my-back-and-cut-my-taxes West."

Over the last two weeks, the Kerry campaign outspent the Bush camp on Missouri TV ads by $420,018 to $8,370, reports the AP. LINK

Halfway across the country, Commerce Secretary Don Evans stopped in Kansas City to report that the U.S. economy is "as strong is as he has seen it." LINK

Michael Badnarik, the Libertarian candidate for president, visited Kansas City on Thursday and gets a long write-up in today's Kansas City Star. LINK

On the heels of yesterday's visit by RNC Chairman Ed Gillespie to a black Baptist church in Cleveland, the Plain Dealer reports that Democrats do not "have a lock" on Ohio's black vote. LINK

The Senators on the Democratic ticket are trying to "fashion a kitchen-table campaign for the White House," says Mark Silva in the Florida Sun-Sentinel. LINK

"The states of Washington and Oregon announced Thursday that they will sue the federal government if it continues to refuse to assess the environmental damage caused by decades of bomb making at the Hanford nuclear site in eastern Washington," reports the Washington Post's Blaine Harden. LINK

Hmm. Democrats in Nevada yesterday rallied in opposition to the Yucca Mountain Project, saying that "stopping Yucca Mountain is as easy as going to the voting booth and voting for Kerry-Edwards." But as Erin Neff Notes in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Edwards supported the project. LINK

Ameristar Casinos are collecting signatures needed to call for a referendum in November to allow a new riverboat casino in Des Moines, the Des Moines Register reports. LINK

New Hampshire sees an improvement in the labor market with the number of people with jobs rising in June to 1,240, the highest monthly increase in 2004, reports the Nashua Telegraph. LINK

The Union Leader reports Manchester, N.H. is one of six communities that have beat the recession. Other cities named: Jacksonville, Fla.; Sugarland, Texas; Reno, Nev.; Phoenix, Ariz., and Naperville, Ill. LINK

The Arizona Republic reports that abortion, gay marriage, and budget battles "have sparked a civil war within the Arizona Republican Party," without Noting the potential consequences of this for November's presidential election. LINK

This week's Arizona Governor's Conference on Tourism had a mix of good and bad news about Arizona's tourism industry, a central component of the battleground state's economy: Leisure travel is up, but business travel is way down. LINK

Treasury Secretary John Snow visited Maine yesterday, ostensibly to deliver a policy speech to the Greater Portland Chamber of Commerce -- but spent most of his time beating up on the GOP's newest punching bag: trial lawyers. LINK

As Denver's Rocky Mountain News Notes, "a Democratic state lawmaker came up with a novel idea Thursday on how to fix Colorado's fiscal problems: cut taxes." LINK

A backing of a tax on cigarettes by the health industry and builders' support to fight liability measures are just examples of the $1.7 million big money interests pumped into campaigns last month for and against Colorado's ballot measures. LINK

Though welcome-home signs still hang high in Colorado Springs, thousands of soldiers were told they will head back to the Middle East in as little as three months, the Colorado Springs Gazette reports. LINK

With so much misinformation among educators about the No Child Left Behind law, says U.S. Deputy Education Secretary Gene Hickok, officials decided to host workshops around the country for teachers. LINK

During the President's campaign stop in West Virginia on Sunday, he proclaimed that the Fourth of July is about freedom. That's ironic, the Charleston Gazette editorial page claims, considering that "a Texas couple who tried to speak their minds were hauled away in handcuffs." LINK

New Mexico religious leaders joined those from 45 other states Thursday to urge U.S. senators to act with "great moral urgency" on a global-warming bill, reports the Albuquerque Journal. LINK

The politics of national security:

The CIA braces for a bad review. USA Today's John Diamond ledes, "The CIA failed to penetrate Saddam Hussein's regime sufficiently before the war to find out what weapons Iraq possessed, and agency analysts applied faulty logic to the sketchy information they did have to conclude Saddam had weapons of mass destruction, a Senate committee report due out today says." LINK

The Washington Post's Walter Pincus and Dana Milbank Note during his farewell address and a day before Congress is to released a "searing" report about intelligence failures in Iraq, former CIA Director George Tenet "told CIA employees not to be distracted by the criticism." LINK

In a Washington Post op-ed, Sen. Richard Durbin previews the Roberts-Rockefeller report, writing that "the Senate intelligence committee report scheduled to be released today reveals in stark terms that in many key areas, the prewar intelligence regarding Iraq's threat to the United States was neither reliable nor accurate. And the report tells only half of the story." LINK

The New York Times' David Johnson and David Stout wrap yesterday's Bush Administration briefings saying that "Osama bin Laden and his chief lieutenants, operating from hideouts suspected to be along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, are directing a Qaeda effort to launch an attack in the United States sometime this year." LINK

"In discussing the latest threat information, one of the officials said the intelligence was "cryptic," about both timing and location. There is a widespread assumption in the intelligence community that past targets -- New York, Washington, the Los Angeles airport -- all still have symbolic value to Al Qaeda. There is no specific reference to the coming political conventions, the official said, but that remains an immediate focus of concern."

The New York Post's Kuntzman and Weiss report, "Al Qaeda is planning a major attack on the United States to disrupt November's presidential elections, Homeland Security officials said yesterday." LINK

"The House, reflecting growing political unrest over police powers given the government after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, narrowly defeated a move to bar the Justice Department from carrying out expedited searches of libraries and book dealers," reports the Wall Street Journal's David Rogers.

"House Republicans, under strong pressure from the White House, narrowly defeated an effort yesterday to water down the Bush administration's signature law to combat domestic terrorism," reports the Washington Post's Dan Morgan and Charles Babington. LINK

The New York Times' Eric Lichtblau reports on the 210-210 deadlock over the USA Patriot Act. LINK

The New York Times' Mathew Wald wraps a House hearing on series of security errors during which "officials mistook a police plane carrying the governor of Kentucky for a terrorist threat last month and ordered an evacuation of the Capitol." LINK

The politics of the 9/11 Commission:

"George J. Tenet, the departing director of central intelligence, has told Congress that the C.I.A. is "increasingly skeptical" that a Sept. 11 hijacker, Mohamed Atta, met an Iraqi intelligence officer in Prague in April 2001, an assessment very different in tone from continuing assertions by Vice President Dick Cheney that such a meeting might have taken place," reports the New York Times' Douglas Jehl. LINK

The economy:

Northwest Airlines executives assured employees yesterday that cuts in their pay will be worth it, as the company ensures that it will not only survive, but ultimately thrive. LINK

Tort wars:

The Washington Post's Helen Dewar details last night's 44 to 43 demise of the legislation to revise the rules on class-action lawsuits. ". . . the legislation collapsed when Democrats pushed for votes on amendments dealing with other issues and Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.), overriding objections from business allies, responded by cutting off all amendments and scheduling a showdown vote." LINK

The Chicago Tribune's William Neikirk sets up the debate about trial lawyers and torts set up by having Sen. Edwards on the Democratic ticket. LINK

ABC News Vote 2004: casting and counting:

The voting woes in Flo --er, Ohio -- continue, with the AP Noting that "a federal mandate to replace punch-card voting machines with electronic devices has fizzled to the point that only four of Ohio's 88 counties will consider the idea for the Nov. 2 election." LINK

The touch-screen voting machines in Florida "have more problems than election officials made public," the Miami Herald finds after reviewing elections department documents. LINK

At the same time, the Herald Notes that a top state election official is likely to recommend the use of new software to correct some of the flaws already identified in the e-voting machines. LINK

Bad voting machines may not be the only Election Day hiccups in Florida: the Tampa Tribune reports Florida elections officials are "conferring with law enforcement about the vulnerability of their Election Day operations" to terrorism. LINK

The Florida Secretary of State has reversed her position, saying now that 2,465 former felons will be able to vote in November after all. LINK

Though a Eugene initiative petitioner will pay a $2,500 fine after allegations he illegally paid circulators by the signature, the signatures in question, gathered for a legislative term-limits initiative, will not be thrown out because the law doesn't require it. LINK

The New York Times' ed board contemplates "a major flaw in America's electoral system is that the top election officers are often publicly rooting for the Democratic or Republican side." LINK

The politics of Iraq:

The New York Times' Eric Schmitt takes a look at the strain on the U.S. military, due to operations in Iraq. LINK

Fahrenheit 9/11:

We know this is a little late, but it's worth checking out Daniel Fierman's cover story on Michael Moore in this week's Entertainment Weekly. There isn't much new here, but Moore does make one of his most overt admissions that his movie is meant to help Democrats. Fierman asks Moore, "Is this why you pushed for it to be released on June 25? And the October DVD date? To directly assist the Democrats in the election?" Moore: "Yes."

And Chris Lehane's wallet just got a little fatter. Moore on Lehane: "F--- with me and I've got the chief motherf---er."

Meanwhile, the Fridley theater chain will not screen "Fahrenheit 9/11" "in any of its 34 venues in Iowa and Nebraska because owner R.L. Fridley says the film incites terrorism." The same goes for Illinois-based GKC Theaters, which reaches Wisconsin: LINK

Don't forget: the movie opens in the U.K. today, and Moore has suggested that somebody make a version about Prime Minister Tony Blair. LINK

Last night on "Larry King Live," Sen. Kerry had this response about whether he intends to see "Fahrenheit 9/11" -- which gave his wife and Mr. King momentary pause.

King: Do you plan to see the movie?

Kerry: No, I don't plan to.

King: Wouldn't you be curious to want to see it?

Kerry: I've seen it. I've watched it for the last four years LINK

And yesterday we proved that we really weren't math majors, blowing our back-of-the-envelope calculations of how popular "Fahrenheit 9/11" would be if Stan Greenberg's poll proved correct and all the people (44 million) who either said they had seen or intend to see the movie actually were telling the truth. So, one more try:

If there are, say, 100 million likely voters in the country, and around 6 million of them have helped the movie gross around $40 million, then an additional 38 million saw the movie, they would help put "Fahrenheit" somewhere in the 20s of all-time biggest box office grosses. We doubt that, and thanks to greater thinkers for pointing out our error. Which is not to say that if/once "Fahrenheit" grosses $100 million, a significant chunk of the voting electorate would have seen the Bush-basher.

The Wood County, Ohio, Democratic party is holding a fundraiser screening of Michael Moore's hit documentary tonight. The $20 entrance fee will be used to "open and equip party headquarters." LINK

The conventions:

Scott Greenberger of the Boston Globe writes of the $95 million budget for the Democratic National Convention and what else could be done with the money. "Or the money could bring Boston the Yankees' star-studded infield, which is paid $53 million this year." LINK

Security concerns forced city officials to deny the Kerry campaign a permit for the big Boston Pops concert and fireworks display on the Esplanade that the soon-to-be nominee specifically wanted, the Boston Globe reports. LINK

Boston Mayor Thomas Menino is trying to calm Boston residents in the wake of Secretary Ridge's announcement yesterday. LINK

Tourism officials in states including New Hampshire and Maine hope to lure Bostonians north to escape the crowds expected at the Democratic Convention, the AP reports. "Democracy's great, but so is going on vacation," read the state's new ads in Boston's trains. LINK

Apparently he got enough attention during the 2000 election to last a lifetime: Fla. Gov. Jeb Bush will maintain a "low profile" during the Republican Convention because that "is the way he wants it." LINK

Some of the conservative base is up in arms over the RNC's speaker line-up, reports The Hill, saying that centrist Republicans who disagree with the party's conservative base on abortion and gay rights have been given some of the best prime-time speaking slots at the Republican National Convention. LINK

The New York Post's Clemente Lisi reports, "Thousands of commuters who take NJ Transit trains directly to Manhattan will be forced to go to Hoboken and transfer to PATH trains during the GOP convention, officials said yesterday." LINK

The New York Times' Jennifer Steinhauer gets all revved up about the Republicans' convention-week parties. A must-read for planning purposes. LINK

Nader-Camejo '04:

Today, the Nader Factor unleashes a media campaign that portrays Ralph Nader's campaign as a Bush-Cheney supporter's dream come true. The 60-second radio ad's opening line doesn't put too fine a point on it: "RIGHT-WING REPUBLICANS WILL DO ANYTHING TO STAY IN POWER. REMEMBER FLORIDA AND THE 2000 ELECTION?"

The Jackson Group's creation hits on Republican contributions for Nader and recent support from the conservative group Citizen's for Sound Economy, headed by Dick Armey. The campaign rolls out today in a media buy designed to reach Nader supporters in markets like Madison, Wis., Philadelphia, Pa, Portland, Ore. and Miami, Fla.

And just added, Lansing, Mich. -- where Republicans plan to go door-to-door for a man the will not vote for. Yesterday Greg McNeilly of the state Republican Party sent an e-mail to Republicans asking them to recruit signatures for Nader to get on the ballot in their battleground state. Nader needs 30,000 valid signatures by July 15 to qualify for the Michigan ballot. Michigan Democrats sent a letter to Nader yesterday asking that he refuse the GOP's assistance. Pending . . . LINK

In a serious feat of data base mastery and mathematics, the San Francisco Chronicle's Carla Marinucci deduces Republicans are supporting Nader to the tune of $275,249. According the latest documents, "nearly one in 10 of Nader's major donors -- those writing checks of $1, 000 or more -- have given in recent months to the Bush-Cheney campaign." Her work supports Democrats accusations that Republicans for Nader have "bundled" contributions.

Nader running mate Peter Camejo tells the Chronicle he thinks his campaign should reject the money that doesn't come from "loyal Nader voters" -- an issue he should probably to the boss about. Lehane and Iverson weigh in too. LINK

Salon says there is even more reason to believe Nader is a Republican "pawn" this week, with his new book being put on store shelves by Rupert Murdoch's HarperCollins, which is also "providing the candidate with expensive public relations promotion and media bookings." LINK

In Washington, Ralph Nader and former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean debate at 2:00 pm ET. In a different kind of drinking game, Nader has asked his supporters to donate $5 each time Dean uses one of ten phrases, including "Florida 2000." NPR is hosting the debate, so while you're tuned-in listen-up for Enright and Kofinis' latest handiwork. The Nader Factor starts airing radio ads today in key Nader-lovin' markets. LINK

The Nader-Camejo campaign filed 11,348 signatures with the election officials in Nevada, nominating him as an independent candidate for president. A thousand valid signatures are needed for the pair to qualify for the Nevada ballot. From here, the Clark County registrar's office will get a raw count -- and then kick them up to the Secretary of State's office, probably today.

Nader got 2.46 percent of the vote in Nevada in 2000 when he ran as Green Party candidate. According to the Las Vegas Review Journal, "His 15,008 votes fell within the 21,597 margin of difference between the winner, Bush, and Democrat Gore."

Nader spokesguy Kevin Zeese tells the Las Vegas Review Journal he is confident Nader will be on the ballot in 46 states, most of which have deadlines to qualify between now and October. LINK

An AP-Ipsos poll finds Nader's national support at 3 percent. LINK

The politics of same-sex marriage:

"The Senate prepared to plunge Friday into an election-year fight over a Constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage, with intense political and procedural gamesmanship surrounding a proposal that few expect to pass," writes the New York Times' Carl Hulse. LINK

The Washington Post's Chuck Babington and Helen Dewar report "after proceeding cautiously for weeks, the Republican-led Congress is moving full-speed on proposals to bar same-sex marriage even though leaders in both houses acknowledge they lack the votes to pass them." LINK

The halt to same-sex unions remains as the New Mexico Supreme Court denied the request of the Sandoval County Clerk to remove a temporary restraining order blocking her from issuing marriage licenses. LINK

ABC News Vote 2004: the Senate:

Gannett News reports Democrats predict John Edwards will help them beyond the presidential race by appealing to swing voters in Senate races in states where John Kerry is not popular. LINK

Rick Pearson of the Chicago Tribune reports that Illinois State Sen. Steve Rauschenberger took himself out of consideration to replace Jack Ryan as the GOP nominee for Senate, citing money as the main issue, and Notes that Ryan has yet to file a request with state election officials to take his name off the ballot. The state party continues to vet candidates, party chair Judy Baar Topinka said. LINK

The Chicago Sun-Times' Scott Fornek calls it another "body blow" for the Illinois Republican Party. LINK

Lynn Sweet and Fornek turn in a sidebar on the Ditka for Senate movement.

DIT-ka! DIT-ka! Former Super Bowl-winning coach for the Chicago bears and Hall-of-Fame player, Mike Ditka has surfaced as a favorite of many Hill and state Republicans, now that Steve Rauschenberger's has withdrawn from the Illinois Senate race, The Hill's Patrick O'Connor of reports. LINK

Note Exclusive: What happened in Iowa?:

What the heck happened in Iowa. How did Howard Dean go from 50,000 solid Ones to 18 percent in the polls? How did John Kerry manage to quietly assemble a field team that beat Gephardt and his unions?

Roger Simon, the perceptive, brilliant, hard-charging political editor of U.S. News (and author of one of the best daily political columns in history) spent several months interviewing the key players in Iowa, sat down with the not-so-key players, reviewed documents and even managed to survive 45 F-bombs from Michael Whouley. What survives is the best, bar-none explanation for what happened in Iowa -- why Dean died and why Kerry rose -- that's been published so far. The bar is set really high for followers.

It all appears in the upcoming issue of U.S. News and World Report.

First, some of the juicy bits from his piece. Then, an interview. Enjoy! We surely did.

"Depending on bogus or incompetent counts of Dean supporters gathered by enthusiastic but inexperienced campaign workers, wracked by deep conflicts within the Dean senior staff, lacking coordination between state headquarters in Des Moines and national headquarters in Burlington, Vt., and with a relationship between campaign manager and candidate that was largely dysfunctional, the Dean campaign devoted much of its time to presenting a supremely confident and largely false face to the media."

"Michael Whouley is a master of the use and psychology of the robo-call."

"'In our focus groups in Iowa,' said Mike Ford, a senior aide in the Dean campaign, 'people said, 'I'll do anything to have Dean stop calling me.'"

"While Kerry's campaign emphasized discipline, training and structure, the Dean campaign was imbued with a philosophy that opposed all three. The Dean campaign was an insurgency, an outsider's campaign, that ran in opposition to the normal political system."

"'We lowballed to the very end,' Whouley said proudly. 'We had a simple strategy: We put one foot in front of the other.' Whouley believes the foundation of any statewide campaign is to build a strong network of precinct captains who know their communities and know their neighbors and are extremely disciplined in the counting of Ones and Twos."

"So naturally, when Trippi came back from Iowa with dire mutterings on how 'soft' things seemed there (though he told virtually one that he wanted to abandon the state) others in the campaign suggested he go out to Iowa to solve the problem. What could be more logical? But Trippi refused."

"McMahon, as a friend and partner to Trippi, begged him to reconsider. He knew Trippi well, and he knew Trippi's insecurities. He knew Trippi was afraid that if he left Burlington, there would be a coup and he would be replaced as campaign manager. So McMahon made a startling offer: Everybody would go to Iowa! Every senior staff member who could possibly lead a coup against Trippi would go to Iowa with Trippi. So there would be nothing and no one for Trippi to be afraid of. Still, Trippi refused."

"McMahon immediately felt the pressure. Dean and others reminded McMahon that he had urged the hiring of Trippi in part because of Trippi's Iowa expertise and they didn't understand why Trippi wouldn't go to Iowa. McMahon admitted defeat. So Howard Dean, himself, asked Trippi to go to Iowa. In most campaigns, this would have been a request that could not be refused. Trippi refused."

The Note: 1. Why was Joe Trippi so opposed to returning to Iowa?

Simon: According to several sources, Trippi was afraid that if he went to Iowa, there would be a coup in Burlington and that he would be replaced as campaign manager. That is not Trippi's version of events, needless to say. One reason he says he refused to go to Iowa -- even after Howard Dean asked him to - - was that he was responsible not just for one state, but for all the states that followed. As he told me: "Yeah, I could have gone to Iowa and eked things out. But then we would have been dead." It was a stunning miscalculation. Without Iowa, the Dean campaign was dead. Worrying about what came after Iowa was not worth worrying about. In 2004, it was win Iowa or go home.

The Note: 2. Michael Whouley stressed quality over quantity; experienced precinct captains who could corral 10 voters versus inexperienced volunteers who could promise 20. What did he get about Iowa that the Dean folks didn't?

Simon: It is not so much that the Whouley got it and the Dean folks didn't, it is that Whouley had an experienced cadre -- carefully built by John Norris and Jonathan Epstein -- of local leaders, who were very solid and very experienced and who knew their neighbors. Dean attracted some very committed, very passionate volunteers, but they were new at the game and Iowa is a very complicated game. In the end, the Dean campaign was a house of cards and the Kerry campaign had a very solid footing.

The Note: What are the lessons for 2008?

Simon: For the campaigns, they mainly have to avoid the false lessons of 2004: The "murder-suicide" theory that Dean and Gephardt had the best organizations but lost because of battling negative ads is nonsense. So is the "Iowa is no longer a caucus, but a primary" theory that was hatched to explain why the supposedly lousy campaigns of Kerry and Edwards won. According to this theory, it was because charisma ruled the day. That may have partially explained Edwards, but Kerry? In reality, both Kerry and Edwards had very good below-the-radar-screen campaigns. Edwards did an especially good job of exploiting a quirk in the caucus system -- it is not one person/one vote, but requires fewer votes in rural districts to get delegates than in urban districts -- to go after rural voters.

The Note: Will union endorsements matter that much in the future?

Simon: Only if the rank-and-file are on board with the endorsement and the candidate delivers a compelling message. If Iowa proved anything it proved that union members can be as independent in their thinking and voting as anybody else.

The Note: You reveal that Gov. Vilsack essentially refused to endorse John Kerry because he needed AFSCME's help on an education bill. What does that say about Gov. Vilsack's political courage? His political instincts?

Simon: All politics is local and providing what he considered important help to the schoolchildren of Iowa trumped endorsing a candidate for president. Would he be Kerry's running mate right now if he had endorse him? Hard to say, but I doubt it. As the piece makes clear, Vilsack provided some important help to the Kerry campaign that nobody knew about. And, of course, his wife endorsed Kerry.

The Note: What's the biggest mistake we in the media made covering Howard Dean? Covering Iowa?

Simon: We bought the spin. Trippi is an extremely effective salesman and a very likeable guy and we too often bought what he was selling without questioning it much. (There were sources on the campaign besides Trippi, but how many of us bothered to call them?)

Iowa is not an easy state to cover, because the caucus process really does demand good organization and judging the true state of a campaign's field operation is not easy. Even though the story was buried, the Chicago Tribune took one small look at the true state of Dean's organization in Iowa and was rewarded with a good story. Very few other journalists bothered. Although the campaigns think we are too skeptical (they would say cynical) already, in fact we are going to have to be more skeptical in the future when campaigns tell us how well organized they are. The good news: We have four years to think about how we are going to cover the next Iowa caucuses.

The Note: What role did Howard Dean play in his own demise? Has the media's alleged role in Dean's downfall been overstated?

Simon: In some respects, Dean was a major contributor: He was unable to grow as a candidate from an outsider/ insurgent/Internet candidate to someone with a broader appeal. As one of his top aides pointed out to me, while the Internet got Dean 600,000 supporters, he was going to need 54 million in the fall to win. Many on his campaign begged him to stop emphasizing the "You Have the Power" message in Iowa and go back to his original issues of health care and balanced budgets. For reasons I deal with at some length, he wouldn't do it. On the other hand, his organization in Iowa was seriously flawed and there are some who think his organization let him down badly.

But you can't blame the media for the downfall of Dean. The Deaniacs were among the least likely people on the planet to believe or care what the media thought, anyway. And you can't blame the Internet -- the Internet helped Dean get as far as he got. But Dean needed a Plan B and he didn't have one because his organization was having a tough enough time executing Plan A.

Politics:

Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) might already be skirting Senate rules by using his official Senate Web site for political purposes, an indication that he may be preparing a 2008 presidential bid. LINK

TODAY'S SCHEDULE (all times ET): —8:15 am: Sens. John Kerry and John Edwards attend a breakfast fundraiser at Pier 94, New York, N.Y. —8:45 am: President Bush departs the White House —9:00 am: Treasury Secretary John Snow tours the Van Otis Chocolate Factory and participates in a roundtable with local business leaders, Manchester, N.H. —9:00 am: The House convenes for legislative business —9:30 am: Sens. Kerry and Edwards attend a second breakfast fundraiser at Pier 94, New York, N.Y. —9:30 am: The Senate convenes for morning business —9:30 am: Senate Intelligence Committee Staff Director Bill Duhnke and Minority Staff Director Andy Johnson hold a pen and pad-only briefing on the committee's Report on Pre-War Intelligence on Iraq at the Capitol, Washington, D.C. —9:30 am: The Cuban American Commission for Family Rights and others release a poll of how Cuban-Americans in South Florida view the Administration's Cuba policy in a news conference at the National Press Club, Washington, D.C. —10:00 am: Sens. Wayne Allard and Sam Brownback hold a news conference at the Capitol on their opposition to a Constitutional amendment prohibiting same-sex marriage at the Capitol, Washington, D.C. —10:00 am: The U.S. Senate Democratic Policy Committee holds an oversight hearing on the Bush Administration's mercury emissions proposal at the Capitol, Washington, D.C. —10:00 am: The Marriage Amendment Project holds a news conference at the Capitol to deliver 1.4 million petitions to senators in support of a Constitutional amendment prohibiting same-sex marriage, Washington, D.C. —10:20 am: First Lady Laura Bush participates in a roundtable to highlight the Reading First program, Chelsea, Mass. —10:30 am: Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Sen. Pat Roberts and Vice-Chairman Jay Rockefeller release the committee's Report on Pre-War Intelligence on Iraq at the Capitol, Washington, D.C. —11:00 am: President Bush participates in an "Ask President Bush" event at Kutztown, University of Pennsylvania, Kutztown, Pa. —11:45 am: First Lady Laura Bush attends an RNC lunch fundraiser, Boston, Mass. —12:00 pm: The Heritage Foundation, National Taxpayers Union, and Citizens Against Government Waste hold a panel discussion at the Capitol on the "coming crisis" in entitlements, Washington, D.C. —1:15 pm: Sens. Kerry and Edwards hold a "New Team for a New America" rally at Beckley/Raleigh County Memorial Airport, Beaver, W.Va. —1:30 pm: Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Ron Wyden hold a news conference to respond to the pre-Iraq war intelligence report at the Capitol, Washington, D.C. —2:00 pm: Ralph Nader and former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean participate in a debate sponsored by NPR at the National Press Building, Washington, D.C. —2:20 pm: First Lady Laura Bush attends an event highlighting the No Child Left Behind Summer Reading Achievers Program at Portsmouth Public Library, Portsmouth, N.H. —3:25 pm: President Bush speaks at Lapp Electrical Service and is expected to extend his criticism of Sen. Kerry and Edwards, Lancaster, Pa. —6:10 pm: President Bush holds a rally at the Toyota Arena, York, Pa. —8:00 pm: Sens. Kerry and Edwards hold a "New Team for a New America" rally at the National Hispanic Cultural Center, Albuquerque, N.M. —8:20 pm: President Bush returns to the White House

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