The Note

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In Washington, opinions about who is going to win the presidential election are like "Adam Clymers" -- everyone has one.

"Adam Clymers," of course, is a common political euphemism for a certain part of the human anatomy. LINK

Public opinion polls still suggest that most Americans, regardless of for whom they are voting, still think the President will win, but it's early yet and that number seems to be (naturally) tightening.

This has been a week in which, as the anchormen say, we have had to make up the lead of The Note each day, because the presidential race seems to have hit a newsless groove.

Which is not to say that there aren't a lot of potentially race changing things happening in the news cycle:

-- rumblings of NATO getting more involved in Iraq -- major new violence and death in Iraq -- the engagement over "Fahrenheit 9/11" -- Deputy Defense Secretary Wolfowitz learning what the word "Romenesko" means -- the possibility of a new CIA chief -- the President of the United States being interviewed in a criminal probe by a no-nonsense prosecutor -- the kicking of the can of the Cheney energy task force documents down the road past election day -- continued signs (mostly) of economic expansion -- serious Nader ballot jousting

And, of course, news of Tuesday's colorful and heated exchange between Vice President Cheney and a man who is apparently fingernails-on-the-blackboard to the Veep, Vermont Democratic Sen. Pat Leahy.

If you haven't heard about this encounter, read the Washington Post's pathbreaking account here LINK, and tell us if you Notice a word that doesn't normally appear in Washington Post and Disney publications.

Some Democrats have seized on Cheney's outburst (His office isn't much denying the account from Leahy's side . . .); on the President's testiness with an Irish television interviewer; and some other signs of alleged White House collar-tightening to suggest that the Bush-Cheney campaign realizes more than ever before that it COULD lose the election.

Democrats who work on presidential campaigns as a rule tend to evince a greater sense that they fear they are going to lose than do Republicans. Or you could call it "doubts about whether they are going to win."

That pattern has largely held in most of the Bush and Kerry ranks this spring and summer, although among both sides' senior message meisters and numbers crunchers, there are some Bushies who are sober eyed about the possibility of loss, and some Kerryites who claim to see the mood of the nation and the trend of the poll lines adding up to making their guy the favorite.

As William Pitt, Earl of Chatham once famously said, "Confidence is a plant of slow growth in an aged bosom."

In a campaign year in which both sides stress that world and national events beyond their control could decide the outcome of the election, having confidence helps a lot. And through all of the Kerry campaign's growing pains and off-tune days, let history record that on the metaphorical eve of the veep pick, the national conventions, and the debates, the famous "confidence gap" is smaller than it has been in quite some time.

A loose and jangly President Bush travels to Ireland today for talks with European Union leaders.

The summit will aim to stress accord despite their differences over the Iraq war and the Middle East peace process.

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