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While the public commemoration of the life and death of President Reagan continues, politics and the economy perk along.

As the U.N.-ification of the Iraq operation continues and as the President prepares to give (maybe) one of the great speeches of his career at tomorrow's funeral, this morning, the Labor Department reports that initial unemployment claims rose to 352,000 last week, but numbers continue to indicate that the economy is improving. AP Notes that a year ago this week, the number was 424,000, and that the number of jobless claims this year continues to fall from an April high of 444,000.

The question is, will the numbers matter to President Bush's standing with voters? Signs point to "no," argues the Washington Post's Jonathan Weisman this morning. Weisman points out the disconnect between improving economic numbers and the President's approval ratings -- particularly his handling of the economy. Ever the student of history, Weisman points out that Bush isn't the only President who's been through this, however. LINK

Add that to this morning's Los Angeles Times poll, which shows Sen. John Kerry above 50 percent nationwide in a head-to-head matchup and President Bush with a 56 percent wrong-track number, even though his base is holding strong. Keep an eye on the independent and congressional numbers, though. LINK

Bush campaign strategist Matthew Dowd caveats to ABC News: "A note of caution: be very careful in reporting Los Angeles Times poll. It is a mess. Bush is leading independents by three, ahead among Republicans by a larger margin than Kerry is ahead among Dems, and we are down by seven. Outrageous. And it gets worse. They have Dems leading generic congressional ballot by 19. this means this poll is too Democratic by 10 to 12 points."

Over to you, Mr. Brownstein. Let's get all those methodological numbers on stat.

President Reagan's remains lie in state in the Capitol Rotunda until Friday morning for the public to pay respects.

President Bush attends his final news conference of the G-8 summit before heading back to Washington, D.C. Upon arrival, President and First Lady Laura Bush motorcade to the Capitol to pay their respects to Reagan's remains in the Rotunda. President and Mrs. Bush then go to the Blair House to visit with Nancy Reagan.

Sen. Kerry is in Washington, D.C. with no public events. He meets with reporters and editors of the Washington Post this evening.

Ralph Nader speaks at the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee National Convention at the Marriott Hotel, Arlington, Va.

Congress is not in session until Monday out of respect for President Reagan.

Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.) celebrates his 51st birthday today.

President Reagan's political legacy:

Carl Hulse of the New York Times looks at Ronald Reagan's reshaping of the Democratic Party and writes of the D.C.-type focus on the political center as a part of his legacy. LINK

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