The Note

The Nader Factor is hurting Kerry there.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch's Bill Lambrecht analysis the "pitfalls" of Sen. Kerry's approach to foreign policy and national security this week. "Analysts say his lead in polls has little to do with any new bond he has forged with voters and much to do with Bush's own troubles." LINK

"Throughout his campaign, Kerry has labored to overcome a credibility gap when criticizing the White House after voting in the Senate to give Bush administration the authority to remove Saddam Hussein from power."

"Now, Kerry has the challenge of drawing distinctions with Bush on Iraqi policy while advocating an approach that doesn't appear to be markedly different from that of the president. Meanwhile, Republicans are savaging his voting record on defense issues and Democratic liberals are pushing him to speak bluntly about how to get out of Iraq."

Veepstakes:

Yesterday the Chicago Tribune's Jeff Zeleny took a look at the cloak-and-dagger process of the vice presidential search. LINK

The Tampa Tribune's Keith Epstein offers a Veepstakes overview, writing that "history suggests the selection is unlikely to make a huge difference in the proportion of voters for or against Kerry come November." LINK

Regardless of whether Gov. Vilsack wants or gets the running mate offer and forgoes a third term as governor, the Des Moines Register's Jennifer Dukes Lee writes about all of the folks maneuvering into position to run for his current job in 2006. LINK

National Journal's Charlie Cook was last seen playing footsie with Dick Gephardt. But with Iraq coming to "completely dominate the issue agenda," Cook is starting to think that Kerry needs to "heavy up" on national security. Cook sees only two choices that could accomplish this for Kerry: Gen. Wesley Clark and former Sen. Sam Nunn.

Clark delivers a good speech. But Charlie thinks he may have rubbed too many people the wrong way at the Pentagon.

Nunn, Cook writes, "could make an interesting choice."

"Is Nunn or Clark likely to be picked by Kerry? Probably not. But an election that is driven either exclusively or even primarily by foreign policy -- with Democrats campaigning on the issue of failed Republican national security policy -- might yield a ticket that would look very different from more normal circumstances."

The politics of Iraq:

The Washington Post's Rajiv Chandrasekaran and Fred Barbash report that a new caretaker government has assumed authority in Iraq, and the Iraqi Governing Council dissolved itself as planned. Ghazi Yawar has been chosen president of the interim government, after Adnan Pachachi, the U.S.' choice, turned down the post. Ayad Allawi, the interim prime minister, has begun to appoint a cabinet. LINK

AP offers some background on Yawar: LINK

The Washington Post's Peter Slevin looks at the increasing pressure from some foreign policy experts for the Bush Administration to set an exit strategy and date for withdrawal from Iraq. LINK

William Neikirk of the Chicago Tribune Notes that the cost of the war in Iraq, estimated to be at least $170 billion by the end of 2005, could easily exceed the $200 billion figure predicted by White House economic adviser Lawrence Lindsey and helped hasten his departure from the Bush Administration. LINK

The politics of national security:

The Wall Street Journal's Jim Carlton notices that California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has not been shy or reticent to publicly honor fallen U.S. soldiers.

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