The Note




By 2005, three of the last four American presidential elections will have featured a Republican nominee named "Bush" attempting to paint the Democratic nominee as a waffler who is weak on defense and an inveterate tax raiser.

Up until now, that strategy stands at one win and won loss.

While there are many factors that determine whether this strategy works or not, two things are certain:

1. All three targets — Bill Clinton, Al Gore, and John Kerry — have given the Bushes ample material with which to work on all three fronts — both historical and during the campaigns themselves.

2. Bill Clinton was able to overcome the label-pasting for a variety for reasons, not the least his prodigious, once-in-a-generation political skills.

Republicans don't mind admitting on the record these days that they are using their paid and earned media to try to define Kerry as a flip flopper who will raise taxes as president (and today is, of course, tax day), but they seem to have made the decision to work the national security angle a bit more subtly (as in the elliptical messages of the early BC04 ads).

We agree with Karl Rove that there is nothing wrong with — or improperly political about — going to the country and making the case that the GOP is stronger on security issues, but the campaign seems to think that all the tsoris it gets from the press over attempts to put before the voters what is arguably the most important issue of the presidential race just isn't worth it.

We wouldn't be surprised if BC04 decides today to remind people of John Kerry's record of voting "against things before he votes for them," or was it "for them before he votes against them," and maybe the midday Ken Mehlman/Matt Dowd news conference call will make all this clearer to you.

Don't act like Bill Clinton didn't give plenty of ammunition for the Bush/41 attacks on him on all three fronts. Those presidential visits to Waffle Houses across the fruited plain came with a lot of talking points.

Our favorite: when Clinton rapid responder Betsey Wright's challenged the Bush-Quayle claim that Clinton had raised taxes 128 times in Arkansas by saying it was only 127 (and, no, we aren't kidding).

But Bill Clinton was able to put the economy in play as THE issue of the race, and he was also able to outflank President Bush on some national security issues (Bosnia, China, etc.).

(And Kerry has a chance on that today, with the AP reporting: "The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits, after having fallen to the lowest level in four years, shot up last week by the biggest amount since late 2002. The new report dealt a setback to hopes that the economy is finally beginning to produce a sustained recovery in jobs.")

Clinton, please recall, also used Iran-Contra, "read my lips," and other elements of the Bush record to raise doubts about President Bush's credibility and, even, character, thereby neutralizing those same attacks on him.

Suffice to say, Al Gore, flat on his back from all the flip-flopper/tax-raiser/soft-on-defense defining that was done to him, was never able to score those jujitsu points on the man we now call 43 (Yes, yes, Terry and James and Paul — we know all about the popular vote.).

After months of attacking President Bush's policies, Sen. Kerry is stepping up an assault on his rival's character, challenging Bush's credibility on everything from job creation to the war in Iraq.

Stopping just short of calling the president a liar, Kerry routinely accuses Bush of "running up a truth deficit" and compiling "a long list of broken promises."

His strategy is risky. By challenging Bush's truthfulness, the presumptive Democratic nominee invites scrutiny of his reputation for vacillation and seemingly contradictory stands, such as backing the president's decision on whether to go to war with Iraq but against continued funding for military operations and the country's reconstruction.

"They're swimming way upstream on this one," said Matthew Dowd, a top strategist for the president's reelection effort.

But the reward for Kerry also is potentially significant, as the Massachusetts Senator aims at one of Bush's biggest political strengths: his image as a leader who talks straight and is resolute in his positions.

But much of the erosion appears rooted in growing public doubts about the war in Iraq and, as some see it, the disconnect between the results Bush promised and the way events have played out.

"There are no weapons of mass destruction. After the capture of Saddam it got worse, not better," said one Republican campaign strategist, who has been close to the White House and did not want to be identified as a critic of Bush's policies.

"All of the markers they set have been bogus as far as what the reality turned out to be."

Supporters of the President believe events in Iraq will ultimately bolster Bush's case for reelection. The Republican strategist who criticized the president's handling of Iraq also asserted that Kerry was "all over the map" on the issue.

"It's one thing to accuse Bush of playing fast and loose and another to be seen as a viable alternative," the strategist said. "It's two steps, not just one."

Whether Kerry can turn Bush's character and credibility from an asset to a liability depends on many things apart from the president's performance, analysts said. Not least is whether the Democratic hopeful — who is still introducing himself to voters — comes to be seen as honest and trustworthy himself.

After bombarding television viewers with almost $50 million in advertisements for a month, President Bush's re-election campaign is curtailing its ads in 18 competitive states.

Officials say the move, slated to start Friday, follows the campaign's long-term ad strategy to flood airwaves only when voters are paying attention to the presidential race.

"We had planned on doing waves of advertising in higher and lower amounts from the very beginning," depending on "windows of opportunity" when public interest was high, Dowd, the campaign's chief strategist, said Wednesday.

Dowd said internal polls show the ads accomplished their goal of casting Kerry in a negative light early in the race.

"The two things voters know about Kerry today more than anything else is that he's a flip-flopper and he's going to raise your taxes," Dowd said.

President Bush's $10-million-per-week advertising blitz, intended to define Kerry as a liberal who voted against defense and intelligence spending, was firing up some voters in swing states — until the news coming out of the 9/11 Commission started to drown out Bush's ads.

Meanwhile, Kerry's long-awaited initiative on job creation, which was supposed to bond the patrician Massachusetts Democrat with blue-collar voters, has been doubly trumped: First, by surprisingly strong job growth in March, then by the explosion of fighting in Iraq.

The result is two candidates stymied in their early attempts to frame the 2004 presidential race to their advantage. In each case, the candidate found his carefully crafted playbook shredded by events beyond his control.

Now, supporters of both candidates agree, uncertainty surrounding all major issues — Iraq, Al Qaeda, jobs, and energy prices — has left Bush and Kerry standing flat-footed on shifting sands.

They could stay in that position for months, analysts say.

After a string of presidential elections heavily influenced by strategic maneuvers, from George H.W. Bush's "Willie Horton" attacks to George W. Bush's embrace of "compassionate conservatism," leaders of past campaigns increasingly believe this contest is going to be determined by events off the campaign trail.

-- Mark Barabak, Liz Sidoti, Peter S. Canellos, and 1,000 Googling monkeys all contributed to The Note summary today.

(Note to Howie Kurtz: this is not a Stephen Glass issue. It is satire.)

President Bush speaks about the economy in Des Moines, Iowa, in the very same Marriott he first came out for ethanol subsidies.

Sen. Kerry attends a DNC breakfast and meets with the prelate of the Greek Orthodox Church in New York before heading to Washington, D.C. to deliver remarks at Howard University and to meet with Washington's Archbishop at Kerry's residence before heading to East Rutherford, N.J. for a fundraiser.

Vice President Cheney is in China and South Korea.

The FEC continues its hearings on the status of 501(c) groups and 527s. And today is a deadline for numerous campaign finance reports to be turned into the agency.

The politics of Israel, Iraq and national security:

The New York Times' Elisabeth Bumiller reports "a major shift in American policy" announced by President Bush yesterday with Prime Minister Sharon at this side. LINK

Bumiller goes on to get a Bush Administration official to make some Israeli political predictions. "'There's a great deal of suspicion of Sharon — that's a fact,' the senior administration official said. He then predicted that 'in a month this coalition government will fall, and will be replaced with a different coalition with Labor in it.'"

"'Palestinians are more comfortable with that,' the official added."

Palestinian leaders directed sharp criticism at President Bush yesterday after he announced his support for Israel's peace plan reports Greg Myre of the New York Times . LINK

The Washington Post's Milbank and Allen assess the benefits and risks for Bush by embracing Sharon's plan. LINK

More articles in the Washington Post: LINK and LINK

On Wednesday, Kerry stated that Bush's stubbornness in Iraq has put U.S troops at risk, reports the Washington Post's Dan Balz.

"I think the approach of this administration has been consistent and stubborn in the way that it persists in this American occupation and in proceeding down its own road," Kerry said. "It has made that mistake from Day One, and it is costing us money and I think it is costing us lives." LINK

Politics and the 9/11 commission:

The New York Times' Jim Rutenberg looks at the media darlings of the moment and wonders whether the 9/11 commissioners have made themselves too available to media. LINK

The Washington Post's Dana Priest examines George Tenet's retracted statement that he did not talk to President Bush for the entire month of August 2001. LINK

The Washington Post's Pincus and Eggen Note "U.S. intelligence services failed to recognize the emergence of the al Qaeda terrorist network until more than a decade after it was founded in 1988, playing down a tide of reports that documented the danger posed by the group, according to findings released yesterday by the commission investigating the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks." LINK

The Washington Post's Eggen and Pincus report "the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee yesterday called on former deputy attorney general Jamie S. Gorelick to resign from the commission investigating the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, arguing that she has "an inherent conflict of interest" because she wrote a memo nine years ago setting out the procedures for FBI information sharing in counterintelligence cases." LINK

The Washington Times says that "pressure is growing" on Gorelick to stand aside. LINK

The Wall Street Journal's editorial page urges that recusal.

The New York Times' Maureen Dowd is befuddled at the "sluggish imaginations" of the Bush Administration. LINK

The New York Times editorial page discusses the "incuriosity" of President Bush. LINK

What up, G:

It's Gabe. With a "g."

There is one journalist in New York who after 40 years of covering politics in this city gets the immediate respect and attention of all those who come stumping through the Big Apple. We recall that one time in 2000 when Al Gore walked into Café Lalo on the Upper West Side he made a beeline past every national reporter to say hello and shake his hand.

His name is Gabe Pressman (LINK) -- not "Abe" as Sen. Kerry referred to him not once, but twice during yesterday's press availability.

When the campaign next swings through Gotham, we hope the Senator will make amends. (It won't be tough. Gabe is much easier to pronounce than, say, "Luis.")

ABC News Vote 2004: Sen. John Kerry

The things that pass for funny these days! Team Kerry launches a new Web video on this tax day.

The misery index and "Compact with the Next Generation" will both make an appearance on the Kerry campaign trail today. Also, the campaign will release a new analysis that claims to show that Kerry's tax plan provides three times as much tax relief for middle-class families as Bush.

A campaign source tells ABC News' Dan Harris team Kerry will raise more than $100 million this year -- between Jan. 1 and the Democratic National Convention on July 26. That's a significant increase from their initial $80 million projection. And the number certainly could rise. Kerry people have been waxing rhapsodic about the incredible influx of funds. Most admit, though, that the success has more to do with anger at Bush than enthusiasm for Kerry.

The Orlando Sentinel's Mark Silva, who by this fall, will become even more of a superstar than he already is, welcomes Kerry to his growing burg. LINK

Kerry will:

--appear across the state

--do "Meet the Press" on Sunday

--collect millions at fundraisers.

Wednesday, Kerry didn't talk much about his college tuition for public service initiative, despite the campaign's billing that as the message of the day. Iraq took center stage yet again and not just because the Senator wanted to respond directly to the President's press conference of the night before in his first press availability in eight days.

Retired mathematics professor (and socialist) Walter Daum challenged the Senator's positions on Iraq and asserted that there was little difference between the Kerry and Bush policies. When a loud, defiant, challenging audience member speaks, journalists simply cannot resist.

On to the Kerry clips:

The New York Times' Halbfinger gives Daum a lot of space after reporting the "news" from the Senator's availability. LINK

Kerry urged President Bush to "share responsibility for Iraq with the United Nations, saying the administration's 'stubborn' insistence on controlling the reconstruction there was costing Americans money and lives," writes Halbfinger.

Glen Johnson adds his breakdown: LINK

As does Jill Lawrence: LINK

In what is becoming now a signature daily double-whammy, Glen Johnson of the Boston Globe Notes that while campaigning, Kerry has been avoiding the normal Holiday Inn/unfamiliar sleeping accommodations by staying at one of his five homes across the country or with friends. LINK

The Los Angeles Times duo Gold and Wallsten highlight what they see as a key difference between President Bush and Kerry on Iraq. LINK

"'I have always said from day one that the goal here … is a stable Iraq, not whether or not that's a full democracy,' the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee told reporters after conducting a town hall meeting at the City College of New York in Harlem. 'I can't tell you what it's going to be, but a stable Iraq. And that stability can take several different forms.'"

"Kerry's remarks, although not a change of position, stood in sharp contrast to Bush's comments Tuesday about the importance of establishing a democratic Iraq."

We'd urge Matea and Peter to go back to the transcript of the press conference from Tuesday night and count how many times the president used "democratic" as opposed to "free and secure" when describing the desired result for Iraq.

Matea Gold also has the book reading anecdote but wisely adds the "somewhat awkward" attempt by Kerry to describe his relationship with the Clintons while they were in the White House. LINK

"'We knew each other, but we sort of didn't know each other,' he said. 'She and the president visited my wife and me in Massachusetts on vacation. We've had times where we'd sort of hang together a little bit, we'd talk and so forth. But there was always this sort of sense … of distance, a little bit, just because of the presidency, and she was the first lady.'"

Former First Lady skills to the rescue! Kerry got some good photo op help from Sen. Clinton on Wednesday. LINK

Deb Orin plays up the $6.5 million haul and Hillary Clinton's day on the trail before getting to Prof. Daum's heckling. LINK

The New York Post's Lathem followed up on yesterday's Boston Globe story regarding one of Kerry's Purple Hearts, but was still not able to determine Lt. Cmdr. Grant Hibbard's motivation for coming forward. LINK

"Hibbard, who is a registered Republican, would not say why he decided to come forward now."

The New York Post editorializes on the topic. Kerry "needs to authorize the release of all relevant medical records for each of his three Purple Hearts. If Kerry's medals were deserved, he has nothing to fear. If not — well, it's time to find that out." LINK

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

President Bush heads to Des Moines today in his first election-year trip to Iowa to talk about the economy to a rural development symposium.

What does Iowa look like now for the incumbent President?

"The president will find in Iowa a scale model of the nation: Sharply divided along party lines, losing faith in his handling of the war and uncertain about the economy's future," the Des Moines Register's Beaumont writes.

"How those issues play out with independent voters in Iowa will say a lot about whether he carries the state he narrowly lost in 2000 and wins re-election."

Beaumont looks at the polarization of party activists in Iowa, where "registered Republicans and Democrats are nearly identical in numbers" and Iowa Democrats are energized by Kerry's win in the caucuses there.

Also Note the Iowa's contribution to the war in Iraq:

"The U.S.-led war in Iraq and the wider war on terrorism has relied disproportionately on Iowa's military reserves. More than 5,000 Iowa National Guard and Army Reservists have been called to active duty. At least 1,100 are overseas today." LINK

Iowa Gov. Vilsack, "in a conference call with Iowa and national news reporters arranged by the campaign of Bush's Democratic rival, Senator John Kerry," called on the president to speak about rural economic issues today in Des Moines and to make his stop "about more than election-year politics," reports Beaumont. LINK

Ed Tibbets of the Quad City Times previews the President's trip to Iowa and Notes the political positioning of both parties in anticipation of his visit.

Picking up on Gov. Vilsack's conference call with reporters, Tibbets turns to the GOP side:

"'The only way this becomes a political trip is if Tom Vilsack tries to advance his vice presidential aspirations,' said Gentry Collins, the executive director of the Republican Party of Iowa." LINK

AP's Lindlaw writes that the president will use his visit to Iowa to "call on Congress to make his tax cuts permanent and to argue that they helped create 308,000 jobs last month," according to a White House spokesman. LINK

Bob Novak on the President's performance: "The president's performance Tuesday night eased their anxiety about an imminent loss of support by his base, but worriers were not completely reassured." LINK

"Congressional Republicans I reached, while unwilling to be quoted by name, were harshly critical that the president and his aides had failed to evoke the impression of strong leadership. They could not believe that Bush stuck to his plans to be at his Texas ranch as violence spiked and death tolls mounted in Iraq. They grumbled that there was no effective White House response to rising criticism and that beleaguered Bush spokesman Scott McClellan was a disaster. They cited Bush adviser Karen Hughes, hawking her book on 'Meet the Press' two Sundays ago, as the only effective voice for the president."

AP's Ron Fournier gets out and talks to voters in battleground states and turns in this must-read on a key dynamic to watch -- the political implications of Iraq and how it effects Bush supporters in critical states.

From Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, BC04 co-chair in his state: "They're starting to ask this question, 'Is this thing really going to work?' "

And from voters who supported Bush in 2000:

"I voted for Bush in 2000, but I'm having some second thoughts about him now,"

"I don't think we were ever made aware of what's going on in Iraq. His administration has not told the truth." LINK

More from Minnesota!

The St. Paul Pioneer Press' Bill Salisbury reports on the "choral campaigning" that Republicans in Minnesota are likely to use this campaign season while stumping for Bush in the state, Noting they "chanted the predictable, partisan lines that cutting taxes has stimulated the economy, created jobs and is making everyone more prosperous." LINK

President Bush studiously avoided any expressions of regret, contrition or error in his press conference Tuesday night and the New York Times' Nagourney reports that "there was near unanimity in the White House, starting with Mr. Bush himself, that the last thing he should do in his first prime time news conference since the Iraq war was to show any sign of remorse."

We said yesterday that we had no idea what the body language of the senior White House staff meant during the President's press conference, but we think there are some who will be happy this reaction was not in a cutaway:

"One of his senior advisers broke out laughing Wednesday as he recalled the persistence of reporters pressing Mr. Bush on the subject of remorse, suggesting that contrition would have been a sign of weakness that was both alien to Mr. Bush and more typically found in the corridors of the Democratic Party."

President Bush responded to one question on Tuesday night, regarding his policy in Iraq, by saying "And, you know, as to whether or not I make decisions based upon polls, I don't. I just don't make decisions that way."

Do Note this item in Nagourney's memo:

"One adviser said the White House had examined polling and focus group studies in determining that it would be a mistake for Mr. Bush to appear to yield." LINK

And the Wall Street Journal's Cummings pick up on a similar theme and asks "is an apology a sign of weakness or strength?"

Her answer? Well there really isn't one:

"Mr. Bush's quandary is a time-honored struggle for politicians. While some have found a public apology helps them out of a tough spot, others discovered it can fuel more criticism. So far, there isn't a definitive answer."

Cummings looks at how like so many things in this country, even an apology is political: "Issuing an apology today may not end a crisis but may actually extend it by raising new questions about a politicians' actions or their ability to provide strong leadership."

The Washington Post's Allen turns his eye back to the nuts and bolts of Election 2004 and picks up on the BC04 ad strategy shift.

"GOP officials said the cutback will be heaviest in states where the campaign feels it is in good shape, including Florida, Arizona and Missouri. The ad buys will remain heavier in states such as Pennsylvania, Michigan, Minnesota and Ohio, where Bush is close or behind." LINK

AP's Sidoti looks at the BC04 ad strategy and has done her homework to Note these figures: "Bush will spend about $4 million to run moderate levels of ads over 10 days compared to the $6 million to $9 million he had been spending each week to saturate local broadcast channels in 18 electorally competitive states, according to ad industry sources familiar with the purchase." LINK

"Dick Cheney presented Chinese leaders with new evidence on Wednesday about the scope of North Korea's nuclear program and warned that 'time is not necessarily on our side' in negotiations," reports Joseph Kahn of the New York Times. LINK

The Washington Post's Kessler and Cody write "Vice President Cheney warned China's leaders Wednesday that any efforts by Beijing to thwart democracy in Hong Kong would likely reinforce the budding movement in Taiwan to formally separate from China." LINK

David Broder posits that during his press conference, Bush's only failings came while providing unsubstantial answers to important questions asked by the press. LINK

Also look for something new to distract you at your desk today, courtesy of your friends at the RNC -- a new Web video game that will give you fond memories of your childhood and hours spent playing Space Invaders.

This time, the RNC presents Tax Invaders: "Only YOU can save America from John Kerry's Tax plans. Defend the country against John Kerry's Tax raises. If you choose to accept this mission, complete the form below and get ready to play 'Tax Invaders'!"

ABC News Vote 2004: Bush v. Kerry:

The Boston Globe's Canellos writes that the two presidential candidates are currently "stymied in their early attempts to frame the 2004 presidential race to their advantage," and with all the uncertainty over key issues such as national security, jobs, and gas prices, the two are "standing flat-footed on shifting sands." LINK

"No variables of this magnitude existed in the last two elections, 1996 and 2000, they said, and historians have to go back as far as 1980 to find an election stirred by such a potent mix of foreign and domestic challenges."

Note: Canellos mentions "senior Republicans" who have acknowledged that Karl Rove's team is off to a rough start.


Dick Morris goes off the deep end a bit on Page Six today trying once again to put Sen. Hillary Clinton on the ticket -- this time by suggesting the timing of the release of her husband's book as part of the plan to make her the running mate. LINK

ABC News Vote 2004: the battlegrounds

Parental notification is likely to be on the presidential election ballot this November in Florida … LINK

Political reality # 431: Voter registration groups are rarely, if ever, truly non-partisan. "In a state where Hispanics already hold considerable political influence, a new nonpartisan voter outreach group is embarking on an ambitious drive to put 50,000 more Hispanics on the voting rolls before November."

So far, that sounds ok … .. though groups registering Hispanics tend to be Democratic.

"The group, called Mi Familia Vota (My Family Votes), is partnering with MTV's Choose or Lose and Rock the Vote initiatives, local media and several well-known leaders across the state to get the word out."

There's the rub. Find us a Republican who believes that Choose or Lose/Rock the Vote is entirely, forthcomingly non-partisan in his goals, orientation, staff or projects. LINK

Later in the story, the writer Notes that the People for the American Way Foundation is among those sponsoring the drive.

The Reno Gazette-Journal's Carla Roccapriore reports on the negative effects of high gas prices on local businesses. LINK

The Portland Oregonian's James Mayer reports that the state legislature is considering two major reform proposals: a state sales tax and strict spending limits. LINK

The Cincinnati Enquirer's Sue Kiesewetter Notes that the Lakota school district, one of Ohio's top rated school ditstricts, will have larger class sizes next year as it is forced by budget problems to lay off teachers. LINK

Jacob Schlesinger of the Wall Street Journal spent some two hours with a Pennsylvania focus group. "Both foreign-policy concerns and lingering economic woes are sowing doubts about Mr. Bush, even among those who voted for him in 2000. Yet the president's Democratic rival hasn't filled in the blanks in voters' minds about him."

The Philadelphia Inquirer's Polman reports that a recent focus group of Pennsylvania suburbanites showed that "the war in Iraq threatens to become Bush's albatross." LINK

Jo Mannies asks: "Is an expired drivers license a proper form of identification for Missouri voters to use at the polls to cast ballots? Secretary of State Matt Blunt, a Republican, says it is. St. Louis County Elections Director Judy Taylor, a Democrat, says it isn't." LINK

Kerry will be in Phoenix on May 7 for the DLC's national "conversation." LINK

As BC04 opened its Manchester headquarters yesterday the Kerry camp turned an empty space into a "'Bush History Museum.'" LINK

The AP sums up New Mexico Gov. Richardson's plan to make his state the "'solar energy capital of America.'" LINK

Shea Andersen of the Albuquerque Tribune reports that limited funds are delaying the Kerry camp from opening an office in the state to compete with BC04, whose office has been "open for more than a month." LINK

The FEC and political committees: Day two …

We often wonder: what does Bob Bauer think?

And wonder ceases: LINK

One thing to come out of the first day of hearings at the FEC is that the May 13 vote is a date that may not hold. LINK

There is no love lost between Bradley Smith and Ed Gillespie.

The Washington Post's Birnbaum observes "the GOP chairman of the Federal Election Commission gently admonished the Republican National Committee for declining to testify yesterday at a hearing about proposed rules to restrict fundraising and spending by independent political organizations." LINK

The RNC initially asked to testify in favor of restricting 527s, but it withdrew its request Friday. Charles R. Spies, the RNC's election law counsel, complained in a letter to the commission that too much of the hearings' focus was on nonprofit groups other than 527s. Spies said the shift in emphasis was a 'cynical diversionary tactic' that undercuts the commission's main task: to decide how best to restrict 527s."

USA Today's Jim Drinkard projects that the FEC is unlikely to make a quick decision on how to regulate the 527 groups, making it unlikely the federal regulators will be able to hinder the anti-Bush interest groups in time to affect the election -- much to the dismay of the Republicans. The bi-partisan commission members don't think the ruling date of May 13 gives them adequate time to get enough votes on either side. LINK

ABC News Vote 2004: the Senate

Watch the campaigns for their first quarter numbers today …

GOP candidates for Senate forumed in Orlando yesterday. LINK

The top two candidates, Messiuers McCollum and Martinez, highlighted their connections to Washington.

The Wall Street Journal's Al Hunt profiles the nasty Rpublican Senate primary contest in Pennsylvania.

The politics of immigration:

Colorado GOP Rep. Tom Tancredo is known nationally for his concern about immigration and his advocacy for term limits. The latter has trumped the former. LINK


Having proved himself an effective city manager, The New York Times ' Steinhauer looks ahead to one of Michael Bloomberg's biggest challenges as he embarks upon his re-election campaign. LINK

"The challenge for Mr. Bloomberg now as he lays the groundwork for a re-election bid is to prove that he can be a charismatic leader as well. In recent weeks, it has become clear that Mr. Bloomberg is making a concerted effort to persuade New Yorkers that he can fulfill the role of cheerleader, bully, baseball fiend, loudmouth and shameless advocate for a city that determinedly demands such élan from their mayor."

In a letter to the editor, a young woman from Pennsylvania writes that she will not be voting this election, despite it being her first election being eligible. "I care very much about the future of our country. But as a young female, I have a hard time believing that any of these politicians truly cares about my age group's votes." LINK

No, it's not an Onion parody of that type of letter.

Some sunny Q-poll numbers for Rudy. LINK

Howard Dean supporters, check your inboxes this morning for a minute-and-a-half video e-mail from Howard Dean and Kate Michelman urging folks to help bring a "historic turnout" to NARAL's "Pro-Choice March for Women's Lives" on April 25. Dean: "Wth personal privacy and a women's right to choose under attack like never before it is time to make our voices heard again." Says Michelman, "Pro-choice Americans must stand up and be counted before it is too late."

The morning shows:

The morning shows led with a combination of Osama bin Laden's new tape, updates on hostage situations in Iraq and the emotional memorial service for Michelle Witmer, who was killed in Iraq last week and whose two sisters are deciding whether to continue their tours in Iraq.

On ABC's "Good Morning America," Sen. Joe Biden previewed the "last chance to get it right" speech he will give about Iraq today. He told Charlie Gibson that the president should authorize more firepower and reach out to allies. On the "Today Show," Republican Sen. Richard Shelby repeated his pointed criticism of CIA Director George Tenet on NBC, saying that while it "may take George Tenet five years" to revamp the intelligence services, as Tenet told the 9/11 commission yesterday, "maybe somebody can do it quicker."

Treasury Secretary John Snow appeared on CNN and Fox on this Tax Day to tout the president's economic policies. On "Fox & Friends," he said Americans never like April 15 but "April 15 is a better day this year because the tax bite is so much smaller."

And Charlie Gibson interviewed Staff Sgt. Michael McNaughton, who lost his right leg in Iraq and ran with President Bush around the White House yesterday.

Democratic National Convention:

In a Boston Globe op-ed, Jeff Jacoby argues the case that the championed $150 million figure Mayor Menino and other officials have been touting forever as the amount of revenue expected from this summer's Democratic convention is a farce based on what economists are saying and past miscalculations. LINK

Noteworthy sightings:

From yesterday's Kerry campaign events in the Big Apple:

Journalist Ashleigh Banfield: with great glasses and all, sitting at donor table 147 at the Sheraton fundraiser.

Blink 182's Tom DeLong -- first as the unidentifiable male sitting next to Chris Heinz at the town hall meeting at CUNY, and then as a speaker at the fundraiser at uber-cool Crobar, standing with the Heinz-Kerry family on stage.

Marissa Tomei -- pouting in the corner when the Secret Service wouldn't let her exit Crobar while Sen. Kerry was in the process of shaking hands.

Sen. Chuck Schumer -- at the Crobar fundraiser referring to the election on Nov. 6 (causing us to double-check ourselves), calling Steve Buscemi "John," and announcing that in the next presidential term there would be, count 'em, four Supreme Court seats up for grabs.

Andre Heinz -- fresh off the plane from Europe, breaking out his hip dance moves as well as his impersonations of Presidents George H.W. Bush, Clinton and Gov. Schwarzenegger.

The economy:

From ABC News' Ramona Schindelheim:

The sharper-than-expected rise in consumer prices in March increased speculation that the Federal Reserve could hike interest rates in the summer or fall.

"Many economists are now saying rising inflation and signs of improvement in the job market could prompt the Fed to raise interest rates by a quarter-point or more before the November election. Rates are at a 45-year low of 1% and its unclear how votes will react to a rate hike. But, GOP strategists can't be happy with the prospects. Back in October 1992, the Fed decided against lowering the rates when the economy was struggling, a move some Republicans say cost the first President Bush re-election."

The inflation news this morning and the possibility of earlier tightening by the Fed sparked a sell-off in the treasury market, pushing yields to a 12-month high.

Higher yields mean higher mortgage rates down the road.

The Los Angeles Times lede on the latest consumer price index figures: "Inflation is back." LINK

"Consumer prices jumped much more sharply than expected in March, driven by increases for gasoline and clothing," reports the New York Times ' Edmund Andrews Noting that the data reawakened worries about a return to higher inflation and higher interest rates. LINK

TODAY SCHEDULE (all times ET):

—8:00 am: Sen. John Kerry attends a DNC breakfast at the 21 Club, New York, N.Y. —8:00 am: Secretary of State Colin Powell meets with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon at the Fairmont Hotel, Washington, D.C. —8:30 am: Labor Department releases weekly report on initial jobless claims, Washington, D.C. —8:30 am: Joint Chiefs Chmn. Gen. Richard Myers conducts one-way briefing, Baghdad, Iraq —8:30 am: The American Enterprise Institute hosts an "election watch" discussion with Karlyn Bowman, Norman Ornstein, William Schneider, and James Glassman, Washington, D.C. —9:15 am: Sen. Kerry meets with Archbishop Demetrios, prelate of the Greek Orthodox Church in America, church headquarters, New York, N.Y. —9:35 am: FEC holds a hearing on the status of political committees and meets with representatives from Americans Coming Together, Focus on Family, National Right to Life Committee, National Right to Life Educational Trust Fund, National Right to Life PAC, Susan B. Anthony List, SBA List Candidate Fund, and the Center for Responsive Politics —10:00 am: Harvard University's Institute of Politics holds a news conference to release a study on the political views of college students —10:30 am: Laura Bush hosts a press preview for the White House Spring Garden Tours —11:30 am: FEC holds a hearing on the status of political committees and meets with representatives from National Education Association, Campaign Legal Center,, and the Media Fund. —12:00 pm: Sen. Joe Biden delivers CSIS speech on "Iraq: Last chance to get it right," Washington, D.C. —12:00 pm: Sen. Kerry delivers remarks at Howard University, Washington, D.C. —12:30 pm: Rep. Charlie Rangel delivers National Press Club speech on "The Iraq War: Who Pays the Real Death Tax," Washington, D.C. —12:45 pm: Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz delivers remarks to the Aspen Institute at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce —1:00 pm: Politics Live on ABC News Live and AOL —1:15 pm: President Bush speaks about the economy at the Marriott Downtown, Des Moines, Iowa —1:45 p.m. Sen. Kerry meets with Washington Archbishop Theodore McCarrick at Kerry's residence, Washington, D.C. —2:00 pm: FEC holds a hearing on the status of political committees and meets with representatives from Housing Works, Free Speech Coalition, Drug Policy Alliance, and the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism —3:30 pm: FEC holds a hearing on the status of political committees and meets with representatives from the ACLU, People for the American Way and the Sierra Club —4:30 pm: Sen. Kerry is greeted by Northern New Jersey veterans upon his arrival at Newark Airport, Newark, N.J. —7:40 pm: Sen. Kerry attends fundraiser at the Sheraton Meadowlands Hotel, East Rutherford, N.J. —midnight: Taxes due