The Note




The week ahead: the President hits the economy and the pitcher's mound , and then does a long "back at the ranch" spell; John Kerry (re)focuses on the economy; Dr. Rice fixes to own Thursday; and the debate over Iraq policy (and the June deadline) takes place within a context of violence and death.

But we have to take a rare look back, because the last 72 hours -- since the last Note -- had so much packed into them, and we suspect that some of you may have missed a thing or three (what with NCAA men's basketball, the Inner Circle dinner, Tony and Adriana almost making out, and the true beginning of the baseball season).

-- In personnel moves that were as big as they were bold, John Kerry installed the incomparable John Sasso at the DNC and the equally-incomparable Jim Margolis stepped down from the campaign's creative ad team. The jury is out on how the second move will effect Kerry's chances of being elected president (We have our suspicions . . . ), but (Note bene, Ken Mehlman) the former will almost certainly greatly enhance the prospects.

-- Some of you laughed when Team Kerry said it could raise $80 million in pre-convention 2004. Now, after a $50 million first quarter, the Boston Globe slipped this sentence into the end of its Friday story: Kerry's pre-convention fundraising goal "will be now be pushed to well over $100 million," according to a Kerry adviser.

-- Much of the political press corps declared the election over (oooops!!!) because of Friday's employment numbers.

-- The New York Times' Adam Nagourney broke the veepstakes story wide open, with a Sunday story featuring an apparent short list and a sprint of a timetable.

-- After last week's strange Karl Rove phone call to CNNs "Inside Politics" to correct the record on negative advertising and John Kerry's numbers, Elisabeth Bumiller recycled her underNoted Laura-Bush-on-Rove quote, and John McLaughlin used his prediction on The Group to take a stand on Mr. Rove's political future.

-- Dr. Rice became the most over-chronicled national security adviser since Henry the K. And some (including Doyle McManus) set up her "audition" for a cabinet-level position! LINK

-- The House passed a $275 billion version of the highway bill, assuring a tussle with the White House and its $256 billion preferred ceiling.

President Bush advocates increasing the number of people trained under Workforce Training Act today in a Charlotte speech today before attending a fundraiser and throwing out the first pitch at the St. Louis Cardinals-Milwaukee Brewers opening day game. Tomorrow he speaks about training for high school and higher education students in Arkansas before heading to the ranch for the rest of week with no public events. On Sunday he holds a press conference with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

Sen. Kerry releases a report today that claims President Bush's tax cuts would increase the deficit, holds reporter roundtables on the economy and tapes remarks to the UFCW. Tomorrow he speaks about jobs and outsourcing in Ohio. On Wednesday he delivers a major economic address advocating a return to the "pay as you go" budget rules of the 1990s and holds a series of meetings with SEIU and UNITE leadership and with African-American reporters. On Thursday he speaks in Madison, Wis. before attending a fundraiser in Chicago. He returns to Boston on Friday for the Easter weekend.

Vice President Cheney throws out the first pitch at the Cincinnati Reds-Chicago Cubs game before speaking at a reception for Senate candidate David Vitter in New Orleans. He travels to Japan, China and South Korea at the end of the week.

Presidential adviser Rove attends a lunch in Dallas and an evening reception in El Paso tomorrow.

National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice appears in public under oath before the 9/11 commission on Thursday.

The top civilian administrator in Iraq, L. Paul Bremer, is in Washington, D.C. this week.

Secretary of State Colin Powell is in Haiti today.

The Administrator of the Energy Information Administration presents the "Summer 2004 Motor Gasoline Outlook" on Thursday.

Ralph Nader is in Seattle and Portland, Ore. today.

Rep. Dennis Kucinich is in Oregon and Colorado this week.


Adam Nagourney looked at the Kerry campaign's James Johnson and his mission to find a running mate in Sunday's New York Times. LINK

Nagourney reported exclusively -- and no one has effectively followed up -- that Kerry "has told associates that he wants to select a running mate within eight weeks."

Young Adam also reports that Johnson has had conversations with Edwards, Gephardt, Richardson, and Vilsack (and none through Friday with Graham).

And we can't be the only ones who were really intrigued by the sixth paragraph: "Democrats close to Mr. Kerry, including some advisers, said [Sen. McCain] remained a highly alluring choice. One adviser said that choice would almost guarantee Mr. Kerry's election. Mr. McCain, who like Mr. Kerry is a Vietnam veteran, has said he does not want to cross party lines to join a Kerry ticket, though some of Mr. Kerry's aides held out the hope of a personal entreaty by Mr. Kerry, outside Mr. Johnson's network."

There is lots more in there; go read it all if you skipped it.

Mike Glover of the Associated Press writes on the talented field of entries in the "John Kerry running-mate sweepstakes," here each contender -- from heartland Gov. Kathleen Sebelius to Maine Republican William Cohen -- has something to add to the Democratic presidential ticket. LINK

Implicitly throwing the gauntlet back into Nagourney's face, however, Glover says that Kerry appears to be in no hurry, despite the fact that many Dems would like to see him pick a running mate soon.

Rob Christensen of the Raleigh News & Observer reports that a new national poll by Case Western University shows that the Son of a Meee-alworker is viewed as being most helpful to the Democratic ticket. Sen. John Edwards received 20 percent of the vote, to Sen. Hillary Clinton's 12 percent. LINK

The morning shows:

All three network television morning shows began today with rioting and more deaths in Iraq over the weekend. The CBS "Early Show" also emphasized the terrorist threat to U.S. rail systems.

Sens. John McCain and Joe Biden spoke with Katie Couric about the situation in Iraq on NBC's "Today Show." Sen. Biden would prefer that the deadline for handing over control of Iraq be kept -- but only if a plan is put in place to figure out who will perform Ambassador Paul Bremer's function of refereeing Iraqi disputes. Sen. McCain foresees a military commitment in Iraq of many years. But as far as political control is concerned, he said "… just because we're transferring power doesn't mean we're packing up and leaving. Sooner or later they have to govern themselves."

The CBS "Early Show" looked at the issue of rail safety in the United States through an interview with Commissioner Ray Kelly of the New York Police Department.

ABC News Vote 2004: Bush vs. Kerry:

Ron Fournier writes in a must-read that Bush and Kerry's political fortunes will be based on events largely out of their control: "unpredictable outcomes in Iraq, the vagaries of the economy and the fight against terrorism." LINK

Bush and Kerry's dueling economic messages today:

AP's Scott Lindlaw previews President Bush's speech today in which he will propose efforts to provide more federally funded job training, especially for health care and high-technology fields. LINK

And AP's Nedra Pickler reports that Sen. Kerry will unveil a study today that claims President Bush is increasing the deficit and, in his Wednesday speech at Georgetown, will unveil his plan to pay for his initiatives and propose a return to the "pay as you go" budget rules of the 1990s. ""We intend to run to President Bush's right on this," said Kerry adviser Roger Altman. LINK

Sen. Ted Kennedy will hit the President hard in a speech this morning at Brookings, accusing the Administration of dishonesty on Iraq and its policies in general, saying, "In this Administration, truth is the first casualty of policy."

Some excerpts:

"During the 2000 campaign, America met a Republican candidate for President who promised to conduct our foreign affairs as a 'humble nation,' not an 'arrogant nation.' He was conservative, but he promised to be a 'compassionate conservative.' He promised to overcome the 'soft bigotry of low expectations' in our schools. He promised to meet the urgent need of senior citizens for prescription drug coverage under Medicare. He promised to change the tone in Washington."

"What happened to those promises? In the White House, George Bush has been arrogant, not humble in foreign affairs; conservative, not compassionate in domestic policy. As we now know, all the reassuring language of the 2000 election campaign was a Trojan Horse cynically constructed to smuggle the extreme right wing into the White House."

The Boston Herald's Andrew Miga writes about some of Kerry's Boston neighbors who have cut checks for the President. LINK

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

AP's Scott Lindlaw previews President Bush's speech today in which he will propose efforts to provide more federally funded job training, especially for health care and high-technology fields. LINK

The President plans to "double the number of workers who complete federal training each year from the current 200,000 to 400,000 -- but is putting no new money into the effort.," Notes the Washington Post's Mike Allen. LINK

Tony Mecia of the Charlotte Observer lays out President Bush's new jobs plan, which will be unveiled today at Charlotte's Central Piedmont Community College. LINK

USA Today's Susan Page heads out to Missouri to talk to voters and find out how the BC04 ad campaign -- "Define Kerry in a negative way with voters in battleground states before he has a chance to make a positive first impression" -- is working.

"Seven months before Election Day, voters who know little else about the Massachusetts senator are echoing Bush's ads." LINK

"In an unusual election year intraparty debate," Republicans are divided over the Patriot Act, which President Bush is urging Congress to reauthorize and some conservatives say gives the government too much power to "sneak and peek" on the public. LINK

Ann Gerhart profiles RNC Chairman Ed Gillespie in today's Washington Post, following the chairman on his travels to register more voters and bring more people into the Republican Party -- including in New York City. LINK

The RNC's Reggie the Registration rig will join Vice President Cheney in Cincinnati today. The 18-wheeler will be parked outside the Great American Ball Park today for Opening Day.

Elisabeth Bumiller of the New York Times takes Notice of the strong women the President has surrounded himself with, who have become some of his most important advisors. LINK

"Some of President Bush's splashiest proposals are languishing in Congress even though his party controls both chambers," reports the Washington Post's Chuck Babington, Noting "the main reason is not Democratic obstruction but a lack of vigorous follow-through by the administration once the initial hoopla died down, according to some Republican and Democratic lawmakers." LINK

In October 2000, then-candidate George Bush promised that if elected President he would ensure that Americans had the right to sue their HMOs if they were wrongfully denied benefits. The Washington Post's Charles Lane reports that Bush might have flip-flopped on this issue though as the Bush Justice Department is now asking the Supreme Court to block such lawsuits. LINK

The Washington Post editorial board writes that it is time White House made public the reports from the energy task force. LINK

"The administration's defense of its 'partial birth' ban and the new 'unborn victims' law have a common theme: profound disrespect for women," writes the New York Times editorial page. LINK

The Louisville Courier Journal says First lady Laura Bush will be in town later this month for "one of the first fund-raisers for the Republican National Committee's Presidential Trust. LINK

The Charlotte Observer's Jim Morrill asks how deep are the pockets of Republican donors in North Carolina? President Bush has raised $3 million from the state, which also has a U.S. Senate race, the nation's most expensive congressional race, and a seven-way GOP primary for governor. LINK

Rob Christensen of the Raleigh News & Observer offers a summary of last week's Reynolds Plantation event with President Bush, observing the changing nature of mega-fundraisers in the Republican Party, including a new emphasis on women. LINK

ABC News Vote 2004: Sen. John Kerry:

"Seeking to define himself as a deficit hawk, Senator John Kerry on Sunday issued a report accusing the Bush administration of fueling the deficit and crippling state budgets by approving or proposing programs worth more than $6 trillion without paying for them," writes Katharine Seelye of the New York Times as she previews Kerry's "weeklong focus on the economy." Regional newspapers look out! LINK

The Los Angeles Times' Brownstein raps Kerry for failing to heed his own advice on the issue of education, writing that "after voting for President Bush's No Child Left Behind Act in 2001, Kerry, during his race to the nomination, joined the mob of Democrats condemning the education reform law." Kerry's "proposed revisions mostly favor the adults working in the school system over students and their parents," says Brownstein. LINK

The Los Angeles Times' La Ganga on the "more complex" political "atmosphere" facing Sen. Kerry post-Ketchum and surgery. LINK

Note to Professor Berry: you sure do know a lot about this campaign and presidential politics!!!

The Washington Times reports that Kerry's Easter plans are becoming a political issue. "Mr. Kerry's positions favoring human stem-cell research; the right to abortion, including partial-birth abortion; and civil unions between homosexuals are contrary to church teachings and have turned a vocal and active group of conservative Catholics against him," writes the paper. LINK

Jim Tankersley of the Rocky Mountain News reports that the Kerry campaign is being urged to devote resources to Colorado, a state which George W. Bush won by 51 percent in 2000. Kerry's advisors are considering adding the state to their ad campaign and putting paid campaign staff in the state. Those advisors say Colorado is now included in the same category with Arkansas and Louisiana as states where Kerry might unexpectedly have a chance to win. LINK

Tankersley also Notes the new Rocky Mountain News poll, showing interest among Coloradoans in the presidential campaign high. LINK

The New York Times' ed board argues for increased fuel economy standards as it encourages John Kerry to stay the course with his "'energy independence'" plan and avoid playing politics with the issue. LINK

The Secret Service is going to have to cough up some cash to protect Sen. Kerry in Beantown, reports the New York Daily News, while also Noting that Democratic National Convention organizers hope one Ms. Streisand will croon come convention time. LINK

The Boston Globe's Glen Johnson reports on the high level of interest in Kerry's Senate seat among the Massachusetts' House delegation and the small moves some members are taking to prepare for the possibility of gunning for a seat in that other chamber. LINK

Knight Ridder's James Kuhnhenn writes, "For John Kerry, taunting is out. Big tent is in." LINK

Roll Call's Chris Cillizza looks at the joint fundraising committee, Kerry Victory 2004, that allows donors to contribute both to Kerry and to the Democratic National Committee. It's the first time a Democratic candidate and the DNC have struck such a deal, which puts the first $2,000 of any check in the Kerry campaign's account, and the rest goes to the party, and the two split the costs of events designed to bring in money for the JFC.

Cillizza helpfully reminds us that "Individual contributors are limited to $95,000 in donations per election cycle with $37,500 of that allocated to individual candidates and $57,500 to political action committees and parties."

Cillizza also reports that the Kerry campaign "has taken steps in recent days to ramp up its message coordination with its supporters on Capitol Hill in hopes of matching the aggressive efforts already put in place by President Bush's Republican allies."

See the excerpts from Sen. Kennedy's speech above.

On Sunday, the Atlanta Journal Constitution's Scott Shepard wrote about the developing and potential role of President Clinton in the Kerry campaign. LINK

The Globe's Johnson has a second piece detailing Kerry's somewhat busy Sunday, when he "launched a planned weeklong assault on President Bush over his handling of the economy."LINK

The Boston Herald's Thomas Caywood reports on Kerry's Sunday and his shoulder. LINK

From ABC News' Kerry campaign reporter Ed O'Keefe:

ROXBURY, Mass., April 4 -- Sen. John Kerry emerged from his Beacon Hill home in Boston for the first time in four days Sunday to attend Palm Sunday services at the Charles Street AME Church in Roxbury, Mass.

Kerry, who has been down for vacation in Ketchum, Idaho, and recuperating from shoulder surgery for the past 10 out of 18 days, held the Bible in his right hand but shook with his left and was not wearing a visible sling over a dark suit and crisp white shirt.

The Senator, joined by Boston Mayor Menino, his wife Angela, and "Sister" Teresa Heinz Kerry, who received a loud ovation from the Baptist church crowd, listened as Rev. Gregory G. Groover paid tribute to Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., on the anniversary of his death, and delivered a homily which preached steadfastness as "experts write you off," "dismiss you as a has-been" and "(enemies) write your obituary."

Groover, whether intentional or not, even incorporated Kerry's signature stump line into the sermon explaining how "Jesus looked at the Calvary and said, 'Bring it on'."

Kerry quickly departed following the two-hour mass through the church's back door, failing to greet parishioners, as is his usual custom.

Groover explained that the Senator had "get to the airport," although Kerry's campaign charter did not depart until more than five hours later.

The Massachusetts Senator returns to Washington Monday for a series of closed meetings.

Kerry will focus on the economy Tuesday, making his first campaign trip in nearly a week when traveling to Cincinnati, Ohio.

Kerry has already traveled to the emerging Buckeye battleground three times in the past month.

Building on the campaign's record-setting quarter, Kerry also continues his 20-city fundraising tour, holding large-scale events in both Washington and Chicago.

Read more from the trail with Kerry on LINK

ABC News Vote 2004: the battlegrounds:

Shea Andersen of the Albuquerque Tribune Notes that Sen. Ramsay Gorham officially resigned as chairwoman of the New Mexico Republican Party and announced she will end her re-election campaign for her Senate seat, which she has held since 1997. LINK

From the outside:

SEIU's 1199 this morning sends off "hundreds of trained political organizers" to pitch in on battleground duty. Expected on hand: SEIU President Andy Stern and Emily's List guru Ellen Malcolm.

Speaking of . . . The Note hears last Friday morning AFL-CIO's political directors meeting was mighty interesting -- and could be mighty profitable for Team Kerry if individual union leaders are successful in rallying their members to give some dough to the Kerry effort.

And look this morning for the New Democrat Network to unveil its next two TV ads, set to play in the battlegrounds of Arizona, Florida, New Mexico and Nevada. As previewed Sunday on "This Week with George Stephanopoulos," the spots are part of the NDN's push to get the Democratic message to Hispanic voters this cycle. Also Note that one Gov. Bush will be on hand to rally the BC04 faithful later this month when the President's Hispanic Steering Committee effort is announced in Orlando.

The economy:

USA Today's Barbara Hagenbaugh and Sue Kirchhoff report, "Sharp job gains in March are leading economists to bump up their expectations for when Federal Reserve policymakers will increase interest rates, but rates likely will still remain near historic lows through 2004." LINK

Write the Los Angeles Times' Petruno and Friedman, "with faster employment growth also comes the fear that interest rates could rise substantially from what have been extraordinarily low levels over the last 20 months." LINK

The Wall Street Journal's ed board is sick and tired of the economic recovery getting no respect at all and wants reporters to go Back to School (LINK) to stop spreading pessimism as the rosy numbers pour in.

Rice and the politics of the 9/11 Commission:

Charles Lane of the Washington Post reports on the seeming contradictions National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice will need to clarify this week when she goes before the 9/11 commission. LINK

The New York Times' Sanger and Jehl profile Rice, Noting that "any blind spots she had upon taking office in January 2001 might have been rooted in the fact that she emerged from a generation of scholars trained to focus on great-power politics, with terrorism seen as a troubling but subordinate element." And they offer us this: "Ms. Rice also created a hierarchical, corporate style in which she largely delegated policy development to others." Lots of blind quotes . . . . LINK

In a story that just had to have a Washington dateline, the Los Angeles Times' McManus writes that when Rice testifies Thursday "much of Washington will be watching raptly -- not just to hear what she says, but to see whether she blows her chance of getting a Cabinet post if Bush is reelected." LINK

AP's William Mann wraps 9/11 commission members' promises to ask Rice why anti-terror efforts failed to stop the Sept. 11 attacks and how the Administration has changed its efforts since. LINK

The 9/11 commission's chairmen "indicated that their final report this summer would find that the Sept. 11 attacks were preventable," reports Philip Shenon of the New York Times. This sentence is a must-read: "The commission has said it intends to make its final report public on July 26, which Congress has set as the commission's deadline, although Mr. Kean and Mr. Hamilton said there could be a struggle with the White House over whether the full document can be declassified." Note the Card and Lugar comments. LINK

Note that Kean and Hamilton suggested that the Bush-Cheney "visit" date is set and soon, but wouldn't say when.

The politics of Iraq:

On "This Week," Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Richard Lugar told ABC News' George Stephanopoulos that it was time to debate whether the June 30 date for transferring sovereignty to the Iraqis might be premature, reports Felicity Barringer of the New York Times. LINK

AP's Jennifer Kerr Notes that the Administration reaffirmed its commitment to the June 30 deadline to turn over power in Iraq following questioning by Sen. Luger yesterday on "This Week." LINK

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Pat Roberts criticized prewar intel on Sunday. LINK

The New York Times' William Safire scolds the press, the public, and the politicians for looking at threats behind, not ahead, writing "This look back generates dramatic confrontations at congressional hearings, sells books, hypes cable ratings and wallows in justifying past positions. But it avoids engagement in the much-needed debate about how to conduct this war now and in the future." LINK

Sen. Clinton wants all returning members of the 442nd Military Police Company of the New York Army National Guard to be tested for depleted uranium contamination. LINK

The Washington Post's Al Kamen uncovers Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's plan to get his fellow Cabinet members to get the media to report on the successes in Iraq. LINK

AP's Jim Krane takes a must-read look at the press office for coalition forces in Iraq -- run by Republican press veterans, including Spencer Abraham's former press secretary Dan Senor -- and the marketing of the war with a positive election-year spin. LINK



The Washington Post's Brian Faler on Nader's ballot access challenges. Nader needs to get some 620,000 valid signatures to get on the ballot in all 50 states. He's going after the most difficult states first and in some cases getting creative. He's in Portland today to take advantage of an obscure law that gets him on the ballot if he can wrangle up 1000 petition-signers and get them together in one room. LINK

And, says Faler:

"Nader will run with at least one party -- his own. The candidate recently created the Populist Party, under whose banner he will run in states that require fewer signatures from new parties than they do from individual candidates. In North Carolina, for example, election officials ask for about 100,000 signatures from independent candidates but fewer than 60,000 from people organizing new parties."

The New York Times' John Tierney on Republican donors to Nader's campaign. Turns out that some people who had previously given money to Bush or to the Republican Party also gave Nader some dough. But conspiracy theorists will be disappointed so far. It seems the motives for the giving don't have much to do with political intrigue after all. LINK

The culprits? Among them pizza magnate Jeno Paulucci, who calls Nader "a good guy" and also the eponymous host of game show "Win Ben Stein's Money" who says of his $2000 donation to Nader:

"If he gets into the debates and raises issues about securities fraud that no one else has raised, I consider it money well donated."

The Philadelphia Inquirer's Dick Polman writes that Nader's run has made him something of a pariah among liberals and former supporters. Nader himself lists the deserting stars. LINK

"Phil Donahue, Susan Sarandon, Tim Robbins . . . not to mention Danny Glover, Bonnie Raitt, Michael Moore, Willie Nelson."

In the end, though, Polman asks an excellent question:

"If liberals are really so determined to vote Democratic and take no risks this year, why are they worried about Nader in the first place? That's what he's wondering. And most polls thus far don't paint Nader as a major threat to Kerry. But, as a national Democrat said privately the other day: "We're still very sensitive, almost superstitious, about anything related to the devastating outcome in 2000."

Roll Call's Stuart Rothenberg says early polls giving Nader anywhere from 3-5 percent, don't represent reality and that his draw will most likely end up being less.

"There are still enough backpack carrying, anti-corporate vegans to get 1 or 2 percentage points in the general election. "

But "does this mean that on Nov. 3 we won't look at Nader's vote in Florida, New Hampshire, Oregon or New Mexico and conclude that he "cost" Kerry a state or two and therefore the election? Of course not. If an election is close enough, anything is possible."

The Chicago Tribune's David Jackson takes a visit to Winsted, Conn., Nader's hometown to take measure of the consumer crusader's efforts back home. LINK

Weekend must-reads:

The Washington Post's Walter Pincus and Dana Milbank on Sunday detailed the charges facing Condoleezza Rice when she talks to the 9/11 Commission Thursday. They explain those aspects of the Richard Clarke assertions that have been corroborated (and those that have not), concluding that "With the exception of the Predator issue, Clarke's alleged misrepresentations are largely peripheral to his central argument about Bush's lack of attention to terrorism before Sept. 11. The White House believes this nevertheless suggests flaws in Clarke's overall credibility." LINK

On Sunday, the New York Times' Elisabeth Bumiller wrote that Dr. Rice "will have to turn in a show-stopping performance as the woman on whose shoulders the credibility of the Bush administration now rests." LINK

Peter Bergen and Scott Armstrong suggested questions for Dr. Rice in Sunday's New York Times. LINK and LINK

Newsweek's Michael Isikoff explained how the White House was convinced to let Condoleezza Rice appear before the 9/11 Commission. LINK

Newsweek's Eleanor Clift slammed President Bush for not appearing in front of the 9/11 Commission alone, writing "With the revelation of the tandem testimony, nobody with a straight face can deny Cheney is a co-president or worse, the puppeteer who pulls Bush's strings." LINK

In Sunday's New York Times, Maureen Dowd wrote that the President "is trying to pull America and Iraq into his bubble." LINK

In a Washington Post op-ed Sunday, Sen. Joe Biden asked what he considered three unanswered questions needing responses before the Coalition Provisional Authority hands Iraq over to the people on June 30. LINK

The Washington Post's Dana Milbank and Rich Morin wrote on Sunday of a recent Post poll indicating that President Bush seems to be losing his Hughes-crafted "compassionate conservative" image that was a centerpiece of the 2000 Bush campaign. "The Post poll found Americans split over whether Bush has governed in a compassionate way, with 49 percent saying he has and 45 percent saying he has not. " LINK

Craig Crawford beware! In a separate Sunday piece, Nagourney reported that 2004 will continue to be a most challenging year for prognostication. LINK

And hey Bob Shrum! Way down toward the end of this one Nagourney wrote, "Officials in both parties say anxiety about the economy is not as palpable as it was in 1992, when Bill Clinton defeated Mr. Bush's father in an election that was based largely on economic issues."

In Sunday's Washington Post Outlook section, political scientist Thomas F. Schaller asked whether or not this presidential race will be close enough to call to question the Electoral College enough to "prompt a genuine national conversation about whether the Electoral College is still the best way to elect a president." He warned of another "misfire" where one of the candidates wins the popular vote but wins the election and described how that could happen -- and it could be President Bush this time. LINK

On Sunday, the New York Daily News' Helen Kennedy walked us through the importance of Pennsylvania for Kerry and how some Keystone Staters think that Mrs. Heinz Kerry's popularity and the President's frequent visits are boosting him to success in the commonwealth. LINK

In Sunday's New York Post, Brian Blomquist wrote a brief compare-and-contrast piece about the Bush and Kerry campaigns, Noting "there's no confusion about the chain of command" at BC04 and "the Kerry campaign has more overlap at the top." LINK

On Sunday, the Washington Post's Don Oldenburg investigated the super secret Skull and Bones society and reported back with many of the myths and legends surrounding this group that counts both the President and Sen. Kerry as members -- as well as major leaders from all aspects of American life. "Never before have two Bonesmen run against each other for the presidency. It's a coincidence of historic political proportions." LINK

The New York Post's Blomquist wrote up Friday's employment numbers news on Saturday, reporting that the President "got an advance peek at the numbers Thursday night and it clearly showed [Friday] morning when he was boarding Marine One for the trip to West Virginia -- Bush smiled and gave the thumbs-up sign." LINK

In Saturday's New York Times, Robin Toner and Edmund Andrews psychoanalyzed Friday's employment numbers, reminding us all that "for voters, the critical issue is less the absolute level of employment than whether their own job prospects are improving." LINK

Janet Hook of the Los Angeles Times wrote Sunday that despite President Bush's assertions that the economy is getting better because of his prized tax cuts, "many economists say that the president is overselling the effect of the cuts. Some also have questions about whether the cuts were constructed in the most cost-efficient way to spur economic growth." LINK

On Saturday, Glen Justice and Jodi Wilgoren wrote up Kerry's fundraising news in the New York Times. LINK

Also on Saturday, Wilgoren wrote about how Kerry may be working the rope lines and the crowds better than anyone's given him credit for so far. LINK

Note that Jodi got an interview with the candidate for this hard-hitting piece.

The Los Angeles Times' Rainey reported Sunday that Sen. Kerry is taking a cold hard look at some of his proposed programs and the math of making them work, forcing his advisors to come up with a comprehensive federal budget proposal, which in turn forces the presumptive Democratic nominee to scale back some of his plans. LINK

Time's Joe Klein seemed antsy and maybe even a little angry as he advised Kerry in the following manner: "There are two other possible paths for Kerry: blandness and boldness." Read to find out the Klein path of choice. LINK

The Boston Globe's Glen Johnson reported that Kerry met with former national security advisor Sandy Berger regarding Middle East policy -- joined by Middle East envoy Dennis Ross and Martin S. Indyk, director of the Saban Center for Middle Eastern Policy at the Brookings Institution. He also Noted the departure of Kerry advertising advisor Jim Margolis over alleged clashing with Bob Shrum. LINK

Newsweek's Howard Fineman gives Sen. Kerry some "spin" advice on how to get his campaign back on track -- with suggestions ranging from losing Ted Kennedy to defining himself before Karl Rove does to "be a person, not a pol . . . Ohio swing voters don't bond with a snowboarder in Sun Valley." LINK

The Boston Globe reported of a huge marketing blitz being planned by organizers of the Democratic National Convention that "aims to undo old images of a traffic-bound, racially torn city and remake Boston's image as a glittering mecca of democratic ideals and a desirable tourist destination." LINK

In Saturday's New York Times, Elisabeth Rosenthal profiled two politically engaged Connecticut fellows of similar pedigree but different ideology to expound on the topic of political engagement, Noting that polls "show that voter interest in the presidential race is 20 percent higher than it was at this time in the 2000 campaign." LINK

On Saturday, the New York Times' James Dao looked at Toomey v. Specter. LINK

Legislative agenda:

In serious fightin' words, the New York Times' ed board says the President's threat to veto a new highway and mass transit bill is "a transparent campaign flourish to make President Bush appear deficit-conscious." LINK

Bob Novak takes a look at the highway bill and all of its permutations, i.e., massive numbers of pork projects, that it went through on the way to passage. It embodies, Novak writes, how Republicans who used to lead the charge on cutting government now favor expanding it. LINK

"The highway bill marks the absolute termination of the Gingrich Revolution ushered in by the 1994 sweep. In the face of Bush's repeated veto threats, Republicans are determined to pass a bill filled with earmarked spending for individual members of Congress. The 1982 highway bill contained only 10 earmarks. The 1991 bill, the last highway bill passed under Democratic leadership, contained 538 such projects. But the addiction for pork has grown so large that the current bill contains at least 3,193 earmarks."

The Wall Street Journal's Amy Schatz writes that the passage of the highway bill sets "the stage for a potentially prolonged election-year fight over the deficit and business tax breaks."

"Some of President Bush's splashiest proposals are languishing in Congress even though his party controls both chambers," reports the Washington Post's Chuck Babington, Noting "the main reason is not Democratic obstruction but a lack of vigorous follow-through by the administration once the initial hoopla died down, according to some Republican and Democratic lawmakers." LINK

The politics of gas:

Scott Finn of the Charleston Gazette reports that the West Virginia state government may be paying about $100,000 in federal gas taxes that is should not have to pay, according to legislative auditors. LINK

Michael Frazier of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports that, as gas prices are on the rise, so are thefts of the expensive stuff by customers who don't want to pay. LINK

Big Casino budget politics: Medicare:

The Boston Globe's Stephen Glain writes about the "22-city tour launched this month by Families USA, a nonpartisan advocacy group for seniors," that is convincing some seniors that the Medicare bill passed last year is reason enough to vote against the President. LINK

The politics of same-sex marriage:

The Associated Press reports that longtime supporter of gay and lesbian rights, Rhode Island House Majority Leader Gordon Fox, has come out of the closet "to support our case" on gay marriage. LINK

ABC News Vote 2004: the Senate:

USA Today's Kathy Kiely hones in on the Pennsylvania primary contest between Sen. Specter and Rep, Toomey. LINK

There are also quick bio files for each of them. LINK and LINK

The Chicago Sun-Times' Cathleen Falsani profiles Barack Obama, the Democratic Senate nominee in Illinois, leading with his spiritual side. LINK

Tim Giago, editor and publisher of the Lakota Journal, announced that he is ditching his plans to run in South Dakota's Democratic Senate primary and will instead challenge Tom Daschle and Republican John Thune in the general election, reports Brian Faler. LINK

Democratic National Convention:

AP's Jennifer Peter reports on how the logistical plans for the Democratic National Committee have allegedly become a "quagmire." LINK


"Democrats and Republicans are raising record amounts of cash for the 2004 elections," reports the Wall Street Journal's Jeanne Cummings, despite campaign finance reform's passage.

The Wall Street Journal's Gary Fields on Attorney Gen. Ashcroft as Political Lightning Rod.

Wal Mart takes its case directly to the voters, reports the New York Times' Broder. LINK

Robbie Sherwood of the Arizona Republic looks over the various ballot referenda the Legislature is considering for the November ballot. LINK


Howard Kurtz profiles Fox News Channel's Carl Cameron and his "fair and balanced" coverage of John Kerry. LINK

Our independent judgment is that this piece is more favorable than the last piece Howie did on Carl.

USA Today's Jayme Deerwester reports from inside the taping of Jeopardy!'s "Power Player" specials. LINK

TODAY SCHEDULE (all times ET):

—10:00 am: The Supreme Court convenes to release orders —10:00 am: SEIU President Andy Stern and Ellen Malcom, president of ACT and CEO of Emily's List, hold a rally to send 150 1199 workers to battleground states, New York, N.Y. —10:10 am: President Bush proposes doubling the number of people trained under the Workforce Training Act in a speech at Central Piedmont Community College, Charlotte, N.C. —11:00 am: The New Democrat Network unveils the next phase of its media campaign, Washington, D.C. —11:00 am: Sen. Edward Kennedy delivers a speech at Brookings accusing President Bush of committing "policy perjury," Washington, D.C. —12:10 pm: President Bush attends a Bush-Cheney 2004 fundraiser luncheon at the Charlotte Convention Center, Charlotte, N.C. —12:30 pm: Sen. John Kerry attends reporter roundtables on the economy, Washington, D.C. —1:00 pm: The Senate convenes for legislative business —1:00 pm: The Canada Power System Outage Task Force presents its final report on the August, 2003 blackout on a conference call —2:00 pm: Mayor Thomas Menino and the rest of the Democratic National Convention committee announce the month-long Celebrate Boston 2004 celebration, Roxbury, Mass. —2:30 pm: Ralph Nader holds a press conference and campaign rally at the Town Hall, Seattle, Wash. —3:00 pm: U.S. Trade Representative Robert B. Zoellick meets with Turkish Trade Minister Kursad Tuzmen —3:01 pm: Vice President Cheney throws out the first pitch at Cincinnati Reds' opening day game against the Chicago Cubs, Cincinnati, Ohio —3:30 pm: Sen. John Kerry tapes remarks made to the United Food and Commercial Workers at Live Shots Studio, Washington, D.C. —4:10 pm: President Bush throws out the first pitch at the Cardinals' opening day game against the Cubs, St. Louis, Mo. —7:00 pm: Karen Hughes holds a book signing event at Rainy Day Books, Fairway, Kan. —7:30 pm: Vice President Cheney delivers remarks at a reception for Senatorial Candidate David Vitter at the Plimsoll Club, New Orleans, La. —9:00 pm: Ralph Nader attends a nominating convention at the Roseland Theatre, Portland, Ore.