The Note




On a day when Washington is focused on confusion and horror in Iraq, tomorrow's key job numbers, Sen. John Kerry's expected $40 million+ (+++++++++!!!!!!!!!!!!!) quarterly take, the DSCC's $7 million March haul (Thanks, Mr. Obama!), continued GOP fundraising prowess, and on highway bill and welfare reform deliberations -- President Bush signs a base-strengthening bill in the Rose Garden at the White House, Sen. Kerry recovers from surgery, and The Note is looking slightly further into the future.

All the way through that sunny month of fools -- April.

Do take a look at some of our favorite events slated to take place in the 30 days to come!

-- Today or tomorrow, expect the Kerry campaign to announce it has raised more than $40 million for the first quarter of this year, shattering all sorts of presidential campaign fundraising records for a candidate and a Democrat. One number that will surely go by the wayside -- Howard Dean's $14.8 million party record. Don't be surprised if the campaign's take breaks other interesting marks, too -- including a possible record number of contributors by some key measures . . . (Now: what to do with that cash . . . )

-- Bush-Cheney 2004 holds its National Party for the President Day, leading even more people to believe that Ken Mehlman is the political Yoda of his time. And you thought DEAN had a grassroots movement . . .

-- Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) and Rep. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) participate in Republican senatorial primary debate, offering the Club for Growth another chance at a press mention. Hoeffel crosses his fingers.

-- The Southern Republican Leadership Conference holds its conference in Miami Beach. Ed Gillespie speaks and Gov. Bush hosts a reception. (All just a few short miles away from South Beach! We can hear the bass/base thumping now!)

-- Opening day for Major League Baseball -- AND The Masters! Kerry will not throw out a first pitch. The vigorous VP Cheney just might and maybe the POTUS.

-- The Arkansas Democratic Party holds a fundraiser honoring Gen. Wesley Clark (Ret.) and Gert Clark, leading the RNC to remember wistfully the days when The General spoke to its Razorback faithful. And when the state GOP had a cohesive party organization there.

-- FBI Director Robert Mueller participates in the Landon Lecture series at Kansas State University, sending all reporters covering the Sept. 11 Commission's activities to the edge of their seats.

-- Sen. Joe Lieberman discusses his presidential campaign and the 2004 election in a forum sponsored by the Hartford Courant. Jano Cabrera wonders why the paper was so tough on his boss when he was IN the race. Then Cabrera considers writing a Maslin-esque tome on the Lieberman campaign.

-- The Log Cabin Republicans hold their national convention in Palm Springs, Calif. "Lunch with Andrew Sullivan" is on the agenda.

-- Cokie Roberts' new book, "Founding Mothers," is released to widespread acclaim.

-- The Supreme Court hears oral arguments in Cheney v. U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Reporters wonder what Condoleezza Rice's testimony earlier in the month will mean to the Court's decision.

-- Kerry fundraises and fundraises and fundraises and lifts his arm above his head.

-- The Boston Globe shamelessly (but rightly) promotes its new Kerry tome.

See our futures calendar for all those dates and more.

Today's must-reads:

(1) In a boffo write-up of his paper's latest poll, the Los Angeles Times' Brownstein reports that "while the new questions about Bush's initial response to the terrorist threat could pose a long-term problem for him, the poll suggests the controversy has not significantly changed the dynamics propelling the country toward another close presidential race." LINK

Writes Brownstein, the Times' "survey found presumed Democratic nominee John F. Kerry holding a 49% to 46% advantage over Bush among registered voters, a difference within the poll's margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points."

The President's "overall approval rating" is "at 51%, with 44% disapproving."

There is tons and tons of Richard Clarke-related data, as well as tons and tons of Bush-Kerry stuff.

Brownstein is always fascinated by right track/wrong track, and this data set shows that perhaps getting a bit worse for the President.

BC04 strategist Matthew Dowd tells The Note about the poll: "As I have said, I think the equilibrium point of this race right now is tied, which means some polls will show us up a bit (Gallup) and some down a bit, and others tied. It should be this way until the Democratic convention."

(2) The AP's Leigh Strope Notes that "Unemployment rates increased in February in nine of 17 battleground states that could decide the presidential election in November. LINK

"Jobless rates fell in six of the most contested states and held steady in two others, according to figures released Wednesday by the Labor Department."

The Los Angeles Times' Brownstein scores the rare two-must-reads-in-one-day coup, with his own piece on the employment/battleground overlay. LINK

Jedi Master Brownstein looks at the jobs picture in the all-important swing states and writes "for President Bush and his presumed Democratic challenger, John F. Kerry, the most important figures may be the large job losses in Ohio and Missouri and the smaller decline in Pennsylvania. Among them, the three states account for 52 of the 270 electoral votes needed to win the White House." LINK

We promise the graph following the one above is a must-read all by itself!

(3) John Kerry has picked an inopportune time to drop off the radar, write Adam Nagourney and Jodi Wilgoren of the New York Times, as Bush seems to be at his weakest Kerry has not been able to stay in the spotlight. The Times' dynamic duo toggles effortlessly back and forth between glass-half-full and glass-half-empty for the Democratic nominee presumptive. LINK

(4) The Baltimore Sun's Susan Baer profiles two strong influences behind Vice President Cheney -- his two daughters, Liz and Mary, Noting that each one, "somewhat incidentally, casts a light on one of the flashpoints of the 2004 presidential campaign -- one, a pillar of the administration's foreign policy; the other, the chief cultural clash of the election so far." LINK

"On the issue of gay marriage, Liz Cheney says she agrees with the stance her father articulated as a vice presidential candidate in 2000 when he said he thought the issue should be left to the states . . . Liz would not describe her sister's position on the issue, but she says Mary has discussed the topic with her father."

Baer neatly lays out both daughters professional and personal history, Noting Mary's public career working on outreach to gays and lesbians and Liz's experience in foreign affairs, particularly in the Middle East, and the role they will play in the campaign.

(And we are so curious as to what is on the VP's iPod.)

(5) The Washington Post's Jonathan Weisman reports "the Bush administration this week began responding to the movement of jobs overseas, outlining how to make the U.S. labor force more competitive against international rivals. But some congressional Republicans -- unsatisfied with what they say is an overly complex, tepid answer -- are planning their own assault on "offshoring."" LINK

(6) Robin Wright on the speech NSA Rice was scheduled to deliver on Sept. 11 that would focus primarily on missile defense and not terrorism from radical Islamic groups. "The address was designed to promote missile defense as the cornerstone of a new national security strategy, and contained no mention of al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden or Islamic extremist groups, according to former U.S. officials who have seen the text." LINK

President Bush is Washington, D.C. This afternoon, he'll sign the "Unborn Victims of Violence Act" into law at an event in the Rose Garden. In the evening, he will attend the National Republican Congressional Committee Dinner with Mrs. Bush.

Sen. Kerry is recovering from his shoulder surgery at his home in Boston. He has no public events scheduled until Sunday.

The Senate will resume consideration of the TANF bill, while the House meets to complete work on the highway bill.

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

President Bush is winding down his campaign fundraising appearances and brought in $1.5 million last night in a Big Fat Greek Fundraiser in Washington, D.C.

AP reports: "Greek surnames dominated the list of donors for the event, one day before a White House 'Celebration of Greek Independence Day.'"

The event, chaired by San Diego Chargers owner Alex Spanos, "was more upscale than some recent Bush fund-raisers, where donors were treated to boxed meals. On Wednesday night, each table had a bottle of wine," the AP Notes. LINK

The Bush-Cheney '04 campaign may be breaking all fundraising records, but the juggernaut might harm Senate Republicans' money efforts.

The Hill reports that "a number of the GOP's heavy hitters are bumping up against the $57,500 cap" on individual contributions to all party committees under the new campaign finance laws. LINK

The New York Times' Elisabeth Bumiller reports that Karen Hughes "made clear that things were not quite so smooth" in the Bush White House.

"The president, her adored boss, could be impatient and short tempered. She and Karl Rove, the powerful political adviser, had arguments. And she and the White House were slow to react to Democratic accusations that the president shirked some of his National Guard duty in the 1970's." LINK

It's not clear if the lunching ladies both had liver or just Ms. Hughes.

President Bush threatened "to cast his first veto on a popular highway bill filled with pet projects of Congress members" reports Carl Hulse of the New York Times, predicting that this may be a test to see if "Congressional Republicans are serious about their promises to restrain the deficit." LINK

The Wall Street Journal's Al Hunt says the Bush White House has a "credibility gap," writing that "terrorism, the Iraqi war and Medicare are big items, and this president hasn't leveled with the American people."

Rice, Clarke, and the politics of the 9/11 Commission:

Asked by Don Imus this morning if he "chuckled" when the White House announced that Bush and Cheney would appear together before the 9/11 Commission, Thomas Kean, the commission's chair, quipped: "I don't know if I chuckled . . . I recognized that maybe the President has to coach Cheney a bit every now and then." (Laughter).

The panel investigating Sept. 11 is "conducting a detailed review of all discrepancies found in public and private statements by Condoleezza Rice and Richard A. Clarke in drawing up questions for Ms. Rice when she testifies before the panel," reports the New York Times' Shenon and Jehl. LINK

The Washington Post's Dana Milbank and Dan Eggen write that President Bush's top lawyer called at least one of the Republican members of the 9/11 commission to hear Richard Clark's testimony. "White House counsel Alberto R. Gonzales called commissioner Fred F. Fielding, one of five GOP members of the body, and, according to one observer, also called Republican commission member James R. Thompson. Rep. Henry A. Waxman, the ranking Democrat on the House Government Reform Committee, wrote to Gonzales yesterday asking him to confirm and describe the conversations." LINK

The Wall Street Journal's Scott Paltrow reports there is "new evidence" that the federal government had on several occasions before 9/11, "taken elaborate, secret measures" to protect special events from similar attacks. Writes Paltrow, "New questions have emerged, in part from the just-published book by former senior National Security Council aide Richard Clarke, as to why the Clinton administration in the late 1990s failed to push through a proposal to extend the measures beyond special events to permanent protection of the skies over Washington." Paltrow Notes that in the mid-1990's U.S. intelligence agencies had passed on information concerning "plans by al Qaeda officials to use passenger jets as kamikaze weapons."

Summoning his best Josh Marshall, the Washington Post's David Broder writes "at a time when the American people -- and the world -- desperately need reassurance that the government was not asleep at the switch, Bush has clenched his jaw and said nothing that would ease those concerns. Instead, he has arranged that when he answers the commission's questions in a yet-to-be-scheduled private session, he will not face it alone. He and Vice President Cheney will appear together. It will be interesting to learn who furnishes most of the answers." LINK

The Washington Post's Richard Cohen writes on Sen. Frist's attacks on Clarke's book and sarcastically suggests "Clarke ought to consider one about a once well-regarded senator who became a White House attack dog and in the process made himself look both unprincipled and foolish. He could call it 'Frist.'" LINK

Maureen Dowd sends up the Alberto R. Gonzales letter to the 9/11 commission regarding Condoleezza Rice's testimony. LINK

Just perhaps the White House helped propel sales of the Clarke tome, the Los Angeles Times ponders. LINK

ABC News Vote 2004: Bush v. Kerry:

Glen Johnson of the Boston Globe Notes the super early beginning to this presidential race, "[w]ith an intensity usually reserved for a campaign's closing days, President Bush, Democrat John F. Kerry, and their respective campaign organizations and supporters have been waging virtually a minute-by-minute battle for control of the White House." LINK

"So far, would-be voters appear to have a healthy appetite for all the news, though it may be souring."

The politics of national security:

The Wall Street Journal's King and Jaffe write Wednesday's attack in Iraq on civilian contractors "seems likely to add to pressure on the Bush administration to identify and stop the militants launching the deadly attacks. Administration aides acknowledge that a stronger sense of security in the country is vital to its goals of building Iraq's economy and turning political power over to Iraqis."

The Washington Post's Christopher Lee Notes from a survey, released yesterday by the nonpartisan Council for Excellence in Government "fewer than half of all Americans think the country is safer now than it was on Sept. 11, 2001, and more than three-quarters expect the United States to be the target of a major terrorist attack at home or abroad in the next few months." LINK

Money, Jim "Kaiser Soze" Jordan, and the land...:

Republicans and President Bush's re-election campaign accused Sen. John Kerry and Democratic interest groups of conspiring to violate election laws by illegally using hundreds of millions of dollars' worth of "soft money" donations to bring about the president's defeat.

The Republican National Committee will file an emergency complaint with the Federal Election Commission but urge the commission to quickly dismiss the complaint. The tactic would allow the RNC to seek more immediate relief from a federal judge, who could shut down the Democratic groups. LINK

We spoke with a half dozen campaign finance experts yesterday -- several sympathetic to the cause of the Republicans -- and they uniformly doubted that the FEC would ever agree to dismiss a bonafide complaint so quickly.

Several of these observers said they believed the filing was a broadside designed to bring media and public reprobation to the 527s ahead of the FEC's rulemaking process.

That said, the charges are serious and the takes from the big reporters are appropriately somber:

Edsall: LINK

Justice: LINK

Theimer: LINK

Hallow: LINK

Drinkard and Stone: LINK

Getter: LINK

The Washington Post's Paul Farhi says that the ads sponsored by outside groups have been more negative than those of Bush or Kerry's campaigns. LINK

ABC News Vote 2004: Sen. John Kerry:

The Boston Globe's Kranish reports that Kerry says he does not remember if he was at the 1971 meeting of Vietnam Veterans Against the War where a plot to assassinate some pro-war U.S. senators was discussed. Kranish talks to other participants who are now not so sure that they recall him being there either, despite an FBI document indicating he was. LINK

The Washington Post's Jonathan Finer reports that before undergoing surgery on his shoulder, Kerry made certain to attack Bush's economic program during a pair of events this week. LINK

The Boston Globe's Johnson and Mishra sum up Kerry's day of campaigning, torn tendon surgery and the glowing report from Dr. Zarins upon its completion. LINK

The Wall Street Journal's Wessel writes that RNC assertions to the contrary, "raising tax rates on upper-income Americans isn't about small businesses. Few of them make enough money to be affected by Sen. Kerry's proposal to undo the Bush tax cuts on those with incomes above $200,000."

ABC News Vote 2004: the battlegrounds:

The Arizona Republic reports that according to the Rocky Mountain poll, done by the Behavior Research Center, only 35 percent of Arizona Latinos hold favorable opinions of Bush's job performance, down from 60 percent one year ago. This downward slide held true across all age, income, and education groups. LINK

In the midst of the storm of 9/11 controversy, undecided voters in swing states say they are feeling less certain about which candidate they should support, reports Kate Zernike of the New York Times. LINK

Bob Withers of the Huntington Herald-Dispatch writes on Bush's upcoming visit to the state of West Virginia Friday, where he will follow a long list of other presidents who visited the region while campaigning. LINK

The Santa Fe New Mexican's Steve Terrell Notes that, after 10 tumultuous months as New Mexico's chairwoman of the state Republican Party, Ramsay Gorham stepped down from her party position yesterday and announced she was withdrawing her re-election campaign for the state Senate seat she's held for eight years. Gorham said in a statement that she is stepping down to attempt to ensure GOP unity in the election year. LINK

Bart Jansen of the Portland Press Herald reports on a local Maine man who told the story of his layoff from a paper mill at a Capitol Hill rally during the culmination of an 18-city bus tour sponsored by the AFL-CIO to highlight job losses nationwide. LINK

ABC News Vote 2004: the Senate:

The Palm Beach Post reports that Housing and Urban Development Secretary-turned Florida Republican Senate Candidate Mel Martinez raised a record $1.7 million during the last three months. LINK

The Miami Herald Notes "Martinez's closest money-race rival, former U.S. Rep. Bill McCollum, reported his 'strongest quarter to date,' but provided no final tally. His previous best was $524,000." LINK

"McCollum's campaign said it's not fazed by Martinez's money-raising prowess, noting that several polls of likely primary voters show Martinez as far as 20 points behind McCollum, who lost a 2000 bid for the U.S. Senate to Bill Nelson."

The Tampa Tribune writes, "Many Floridians have seen little of the race to succeed retiring Sen. Bob Graham, D-Miami Lakes, but the latest quarterly fundraising reports from Martinez and others show the candidates fighting for position in the advertising blitz that lies ahead." LINK

"Florida is one of seven states with Senate races that feature no incumbent. Both major parties promise to put extensive resources into all of them, but Florida's position as the biggest electoral battleground state -- and the emotional residue of the 2000 presidential election - ensure it will get special attention."

Liberal talk radio and liberals:

Al Gore was on Air yesterday; Sen. Clinton is expected today.

Howie Kurtz basically spent the day listening for the word "penis." LINK

Alessandra Stanley of the New York Times asks 'where is the rage' in her review of Air America's first day on the air. She Notes Al Franken was "subdued" and, "at times, defensive." LINK (We bet Richard Viguerie feels vindicated!)

The New York Daily News reports the Air America "network signed on with five stations, in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Portland and San Bernardino, Calif. Officials say they will be in San Francisco next week and hope for another "20 or 30" markets soon. It is also heard on XM satellite radio." LINK

Salon's Sidney Blumenthal (we are still getting used to that!) doesn't approve one bit of journalists laughing at the President's Radio-TV dinner speech -- and accuses the press corps of "accepting" the President's "radical undermining of the long-established arrangements of Washington, including the demotion of the press's own role, by breaking the off-the-record rule in order to have a weapon to use against Clarke." LINK

The politics of same-sex marriage:

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports on the Georgia state legislature passing the gay marriage amendment yesterday. LINK

"The same proposal failed by just three votes in its first House appearance in late February, a decision that buoyed the hopes of gay rights supporters and sent conservatives scrambling. But four members of the 39-member House Legislative Black Caucus who did not vote Feb. 26 supported the ban Wednesday, ensuring its passage."


The Hill reports that Dems are threatening to subpoena the President's top healthcare adviser if he doesn't testify today on the "Medicare cost-scoring controversy." LINK

The Hill's Bolton reports "the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) has raised $20 million during the first quarter of this year -- a sum that nearly matches the $21.5 million that the committee raised in the first quarter of 2002 under the old soft-money rules. A committee official said that, in total, the NRCC has raised $91 million for the 2004 election." LINK

USA Today's Mark Memmott Notes the unusually large presence of serious issues books being released this election cycle. "Books, the oldest of the 'old media,' are pushing serious issues into the presidential campaign and will remain a powerful force in coming weeks." LINK

The AP reports that Gov. Schwarzenegger, plagued with sexual harassment charges during his gubernatorial campaign, voluntarily took a training course on sexual harassment prevention after the election. LINK

"Time is running out for employers who had hoped for a deal on pension legislation that would ease the burden on financially stressed companies that must make quarterly plan payments for 2004 by April 15," reports David Rogers of the Wall Street Journal.

"The House defied Bush administration objections yesterday and voted to continue giving civilian federal employees the same pay raises that military personnel receive," writes Charles Babington of the Washington Post. LINK

The Washington Post's Leslie Walker reports that Bush has proposed to extend high-speed internet access to all American homes within three years. LINK

The politics of gas prices:

The Washington Post's John Burgess Notes that the White House is disappointed with the decision of OPEC oil ministers "to proceed with a 4 percent cut in oil production beginning Thursday, turning aside criticism from industrial countries that any resulting price rise will harm the world economy." LINK

Republican National Convention:

The New York Daily News' DeFrank and Gittrich report that "while Bush is in the convention center Sept. 2, the Secret Service wants all Amtrak, NJTransit and Long Island Rail Road Service to cease." LINK

Democratic National Convention:

The Boston Globe contains THREE stories on Boston residents' resentment over the potential commuting problems during the Democratic National Convention.

Rick Klein reports of local business leaders requesting forums with police and traffic officials to discuss their concerns and already instructing employees to work from home or take the days off. Even Massachusetts General Hospital is scheduling appointments for early in the day for each of the convention days. LINK

For all of those concerned about commuting problems, the Globe reports on the city's detour plan for when I-93 gets shut down. LINK

And here's another story from the Globe on commuter dismay over the subway station, North Station, right near the Fleet Center, which is being closed for security reasons.LINK

The politics of TANF:

Bruce Alpert with the New Orleans Times-Picayune Notes that reauthorization of the welfare bill in the Senate may be in doubt, although bipartisan agreement on its effectiveness prevails. LINK

TODAY SCHEDULE (all times ET): —7:00 am: Sen. John McCain appears on CBS's "Early Show" —7:00 am: Karen Hughes appears on CBS's "Early Show" —8:00 am: 9/11 commission member Bob Kerrey appears on "Fox and Friends" —8:30 am: The Labor Department releases the weekly jobless claims reports and Producer Price Index for February —9:30 am: The Senate convenes for morning business —9:30 am: Commerce Secretary Donald L. Evans and House Republican Leadership hold a press conference on making the tax cuts permanent, Capitol Hill —9:30 am: Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham speaks about the energy budget to the House Energy and Commerce committee —9:45 am: Sen. Jeff Bingaman is the featured guest at a media breakfast sponsored by The Energy Daily, Washington, D.C. —9:45 am: Off-camera gaggle by White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan —10:00 am: The House of Representatives meets to complete work on H.R. 3550, the highway bill —10:00 am: The Federal Election Commission holds a meeting, Washington, D.C. —10:00 am: The Brookings Institution holds a briefing on whether gay marriages can strengthen the family, Washington, D.C. —10:00 am: The Institute for Supply Management releases its March manufacturing activity report —10:30 am or thereabouts: Sen. Robert Byrd casts his 17,000th vote, Capitol Hill —10:45 am: House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi holds her weekly news conference, Capitol Hill —11:30 am: Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage hold an armed forces full honor ceremony to honor Kuwait as a major non-NATO ally of the U.S., the Pentagon —12:00 pm: Treasury Secretary John Snow tours Cemco Manufacturing Co., Albuquerque, N.M. —1:00 pm: Politics Live on ABC News Live and AOL —1:00 pm: On-camera briefing by Secretary McClellan —2:00 pm: National Republican Congressional Committee chairman Rep. Thomas Reynolds holds an pen and pad only briefing on the "2004 Landscape," Washington, D.C. —2:30 pm: Sen. Hillary Clinton appears on Air America's "The O'Franken Factor" with hosts Al Franken and Katherine Lanpher —3:05 pm: President Bush signs H.R. 1997, the Unborn Victims of Violence Act of 2004, the White House —3:20 pm: President Bush participates in a celebration of Greek Independence Day, the White House —4:30 pm: The Federal Reserve releases weekly reports on aggregate reserves and the monetary base, factors affecting bank reserves and money supply —4:30 pm: Secretary Snow tours GateWay Community College, Phoenix, Ariz. —5:30 pm: Majority Leader Sen. Bill Frist attends a Tennessee State Society reception, Capitol Hill —7:00 pm: President and Mrs. Bush attend the National Republican Congressional Committee Dinner at the Hilton, Washington, D.C. —7:00 pm: Reps. Kendrick Meek, Stephanie Tubbs Jones, Jim Clyburn, and Sheila Jackson-Lee, and Donna Brazile participate in a Black Youth Vote! sponsored town hall meeting called "The Black Youth Vote: What's At Stake in '04," Washington, D.C. —7:00 am: Michael Jackson receives a humanitarian award from Ambassadors Spouses Association at the Ethiopian Embassy