The Note

"What a difference a few months make in the education of the Democratic presidential candidate. From that moment on NBC — when Triumph the Insult Comic Dog rued that 'John Kerry, a war veteran, has to follow a … dog puppet?' — the Massachusetts senator has evolved into a canny practitioner of the photo opportunity."

The Washington Post's Laura Blumenfeld profiles Kerry's chief of staff David McKean, Noting that "observers describe McKean as Kerry's 'alter ego,' and his 'confidence man.'" LINK

Key: "McKean ended a long-running feud with the staff of senior Massachusetts Senator Edward M. Kennedy (D). He made sure the right people were in the room when Kerry had a difficult decision to make. He scheduled an hour a day for Kerry's exercise, so his boss wouldn't get cranky."

The AP's Sharon Theimer highlights Kerry's fundraising efforts, reporting that, "Kerry hopes to raise $20 million for himself in 20 cities during the next six weeks, starting Monday with a luncheon at the Sacramento home of developer Eleni Tsakopoulos-Kounalakis and her husband, Markos Kounalakis, president and publisher of The Washington Monthly." LINK

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

SAN FRANCISCO, March 29 — Sen. John Kerry kicks off a 20-city fundraising tour this week with four Golden State stops. All told, the effort is expected to raise $15 million-$20 million toward a pre-convention grand total of $80 million.

The Senator's fundraising speech remained largely the same as his adjusted "Real Deal" stump, but he did find ways to weave local humor into his pitch, joking, " … last week on 'Meet the Press' Ted Kennedy gave Arnold permission to run for President. Did you see that? And how do you think that made me feel? It's taken me 20 years until last October to get him to give me permission to run for President."

Kerry, who hosted Schwarzenegger's wife Maria Shriver for a post-dinner glass of wine at the Esquire Grill in the capital city Sunday, said, "Arnold and I have been friends for 30 years . . . so I hope California does well."

Kerry raised between $250,000-$300,000 in Sacramento before strolling down I-80, and, according to Kerry campaign estimates, nearly $3 million at a grand ballroom fundraiser in San Francisco's St. Francis hotel.

At the Bay City event, an ensemble band including Boz Scaggs, the Grateful Dead's Phil Lesh, Mickey Hart, and Bill Kreutzmann, and Ray Manzarek of the Doors entertained as the crowd waited for Kerry.

When Kerry arrived, he thanked the Dead trio and said, "The Dead have been a big part of my life . . . the Secret Service codename for my campaign last October was 'The Dead'."

Kerry's time in San Francisco was not entirely filled with well-wishers and wallet openings. During an unscheduled stop at Fort Point, local Scott Rick questioned the Senator's pro-civil union, anti-gay marriage position.

After hearing Kerry's response, Rick said, "If you deny someone a right, that's discrimination. You call yourself a Democrat?"

Kerry engaged Rick for a short while before moving on to other workers and tourists gathered near the Golden Gate Bridge.

On Tuesday, Kerry sweeps south, holding star-studded fundraisers in San Diego, Los Angeles, and Beverly Hills. Published reports indicate the $1,000 minimum Jeffrey Katzenburg-chaired event in Beverly Hills has attracted the likes of actors Warren Beatty, Leonardo DiCaprio, Ben Affleck, and director Francis Ford Coppola.

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