The Note




Pretty much every day, somewhere in America, someone is doing a poll or a focus group that finds its way into the brains of the Bush campaign and/or the Kerry campaign.

With negative ads flowing on both sides — the new Bush one today goes at Kerry with humor on the gas tax — the Clarke/Rice stuff, gas prices, gay marriage, jobs, and other election-effecting stuff in the news each day, the campaigns and interest groups want to know as much as possible about what is working and what is not.

No sane and practical campaign practitioner flies blind without what we call in the polite company of Karl Rove and Stan Greenberg "research" or "data" — the newer the better.

But the White House is also sitting on months and months of research about what will make the American people view John Kerry as unacceptable on national security and taxes, unlikeable, and a cross between Mike Dukakis, Ted Kennedy, Al Gore, and Thurston Howell the 3rd (when he was grouchy and out of touch).

The Kerry campaign, with less money for research, focuses more on the daily headlines and trying to stress the economy and health care, while chipping away at national security.

So for the Rs, the formula is simple:

Positive ads (to boost the POTUS favs back up) + negative ads (to define Kerry) + f ree media from the negative ads (to increase the bang for the buck and bracket Kerry's free media message, as with today's gas tax ad) + presidential and vice presidential speeches and trips to swing states (like today's economic message in Wisconsin by Mr. Bush) + a crafty congressional agenda (except for that pesky highway bill … .) + a foreign-trips-Olympics-9/11-anniversary-debates strategy like you wouldn't believe = 270 electoral votes or more

And for the Ds, things are a little more complicated and less linear:

Exploit negative headlines + wait for bad job numbers + watch as the allied groups magically help where needed + find a message that convinces Americans that their doubts about Bush exceed their questions about Kerry + hope the candidate improves and that the American people by November feel about him more like Bob Kerrey does than certain other Senators we know do + hope the candidate becomes something other than just "not Bush" = 270 or more electoral votes

For the past week, the dominant streams out of the politico-media miasma have consisted of, on the one hand, Bush television ads defining Bush and Kerry on BC04 terms, and, on the other hand, the Clarke/Rice coverage, doing, apparently, at least some damage to the president in (all together now) his Area of Greatest Strength.

The media's equation:

Genuine attempts at balance and objectivity minus (real and/or perceived) natural affinity for Kerry and Democrats divided by (the desire to filter free media through horse race lens + neenering about perennial debate over issues/strategy/horserace coverage + Gore-esque/Klein-esque critical coverage of Sen. Kerry as a person) = more Annenberg/Columbia Journalism Review symposiums about the decline in campaign coverage and more Note ledes.

We have no clue whether the new Gallup poll's numbers are rock solid; we do know that everyone in politics and political media has been using them like the Rosetta Stone for the last 16 hours and will continue to do so until some other numbers take their place.

And the consensus of the television and USA Today coverage is: the president's numbers on national security are down (naturally) but his overall horserace standing against Kerry is up (naturally).

The poll seems to show that the Bush campaign ads are working in the 17 battleground states to drive down the fav/unfavs of the Senator from Massachusetts. LINK

Susan Page of USA Today writes, "In a survey taken in mid-February, Kerry led Bush by 28 percentage points in those [17 battleground] states, 63% to 35%. Now Bush leads Kerry in them by six points, 51% to 45%." Note: the margin of error is +/-3%. LINK

Ontheotherhand, as Richard Benedetto of USA Today points out, "Although a USA Today/CNN/Gallup Poll finds that 53% believe the Bush administration is 'covering up something' about its handling of intelligence before 9/11, 67% say it could not have prevented the attacks. But 54% say Bush still could have done more beforehand." Kind of, sort of score one for Shrum! LINK

Another key line, "The split — 44% believe Clarke and 46% back the Bush administration — is largely along party lines: 76% of Democrats side with Clarke, and 83% of Republicans with Bush."

On those ads, the Chicago Tribune's Jeff Zeleny — armed with, apparently, several remote controls — riffs off of a day of television watching, pre "Wacky."

"While both candidates opened the campaign trying to bolster their supporters, their commercials to reach swing voters often appear on the same programs. Republicans and Democrats advertised heavily on local news programming, network morning shows and highly rated programs such as 'Dr. Phil,' 'Wheel of Fortune' and 'Law and Order.'" LINK

"One set of commercials features the president sitting with First Lady Laura Bush in the White House, talking about 'steady leadership in times of change.' Another set shows Kerry, with black-and-white images from his service in Vietnam, promising 'a new direction for America.'"

"The campaign ads, steeped in seriousness (sic), are aired in succession with pitches for common, household goods. A day of television viewing in St. Louis found the political spots sandwiched between ads for an improved blend of prune juice, a new lawnmower and countless offers for low mortgage rates or discount aluminum siding."

" … viewers of shows as varied as "American Idol" and "America's Most Wanted" have seen a campaign ad from Bush, but not Kerry. At the same time, Democratic commercials criticizing the Bush have appeared on shows ranging from 'The Simpsons' to 'Judge Judy.'"

Today, Sen. Kerry will flesh out his gas price proposal, unveiling a plan to lower gas prices by pledging to pressure OPEC to open oil supplies, temporarily suspending filling the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, streamlining national and state fuel regulations and policies, and promising open energy meetings aimed at a goal of 20 percent renewable U.S. energy by the year 2020.

ABC News' Dan Harris reports that "The Kerry people smell blood here, knowing that sitting presidents often get blamed for high gas costs. They are furious and frustrated about Bush's (seemingly successful) attempts to blur the issue by airing attack ads accusing Kerry of wanting to hike the gas tax by 50-cents — which they call misleading. They will go after Cheney pretty hard today on his secret energy task force meetings and his (and Bush's) ties to the oil industry." See our section below for more.

President Bush, as we said, is in Appleton, Wis. today to speak about the economy. See our section below for more on that.

Sen. Kerry campaigns and fundraises in San Diego before heading to a Beverly Hills fundraiser tonight.

Senate Democrats this morning are expected to urge Condoleezza Rice to testify in front of the 9/11 commission.

The Senate will also continue debate over the welfare reauthorization bill; voting on the first amendment is scheduled to begin at 12:15 pm.

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

Gas prices in Wisconsin? Compare and contrast! LINK

President Bush makes his way to Appleton, Wisconsin today, the paper industry town where Harry Houdini grew up.

WBAY-TV in Green Bay Notes that Bush's visit is his first to the Fox River Valley in two years. LINK

The station predicts plenty of protestors.

Another story on that newscast focused on disruption to local businesses.(!) LINK

The Appleton Post-Crescent is all pomp and pageantry, with the requisite wide-eyed attention paid to the roadshow, the motorcade, security preps, the "just in case" hospital and those C-130 transport planes that arrived yesterday. LINK

Coincidentally, the city of Appleton is also hosting an emergency management conference, though the president has no plans to attend. LINK

ABC News' Ramona Schindelheim on the state's job scene:

"Wisconsin started losing jobs across all sectors 4 months before the nation as whole. Employment there has declined 2.3% since peaking in November 2000, while employment nationwide has declined 1.7% since peaking in March 2001. Manufacturing has been hardest hit in the state, declining a whopping 17% since peaking in March 2000. Preliminary figures show the state added 1,200 new manufacturing jobs in February."

Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle (D) has just returned from a four-day trade mission to China. LINK

The Appleton Post-Crescent reports that "A local program giving workers access to better-paying jobs attracts national attention today when President Bush recognizes a Neenah woman for her volunteer work during his stop in Appleton. Gloria Grandone was notified Thursday by officials of the USA Freedom Corps that she was selected to be honored by Bush for her work with the Appleton-based Doug and Carol Salmon Foundation. The foundation provides financial assistance for training and educating low-income residents." LINK

The Washington Post's Allen Notes that Friday's economic speech in West Virginia comes about three hours after a crucial job number is released. LINK

ABC News Vote 2004: Bush-Cheney re-elect: at the mansion:

The Washington Post 's Jonathan Weisman reports that "President Bush's 2005 budget request for the Internal Revenue Service would seriously shortchange the agency's tax collection activities, leaving a half-million delinquent tax accounts uncollected, 15 million service calls unanswered and nearly 46,000 audits unscheduled, according to the president's own IRS oversight board." LINK

The Washington Post's Ricks writes that President Bush has welcomed Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Bulgaria, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia into NATO yesterday. LINK

The politics of the 9/11 Commission:

While reporting continues to be that a deal is in the works for Dr. Rice to visit with the 9/11 panel, at this writing, there doesn't seem to be one.

The Washington Post's Mike Allen reports Administration "aides said the White House believes Rice's refusal to testify is becoming a political problem and officials are looking for a way out. The leading possibility is for Rice to submit to another private session with the commissioners and allow them to release a transcript, the aides said."LINK

The Los Angeles Times' Reynolds and Miller write up the political implications of the wrangling over Dr. Rice's potential testimony. LINK

"Some Republicans say they fear the controversy, if it lingers, could undermine Bush's chief rationale for reelection: his leadership of the war on terrorism. But two new polls released Monday suggested that Bush had not suffered significant damage from the controversy."

An "exasperated" Thomas Kean tells the New York Times ' Shenon and Stevenson that he would like to see Condoleezza Rice give her "testimony under the penalty of perjury" publicly before the commission, as did Richard Clarke last week. LINK

Peter Canellos of the Boston Globe writes of Condoleezza Rice, "her two roles this week — as the administration's chosen defender, but a policy maker with an oddly muted voice — pretty much sum up the duality that has marked her three years as national security adviser: She's a star, but few can say precisely what she has done or where she stands on crucial issues." LINK

The Washington Post's editorial board Notes "now the administration is reportedly seeking an arrangement under which some of Ms. Rice's answers from a closed session could be released. That might be better than nothing, but Ms. Rice is a key player in this piece of history. Her full testimony should be part of the commission's public record." LINK

Vince Morris of the New York Post reports Bill Clinton may testify before the 9/11 Commission "as early as this week" and Commissioner Bob Kerrey is ready to pound him with questions as to why he didn't declare war on Al Qaeda or bin Laden and whether or not the Lewinsky scandal distracted the former president from terrorist threats. LINK

The exchange is expected to have a slightly different tone than their 2001 dinner at Babbo. LINK

Franklin C. Miller, a senior aide to Condoleezza Rice who worked alongside Richard Clarke on Sept. 11, "is disputing central elements of Mr. Clarke's account of events in the White House Situation Room that day, declaring that it 'is a much better screenplay than reality was,'" writes David Sanger of the New York Times. LINK

The New York Times' Paul Krugman is unhappy with how the media and this country is getting away "with a campaign of character assassination." LINK

"This administration's reliance on smear tactics is unprecedented in modern U.S. politics — even compared with Nixon's. Even more disturbing is its readiness to abuse power — to use its control of the government to intimidate potential critics," he writes.

The Wall Street Journal editorial page points to Clarke's conceding that even if the president had followed all his recommendations since coming to office, the 9/11 attacks still could not have been prevented.

ABC News Vote 2004: Bush vs. Kerry: the politics of gas:

The Washington Post's Mike Allen and Jim VandeHei preview Kerry's plan intended to reduce auto fuel costs. "Kerry will argue that diverting oil intended for U.S. reserves directly to the market will help depress gas prices, though analysts say that probably would have only a negligible effect. Kerry also intends to reiterate his longer-term plans for decreasing the country's dependence on foreign oil and increasing its reliance on cleaner-burning alternative forms of energy." LINK

"Kerry will argue that diverting oil intended for U.S. reserves directly to the market will help depress gas prices, though analysts say that probably would have a negligible effect. Kerry also intends to reiterate his longer-term plans for decreasing the country's dependence on foreign oil and increasing its reliance on cleaner-burning alternative forms of energy."

"As summer approaches, soaring gasoline costs are emerging as a top pocketbook concern of consumers and businesses with steep transportation costs, with prices at the pump topping $2 a gallon on the West Coast and averaging a record-high $1.80 nationwide."

"The Democrats believe that the price of gas could become a major flash point in the presidential debate over oil, the economy, and even Iraq and broader Middle East foreign policies. As one measure of the political sensitivity of the issue, a group of House Republicans, looking ahead to Memorial Day visits to their districts, has formally asked the White House to do what Kerry is calling for — ease pressure on prices by suspending shipments to the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, the government's emergency stockpile of oil."

"The issue is likely to remain at the forefront of the campaign in coming days, as the Bush camp responds to Kerry's proposal and both sides try to persuade consumers that they would do more to bring down prices," writes James Rainey of the Los Angeles Times. LINK

The AP's Liz Sidoti writes up the new Bush ad, which hits Kerry on backing higher tax prices 11 times. LINK

"The new Bush ad comes in the wake of Kerry's claims that the incumbent Republican's administration is to blame for gas prices rising to record levels. It is meant to shift the focus from that criticism and put Kerry on the defensive on an issue the Democrat has been trying to control."

Patrick Healy of the Boston Globe explains the Cheney v. Kerry fight over gas prices, tax policy, and job losses yesterday. LINK

The Wall Street Journal editorial page writes that there is "no economic need" to draw from our oil reserves. "The economy is humming along and panicking would only create other dislocations. The oil reserve was not designed, nor should it be used, to relieve consumers at the pump for a few weeks."

ABC News Vote 2004: Bush vs. Kerry:

Sen. Clinton threw on her pundit hat for Cindy Adams. LINK

"'It will be outside forces — something unforeseen that suddenly happens — that tilts the election one way or another.'"

Like Bill's book?

Or this one? Lloyd Grove on the upcoming Woodward book. LINK

"I hear that "Plan of Attack," supersleuth Bob Woodward's still-secret study of President Bush's war on terrorism, will be very bad for the Bush reelection campaign … "

The Los Angeles Times' La Ganga picks apart Vice President Cheney's claim that Kerry has voted "at least 350 times for higher taxes." LINK

" … many of the votes counted in the Bush administration's laundry list were votes to uphold budget enforcement rules, Bixby said. Such votes are 'usually considered a responsible thing to do' and are not interpreted as votes in favor of higher taxes."

The New York Times on the back and forth:LINK

The Washington Times' take is Cheney-centered. LINK

Nick Anderson of the Los Angeles Times looks at the use of the Internet as a means for political advertising in this post McCain-Feingold era. David Doak remains unpersuaded. LINK

And here's a link to Anderson's ad box on the latest from the Media Fund. LINK

The Washington Times' Patrice Hill recounts the views of economists who believe that job creation isn't really the province of the president, but try and convince the voters! LINK

The Washington Post's E.J. Dionne writes "President Bush had two big things going for him in this year's election. He was seen by a majority of Americans as a straight shooter. And he was viewed as the natural leader in the war on terrorism. Now both perceptions are in jeopardy. That explains the ferocity of the White House attack on Richard Clarke." LINK

The Wall Street Journal's Alan Murray Notes that you have to look no further than the's best-seller list to see how polarized the United States is.

ABC News Vote 2004: Sen. John Kerry:

The New York Daily News' Helen Kennedy on Kerry's upcoming surgery: "For a pol going head-to-head with President Bush, three weeks is an eternity without a rope line." LINK

Something the Boston Globe notices, too. LINK

The Kerry campaign "released a letter from his doctor attesting to Mr. Kerry's 'excellent health,'" write Doctors Wilgoren and Altman in the New York Times. LINK

Apparently the surgery is not all that is scheduled for tomorrow: "The operation is scheduled just a week after Mr. Kerry's return from a six-day ski vacation in Idaho, meaning he will have had no campaign events for 9 of 17 days. To offset this, Kerry aides are trying to squeeze in an appearance between the senator's 6:15 a.m. landing after an overnight flight from Los Angeles and the 11:30 a.m. surgery."

Joanna Weiss of the Boston Globe reviews Kerry's appearance on MTV's "Choose or Lose." Though it was off to a rough start, it seems the Senator may have succeeded as looking three-dimensional. Bottom line: "Kerry, in his red tie and dark suit, manages to come across as himself, stiff and craggy and generally uncool." As Weiss Notes, young voters are not necessarily looking for someone "cool" who they can "hang out with." LINK

The New York Times' Heffernan reviews Kerry's appearance on MTV and doesn't make it to the second word of the article without referencing FPOTUS. LINK

"Unlike Bill Clinton, Senator John Kerry is not a candidate young people want to flirt and giggle with. They want to come off deep, show him they dig the 60's. And that may be right where Mr. Kerry wants young voters, since he is not much for standard charm: not amused but impressed, even a little self-conscious."

Maria La Ganga and Matea Gold of the Los Angeles Times look at the evolving style of the Democratic candidate and his clear understanding of image making in these political times. You won't want to miss the bit about the shady press avail to avoid squinting. LINK

"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.

The Senator dabbled in gas politics Monday during a town hall in Sacramento, saying, "This administration has one economic policy: three million jobs lost and driving gas prices to $3 a gallon."

In San Francisco, Kerry sounded a similar theme: "Those are not Exxon prices; those are Halliburton prices, ladies and gentlemen."

Read more from the trail with Kerry on LINK

Karen Hughes' "Ten Minutes to Normal":

Following her interview with Barbara Walters on last night's "20/20" uber-aide Karen Hughes sat down with ABC News' Claire Shipman to chat about life in Austin and her "more influential than ever" role in the Bush-Cheney campaign. "She's cooking spaghetti sauce at home in Austin these days," shipman Noted, "but Karen Hughes, it turns out, may still be the most powerful woman in the White House."

Hughes said that she loves the days when she's home and "just don't have to wash my hair or put on makeup," but added that she's never been that far from the White House. Would she have helped had she been in Washington the last couple of years? "There are times when maybe it would have been good for me to have been there and I haven't been there," she said. She called the day the president landed on an aircraft carrier during golden light "an earthquake."

Does she miss it? "When there's great moments like the capture of Saddam Hussein, it would be fun to be there," Hughes said. "But that doesn't compare with the opportunity to be here and drive — teach my son to drive." ("You didn't drive him crazy?" Shipman asked. "I tried to be quiet — very unlike myself" she responded with pride.)

And Hughes recalled this candid conversation which every reporter following the verbal slip-prone President has wanted to have. Following a speech in which he meant to say that terrorists "underestimated" American compassion, Hughes told Bush, "you said 'misunderestimate.' 'I did not,' he said. Andy Card helpfully said, 'three times.' He glared at me and said, 'You know, a bunch of second-guessers, that's all they are' — and walked off. Later that day on the plane under his breath he said, 'I want you to always tell me when I screw up.'"


Brian Blomquist of the New York Post reports Kerry hopes to announce his vice presidential running mate by the end of May. LINK

Dan Quayle has some veepstakes advice for Sen. Kerry, courtesy of Rush & Molloy. LINK

John Edwards "yearns" to be vice president, reports Katherine Seeyle of the New York Times in a near must-read, Noting that he "knows the dance of nonchalance that aspiring to the vice presidency requires." LINK

The politics of national security:

"The new chief American weapons inspector in Iraq has prepared a classified report on the hunt for illicit weapons there and will brief two Senate committees in closed sessions on Tuesday about his interim findings," reports Doug Jehl of the New York Times. LINK

Big Casino budget politics:

The Wall Street Journal editorial page applauds Congress' efforts to cut $100 billion from the six-year highway authorization bill but warns that this "could open the spending floodgates in an election year, and further alienate fiscally conservative voters who are already wondering if there is still a point to having a GOP Congress."

ABC News Vote 2004: battlegrounds:

The Washington Post's Maraniss profiles the voter of Dubuque, Iowa who are "torn between inherent support of the military and concerns about the course of events in Iraq." LINK

Florida Gov. Jeb Bush appeared on CNBC's Dennis Miller Live, a rare television interview for a man who tends to leave the national spotlight to his brother. The Tampa Tribune reports, though, that this will not be a regular thing. "He said he agreed to the appearance as a favor to Mike Murphy, the show's consulting producer and a political adviser who handled Bush's campaign advertising in Florida in 1998 and 2002."LINK

The Orlando Sentinel's Mark Silva profiles First Lady Laura Bush (who says she finds the title "artificial") and her stand-by-your-man approach to his re-election campaign. LINK

A Brookings Institution study finds that President Bush has visited Pennsylvania 27 times, Florida 24 times, Missouri 18 times, Michigan 17 times, and Ohio 16 times between 2001 and 2004. Wisconsin comes in sixth, with 11 presidential visits. LINK

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reprints Jim VandeiHei's creaky Kerry body story from yesterday. LINK

Ed Anderson of the Big Easy's Times-Picayune reports that Gov. Kathleen Blanco will propose a new bill to clean up Louisiana politics' reputation for wheeling and dealing. The bill will require all state elected officials to disclose their financial situation and sources of income; currently, only the governor has this requirement. LINK

Ed Vogel of the Las Vegas Review-Journal reports that a recent addition of 48,200 jobs to the state of Nevada places it's growth at the top of the chart in the United States. LINK

Edward D. Murphy of the Portland Press Herald writes on "the monster offshore" and its affect on Maine small businesses and residents. LINK

Bush Administration strategy/personality:

Dr. John H. Marburger III is "first line of defense against accusations that the Bush administration has systematically distorted scientific fact and stacked technical advisery committees to advance favored policies … " LINK

" … to a degree not seen in previous administrations, a wide range of influential scientists — even many who say they like Dr. Marburger personally and respect him professionally — express dismay at White House science policy." Make sure you don't miss the Howard Gardner quotes.

Rev. Al Sharpton:

FEC giveth and taketh away. Sharpton is not eligible for $100,000 in matching funds as the FEC continues to look into possible campaign finance irregularities within his campaign. LINK

Reproductive politics:

The Los Angeles Times on day one in federal district court. LINK

"The simultaneous trials — in U.S. District Courts in San Francisco, New York City and Lincoln, Neb. — raise the profile of what is expected to be an important abortion-rights battle just as election year kicks into high gear."

The politics of same-sex marriage:

The New York Times' Hulse delivers an excellent lesson in Washington speak. LINK

"When listening to both sides in the fight over the proposed Constitutional amendment to prohibit gay marriage, it sometimes seems the debate is about everything except whether the government should recognize the marriage of two people of the same sex."

"The arguments being used as Congress considers the amendment are typical of the way lawmakers often confront intensely emotional and potentially divisive subjects: they try to find more socially and politically acceptable ways to frame the issue."

The Boston Globe's Rick Klein writes up the Massachusetts Legislature vote passing the gay marriage ban yesterday. LINK

"Tenuous and shifting coalitions held together in the final vote, despite a series of parliamentary moves by liberal lawmakers to stop anything from moving forward. In the end, an amendment that was disliked by the political right and the political left was approved because it was the only measure that could draw the support of a majority of lawmakers."

The Boston Globe reports that the amendment was decided by 15 Republicans who had constantly opposed any measure granting gay couples civil unions, but who were swayed yesterday to vote to ban gay marriage but create Vermont-style civil unions. LINK

The Los Angeles Times' Elizabeth Mehren wraps up yesterday's Beacon Hill drama. LINK

"The intent was to supersede a ruling by the state's highest court that said affording gays anything less than full marriage rights was unconstitutional. Despite the Legislature's action, the Supreme Judicial Court ruling will take effect May 17, making Massachusetts the first state to legalize same-sex marriage."

More coverage: LINK

Democratic National Convention:

The Boston Globe reports on a new study suggesting "that the Democratic National Convention will be worth $28 million less to Boston's economy than convention boosters and city officials originally estimated." Since 2001, Mayor Thomas Menino has publicly estimated $150 million as the magic number. LINK

ABC News Vote 2004: the Senate:

Lots of good press for the DSCC these days, like …

Obama political supporter and contributor (and occasional novelist) Scott Turow profiles the Democratic candidate from Illinois for Salon. LINK

Inez Tennenbaum's campaign is proudly touting to everyone a Harrison Hickman poll for the campaign showing the Democrat defeating all Republican comers. LINK

But remember that most of the competitive Senate seats are in red states, the NRSC has lots more money, and don't count your Senate take-over scenarios before the primaries have ended.

The Raleigh News & Observer's Rob Christensen reports that the U.S. Senate race there has been remarkably congenial, with Democrat Erskine Bowles and Republican Richard Burr agreeing on many issues and declining to criticize their opponents. Instead, each has focused on promoting his own plans, in a race markedly different from the one that Bowles shared with Senator Elizabeth Dole two years ago. LINK

No Child Left Behind:

The Washington Post's Michael Dobbs writes that Bush Administration has announced its latest change to the No Child Left Behind law: allowing for less rigid student participation in standardized tests. The administration has received criticism from teachers, legislators and the school board who claim that the law is unworkable. LINK

The "minor tweaks," reports the Los Angeles Times, certainly didn't mollify critics. LINK


The Washington Post's Helen Dewar Notes "the Senate opened debate yesterday on legislation to extend the landmark 1996 welfare overhaul law, as Democrats and moderate Republicans rallied behind an effort to spend more on child care to help low-income parents hold down jobs." LINK

Robert Salladay, now of the Los Angeles Times, reports Governator Ale will be no more and explores Gov. Schwarzenegger's fierce protection of his image. LINK

The Washington Post's Susan Schmidt reports "Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff received $10 million in previously undisclosed payments from a public relations executive whom he recommended for work with wealthy Indian tribes that operate casinos, congressional investigators have determined." LINK

Want more on this one? It will be all the talk at the Palm on 19th Street today for sure.

TODAY SCHEDULE (all times ET): —8:30 am: The Commerce Department issues annual revisions to its U.S. retail sales number —8:30 am: Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson holds a closed meeting with Republican Senators on the welfare reform reauthorization bill at the Capitol —8:30 am: Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle speaks to the Communication Workers of America's legislative-political conference, Washington, D.C. —8:40 am: Sen. Barbara Boxer speaks to the CWA legislative-political conference, Washington, D.C. —8:50 am: Rep. Maurice Hinchey speaks to the CWA legislative-political conference, Washington, D.C. —9:00 am: The House of Representatives convenes for the morning hour —9:00 am: Rep. Hilda Solis speaks to the CWA legislative-political conference, Washington, D.C. —9:10 am: Rep. Marcy Kaptur speaks to the CWA legislative-political conference, Washington, D.C. —9:15 am: Defense Secretary Donald Rusmfeld holds an honor cordon to welcome Latvian, Lithuanian and Slovakian Ministers of Defense at the Pentagon —9:20 am: Sen. Edward Kennedy speaks to the CWA legislative-political conference, Washington, D.C. —9:30 am: Sen. Majority Leader Bill Frist and House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer discuss the congressional health agenda for the 108th Congress at the Mayflower Hotel, Washington, D.C. —9:30 am: Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and Minority Whip Rep. Steny Hoyer speaks to the American Medical Association National Advocacy Conference —9:30 am: The Senate Armed Services Committee holds a closed meeting with Charles A. Duelfer for a status report on the hunt for illicit weapons in Iraq, Washington, D.C. —9:45 am: Sens. Charles Schumer and Edward Kennedy are expected to urge National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice to testify before the 9/11 commission —10:00 am: The Supreme Court meets for decisions and arguments —10:00 am: The House of Representatives convenes for legislative business —10:00 am: Sen. John Corzine and members of the CWA hold a rally about keeping jobs in the U.S. at Robert Taft Memorial Park, Washington, D.C. —10:00 am: Treasury Secretary John Snow holds an event to discuss the Treasury Department's efforts to implement Health Savings Accounts, Washington, D.C. —10:45 am: Rep. Pete Sessions and Rep. Joe Barton speak to the AMA's national conference —10:55 am: House Majority Leader Tom DeLay holds a pen and pad only briefing —11:00 am: The Terrorism and Homeland Security Subcommittee holds a closed hearing on threats to the United States —11:30 am: Sens. Frank Lautenberg, Hillary Clinton and Ted Kennedy hold a news conference to discuss Medicare, Washington, D.C. —12:00 pm: Sen. Ron Wyden speaks to the AMA's national conference —12:30 pm: President Bush speaks about the economy at Fox Cities Performing Arts Center, Appleton, Wis. —12:30 pm: The Democratic Policy Committee holds a closed meeting at the Capitol —12:30 pm: The Republican Policy Committee holds a closed meeting at the Capitol —1:00 pm: Politics Live on ABC News Live and AOL —1:15 pm: Sen. John Kerry speaks at the University of California, San Diego, Calif. —2:00 pm: The Brookings Institution holds a roundtable titled "Getting Out the Vote: How to Increase Turnout in 2004," Washington, D.C. —2:30 pm: The Senate Select Intelligence Committee holds a closed hearing on intelligence matters —3:00 pm: Sen. Kerry holds a fundraiser luncheon, San Diego, Calif. —3:30 pm: President Bush returns to the White House —4:30 pm: Ralph Nader appears on CNN's "Crossfire" —5:00 pm: Michael Jackson meets with members of Congress, Washington, D.C. —6:00 pm: Mrs. Bush and Mrs. Marta Sahagun de Fox tour an exhibit and attend a dinner honoring its opening at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. —9:00 pm: Sen. Kerry attends a fundraiser reception, Beverly Hills, Calif. —9:00 pm: Karen Hughes appears on CNN's "Larry King Live" —11:00 pm: Richard Clarke appears on Comedy Central's "Daily Show with Jon Stewart" —11:00 pm: Karen Hughes appears on The Charlie Rose Show