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It's Friday, so -- of course -- regular readers know it is time for The Note's weekly Ups and Downs, What's Hot and What's Not, Winners and Losers, Plays and Outrages of the Week Awards!!!!
In presidential politics, as always, the answer to the question "Who won the week?" can be looked at two ways:
Who won, in terms of raw Gang-of-500-driven, media-filtered analysis of whose election chances have been helped or hurt?
Or: who won, in terms of the relative merits of each sides substantive claims to honesty, leadership, and plans for America's future?
(And, we hate to have to hasten to add, The Note is indifferent on both scores to who wins, despite what readers on all sides think. . . . )
While the Googling monkeys spend the weekend doing regression analysis on all sorts of serious Bush-Kerry policy proposals, let's go with the superficial and ephemeral raw political tally!!!
While Bush-Cheney started the week smelling blood by continuing to pound its Kerry-loves-taxes message on the large head of the vacationing, Grey Poupon-eating skier/nominee, the back of The Note envelope says that the President lost the week.
Between Clarke's book, Dr. Rice's refusal to testify and questions about her own consistency, the President's RTCAWMD joke flap, gas prices, and entitlement trust fund problems -- things were less than smooth for the ol' re-elect.
Kerry's win was also fueled by Democratic unity galore and the late addition of pretty boffo Friday print coverage of the unveiling of his corporate tax plan (with the twin messages of stopping outsourcing and cutting corporate taxes overshadowing the caveats).
BUT for those who are tempted to score the week as a Kerry rout, Note well four things:
A. The relentless Kerry-image-shaping of the Bush ad campaign, whose work in defining Kerry isn't fully appreciated by national political reporters who fail to reside in battleground states.
B. Last night's reminder that John Kerry is no Bill Clinton.
C. This morning's Washington Post reminder that John Kerry is no Bill Clinton.
D. Yesterday's Unborn Victims of Violence vote, which offers a window into tough future Senate votes for John Kerry.
So, mark this one down and re-set the scoreboard!!!! Just a few more intense weeks to go until election day!!!
President Bush visits Albuquerque, N.M. and Phoenix, Ariz. to talk about homeownership before traveling to his Crawford, Texas, ranch later in the evening. Bush will remain at the ranch until Monday.
John Kerry is campaigning in Detroit and Warren, Mich. Kerry will be in Kansas City and St. Louis, Mo. on Saturday and Sacramento, Calif. on Sunday.
Vice President Cheney speaks at a Bush-Cheney fundraiser in Dayton, Ohio and at a reception for congressional candidate Mike Sodrel this evening in Jeffersonville, Indiana.
Rep. Dennis Kucinich speaks at a high school this evening in Portland, Ore.
Ralph Nader speaks at colleges in North Carolina and South Carolina.
The Washington Post's Mark Leibovich was at the $11 million show of unity thrown by the Democrats last night, Noting that former Vice President Al Gore was "a late addition to the program" before making sure to include President Carter's "Nader, drop out already" comments and President Clinton being, well, President Clinton. LINK
And for students of media image, the crew passed the body language test on stage, Leibovich Notes.