The Note

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As John Kerry begins his own (semi-)private Idaho vacation, here are the mistakes his campaign has made of late, allowing an aggressive Bush-Cheney operation to win a series of news cycles, during this (ALL TOGETHER NOW!!!) critical period in defining John Kerry for America:

1. The "Crooks," "'I actually did vote for the $87 billion," and "more leaders" quotes, and the handling of their aftermath.

2. Still failing to present a coherent, unified message.

3. The failure of his campaign to successfully tape the original "leaders" quote and nip the matter in the bud.

4. Believing his own "bring it on" rhetoric and getting drawn into an extended debate on national security, just as he is leaving for vacation.

5. Failing to take a page from the Dean campaign in the fall of 2003 by not staying ahead of the story.

6. Having Dean serve as a surrogate on a media conference call on national security (a bizarro choice even before the Spanish comment). Dean couldn't even stay on his OWN message; what made them think he could stay on Kerry's?

7. Failing to instantly repudiate Dean's remark.

8. Buying a jockstrap in front of the press corps. Just weird.

9. Not more aggressively checking his instinct to equivocate and parse (see mistake 1), even if that equivocation might have some degree of intellectual soundness.

10. Waiting too long to put out Holbrooke, Richardson, and others to push back on the "leaders" quote.

11. Going off on vacation. It's unavoidable, and goodness knows Kerry deserves a break and that some of his verbal errors were probably owing to fatigue, but now might not be the best time, with the Iraq stuff swirling out there … ..

12. Failure to go back in time in a time machine and quit the Senate to run for governor or work in a business in the late '80s - thereby limiting all this votes 'n' quotes exposure. (Granted, this one would have been tougher to pull off than some of the others … .)

13. Not fully affecting the look and feel and stature of an actual, full-fledged general election standard bearer.

14. By making all these mistakes, squandering the Post -nomination window of attention and frittering away the momentum he had built up. Not to mention -- to a large extent overshadowing Spanish deaths, more killed in Iraq, the Medicare controversies, and other Bush problems about which more donkey hay probably could have been made.

14. Not fully realizing that by making all these mistakes, the door was opened for the Bush-Cheney campaign to get some of its mojo back, allowing it to get a much-needed shot of confidence -- for themselves and those skittish Hill allies.

(In the hauntingly "normal" Note-Orin mind meld, our gal Deb has something similar in the New York Post . LINK)

This has all taken place as the Bush campaign has manifestly moved the White House political phasers from "stun" to "kill."

Karl Rove attended Grover Norquist's off-the-record Wednesday meeting yesterday, and the AP's Scott Lindlaw managed to convince an attendee to describe what Mr. Rove said. LINK

"Addressing a small group of conservative activists, Rove assured them that Bush planned a nimble campaign able to counterpunch even before Kerry opens his mouth. The White House adviser pointed with pride to the Bush camp's response Tuesday, when it got word that Kerry planned a national security speech to veterans in West Virginia."

Go read the whole thing.

Elisabeth Bumiller in the New York Times writes that it was the president's decision to "transform himself into an out-and-out political candidate a full eight months before the election," according to White House and campaign officials and that it was Bush's decision "to directly attack Senator John Kerry the day after Super Tuesday." LINK

(Bumiller's sourcing for some of her 1600 blind quotes — "a senior White House official who asked not to be named because he did not want to be pestered by reporters" — is something we think she has used before — and we LOVE it!!!)

(And: hey, Peter King, wear a wire next time you ride on AF1!!! Or maybe hide a camera in your briefcase!!! This stuff is too good to waste on second-hand print accounts!!!)

Look out John Kerry - if you think the "Republican attack machine" is after you now, it's just going to get worse.

Bill Sammon of the Washington Times — emphasizing BC04 successes, rather than Kerry errors — Notes the "hard-charging approach entails simultaneous attacks on Mr. Kerry by the Bush campaign team, the Republican National Committee, the White House and the president."

Sammon reports that the strategy might be working: "After months of refusing to respond to attacks by Democrats during their fractious primary elections, the president now appears to be having some success in defining Mr. Kerry as a tax-raising, flip-flopping political opportunist who is dovish on the war against terrorism."LINK BC04 pollster-turned-strategist Matthew Dowd has thus proved his own fallibility - since he had suggested that the president would stay behind in the national horserace stuff for awhile.

Even with Kerry-allied groups stepping up their help-is-on-the-way ad buys on the economy and credibility, we suspect that the president will only help his standing today and through the weekend, with more boffo national security events.

Some potential good news on the job front. Per Reuters: "The number of Americans filing for initial jobless benefits dropped to the lowest level in more than three years last week, the Labor Department said on Thursday in a report that pointed to a brightening job market. First-time claims for state unemployment insurance benefits dropped by 6,000 from the prior week to 336,000 in the week ended March 13 — well below Wall Street analysts' forecasts and the lowest for any week since 316,000 reported on Jan. 13, 2001."

All of this pales in comparison and importance, of course, to tonight's Gillespie v. McAuliffe Catholic University face off.

President Bush is in Fort Campbell, Kentucky to speak to the troops.

Senator Kerry is on vacation in Ketchum, Idaho.

Rep. Kucinich is in Alaska.

Rev. Al Sharpton and Ralph Nader have no public events today.

ABC News Vote 2004: Bush (Cheney) vs. Kerry:

Roll Call 's Stu Rothenburg writes, "Recent historical trends suggest that President Bush and Senator John Kerry (Mass.) have from now until Labor Day — not Election Day — to make their cases before voters decide whom to support for president. A review of polling by Gallup over the past 40 years (sometimes in conjunction with CNN and USA Today ) shows that in most cases the candidate leading after the presidential nominating conventions has their ticket punched for the White House.

"Specifically, in 11 of the last 13 presidential elections, the major party nominee leading in the Gallup Poll conducted immediately after the second national convention went on to win the popular vote in November."

Truth and credibility.

On the former, The AP's Ron Fournier writes, "Truth is trailing distortion in the White House race," citing examples of the candidates' accusations of each other.LINK

"Few of their assertions are patently wrong; most reside in the murky gray area between correct and incorrect — a rhetorical margin of error."

On the latter, Jill Lawrence of USA Today shows how both Senator Kerry and President Bush are using the same issue against each other: credibility. With one of those just plain great lead's she writes, "Anyone listening to the Bush and Kerry presidential campaigns this week might wonder how two men with such disregard for truth got this far." LINK

In one of his most politically charged appearances yet, Vice President Cheney delivered a 28-minute foreign policy speech yesterday at the Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California - and spent over nine and half minutes focusing on Senator Kerry.

The Washington Post 's Harris and Allen wrap Cheney and Kerry's back and forth accusations on Wednesday. Cheney "assailed the national security credentials" of Senator Kerry, while Senator Kerry accused Bush of leaving U.S. troops overextended. LINK

"Vice President Dick Cheney on Wednesday portrayed the Democratic presidential candidate as weak, inconsistent and a threat to the security of the nation," writes the New York Times ' Madigan and Seelye, Noting that "some television news programs used a split screen to show both Mr. Cheney's speech, which was under way, and the scene of devastation in Baghdad." LINK

"The split-screen image underscored the volatility, in domestic politics and foreign policy, that lurks in the background of the White House campaign."LINK

The dueling speeches "marked an escalation in the vituperative tenor of the campaign" and also "spotlighted the large role foreign policy and national security concerns were likely to play in this year's election," writes the Los Angeles Times' Gerstanzang and Gold.

The Times ' duo Notes the locations of the two speeches - Kerry's just five blocks from the White House and Cheney's at the Reagan Presidential Library, "a setting connecting the Bush presidency with the 40th president and his muscular readiness to confront Communism."LINK

Deb Orin of the New York Post leads her Cheney speech wrap-up thusly: Vice President Cheney "ripped into Democratic nominee John Kerry as a weak waffler with lousy judgment who'd have left Saddam Hussein in power and is insulting steadfast allies like Britain … " LINK

More Orin: "Cheney launched his anti-Kerry salvos in a methodical, matter-of-fact way that could give the Kerry camp pause as it contemplates Kerry's choice of a vice presidential running mate who'll have to debate Cheney in prime time."

The New York Post ed board sizes up the Cheney speech: "A partisan attack? Absolutely. There's an election on, after all. Unfair? Not in the least. Anything less than the truth would be a disservice to America and its allies in the War on Terror. And to the cause of peace." LINK

The Washington Times duo of Curl and Dinan recap the Cheney/Kerry back-and-forth:LINK As does the USA Today duo of Drinkard and Lawrence:LINK And Glen Johnson of the Boston Globe : LINK

Johnson, by the way, has had three straight really strong, nuanced must-read news-of-day stories on Bush v. Kerry. Very impressive.

Maureen Dowd characterizes the upcoming election as a contest between "pride and prejudice." We'll let you guess who is "pride" and who is "prejudice." LINK

Los Angeles Times' Rainey looks at how presidential image-making this year will focus heavily on masculinity, driven by "the anxiety many Americans feel because of the war in Iraq and the threat of terrorist attacks at home."

Rainey Notes that the machismo factor won't just be in images of the candidates playing sports, but "will be cast in more subtle and euphemistic terms, as pundits talk about the candidates' 'authenticity,' 'decisiveness' and 'toughness.'"LINK

Karl roves:

Here is more from Lindlaw's awesome wirey work on Rove at the Grover meeting:

"Less than 24 hours after learning of the (West Virginia) speech, the Bush campaign produced an ad criticizing Kerry for his Senate votes on military spending. It also dispatched volunteers to hand out pro-Bush material to West Virginians, and started radio ads in the state."

"The Bush campaign has material ready to go on Kerry based on his votes and speeches, said a Republican who attended the session. Whenever Kerry raises an issue, the Bush-Cheney campaign will be prepared to hand out leaflets, and run ads on TV and radio."

"Kerry's vote authorizing force in Iraq, and on an array of military issues, put him 'in a box' on the Iraq war, minimizing his ability to criticize Bush, Rove told the conservatives in the private meeting. In Rove's judgment, Kerry hurt himself by calling on one-time Democratic rival Howard Dean to voice support for him.

Dean was a fierce critic of the Iraq war, but most Americans outside the Beltway back Bush on national security issues, Rove said."

"And he expressed irritation that some disgruntled Republicans in Congress and elsewhere have increasingly chosen to go to the news media to air their complaints, rather than bringing them directly to the White House."

Lindlaw also reports that the Bush-Cheney fundraising juggernaut might be coming to a close. "Rove headlines one of the last announced Bush-Cheney fund-raisers, an event in Alexandria, Va., on Thursday. The campaign also has announced a March 26 fund-raiser starring Vice President Dick Cheney in Dayton, Ohio."

"Two Republican officials said Bush plans a 'last-hurrah'-style fund raiser March 31 in Washington."

ABC News Vote 2004: Senator John Kerry:

From ABC News Kerry campaign reporter Ed O'Keefe: SUN VALLEY, IDAHO, March. 17--When a 15-car, police-led motorcade burst suddenly into the Texaco gas station night shift, a young attendant who stood post on Wednesday's starry night in Shoshone, Idaho, said it all, marveling, "What the hell just happened here?"

Idaho, meet candidate Kerry. Candidate Kerry, meet Idaho. Foregoing the sun soaked sands of some tropical isle in a battleground state, Senator Kerry chose to take his first legitimate vacation in over a year at Teresa Heinz Kerry's Ketchum, Idaho mountain lodge.

Tucked far from the rigors of the campaign trail and in a securely red state the Senator promised, "I'm going to go snowboarding, ride my bike, go snow shoeing, climb a mountain, whatever I want to do."

The 60-year-old-Kerry, who receives near-constant reminders from his wife Teresa Heinz Kerry to take it easy on a muscle-torn right shoulder, admitted, "I just like to re-charge, get time to rest and read … I'll be restless after two days."

Perhaps some of Heinz Kerry's pleas reached the Senator as Kerry casually mentioned to reporters en route to Ketchum that he would have surgery "at the end of the month" to repair a slight muscle tear.

Senator Kerry realizes the procedure may "take (him) out for a day or two" but "it's got to be done." Kerry sustained the injury in a bicycle accident last summer and aggravated it during sudden stop aboard the "Real Deal Express" in Iowa.

On Thursday, Kerry will venture onto the slopes, providing the skiing and snowboarding campaign image makers crave. But, perhaps to the Kerry campaign's dismay, the Senator's vacation preparations are already making (comedy) news.

On Comedy Central's "Daily Show" Tuesday, host Jon Stewart mocked Kerry's pre-vacation television-covered errands saying, "Among his stops: a Borders book store where he showed just like all Americans by pretending to be interested in books, using the bathroom, and then leaving without buying anything."

While The Note hesitates to tangle with an excellent punch line, for the record, Kerry might peruse any one the following $155.62 worth of Boston Borders pre-vacation purchases:

"Benjamin Franklin: An American Life" by Walter Isaacson "Perfectly Legal" by David Cay Johnston "The Fabric of the Cosmos: Space, Time, and the Texture of Reality" by Brian Greene "One Hundred Years of Solitude" by Gabriel Garcia Marquez "Middlesex" by Jeffrey Eugenides "Undaunted Courage: Meriweather Lewis, Thomas Jefferson and the Opening of the American West" by Stephen Ambrose "Charlie Wilson's War: The Extraordinary Story of the Largest Covert Operation in History" in George Crile Mr. Stewart also rightly pointed out that during that same outing, "(Kerry) bought a jockstrap shopping with his daughter in front of a camera crew."

Nevertheless, Kerry's vacation will mark the first vacation the Senator will enjoy with both Secret Service protection and a traveling press corps.

Mr. Stewart, this could be your lucky week.

The Boston Herald Notes Senator Kerry's luxurious vacation in Idaho: "The Bay State senator and his wife will hole up at their secluded mansion near the exclusive Sun Valley ski resort, the playground of Arnold Schwarzenegger, Tom Hanks and Clint Eastwood." LINK

Al Franken is taking credit for the Kerry campaign turnaround, according to Rush and Molloy. LINK

"John Kerry has taken a beating this week on national security, including from us, so let's give him credit for finally saying the right thing about events in Spain," Notes the Wall Street Journal editorial page.

Also in the Wall Street Journal , former U.S. ambassador to the U.N., and current John Kerry adviser, Richard Holbrooke backs up his candidate's claim on foreign leaders and accuses Republicans of diverting attention from the real issues.

Colleen McCain Nelson of the Dallas Morning News reports on Teresa Heinz Kerry's one-time vow to never hit the campaign trail, Noting that now, plunged into center stage as her husband fights for the presidential bid, she gets by with a little help from her friends. LINK

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

The Washington Post 's Charles Babington writes that Republicans in Congress have "rallied to President Bush's defense yesterday, chiding Spanish voters for ousting a government that had backed his Iraq policy." This comes after a new poll conducted in nine nations has shown considerable disapproval by European and Muslim countries of American foreign policies.LINK

In Pennsylvania yesterday, national and local AFL-CIO leaders "made clear yesterday that disdain for Bush remains the unifying force for labor activists."

Philadelphia Inquirer's Ginsberg and Von Bergen report: "Using a combination of door-to-door efforts, phone banks, mailings, work-site leafleting and repeated contact with swing voters, the federation hopes to raise its turnout by 5 percent — a vast majority of which it believes will vote Democratic."LINK Bob Novak on the manuczar fiasco: "The most charitable explanation of why President Bush's choice to be the government's manufacturing czar crashed and burned last week is sheer incompetence. But the real causes look like something worse: secrecy, deceptiveness and vindictiveness in this administration." LINK

ABC News Vote 2004: the politics of national security:

Deputy Secretary of State Richard L. Armitage said in television interviews yesterday that the Spanish government "mishandled" early information about the train bombing and "that propelled the Socialists into power in Spain … a protest by the people against the handling of the terrorist event by the sitting government of Spain," writes the New York Times Sanger and Johnston. LINK

In a brief to the Supreme Court, the Bush Administration argued that "the president should have broad and 'robust' authority to imprison enemies in wartime, even if it means locking up American citizens away from the battlefield," writes Eric Litchblau of the New York Times . LINK

ABC News Vote 2004: the battlegrounds:

The Palm Beach Post reports that thousands of voters are expected at what's being billed as Candidate Bush's first all-out campaign rally in Orlando, Fla. on Saturday. The Post Notes this is Bush's 20th visit to the Sunshine State. LINK

The Boston Globe reports on a new poll by Miami's Univision-23 showing that Cuban-Americans (a large population of Florida voters) are less than pleased with Bush policy in Cuba. Many said they "felt the administration had done little to support the issue most important to them: how to bring an end to the Fidel Castro regime."LINK

Allegations of Medicare controversies:

The New York Times ' Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Robert Pear detail how a House Democratic health policy aide mysteriously received an anonymous fax that suggested that Medicare's chief actuary had lowballed the cost of prescription drug benefits for the elderly by over 150 million dollars. LINK

"Work up the numbers and share them with Tom Scully only. NO ONE ELSE," was the content of an email from Scully's top aide to Richard Foster, reports David Rogers of the Wall Street Journal .

More Rogers: "That has outraged conservatives in Mr. Bush's own party, as well as Democrats, who accuse the administration of misleading them to win a major legislative priority for the president. While Republican leaders say the feud is overblown, no one doubts that release of the higher cost estimates last fall could have killed the measure, which only passed by one vote after hours of arm-twisting in the House in November."

ABC's Linda Douglass reports: "The House Ethics Committee has opened a formal inquiry into allegations that Rep. Nick Smith (R-MI) was offered money for his son's congressional campaign if he would vote yes on the Medicare Rx bill last November. Smith still voted no. He said publicly that another member later threatened to hurt his son's campaign once it was clear he wouldn't change his vote. Smith later tried to backtrack on his story, but the Ethics Committee began looking into it anyway. Today the Committee made it clear that it has found sufficient grounds to ratchet up the probe, announcing that it will appoint an investigative subcommittee consisting of Ethics Committee members and other members. The Committee's statement says: "The investigative subcommittee will have jurisdiction to conduct a full and complete inquiry into alleged communications received by Representative Nick Smith linking support for the congressional candidacy of his son with Representative Smith's vote on that legislation."

The Washington Post 's Babington reports on the formal inquiry. LINK

David Broder says AARP's credibility remains at stake. LINK

"The inquiry into Rep. Nick Smith's allegations marks the first time in 20 months that the ethics panel has publicly announced such a 'formal inquiry' into reports of questionable behavior by House members. Smith, who has never identified the lawmakers he said tried to influence his vote, promised to 'cooperate fully with the inquiry.' He and the ethics panel — formally known as the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct — declined further comment."

ABC News Vote 2004: the Senate races:

Highlights from an interesting e-mail written by Senator Bill Frist to his VOLPAC list. "The Senate races are now in high gear and it is time for us all to focus. Jack Ryan won the Primary in Illinois last night, and we have a real shot there. As we saw in Colorado, things are still in flux, but I thought I'd give you my take on 10 Senate races that I hope you have at the top of the radar screen. Print this out for future reference. VOLPAC will be taking a position on these races as we get through the Primaries. We are strongly supporting all of the Republican incumbents right now."

"[Alaska:] Recent polling shows it's a dead heat. Murkowski's challenge is to overcome the nepotism allegations (Her dad preceded her as Senator) by becoming a credible US Senator in her own right. This race is critical to us."

"[Colorado:] Senator Ben Campbell's retirement makes this a competitive race. Neither Republican nor Democrat candidate is certain at this point. Dems have a multi-millionaire candidate. Colorado leans Republican but it could be a swing state in the presidential race."

"[Florida:] The Republican Primary race is proving to be competitive with McCollum leading in public polling because of name ID, but Martinez is moving up. The Democrat Primary race is dominated by Deutsch's money and Castor's populist appeal. In the end Deutsch's money will out last Castor's appeal."

Dean's New Group:

It'll be called Democracy For America, and, as we've reported, its principal goal will be to use the 600,000-strong Dean e-mail list to promote candidates who share the values associated with Gov. Dean. www.democracyforamerica.com LINK

It hopes to become a potent, grassroots fundraising force for Democratic candidates and work with groups like Meetup to promote local, progressive political and community networking.

From a Dean op-ed in the Cleveland (Ohio!) Plain Dealer:

"To help defeat Bush and his agenda in 2004, our new enterprise will focus on key battleground states. We will mobilize our supporters and use the groundbreaking organizing tools we developed during our campaign, planting seeds on the Internet, meeting face to face at the grassroots, bringing new people into the process. We will use these same tools to support congressional, state and local candidates across America, candidates who stand for our principles. And we will encourage grassroots members to run for office, and we will offer them tools to achieve this. We want to change conditions so people no longer think that running for office is only for the well-connected." LINK

Republican National Convention:

Mayor Bloomberg no doubt understands the difference between fundraising pledges versus cash-in-hand. The New York host committee for the GOP convention "has collected just over half its estimated $60 million budget, and Mayor Bloomberg may have to help lean on donors to get the rest … ," writes the New York Daily News' Maggie Haberman. LINK

Democratic National Convention:

The Boston Globe talks to rail commuters who are all for Gov. Mitt Romney's idea to move the convention to South Boston, out of the Fleet Center in the middle of the city. Commuters have been grumbling over current plan for some time, especially upon learning of possible station closings due to security concerns. LINK

Joan Vennochi argues that the convention will stay in the Fleer Center because of those demanding television networks. "Luring the networks to Boston is the chief reason why Democrats have no interest in moving the event from the Fleet Center to the city's new convention center." LINK

Note to whoever is making this argument: the networks will cover the Democratic convention no matter what. Just a hunch.

Another Globe story on the same subject takes the side that it could be good for the image of the Democrats to be eating in South Boston's Liberty Bell Roast Beef instead of the Four Seasons. LINK

The economy:

As the price of oil continues to rise, Washington is debating over to whether stockpile reserves or sell them off, writes Matthew Wald of the New York Times .LINK

Big Casino budget politics:

The Washington Post 's Jonathan Weisman reports "in the span of five hours last week, the Senate added $7 billion for the Pentagon, boosted spending on veterans health care, forest management and medical research, and stripped out a relatively modest $3.4 billion cut in entitlement spending over five years." LINK

"Senate Budget Committee Chairman Don Nickles (R-Okla.) had insisted that lawmakers tighten all areas of spending under Congress's discretion, including defense. But the Senate overwhelmingly rejected that notion, adding $7 billion in defense spending to comply with President Bush's request. Also added: $2 billion for the National Institutes of Health, $1.7 billion for emergency responders and port security, $343 million for forest restoration, $33 million for college tuition assistance, $101 million for veterans health research, and $5.6 billion for an expansion of health insurance for military reservists and National Guardsmen."

"Most of those spending increases are to be paid for by unspecified cuts to general government funding or federal 'allowances.' But without specifics, Republican and Democratic Senate aides say those offsets will never happen. In all, a Senate GOP leadership aide said, as much as $15 billion was tacked on to the budget."

In a 24-to-18 party-line vote, the House Budget Committee "turned down a Democratic amendment that would have blocked future tax cuts unless they were paid for with money from spending cuts or increases in other taxes," writes Richard Oppel of the New York Times . LINK

The New York Times editorial page writes that "it will largely be up to four moderate Republican senators — Lincoln Chafee, John McCain, Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe — to decide whether they want to fight an uphill battle against their president to put a stop to what his father once called voodoo economics." LINK

The politics of same-sex marriage:

Johanna Neuman of the Los Angeles Times spent some time with a gay Republican councilman from the District of Columbia, David Catania, who has been a strong Bush supporter and is feeling somewhat disaffected since the proposal of the constitutional amendment. LINK

Neuman also reports on the benefits some gay groups are experiencing of late. "The raw emotion kicked up by the issue is affecting the presidential campaign in ways that no one anticipated. Ever since Bush endorsed a ban on same-sex unions, money has been pouring in to gay rights groups in record amounts."

"The Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, which has recruited gay political candidates and raised money for them since 1991, reports a 200% increase in contributions to gay and lesbian candidates. The Log Cabin Republicans, which is fighting the ban, reports it is getting hundreds of thousands of dollars a week in donations."

The politics of immigration:

The Wall Street Journal editorial board takes some Republicans to task for refusing to move forward with President Bush's new immigrant workers proposals:

"Conservative immigration opponents argue that Latinos tend to vote Democratic anyway and that this is all the more reason to stop immigration now. But Census data expose the weakness of that reasoning. At 36 million and counting, there are so many Americans of Hispanic heritage already in the U.S. that even if we stopped immigration cold today, their share of the electorate would rise, and rapidly. That donkey has left the barn."

"And that's bad news for any party that lets itself be perceived as hostile to migration among Hispanics, for whom immigration policy matters tremendously to first- and second-generation voters. The point isn't that Republicans need to play identity politics the way Democrats do. Hispanic voters will settle for being treated like other Americans, but they will punish politicians who appear to be actively hostile to their efforts to get ahead."

Politics:

And just so the Union Leader's John DiStaso doesn't think we have stopped building our Thursday's around reading Granite Status, we will let you know that we LOVED this item: "Best pure rumor we heard this week: former WMUR sports director Charlie Sherman headed to the state tourism office as a pitchman. Word is Sherman wants to promote Hampton Beach as a winter resort."

Page Six predicts Treasury Secretary Snow will not be around for a second Bush term should there be one. LINK

"Early betting says Stephen Schwarzman of the Blackstone Group, a classmate of Bush at Yale, will get the job in a second Bush term. If Kerry wins, Steven Rattner might get it. Rattner, a former Times reporter who became an investment banker, put out a press release when Al Gore was running for president saying he wasn't interested. As one Democrat observed, 'We took that to mean he was interested.'"

The Washington Post 's Reid writes on a new poll indicating that, according to Democratic pollster Peter D. Hart, "people are really unhappy about their role, or lack of it, in the democratic process." LINK

TODAY SCHEDULE (all times ET): —7:00 am: Sen. John McCain appears on CBS' "Early Show" and NBC's "Today Show —7:15 am: Gen. Wesley Clark appears on CNN's "American Morning" —8:30 am: The Labor Department releases the weekly jobless claims report and the Producer Price Index for January —9:00 am: The Global Business Dialogue holds a discussion on trade agreements, negotiations and the 2004 elections, Washington, D.C. —10:00 am: House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer and House Democrats hold a news conference to discuss the budget, Washington, D.C. —10:00 am: The House of Representatives meets to consider H.R. 1375, the Financial Services Regulatory Relief Act —10:45 am: House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi holds her weekly news conference —10:45 am: Labor Secretary Elaine Chao speaks to the National Newspaper Association's 43rd Annual Government Affairs Conference, Washington, D.C. —11:05 am: President Bush speaks to military personnel, Fort Campbell, Ky. —12:00 pm: Congressional Budget Office Director Douglas Holtz-Eakin speaks at a luncheon program hosted by Women in Housing and Finance, Washington, D.C. —12:05 pm: President and Mrs. Bush have lunch with troops, Fort Campbell, Ky. —12:30 pm: Gov. Howard Dean gives a speech announcing his new organization at the Westin Hotel, Seattle, Wash. —1:00 pm: Politics Live on ABC News Live and AOL —1:30 pm: Homeland Security Undersecretary Asa Hutchinson speaks to the 2004 International Economic Development Council Summit, Washington, D.C. —2:45 pm: Rep. Dennis Kucinich speaks to government students at Juneau-Douglas High School, Juneau, Alaska —3:30 pm: Sen. Pete Domenici and Bush-Cheney Campaign Chairman Mark Racicot open the campaign's New Mexico offices, Albuquerque, N.M. —4:00 pm: Rep. Kucinich attends the Bill Egan Forum at the Baranof Hotel, Juneau, Alaska —5:55 pm: President and Mrs. Bush returns to the White House —6:00 pm: Rep. Kucinich speaks on special native issues at a forum sponsored by the Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes, Juneau, Alaska —8:00 pm: ABC News' George Stephanopoulos moderates a debate between RNC Chairman Ed Gillespie and DNC Chairman Terry McAuliffe at the Catholic University of America, Washington, D.C. —8:30 pm: Rep. Kucinich attends a public reception at Hanger on the Wharf, Juneau, Alaska —9:00 pm: Gov. Dean speaks about his new organization at Palace Hotel, San Francisco, Calif. —11:30 pm: Rep. Kucinich speaks at the University of Alaska, Juneau, Alaska

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