The Note

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.

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