The Note

TODAY SCHEDULE (all times ET)

FUTURES CALENDAR

NEWS SUMMARY

Today, it's very likely that Sen. John Kerry will collect the 99 or so delegates he needs to put him over the top for the Democratic presidential nomination, according to both our ABC News delegate estimate and the campaign's own tally.

Illinois, which votes today, will send 156 pledged delegates to the convention, and Kerry is expected to receive the lion's share.

We'll be watching the Senate primaries there, too.

They've been bruising by any standard, with details of messy divorces and personal allegations dripping out from both sides. Setting the pace at the moment in the Democratic field: State Sen. Barack Obama, endorsed by Bill Bradley and the League of Conservation Voters, among others.

Obama is the son of a Kenyan father and a Kansan mother and, as the Washington Post noted, if elected he would be the Senate's only current black member and "'just the third'" since Reconstruction.

His party competition includes state Comptroller Dan Hynes, Cook County Treasurer Maria Pappas, and investment banker Blair Hull.

On the Republican side, teacher and former investment banker Jack Ryan currently looks the favorite against dairy company owner Jim Oberweis, paper company executive Andy McKenna Jr., and state Sen. Steve Rauschenberger, among others.

In Washington, the Fed's aggressive monetary policy gets an internal once-over, at the FOMC meetings this morning.

Which reminds us — with some seemingly positive hiring data out today — what will interest rates be like on election day? What will the housing market be like? Gas prices? The number of Americans without access to health insurance?

In Colorado, will Dick Cheney find some new way to tease Sen. Kerry?

With all these question, it's about high time we put our flag in the sand. It's time for … . Signposts.

As we said in yesterday's Note, political vectors can be changed by positive pressure from an external force.

Mickey Kaus didn't quite agree with our physics lesson yesterday and suggests voters still getting to know Kerry combined with an idle press could cause the campaign to chart a less predictable course. " … (I)n September we are much more apt to look back and say that Bush's political vector has darted this way and that rather than followed a stately ballistic course." LINK

Most darts and zigs we cannot predict.

In fact, we are asked all the time to predict: Who will Kerry pick as his running mate? When will the debates be? How many? And, of course, who will win?

While these mega things we cannot predict, many we can.

Before you think the results of this election are baked in the cake, try and factor each and every one of these Signposts into your calculations.

And send your own to politicalunit@abcnews.com .

Clip-n-save, and let us know on Nov. 3 how right (or not) we were.

----------------------------CLIP HERE---------------------------

-- There will be a huge wave of SCOTUS retirement speculation in June; the potential of a juicy, base-rousing confirmation fight looms; somehow, the Judiciary Committee MemoGate factors into all of this.

--Someone (probably David Brooks) finds a more creative way to say "battlegrounds" and "swing states."

--Folks realize that the Kerry campaign/Miner-Sefl-through-Jano/CAP/Thunderroad/527 rapid response operation far surpasses anything congressional Democrats have ever come up with.

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