The Note




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 .

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

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-- 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.

--The highway bill pork-loads; the energy bill confuses; Hastert finds some way to vent again. Jill Zuckman is all over the story.

--The ABC News Campaign Buses return!

--Journalists write articles speculating on an all-Catholic ticket if Kerry chooses Vilsack.

--41 and Barbara sit down with Jamie Gangell at least once and cluck in some newsworthy way about the state of the campaign.

--Carl Pope's media star continues to rise.

-- The 9/11 commission produces damaging leaks (to some party).

-- A week after the Boston Globe's book on John Kerry comes out, some hugely controversial aspect of his past (not mentioned in the book at all) surfaces.

--No European leader comes out as a Kerry supporter at next month's NATO meeting. The Washington Times revisits the French and Czech homes of Sen. Kerry with barely concealed sarcasm.

--European elections influence elite perspectives on Bush's foreign policy; coverage is framed differently, but Americans don't really care.

--Maxine Isaacs resumes her status as It professor at the Kennedy School as enterprising students try to get to her leak veepstakes tidbits.

--The Administration never finds a convincing spokesman for its economy policies, even if job growth picks up.

--More 1970 Harvard Crimson articles on Kerry's youthful verbal indiscretions surface.

--Three Ohio storylines will dominate, courtesy of Barone, Broder, Brownstein: state struggles to regain economic footing after structure of economy shifts; social and economic gulfs between Democrat-tending metro areas and Republican-tending suburbs; noticing that Ohio is William McKinley's home state, thus implicating Karl Rove's Mark Hannah typology.

--Supreme Court's ruling on the Cheney energy task force records, on Gitmo detainees and on the Pledge and one other issue TBD provoke high political consequences.

--A conservative publication writes the TRUE story about why Sandy Rios left CWA.

--Potential ballot initiatives to watch in battleground states: smoking in Washington State, Senate vacancies in Alaska, alternative energy in Colorado, parental notification and felon's rights in Florida, affirmative action in Michigan, gay rights in Kansas City, Missouri and Ohio.

--California judges decide the status of the state's marriage laws … .but some enterprising mayor or official somewhere decides to solemnize new ones.

--The Olympics … .do you believe in miracles? Yes!

--Kerry is caught by an open mic saying something that will actually be damaging.

--The FEC will create rules for the non-registered 527s, and whatever the results, Steve Rosenthal will still find a way to get out that vote.

--Bob Shrum and Harold Ickes will clash over message in ads, but through surrogates.

--MoveOn and the Media Fund will clash over message in Thursday conference calls.

--Corzine's DSCC scrapes together the cash from hopeful donors to create the illusion that the Senate is competitive for Democrats. Inez Tennenbaum still has her work cut out for her.

--Tom DeLay, Mark Halperin, and Michael Bloomberg will dine together convention week at Il Mulino and fight over who pays the check.

--Kevin Sheekey doesn't pay for a single meal between now and the day the convention starts.

--Traffic in Boston will be bad before, during, and after the convention, and forever there after.

--Ben Ginsberg and Bob Bauer will both become even more powerful and more famous than they are now.

--Both parties' bravado about throwing out the "business as usual" convention rule books will turn out to be just that — bravado.

--Ken Mehlman will not deliver his homestate electoral votes for George Bush; Dick Cheney will.

--Jonathan Epstein will not deliver his homestate electoral votes for John Kerry; Mary Beth Cahill will.

--John Kerry and Mary Beth Cahill will assign a top, well-known Democratic strategist to run Ohio, and the Bush campaign will know it.

--Paul Begala will use words on "Crossfire" that, if one of his boys used them, Diane Friday would wash the offending mouth out with soap.

--Ralph Nader will realize just how many of his old friends he has alienated. (Just kidding about this one.)

--The front-of-the-book political coverage of Time and Newsweek will continue to converge to the point that Time adds a "Watching Conventional Wisdom Watch," with up and down pitchforks (instead of arrows).

--Rick Berke will come out of retirement (or whatever it is he does now … ) to write two important pieces in the New York Times : one about how the word "STAR" insidiously appears in three frames of an RNC attack ad against Kerry; and one about where Bush advisers sit at the White House political meetings (complete with boffo graphic).

--The President will sign the highway bill, or he'll veto it.

--One of the two leading presidential candidates will go on Oprah and, in a desperate attempt to save his campaign, will cry while talking about his wife.

--The Bush campaign will bungle the debate about debates.

--Jay Matthews will trot out the latest version of his quadrennial "the taller guy always wins" essay.

--The Kerry campaign, having been given the gift of the Bush campaign bungling the debate about debates, will mess it up even more.

--John King, Bob Novak, Claire Shipman, John Cochran, Dan Balz, and Ron Fournier will all claim to have broken the story of who Kerry picks as his running mate.

--The President will appear with gold-medal-winning athletes from the Olympics; John Kerry will appear with Silver Star medal-winning veterans from the Vietnam war.

-- Clever travel writers will compare the B&Bs, ice cream choices, and lobster entrees of Kennebunkport versus Nantucket.

--Travel writers who are even more clever will tale-of-the-tape Nantucket versus Crawford.

--The winning presidential candidate (or, at least, the one who gets the best coverage) will be the one whose campaign first figures out the importance of well-spiced chicken fingers constantly available on the press charter upon boarding.

--An entire day of political coverage will be dominated by some Midwestern congressperson's quote/sound bite about what his/her state's economy is doing to the President's re-election chances.

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President Bush is meeting with the Prime Minister with the Netherlands at the White House.

Vice President Cheney is in Denver, Colo. to speak at a luncheon for Rep. Bob Beauprez.

Sen. Kerry is in West Virginia.

Ralph Nader is in Washington, D.C.

ABC News Vote 2004: "foreign leaders" for Kerry:

All right, Mr. Healy … make that:

ABC News Vote 2004: "more leaders" for Kerry:

Perhaps not surprisingly, Jodi Wilgoren's article drips with contempt for the pool system. LINK

Glen Johnson's article seems to suggest, and we'd mostly agree, whether Kerry said "foreign" or "more," the context is roughly the same.LINK

Ah the New York Post headlines — "Dubya: Put up or Shut up"

Vince Morris of the New York Post writes up the McClellan/Cheney/Coleman offensive on the "foreign leaders" flap without reference to Pat Healy's mea culpa. LINK

The AP's Glover writes up an AP interview with Kerry yesterday in which Kerry insisted he is "not making anything up at all." LINK

"Kerry communications director Stephanie Cutter said Kerry's words could be construed in several ways. ' 'Foreign leaders' denotes something that 'leaders' does not. . . . 'Leaders' could mean anybody, here at home, abroad, anybody,' according to the Washington Post's Dan Balz. LINK

Matea Gold of the Los Angeles Times explores the spin.. LINK

"'He was misquoted,' said Cutter. 'Had he not been misquoted, this wouldn't be a story.'"

Group of 19: raise your hands if you agree.

ABC News Vote 2004: Bush vs. Kerry:

The New York Times' Nagourney and Elder have the latest NYT/CBS poll numbers which have President Bush and Sen. Kerry "effectively tied" in the horserace.

"George Bush and John Kerry enter the general election at a time of growing concern among Americans that the nation is veering in the wrong direction, the latest New York Times /CBS News poll shows. Mr. Bush faces unrest over his management of the economy, while the public has doubts about Mr. Kerry's political convictions." LINK

Key grafs:

"Already, most voters think Mr. Kerry is a politician who says what people want to hear, the poll found, rather than what he believes — the line of attack Mr. Bush has used against him in speeches."

"At the same time, there is sweeping concern among Americans about the president's economic policies, including his ability to create jobs and the effectiveness of his tax cuts, according to the poll. By a margin of greater than 30 points, more people said the policies of Mr. Bush's administration had reduced the number of jobs in the country rather than increased them. Those findings could prove particularly significant if the election is fought over economic issues in hard-hit states like Ohio."

"After a month in which Mr. Bush called for a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage, he is viewed in sharply ideological terms, with more than 50 percent of voters describing him as conservative, again as high as it has been during his presidency. The finding suggests the risks Mr. Bush faces as he tries to build up his standing with conservative members of his party, and the challenge he faces as he seeks to expand his support."

The Bush campaign believes the Times write-up emphasizes certain numbers at the expense of others.

ABC News has obtained an e-mail written by chief strategist Matthew Dowd slated to be sent to campaign leaders later today.

It says, among other things:

"The real story from this poll is Kerry's 10-point drop in favorability since the late February CBS News poll and President Bush's rise in the midst of months of negative attacks from the Democrats."

"The president now leads Kerry by 3 points among registered voters, 46% to 43%. This is a net increase of 4 points since mid-February, when Kerry led by a point."

"The president's job approval is rising. A majority of Americans, 51%, approve, while 42% disapprove, a net increase of 6 points from the 47% that approved and 44% that disapproved in the late February CBS News poll."

The Los Angeles Times' Nick Anderson with the help of the supremely talented Evan Tracey Notes that if you combine Kerry's ad with Media Fund and ads you would have seen more anti-Bush campaign commercials than Bush-Cheney '04 commercials in Albuquerque, New Mexico on Saturday.LINK

"To be sure, ad buys can fluctuate from day to day in any campaign. But TV spending data suggest that in some areas of the country, Democrats may be able to blunt the overwhelming financial edge Bush holds over Kerry."

The Wall Street Journal's Christopher Conkey spent some time on the candidates' Web sites. "The number of Americans who regularly go online to follow the campaign has jumped 44% since the 2000 election, according to a recent study by the Pew Internet & American Life Project. Suddenly, the Web has become a key battleground for winning over undecided voters and their money," writes Conkey.


"Mr. Bush has often been called the CEO president, and his campaign Web site reflects some of that top-down style … "

" … The Kerry site, meanwhile, gets the nod for clarity and tech-savvy."

USA Today's Page and Benedetto write of the latest Gallup Poll showing Americans are "increasingly gloomy" when it comes to the current economy and the direction of the country. LINK

ABC News Vote 2004: the politics of national security:

In the aftermath of the train bombings in Spain, President Bush has begun "talking to other world leaders about his determination to remain on the offensive in the war on terrorism," writes Mike Allen of the Washington Post. LINK

Spain's incoming prime minister, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero called Iraq a "disaster" yesterday and "made clear that he would pursue a 'cordial' but decidedly more distant relationship with the United States than did his predecessor," writes Keith Richburg on the front page of today's Washington Post. LINK

"The hand-lettered sign at the sidewalk memorial for the 200 victims of last week's deadly train bombings starkly summed up a sentiment of many who came to pay respects Monday afternoon. It read: 'They Died to Support Bush,'" writes Glenn Frankel of the Washington Post in his piece on anger towards the U.S. in Spain. LINK

Through the prism of the Madrid bombings, the Wall Street Journal's Schlesinger writes about Kerry's delicate balancing act when it comes to criticizing President Bush's handling of the war on terror. "The train attacks and election fallout in Spain pose obvious complications for President Bush. But those events create a dilemma for Massachusetts Senator John Kerry as well: how to criticize the incumbent's war on terror without seeming to invite al Qaeda to try to shape this autumn's U.S. contest."

The New York Times' Rosenbaum and Wilgoren write despite Kerry's tendency to use daily events to showcase Bush's shortcomings, he has steered clear of talking about the fall of the Spanish government and the terrorist attacks there. LINK

The Wall Street Journal editorial board writes "appeasement" is not an option in the war on terror. "So the terrorists will conclude that, with an investment of only a dozen backpack bombs, they were able to rout a major power. They are sure to try the same thing elsewhere in Europe, and almost certainly between now and the November elections in the U.S. We doubt that an America that has already endured 9/11 would react as the Spanish have, but now is the time for President Bush to begin preparing the public for the worst."

The New York Times' David Brooks suggests that this is not the last of Al Qaeda's politically motivated attacks "after all, how often have murderers altered a democratic election? And having done it once, why stop now?"LINK

The New York Times' Paul Krugman posits "that Mr. Bush, while eager to invoke 9/11 on behalf of an unrelated war, has shown consistent reluctance to focus on the terrorists who actually attacked America, or their backers in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan." LINK

Hans Blix said of the Bush Administration: 'They wanted to come to the conclusion that there were weapons' and indicated that they were not interested in hearing that there may be evidence to the contrary, writes Warren Hoge of the New York Times. LINK

ABC News-TIME Magazine-BBC: "Iraq: Where Things Stand":

There is something in here for everyone — supporters and critics of the war and the president alike.

ABC News released an enormously interesting and important new poll of the Iraqi people. It's among the first of its kind, and the first done for a media entity. It is likely to stir the debate rather than settle it, but it provides policy makers with a broad and accurate sense of what the Iraqi people believe about the war, the occupation, and their future.

Among the key findings:

"The poll finds that 78 percent of Iraqis reject violence against coalition forces, although 17 percent — a sixth of the population — call such attacks "acceptable." One percent, for comparison, call it acceptable to attack members of the new Iraqi police." LINK

"Worries exist — locally about joblessness, nationally about security — boosting desires for a "single strong leader," at least in the short-term. Yet the first media-sponsored national public opinion poll in Iraq also finds a strikingly optimistic people, expressing growing interest in politics, broad rejection of political violence, rising trust in the Iraqi police and army and preference for an inclusive and democratic government."

"More Iraqis say the United States was right than say it was wrong to lead the invasion, but by just 48 to 39 percent, with 13 percent expressing no opinion — hardly the unreserved welcome some U.S. policymakers had anticipated."

"As many Iraqis say the war 'humiliated' Iraq as say it 'liberated' the country; more oppose than support the presence of coalition forces there now (although most also say they should stay for the time being); and relatively few express confidence in those forces, in the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority, or in the Iraqi Governing Council.

"There are huge differences in these and many other questions between Arab Iraqis, who account for 79 percent of the population, and the Kurdish minority (17 percent). Forty percent of Arabs say it was right for the United States to invade; that soars to 87 percent of Kurds. Just one-third of Arabs say the war liberated rather than humiliated Iraq; it's 82 percent of Kurds. Thirty percent of Arabs support the presence of coalition forces, again compared with 82 percent of Kurds. Positive views of the invasion also are held disproportionately in the South of the country, as well as in the Kurdish north."

"Locally, unhappiness is highest by far with the availability of jobs (69 percent say it's bad) and the supply of electricity (64 percent negative). Local schools are rated positively (by 72 percent), and smaller majorities give positive ratings to the availability of basic household goods and the adequacy of local crime protection. About half give positive ratings to the availability of medical care, clean water and household goods beyond the basics, and to local government."

"Iraqis divide in their rating of the local security situation now, but strikingly, 54 percent say security where they live is better now than it was before the war. However, for some, local security clearly is a great concern; 22 percent call it the single biggest problem in their lives, more than any other mention ("no job" is second, 12 percent). Local security concerns peak in greater Baghdad, where they're cited by 36 percent as the top problem, compared to a low of eight percent in Kurdistan."

ABC News Vote 2004: Sen. John Kerry:

The New York Post's Blomquist takes a look at Kerry's homeland security speech before the IAFF as a rare moment where the Democrat put the president's strongest issue, national security, front and center. LINK

The Daily News duo of DeFrank and Bazinet wrap up the Kerry/Bush to and fro as well. Make sure you don't miss Charlie Cook's sizing up Pennsylvania and more. LINK

"'It is competitive,' said Charles Cook of the nonpartisan Cook Political Report, 'but it's uphill for the president. All the older industrial states are looking worse for him than last time.'"

Cindy Adams has it from the former Ambassador to the Slovak Republic that Kerry and Terry McAuliffe have agreed to "unleash" Bill Clinton this campaign season. LINK

Notable armchair strategist Dan Payne urges Kerry to pick veep now. LINK

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

President Bush traveled to Pennsylvania yesterday to promote his home ownership plan and seek votes, reports Amy Goldstein of the Washington Post, "repeating a format he has used often since January to talk up his economic policies, he staged a "conversation" with a small group of people who support his views on housing — or are success stories themselves." LINK

The Philadelphia Inquirer's Fitzgerald takes a look at his electoral map (which we hope is color-coded) and reports that President Bush "needs to improve his showing in the Philadelphia's suburban counties, where moderate Republicans have been more receptive to Democratic candidates in recent years." LINK

The Philadelphia Daily News Notes in its headline that the President has now made 26 visits to the battleground state and wraps the President's trip there yesterday. LINK

The Los Angeles Times' Chen Notes that the President was in the battleground state to promote one of the few bright spots in the nation's economy — "low interest rates that have helped produce record-high homeownership."LINK

The New York Times' Stevenson writes of Pennsylvania: "Along with Michigan, it is near the top of a list of states that went Democratic last time but that the White House appears serious about contesting."LINK

Vice President Cheney ventured out onto the road yesterday, stopping by Artesia, N.M. to stump for Rep. Steve Pearce. LINK

The VP took the opportunity to slam Kerry on his foreign leaders comments, saying: "Yesterday, in Pennsylvania, a voter asked Senator Kerry directly who these foreign leaders are. Senator Kerry said, 'that's none of your business.' But it is our business when a candidate for President claims the political endorsement of foreign leaders. At the very least, we have a right to know what he is saying to foreign leaders that makes them so supportive of his candidacy."

The Washington Post editorial board asks for a better response as to why President Bush has declined Kerry's request for monthly debates. LINK

Alan Murray writes in his Wall Street Journal column that President Bush's SOTU crackdown on steroids in professional sports may not have been such a bad idea despite what the New York Times or Washington Post prints.

The New York Times' Edmund Andrews report while the Bush Administration cites 9/11 and the 2001 recession for an increased deficit, the "Congressional Budget Office estimated that economic weakness would account for only 6 percent of a budget shortfall that could reach a record $500 billion this year." LINK

The New York Times' Greenhouse and Becker write that the AFL-CIO will ask Bush to punish China for the violations of workers' rights.LINK

The New York Times' Jennifer 8. Lee reports after being pressured by states and environmental groups, the Bush Administration may tighten its regulations on mercury emissions from coal-burning power plants. LINK

ABC News Vote 2004: the battlegrounds:

The Boston Globe's Peter Canellos writes that "while the 2000 dispute is still slumbering under the surface of this year's equally crucial Florida vote, there are stirrings in the crypt." He cites, among other examples, the controversy over Justice Scalia and Vice President Cheney's duck-hunting excursion — saying "it's hard not to see it as payback for Scalia's injunction that stopped Florida counties from recounting votes at a point when George W. Bush had a tiny lead." LINK

The AP's Liz Sidoti reports: "Democrat John Kerry is spending only one-third of the money that President Bush is pouring into television advertising this week, but viewers in such cities as Cleveland, Milwaukee and Las Vegas likely will see more anti-Bush commercials than the other way around. " LINK

The Morning TV:

Gibson and Stern unite?

Mel Gibson, historically a strong supporter of President Bush, yesterday questioned that support during an interview with Sean Hannity on his radio program. And as it was featured prominently on Drudge, it was featured prominently on the morning shows. ""I am having doubts, of late," Gibson said on Sean Hannity's radio show. "It mainly has to do with the weapons [of mass destruction] claims." ABC's Dan Harris tried to get a comment from the White House, which refused to get into it. Meanwhile, as Harris pointed out on Good Morning America, Howard Stern is questioning his vocal support for the war in Iraq and is now calling President Bush "Jesus freak," "maniac," and "arrogant bastard" and calling for a "jihad" to remove the president from office.

Bartlett and Schumer

White House Communications Director Dan Bartlett appeared on NBC's Today Show and stayed on message on the war in Iraq, the war on terrorism, the hunt for Osama bin Laden, the terror alert level … (is there anything else to stay message on?)

When asked by Matt Lauer whether he was concerned about a terrorist attack altering an American election like it did the Spanish election, Bartlett said "Regardless of a political election it's clear that the enemy is going to attack." He said that that's why the administration is working hard to defend the United States, and Noted that "Other places who do not support the war in Iraq have all been the victim of the war in Iraq."

Bartlett was followed on Today by Sen. Chuck Schumer (he of last night's Daily Show!), who criticized the administration indirectly for their priorities. "We haven't done enough on homeland security," Schumer said, except in air safety. "But when it comes to other aspects of homeland security … we're way behind. The main reason in my judgment is we're not spending the dollars, we don't have the focus that we should."

The bombings in Spain, Schumer added, "ought to be a wakeup call. We ought to put the same effort into homeland security into fighting the war overseas."

McCain on Imus

Sen. John McCain, the focus of veepstakes rumors, Noted on "Imus in the Morning" this morning that "it must have been a slow news day" recently when a minor brouhaha emerged over his early March comments that John Kerry was a friend of his and that he would "entertain" a lot of things, including a VP offer.

More McCain:

On Spain: "Every terrorist in the world is now encouraged, at least in the short term."

On Iraq: "Rumsfeld and company did not react quickly enough that they were facing an insurgency, they needed more linguists, so forth … But there has been tremendous progress … We will be there a long long time."

Byte of the morning goes to Imus, though. The two were talking about steroids when the name of Curt "Now that I'm in Boston I'm going to lose" Schilling, one of McCain's heroes. Imus: "Of course Kurt's problem would of course not be steroids but cheeseburgers."

ABC News Vote 2004: Illinois Senate race:

Rick Pearson and James Janega of the Chicago Tribune report on last minute bids for the Illinois senate race today, Noting that anticipation of low voter turnout and inclement weather hardly stopped the cross-state marathon of last minute campaigning among the contestants. LINK

The Tribune's Eric Zorn projects his election day predictions in today's column, offering voters a few election day tidbits to "get them in the mood." LINK

Blair Kamin of the Chicago Tribune reports on the newly redesigned election materials, ballots, and voting instructions that will accompany voters to the polls today as Illinois' Chicago and Cook counties emerge as national leaders in election reform. LINK

Rev. Al Sharpton and Cedric Brown:

Rev. Al Sharpton sauntered onto CNN's American Morning set to chat about his future in the party and on the air. "There are a lot of issues that have not been resolved," Sharpton said of the Democratic Party's platform. "We can all say that John Kerry will be a much better president than President Bush," Sharpton added, emphasizing his role in ensuring that Kerry deals with "the urban agenda" and creates a platform "that doesn't marginalize anyone, from Howard Dean's supporters to my supporters. We must stand for people who are suffering."

As for his future in the fourth estate, Sharpton chuckled and said "I'm not going into entertainment. Whatever I do will be serious. We cannot cede to the Rush Limbaugh's and Bill O'Reilly's of the world the airwaves."

But the highlight of the morning television (other than Jim Carrey hanging from a coat rack) has to be Cedric Brown, the "heckler," as Fox News chyroned him, who challenged Kerry at a rally last week about his claim that leaders have told him they want President Bush to lose. "If the Senator talks to a foreign leader," Brown said painfully slowly, "in an attempt to undermine the president of the United States and the administration in order to gain their endorsement for political office," he continued, "I say that's a betrayal to this country."

As for his interaction with Kerry, Brown said he didn't have a problem with Kerry's asking him his party affiliation but did say "I think it's unfortunate that he chose to try to attack me … Basically Kerry told me it was none of my business whether I met with foreign leaders."

Brown tried (slowly) to read an open letter he had written to the U.S. Senate. "I'm calling on the United Congress today to investigate Senator Kerry's meetings with foreign leaders. They should ask questions that determine the nature and timing of our meetings. If Senator Kerry was undermining the POTUS and the administration … then I would say he betrayed our country." As he opened his letter, though, Fox apparently thought better and brought the hook out. "We're coming up on a hard break with the satellite, Mr. Brown," one said quickly. Cut to studio. Pause. "We're going to take some calls now."

ABC News' Sharpton campaign reporter Beth Loyd files this dispatch:

Al Sharpton rarely does anything in a conventional way. His endorsement of John Kerry is no exception. In a seemingly contradictory move, Sharpton endorsed Kerry but will continue his campaign, neither suspending nor withdrawing and he maintains he will accumulate more delegates. However, Sharpton is no longer campaigning for himself, but for his platform, recently termed the "Urban Agenda."

While Kerry's campaign released the news of Sharpton's "endorsement," the Sharpton campaign's written statement avoided using the "e" word completely. Campaign manager Charles Halloran said, "While Senator Kerry's release was accurate, the Reverend simply chose another verb." Apparently, "concede" is the Sharpton campaign's verb of choice.

Halloran described the meeting as "a wonderful meeting of the minds." While it remains unclear which specific ideas from the "Urban Agenda" Kerry will adopt, the Sharpton campaign says there will be a series of meetings that will focus on affirmative action, police brutality, as well as better schools, healthcare, and jobs for minorities. No dates have been set.

One theory about the Reverend's timing is that a television and/or radio deal is imminent. But can you be a candidate and a TV/radio star at the same time? "He can do whatever he wants," said Halloran. If Sharpton doesn't get the primetime speaking role at the convention that he has long coveted, perhaps he will participate in another way — on The Reverend Sharpton Show.

Those pesky FEC problems have yet to go away. While the FEC recently honored Sharpton's request for $100,000 in matching funds, they are investigating whether or not Sharpton used more than the allowed $50,000 of his own money. Given the relatively enormous debt, the campaign is crossing its fingers that they get to keep the $100,000 and that they get the additional $80,000 for which they have applied.


The lesson we learned from watching New York 1's "Inside City Hall" last night: the Glover Park Group's Mike Feldman knows more about New York City education politics than anyone else who lives on Swann Street NW.

Jim Hopkins of USA Today reports that the tech industry is shifting its support from the Democrats, who they supported in 2000, to the Republicans this year. "Among top givers, only doctors and other health professionals shifted more to the GOP." LINK

The land of 5 plus 2 = 7:

Glen Johnson of the Boston Globe takes a look at the controversy surrounding 527 groups and Notes that by the time the FEC would approve new regulations in mid-May, followed by 30 legislative days before a chamber can pass those regulations — probably mid-June, "Kerry would probably have enough of his own money to counter Bush's ads until late July, when the Democrats hold their nomination convention in Boston and he gets his general election money from the US Treasury." LINK

The USA Today editorial pages debate whether or not the independent groups are truly independent.

One side argues: "By taking advantage of a loophole in the law and masking themselves behind such innocuous names as or Citizens United, such groups avoid the clear and immediate accountability that lets voters judge the credibility of their messages." LINK

The other side: "Of all of the elements of the First Amendment, the one that should be protected most zealously is the right to free political speech." LINK

Democrats' reliance on using 527s and soft money has put them on the spot, write E.J. Dionne in today's Washington Post, which leaves them playing with fire. LINK

The Democratic National Convention:

The Boston Globe reports some trouble with convention-planning in Bean town. About 100 members of the Boston Police Patrolmen's Association and the Boston Police Superior Officers Federation crashed Mayor Tom Menino's press conference announcing the city's plans because of a dispute over their contracts.LINK

Joan Vennochi of the Globe writes of a totally separate convention controversy — one going on behind the scenes where Mayor Menino is being accused of favoring his friends when handing out convention contracts. LINK

The economy:

The New York Times' Andrews writes that Alan Greenspan is not worried about consumer debt and the large budget deficit. Greenspan's theory could be good for the Bush White House since it increases the chance that the Federal Reserve will keep short term interest rates low and stymie Democratic criticism over the budget. LINK

Big Casino budget politics: Medicare:

The Queen of the Medicare legislation, Ms. Vicki Kemper of the Los Angeles Times, writes up the political tempest caused by those "video news releases." LINK

"Three months after President Bush signed the Medicare reform bill into law, Monday's dispute highlighted the political battle Democrats and Republicans are waging over efforts to interpret the complex law for Medicare beneficiaries and American voters."

Note dish:

Seen by a wag: "Before Al Sharpton met John Kerry on Monday afternoon, the Reverend pulled up a char at Georgia Brown's for a late lunch. Sitting at the head of the table, positioned so he could look in the direction of Kerry's new office, Sharpton lunched with five others. An aide ordered fried chicken for Sharpton, who was shaking hands in the restaurant. No word on whether he took a to-go order of the tasty cobbler to his meeting with Kerry."

Just asking … .

Which presidential campaign manager known for his crisp suits and loud conference call voice is expected to appear on a panel with Joe Trippi this Friday at George Washington University? … .

Calendar …

March 25 … P. Diddy is exepcted (but not confirmed) to join POTUSses Clinton and Carter at the Drean nightclub in Washington for the Young Democrats United event called "Something New Part II." Star Jones, Q-Tip and DJ Biz Markie, along with Tracey and Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds will host and emcee.

March 28 … . Josh King, the learned and versatile advance man for President Clinton, has written an episode of NBC's American Dreams. LINK

We are now self-referential:

The Googling monkeys were atwitter over the weekend when they read David Hochman's fine New York Times' look at how Google has changed our lives. LINK

Inspired by the article, the monkeys decided to, well, Google themselves. (Despite our skepticism, they insist they had never done so.) Now that they believe they're famous, expect to see them slyly insert random references and create their own blogs so they can overtake the Gang of 500 (current count: 104 to 222). They insisted on including some of their appearances:







TODAY SCHEDULE (all times ET): —7:00 am: Polls open in Illinois —7:29 am: Sen. John McCain appears on Imus in the Morning —8:00 am: Education Secretary Rod Paige delivers remarks on science learning in the context of the No Child Left Behind Act —9:00 am: The Federal Reserve Open Market Committee (FOMC) meets to discuss interest rates —9:00 am: Off-camera briefing by White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan —9:30 am: President Bush meets with the Prime Minister of the Netherlands, the White House. —10:00 am: AFL-CIO announces a major trade initiative to help curtail worker rights violations in China —10:00 am: The D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute holds a forum on budget trends in Washington, D.C. —10:20 am: President Bush participates in a conversation on Health Access at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Washington, D.C. —12:00 pm: Sen. John Kerry attends a veteran's town hall event at Marshall University, Huntington, W.Va. —12:30 pm: The House of Representatives meets for morning business —1:00 pm: Politics Live on ABC NEWS Live and AOL —1:30 pm: Sen. Kerry meets with local press, Huntington, W.Va. —2:00 pm: The House of Representatives meets for legislative business —2:30 pm: Vice President Cheney delivers remarks at a luncheon for Rep. Bob Beauprez at Coors Field, Denver, Colo. —6:00 pm: Gen. Wesley Clark attends Montgomery Party Annual Democratic Event on behalf of Sen. Kerry, Dayton, Ohio —7:30 pm: Gen. Clark holds a media availability in a TBA location, Dayton, Ohio —8:00 pm: Polls close in Illinois —8:00 pm: Sen. Kerry attends an Election Night Party at the Charleston Civic Center Convention Hall, Charleston, W.Va. —11:00 pm: Elliot Spitzer appears on Charlie Rose