The Note




Ralph Reed, as quoted in USA Today: "Every day for the next eight months, John Kerry is going to have to look in the mirror of his record. . . . It is not a record he wants to defend."

A "GOP strategist on Capitol Hill who requested anonymity," as quoted in the Los Angeles Times: "This White House that seemed to be so disciplined, so political, doing such a good job, looks awfully bumbling to me."

David Carney, "a Republican strategist in New Hampshire and White House political director for Bush's father," quoted in the same Los Angles Times story: "People are anxious. . . . There's a lot of fretting going on out there."

One "outside (Bush) campaign advisor, who also requested anonymity, quoted, yes, in that same Los Angeles Times story: ""I worry about Ohio….We've got a real vulnerability on the jobs issue if we can't get that discussion going in a different direction."

At some point, the fact that the Kerry campaign makes its own share of daily undisciplined bumbling decisions (not revealed publicly, MBC, but we know about 'em!) will be part of the daily Chatter of the Chattering Class, and those days can't come soon enough for BC04. (And if you skip the Hastert transcript at the end of today's Note, you are crazy.)

But it is still virtually impossible for even the Washington Times to write about the Kerry campaign a story that would be comparable to the one penned by the Los Angeles Times' Barabak and Hook, whose mustest-read looks at the anxiety over the BC04 campaign as some key Republicans say that "the White House took too long to engage in the race and lacks a clear strategy for addressing voters' economic worries." LINK

While some chalk up the recent polls to the battering that the President took from the Democratic side during the nomination season, "not everyone blames Bush's problems solely on his political foes," the duo Notes, and has a slew of key Republicans to weigh in on what is going right and wrong in the re-election campaign.

And just wait until Bob Dole and Lamar Alexander find out that Tom Rath is a "Bush family loyalist"!!!!!

As Mary Matalin told Harry Smith this morning: "'You're going to love this campaign!'"

But: is it just us, or is the political and Washington press corps already on overload trying to cover

1. the substance of the national security, economic, and health care debates? 2. the tactics, strategies, and personalities of the Bush and Kerry campaigns? 3. the relative merits and veracity of the charges and countercharges?

A great piece of work in the third category -- days in the making -- appears under the headline "President overstates Kerry's record on intelligence budget," in which the Washington Post's Pincus and Milbank do some serious legwork and decide that the President's attack on Kerry's intelligence budget proposal that he started touting this week is "about half right" because it fails to mention that the Republican-led Congress later approved a comparable cut. LINK

Walter/Dana: let us know what Terry Holt says when he gets back to you on that narrative.

As for the big new charges in the presidential race -- that John Kerry's budget numbers don't add up and that his positions on the war against Iraq and the Patriot Act represent stark differences from those of the President -- the Democrats might say "bring . . .them . . . . on," but the heart of the charges are accurate, and the terrain that this leads the fight to is certainly as soft and springy as a Moonbounce for the incumbent.

Much , much more on the ads below.

And don't forget to tune in "This Week" for George Stephanopoulos' extended interview with Secretary of State Colin Powell. Among the Madrid bombing, elections in Russia, and the hunt for Bin Laden (not to mention his National Journal interview gently chastising the press for all the stories about State vs. Everyone!), there will be lots of ground to cover on this anniversary of the war in Iraq. Stay tuned!

President Bush speaks about women's rights from the White House today, and then gets some quality down time at Camp David until he attends the Ford Theater Gala on Sunday night.

Vice President Cheney is in Kentucky today. He will be in Washington, D.C. over the weekend.

Sen. Kerry is in Boston with no public events scheduled. He will be in Illinois and Pennsylvania over the weekend, returning to Washington Sunday night into Monday.

Rep. Kucinich is in Cleveland. He will spend the weekend in Illinois.

Rev. Sharpton is in New York.

Ralph Nader is in Washington, D.C.

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

Pointing to a "window of opportunity" in the election cycle, the Bush-Cheney '04 campaign rolled out its first Kerry-mentioning ad yesterday, "100 Days," to begin airing today in 18 battleground states and on cable networks.

The campaign will continue to run "Safer, Stronger," the ad that contained the images of Ground Zero and the firefighters and will rotate it with the second phase of ads.

BC04 chief strategist Matt Dowd said that the ad, which sparked some controversy last week over the use of the 9/11 images, was getting a "tremendous amount of positive feedback" and that the campaign was happy with the debate it had started.

So is it too early to go negative, er, um, go contrast?

Historically, this is early for an ad that focuses on a challenger. In 1996, President Clinton's re-election campaign waited until mid-May to take on Bob Dole directly (although the DNC did run those DoleGingrich spots in '95 . . .), and in 1992, the ads did not begin until late summer.

Campaign officials said yesterday that they feel very confident about the ads and that they are the right message at the right time.

The national political reporters all highlight the shift in tone for the President's re-election campaign, focusing on the contrast ad over the other 30-second spot that is positive. The ads have gotten significant free media from the cable networks and network news shows, and the staff out in Courthouse will be happy to Note that the tag line of "100 Days," is getting the most love: "John Kerry: Wrong on taxes. Wrong on defense."

BC04 senior advisor Mary Matalin made the rounds on the morning news shows and told ABC News' Charlie Gibson on "Good Morning America" that the BC04 campaign was not taking on the opponent but rather Kerry's issues. "We're taking on his issues of raising taxes and repealing the Patriot Act and being against the war on terror. All issues that he basically voted on. Senator Kerry is the one that's been taking on President Bush by name, calling him a liar, crook, and it's time to discuss the issues."

And we're not sure what exactly to make of it, but Note that in the first round of BC04 ads, one ad ("Lead") featured the following tag line at the end of the ad: "I'm President Bush and I approve this message."

On the other three ads, it read "I'm George W. Bush and I approve this message," including even the Spanish language version (Soy George W. Bush y aprobé este mensaje)!

In this second round of ads, the campaign has stuck with "I'm George W. Bush…" but do Note the last screen of the ads, which reads "Approved by President Bush and paid for by Bush-Cheney '04 Inc."

Howie Kurtz wraps the new Bush-Cheney ads, alleging that the Kerry campaign will go on the air today with their response and that "these opening salvos in what promises to be a long and vituperative air war" coincided with a "coordinated assault" by Republican lawmakers on Kerry's recent off-the-cuff remarks. LINK

It remains to be seen if the Kerry campaign will actually produce this ad, buy time for it, pay for the time, and come up with something beyond a news-cycle-placement-holding video press release. As they say on NBC News' Today program: only time will tell.

The Chicago Tribune's Jeff Zeleny seems to think that the new Bush/Cheney '04 ads are likely to go unanswered, at least by the Kerry campaign. Matt Dowd said, "Right now, there's a window of opportunity where the public is paying very close attention, and they expect to hear both sides." Check out the Zogby comment on the visuals on terrorism. LINK

The New York Times' Rutenberg and Sanger write that the new Bush ads "are the latest example of the White House's willingness to take on Mr. Kerry directly, abandoning the campaign strategy of his father and other presidents who tried to stay above the political fray." LINK

Nick Anderson of the Los Angeles Times Notes that "the anti-Kerry ad may represent the opening of a new, rough phase of the campaign, with nearly eight months until the election," and that the ad marked "the first time an incumbent president was required to include a personal statement of approval in a commercial used to criticize an opponent." LINK

Under the headline "Liars, wimps & crooks: Welcome to the ad war," the New York Daily News' DeFrank reports that the first negative ad from the Bush-Cheney '04 campaign launches on Kerry as "a wimp on defense, a tool of the United Nations and itching to raise taxes." LINK

USA Today's Judy Keen writes, "It is rare for an incumbent president to take on his challenger this early. But Bush political advisers said they want to draw contrasts while voters are tuned in to the race." LINK

Dallas Morning News' Hillman Notes the BC04 campaign's "lengthy statement buttressing the ads" and also the Kerry campaign's "own lengthy rebuttal statement," that said President Bush was suffering a "'credibility problem.'" LINK

AP's Fournier, the first reporter on the ad story yesterday, writes that this second round of ads from the BC04 camp is "designed, through focus groups and polls, to shift voters' attention from Bush's weaknesses to strengths -- from talk of joblessness in an ailing economy to a debate over Democratic tax hikes; and on terrorism, from violence-torn Iraq to reminders of his leadership on Sept. 11, 2001." LINK

The Boston Globe's Anne Kornblut writes that the ad "offers a striking interpretation of what a terrorist looks like. During a passage about terrorism, the ad shows video of a menacing, dark-skinned man looking directly into the camera -- a shot that Mark McKinnon, a longtime Bush media adviser, said was intended to be 'generic' and not a visual slur against Middle Easterners." LINK

The Washington Times' Stephen Dinan looks at President Bush's ads yesterday, and throw in House Speaker Dennis Hastert's comment that Kerry deserves a "comeuppance" for calling Republicans "crooked" liars this week -- which evidently offended him particularly since Kerry said it in Illinois. LINK

The Note was obsessed with the five frames (we counted!!!) of black between Bush's Stand By Your Ad language and the beginning of the contrast narration:

Common? Unusual? Especially since the goal is often to get as MUCH info in the ads as possible?

We surveyed a gaggle of leading media wizards and came up with these responses.

A leading Republican ad-maker: "It's smart approach and takes out some of the sting."

A Democratic ad maker: "Media consultants use different techniques to build drama... But sounds like that is clearly not the case with this spot... Usually, you hear us in the studio pushing our editors to 'find me 10 more frames'... And with the new legal requirements of McCain-Feingold, we're stretched thinner than ever (and even more desperate for economy in how the spots are edited) . . ."

A top Democratic ad maker with many current clients: "This is the new fashion for negative ads -- yes, it is an unusually long time in the old days but is a very good way to separate the disclaimer from the negative. I have personally used this technique twice already and it is the most effective in focus groups for separating out the messenger from the message. "

Democratic strategist and media consultant Steve Murphy: "As an editing technique, dissolving and touching to black is not an unusual technique... but five frames is quite a bit of separation . . ."

Democratic media consultant Mark Putnam: "They're meeting the legal requirements but trying to separate themselves from it . . . "

ABC News Vote 2004: Bush vs. Kerry:

USA Today's Martin Kasindorf and Mark Memmott write, "It isn't even spring. Most voters have yet to see a daffodil. But it feels like October in the presidential campaign." LINK

Kasindorf and Memmott go on to write about the pros and cons of an early intense campaign, Noting that this "could be a year when the presidential race captures and holds the public's interest no matter how mean it gets."

And, boys, thanks for the hard copy sidebar of key 2004 dates -- the inclusion of the Martha Stewart sentencing was inspired!!!

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

The New York Times' Lambert and Healy wrap President Bush's day in Long Island, which featured a conversation on the economy, a dedication ceremony for a 9/11 memorial and a fundraiser that brought in $1.6 million for the President's re-election effort. LINK

The Washington Post's Dana Milbank Notes the filet mignon waiting for Bush across the duck pond from his "solemn" visit and looks at using 9/11 as a campaign issue. LINK

USA Today's Richard Benedetto writes that President Bush's visit to a Long Island 9/11 memorial yesterday "demonstrated that he has no intention of pulling back in the face of complaints . . . that he is using Sept. 11 for political gain." LINK

The Wall Street Journal's Greg Hitt writes that while President Bush's campaign advisors defend their use of 9/11 as "a guiding theme," Democrats such as Rep. Charlie Rangel believe "They're walking on such thin ice. I'm telling you, it's going to backfire, sure as hell."

Hitt revisits the question of the Gotham City convention choice too.

President Bush "shrugged off protests against his Sept. 11 political ads," with his appearance at the memorial ceremony yesterday, reports the New York Daily News' Haberman and Kennedy, who Note the 300 protestors that were kept out of sight sand earshot. LINK

Newsday's Fireman reports that after participating in the groundbreaking ceremony, President Bush "pinned the emotional banner of 9/11 to his re-election standard" at a BC04 fundraiser and Notes that "Bush's visit triggered strongly mixed emotions, both among relatives of terror attack victims and the broader public." LINK

The New York Post's Orin on the President's visit to Long Island: LINK

The Boston Globe's Wayne Washington reports on the President's Thursday trip to Long Island, where "[the 9/11 memorial] groundbreaking ceremony and fund-raiser ended a day that started with the president telling evangelical Christians that he would fight gay marriage." LINK

The Baltimore Sun's David Greene examines the political baggage that Vice President Cheney -- and his lowered popularity -- brings to the ticket, even with his longstanding appeal to the conservative base. LINK

USA Today's Al Newhart thinks that Vice President Cheney "stole the show" at last Saturday's Gridiron Club dinner. LINK

The AP covers Karl Rove at the GOP's Lincoln Day Dinner in Oregon. "Rove spent an hour in a closed-door session with about 20 Republican activists who paid $5,000 each to have their picture taken with him" before he "then defended Bush's record and attacked Kerry in a speech to 200 Republicans who paid $50 each to attend the dinner." The evening is said to have netted more than $100,000 for the state GOP's Victory Fund. LINK

The New York Times' Oppel reports the Senate voted 51-45 to "approve a $2.4 trillion budget resolution for next year that largely sidesteps, and might hinder, President Bush's request for more tax cuts while providing a big boost in spending on homeland security and the military." A Democratic-backed amendment "that would require that any tax cuts during the next five years win at least 60 votes in the 100-member Senate," but House GOP leadership "signaled" it intends to "kill" the amendment. LINK

The Wall Street Journal's Godfrey and McKinnon report that Congress began "preparing budget drafts that call for significant new spending on defense, and even leave some room for tax cuts."

J-O-B-S and outsourcing:

The Washington Post's Allen and Weisman report on the Administration's killing its plans to nominate Anthony Raimondo -- a decision made before Raimondo was wheels down in D.C. on Wednesday night. LINK

USA Today's Peronet Despeignes reports on Raimondo's bowing out from consideration, Noting at the end of his article that the "Bush administration has had several recent stumbles on economic policy." LINK

The New York Times' Elisabeth Bumiller highlights the part that Sen. Hagel played in the objections to Raimondo. (Note to 1600: Ignore your own party's senators at your own peril. The Empire can Strike Back.) Writes Bumiller, "Mr. Raimondo's withdrawal represented an early tactical victory by the Kerry campaign, which moved aggressively to undercut Mr. Bush in a week when he was trying to strike back at Mr. Kerry on an issue -- the shifting of American jobs overseas, or "outsourcing" -- that has become a major political problem for the White House." LINK

The Washington Times' James Lakely and Jeffrey Sparshott write up the withdrawal of Anthony Raimondo from consideration as President Bush's manufacturing jobs czar after the Kerry campaign's attack that he has outsourced jobs from his own company to China. The nomination, said one nameless Republican consultant, "'played right into Kerry's hands.'" LINK

The economy:

Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan endorsed a plan that would extend the amount of time people can receive jobless benefits and urged Congress not to restrain trade in light of outsourcing, the Washington Post's Nell Henderson reports. Greenspan said that though there are signs the economy is picking up, "'new job creation is lagging badly.'" According to the Labor Department, February brought the highest length of unemployment in more than 20 years -- 20.3 weeks from 19.8 weeks in January, Henderson reports. LINK

Reports the New York Times' Andrews: Alan Greenspan warned Congress not to go protectionist, wading "deeper into the battle over jobs and trade" by saying "'We can erect walls to foreign trade and even discourage job-displacing innovation...Tensions might appear to ease, but only for a short while. Our standard of living would soon begin to stagnate and perhaps even decline as a consequence.'" LINK

The New York Times' Krugman columnizes that the President "does deserve blame for the fact that all he has to show for three years of supposed job-creation policies is a mountain of debt." LINK

The latest Wall Street Journal survey of economists tries to figure out why jobs aren't spurting as expected, and/but finds that outsourcing just isn't the "prime culprit" some make it out to be.


The New York Times' Wilgoren wraps up Sen. Kerry's comments yesterday, when he refused to apologize for his comments made a couple of days ago including the words "crooked" and "lying." As for the Edwards-Kerry alliance, "several people" who were at the meeting of the two senators said "Mr. Edwards, who spent 45 minutes alone with Mr. Kerry earlier, offered unequivocal support, while the donors told Mr. Kerry how much they would like to see their first pick in the No. 2 slot." LINK

The Boston Globe's Glen Johnson reports that Kerry, "for years branded a loner in the Senate, was embraced with a standing ovation yesterday when he returned to the chamber's weekly meeting of Democratic members for the first time since the Massachusetts senator emerged as the party's presumptive presidential nominee." LINK

And, yes, we Noticed along with many of you that Sen. Schumer somehow found his way into the stakeout shot!!

The Washington Post's Chuck Babington writes up Kerry's tough talk yesterday on the Hill while surrounded by colleagues, and includes an observation from "a participant who took notes" at yesterday's gathering with House Dems at the Library of Congress, where Kerry tried to calm any nervousness of Southern lawmakers by discussing his understanding of gun culture. Babington also Notes that Sen. Edwards encouraged his donors to help Kerry raise $80 million. LINK

The Boston Herald's David Guarino writes that gay marriage is fast becoming Kerry's campaign albatross, with a firm stance on either side threatening a swath of voters that could cost him the election." LINK

Knight Ridder's James Kuhnhenn and Ron Hutcheson write, "Relishing the Bush offensive and the lawmakers' embrace, Kerry emerged as a unifying figure for Democrats, who haven't had a consensus leader since 2000, when Bill Clinton was president and Al Gore was the heir apparent." LINK

Cox News' Malone Manuel puts the "crooked" remarks in historical context. LINK

The AP's Mike Glover lets us know that Kerry has no plans to apologize for the "crooked" statement. LINK

The New York Post's Morris reports on Kerry's "I won't apologize" stand. LINK

The AP's Nancy Benac writes about Kerry's plan to cut the deficit in half in four years, advising everyone to "[stock] up on calculator batteries, though, because just how many dollars go where and whether Kerry's economic numbers really add up is sure to be the subject of heated debate in the presidential campaign for months to come." LINK

In a possible move to ward off criticism of his past voting records to cut military and intelligence spending, John Kerry released a statement to Portsmouth Herald saying the government should put off the next round of military base closings until the government does a long-range review of the military, writes the Herald's Elizabeth Kenny. LINK

The Washington Times' Charles Hurt and Stephen Dinan examine Kerry's claim on Monday that he's met with foreign leaders who support him over President Bush, and Note that the Senator took no official foreign trips since the beginning of last year, and refuses to reveal the names of those he says support him. Be sure to catch Ed Gillespie's "imaginary friends" comment and Stephanie Cutter's move to steer the conversation. LINK

The land of 5-plus-2-equals-7:

The Wall Street Journal ed board gently thumbs it nose at Sen. McCain with an "I told you so" when it comes to the 527s, writing that "you can't stop water running downhill, and money can never be banished from politics short of throwing out the U.S. Constitution."

Business Week goes inside the Land to offer readers a look at the "highly sophisticated political machine under construction -- a web of interlocking, like-minded organizations that could at once save and partly supplant the Democratic Party. And if the 527s don't give presumptive nominee Senator John Kerry an edge against George W. Bush, they will at least help level the playing field." Note this project is called the "brainchild" of one Mr. Rosenthal. LINK


Washington Wire picks up on the Wall Street Journal/NBC poll finding Edwards the preference for Kerry's no. 2.


The AP reports on the good news and the bad news for the Sharpton campaign. LINK

The New York Daily News on the Sharpton probe. LINK


Seth Colter Walls writes in Salon that, contrary to 2000 when the Gore team said they were "not losing any sleep" over a Nader run, this year the Dems need to take the Nader threat seriously. LINK

One "lesson of 2000 is that the Democrats can't prevent Nader's candidacy from becoming a story by pretending it doesn't exist," he writes.

But more importantly, "Kerry should also move beyond the "spoiler" argument if and when he addresses the Nader threat. That Nader refuses to concede his candidacy's impact on the 2000 election is frustrating, as it's a settled issue among nearly everyone else. But the Democrats still need to get substantive."

Walls lays out a simple strategy for taking on Nader directly: co-opting his message when and where possible, reaching out to Greens and Nader-leaning liberal Democrats directly, and, in a "final confrontation," offering to participate in a single debate with Nader in the fall.

Slate's Chatterbox continues pushing its "Draft Moore" movement, urging the conservative judge to run for President. Roy Moore is of course the Alabama chief justice who got fired for refusing to remove the Ten Commandments from his courtroom. Slate suggests Moore could be the Ralph Nader of the conservative movement, peeling away ultra-religious voters from Bush. But so far the judge doesn't seem to be biting. LINK

The politics of same-sex marriage:

The Washington Post's Evelyn Nieves reports on the California Supreme Court's decision to halt same-sex marriages, Noting that San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom said he has issued only a temporary stay on issuing the marriage licenses to same-sex couples. LINK

The New York Times' Dean Murphy reports that California's highest court has ordered San Francisco to stop issuing same-sex marriage licenses, but "left open the possibility that the city could issue the licenses again after further review of two lawsuits on the matter" as the court did not rule on the legality of the matter. LINK

The Los Angeles Times reports the court will "rule on the legality of the city's actions within the next few months" and says "now in limbo are 2,688 more couples who had booked appointments to wed under the city's ornate rotunda through the end of May." The Governator applauded the court's move in a statement. LINK

In Massachusetts, the Washington Post's Jonathan Finer reports, the state legislature moved one step closer to banning same-sex marriage, approving a state constitutional amendment that still allows civil unions. LINK

The New York Times reports that Massachusetts Thursday came closer "to amending the state Constitution to ban same-sex marriages and establish civil unions for gay and lesbian couples, by passing three preliminary votes on the amendment." The Times' Belluck reports it remains unclear if this "compromise amendment . . . would ultimately pass the next legislative hurdle, an opportunity for the amendment to be revised before coming to a final vote." Next time this measure comes up: March 29. LINK

The Boston Globe's Rick Klein writes, "The Massachusetts Legislature voted three times yesterday to ban gay marriage and establish civil unions, but maneuvers by both opponents and supporters of gay marriage left it unclear whether the constitutional amendment would ever get to the voters." LINK

The Boston Globe's Joanna Weiss and Donovan Slack run through the coverage of the Bay State's legislature, Noting that for some people "it's easier to tune out and wait for the final results than to rise and fall with every step." LINK

The Boston Globe's Frank Phillips reports on the legal options that Gov. Romney is considering. LINK

The AP's David Kravets reports that the California Supreme Court "ordered an immediate halt to gay marriages yesterday in San Francisco, delivering a victory to conservatives who have fought for a month to block the ceremonies." LINK

The St. Petersburg Times' Bill Varian reports that Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio signed an executive order Thursday extending health benefits to unmarried domestic partners of city employees, including same-sex couples" joining "a handful of other local governments in Florida offering the benefit to employees with domestic partners." LINK

The President affirmed his commitment to an amendment banning same-sex marriages in a speech to evangelicals Thursday, saying, "'I will defend the sanctity of marriage against activist courts and local officials who want to redefine marriage,'" reports the New York Times' Kirkpatrick. LINK

Democratic National Convention:

The Boston Globe's Andrea Estes reports, "Local and national labor unions, including the AFL-CIO, lashed out at Mayor Thomas M. Menino yesterday, accusing him of making anti-union remarks, and urged Democratic Party leaders to pressure the mayor to settle 29 labor disputes immediately." LINK

The Democratic National Convention Committee launched its Web site Thursday -- we're trying to figure out what being an "E-Delegate" means. LINK

The politics of Medicare:

The New York Times' Robert Pear reports that Sen. Trent Lott, switching his previous position, will now support drug importation from Canada. A rather spirited McLellan-McCain exchange is also Noted by Mr. Pear. LINK

The New York Times' Hakim reports that General Motors' staggering health care obligation to future retirees reached a staggering $63 billion -- and that it would have been $4 billion more if not thanks to the recent Medicare bill. Note that G.M. is "the largest private provider of health care benefits in the United States and the largest private purchaser of well-known brand-name drugs like Viagra and Lipitor." LINK

Knight Ridder's Tony Pugh reports, "The government's top expert on Medicare costs was warned that he would be fired if he told key lawmakers about a series of Bush administration cost estimates that could have torpedoed congressional passage of the White House-backed Medicare prescription-drug plan." LINK

The politics of national security:

The New York Times' Stevenson and Lichtblau report on Susan Lindauer, the ex-congressional aide who is charged with working with the Iraqi intelligence service before the war began. Investigators "said she had sought to influence American policy by presenting herself as an intermediary to a highly placed relative, Andrew H. Card Jr., the White House chief of staff." LINK

The New York Times' Michael Janofsky reports that Rep. Henry Waxman released Defense Department documents on Thursday that detailed the "faulty cost estimates by Halliburton for services in Iraq and Kuwait. " LINK

The New York Times' Glanz reports that critics are expressing doubt over the credibility of the missile defense system. LINK

The Washington Post's Justin Gillis reports that the government plans to buy enough anthrax vaccine to inoculate 25 million people. LINK

The Bush Administration is almost ready to release a new set of punitive measures against Syria that would lift some export restrictions, including those on U.S. computers and cell phones, the Washington Post's Robin Wright and Glenn Kessler report. LINK

ABC Vote 2004: the Senate:

The Chicago Sun-Times' Andrew Herrmann and Scott Fornek report on a protest by Latino lawmakers against GOP Senate candidate Jim Oberweis in response to his TV and radio ads that said 10,000 illegal immigrants entering the U.S. daily. LINK

Fornek and Herrmann also report that the aide to Republican Senate candidate John Borling who talked up details from the divorce files of rival candidate Jack Ryan has been fired. LINK

The AP's Maura Kelly reports on the drugs, divorces, and alleged smear campaigns at the center of Illinois' Senate contest. LINK

Karen Crummy of the Denver Post reports that Rep. Mark Udall stepped aside from running for Senate voluntarily and for the good of the party: "There was no dealmaker." LINK

John Aloysius Farrell and Julia Martinez of the Denver Post Note that the Colorado GOP is still looking for a candidate after Rep. Bob Beauprez and state Treasurer Mike Coffman refused alleged requests by the Bush Administration to run. Lt. Gov. Jane Norton and Rep. Scott McGinnis of Grand Junction are expected to announce their decisions today. LINK

And the Rocky Mountain News' Jim Tankersley and M.E. Sprengelmeyer Note that while Rep. Tom Tancredo will not run for the Senate, Jim Nicholson, a man of many hats, may announce his decision today. LINK

Tom McAvoy of the Pueblo Chieftain reports that Rep. Scott McInnis will run for reelection to the House instead of jumping into the race for retiring Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell's seat. This leaves open the possibility that he could run for governor in 2006. LINK


Yesterday, The Note inadvertently declared the candidacy of former Edwards campaign spokesman and current Porter Novelli Vice President Roger Salazar for the Colorado Senate race. Of course, the candidate in Colorado is the state's attorney general, Ken Salazar, not California resident Roger. Not since The Note accidentally called Mrs. Rob Reiner by the wrong first name has there been such a flurry of commotion in Southern California. Being a public relations master, the misidentified candidate was kind enough to comment on the situation for The Note, telling us that "I don't mind as long as I don't have to pay the filing fee."


Washington Wire reports that next Thursday's Stephanopoulos-moderated Gillespie vs. McAuliffe debate is sold out!

The Washington Post's Helen Dewar reports that members of the Senate Judiciary Committee came to a bipartisan agreement Thursday for federal prosecutors to investigate the Republican aides who accessed Democratic strategy files on a computer and leaked them. LINK

This Saturday one Gov. Vilsack is set to keynote the Treasure State's Democratic Party annual dinner.

We here at the Note offer you a Big Sky sneak peek:

"Democratic governors are some of the most innovative, in touch leaders in the country. And I am convinced that is why we know how to win in areas that Democrats usually write off. I'm talking about rural towns, small towns, Midwestern towns, Southwestern towns. I'm talking about states like Iowa, Oklahoma, Wyoming, Kansas, Arizona -- all states where we have Democratic governors. And I'm talking about Montana -- where we are about to have a Democratic governor.

"The bottom line is, with the help of candidates for governor and Governors, Democrats can win in every area of the country. I saw that President Bush went and whooped it up at a Rodeo and Livestock show this week. They think that they've got the votes of farmers and small town families and agricultural families all wrapped up. They think that Bush can give a healthy horse a hearty pat on the side, flash a steady grin toward the camera, and convey trust and likeability. Well President Bush is in for a surprise if he thinks that's all it takes . . . Rural families are looking to the President to produce a serious, sustained lift to our economy -- not for a shot of him posing with prize pigs."

The New York Times' Carl Hulse reports that the House of Representatives has voted to raise the fine for indecency on television. LINK

The Wall Street Journal's David Rogers reports that "a feisty" House Speaker Dennis Hastert said fellow Republicans will move ahead with the $275 billion highway and mass-transit that is almost "$20 billion more" than Bush's goal but "still substantially less than many lawmakers want."

In (one of) our favorite exchanges from the Speaker's pen and pad briefing yesterday:

Q: You met with the administration yesterday. Did they say they would support the target number?

Speaker Hastert: We need to go forward, we need to go to conference with the Senate, and then if they want to be involved in that conference, they certainly will be able to be involved in it.

Q: But did they say they would sign?

Hastert: They didn't make a commitment.

Q: Did they say they would veto it?

Hastert: They didn't say they would veto it.

Q: Is that with the President or with the people?

Hastert: That is with the President. I don't deal with his people anymore.


Q: Sir, what did you mean by that last comment: That was with the President; I don't deal with his people anymore?

Hastert: Well, we weren't getting straight numbers from his people, and they changed their mind in the middle of the process. So we are going to do what we feel we need to do.

Q: Just on this issue or on --

Hastert: On this issue.

Q: Or in general?

Hastert: On this issue.

Q: Sir --

Q: What kind of numbers were you getting from them?

Hastert: Different numbers.

Q: Different from?

Hastert: Where they added up.


TODAY SCHEDULE (all times ET): —7:30 am: RNC's "Reggie the Registration Rig," has its 18-wheeler voter registration drive, Atlanta, Ga. —8:00 am: The National Conference of State Legislatures convenes for the third and final day of its 2004 meeting —9:45 am: Off-camera press gaggle by White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan —10:00 am: Arab-American Institute President James Zogby announces the results of the group's monthly track of Arab-American likely voters, Washington, D.C. —10:00 am: The Senate convenes for a short session to tie up loose ends prior to March recess, Washington, D.C. —11:30 am: Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Marine Corps Gen. Peter Pace hold a Department of Defense town hall meeting, Washington, D.C. —11:45 am: Former President George H. W. Bush headlines a fundraiser for congressional candidate Scott Paterno, Washington, D.C. —12:00 pm: The House of Representatives meets for a pro-forma session —1:00 pm: Politics Live on ABC NEWS Live and AOL —1:30 pm: On-camera briefing by Secretary McClellan —2:25 pm: First Lady Laura Bush introduces President Bush at an event to promote women's rights globally, the White House —2:25 pm: President Bush makes remarks at a women's rights event, the White House —3:20 pm: The President and Mrs. Bush depart the White House en route to Camp David —4:15 pm: The Federal Reserve releases its weekly conditions report of large commercial banks —7:30 pm: Vice President Cheney speaks at a reception for Sen. Jim Bunning at the Hilton, Florence, Ky.