The Note

"Wade asserted, 'We're making it very clear that this is a Democrat who punches back.'"

"In a less pugilistic moment, Kerry met in Washington Wednesday with former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, the last politician to tangle with the Boston Brahmin."

"At the newly relocated Kerry for President headquarters in downtown Washington, 75 staffers gathered to welcome the man many Kerry loyalists long feared might derail the Senator's presidential plans."

"As they waited in the awkwardly professional reception area of a former law firm, staffers delivered applause. Advance desk wizard Carrie James got the biggest shout out of them all."

"As the man they once called 'Ho Ho' made his way down the hall, the young staffers cheered and applauded as 'Dean, Dean, Dean' and Kerry hugged."

"The pair met for an hour and 20 minutes, though by the end, Dean had still not formally endorsed his rival. Nevertheless, officials familiar with the meeting expect the two will campaign together very soon."

"Kerry continued his Democratic unity tour with a visit to DNC headquarters, now draped with a large 'John Kerry for President' banner."

"On Thursday, Kerry assumes the mantle of party leader, meeting with the Congressional Black Caucus, House Democrats, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, and his fellow Democratic colleagues in the Senate."

"Kerry will also meet face-to-face with another, less contentious former opponent: Sen. John Edwards."

"And while Edwards may not receive the Kerry staff welcome wagon, the 'Kerry/Edwards 2004' bumper stickers strewn throughout the Kerry campaign digs might just make the friendly former foe feel right at home."

Read more from the trail with Kerry on abcnews.com: LINK

And speaking of that DNC meeting . . .

According to one person who was there, Kerry told the DNCers that (and this is a paraphrase; our source was clapping and laughing so much that it made taking verbatim Notes impossible):

"Just the other day I talked to (Al) Gore, who said that at even at the height of our campaign, he will still want to beat Bush more than me. [laughter/applause] I'm willing to debate him on that point! [stronger applause] (Also there was lots of love for The Macker.)

The New York Times' Wilgoren and Halbfinger report that Howard Dean and John Kerry met yesterday to "plot the path to their mutual goal," and that a Dean endorsement of Kerry is expected "before the end of the month." Report the two, Sen. Edwards today "is expected to bring his fund-raising network to meet with Mr. Kerry, in what Kerry aides say is a sign both of teamwork and Mr. Edwards's desire to be as useful as possible, particularly while Mr. Kerry is shopping for a running mate." LINK

The Boston Globe's Glen Johnson and Pat Healy write, "Kerry tried to move beyond the criticism, having his staff give Dean a standing ovation in the reception area of his new campaign headquarters." LINK

Also: "Dean plans to endorse Kerry later this month, aides said."

USA Today's Jill Lawrence writes about the Dean-Kerry meeting, but leads with the Kerry "crooked" remarks. LINK

The Washington Post ed board puts Kerry on Notice that he best not waffle this year, or they won't like him. LINK

Maureen Dowd tries to elicit a frown -- or even a wrinkle -- from Sen. Kerry. LINK

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