The Note

-- Nagourney's Times colleagues Justice and Rutenberg (LINK) and the Washington Post's Balz and Edsall (LINK) size up the outside Democratic groups (that's "shadow campaign" to some of you) and the ads, ads, and more ads we look forward to seeing on the air -- starting with that great big Media Fund buy. That is, until the FEC makes a ruling . . .

The Post does the much better job at getting at the ground war piece of all this.

A quick look at the delegate tote board . . .

Delegates so far (pledged delegates and superdelegates combined)*: Kerry 1796 (roughly 83 % of the total delegates needed to secure the nomination) Kucinich 23 Sharpton 23

Delegates needed to win the nomination: 2,162

Delegates at stake March 9: 465

How the March 9 delegates have been allocated thus far: Kerry 256 Edwards 24 Kucinich 0 Sharpton 0

The ABC News delegate estimate includes both pledged delegates who are allocated according to their home state's primary and caucus results as well as "unpledged" delegates, known as "superdelegates," made up of state party leaders and activists, Democratic governors, members of congress, former presidents, vice presidents, and national party chairmen.

As if it were in doubt, President Bush wrapped up the Republican presidential nomination last night, the AP reports, racking up a total of 1,309 delegates -- well over the top of the 1,255 he needed to win the nomination. He went into last night with 985 delegates and picked up all 333 at stake. LINK

President Bush is in Cleveland, Ohio to tour Thermagon and to deliver a speech on the economy, jobs, and outsourcing at the Women's Entrepreneurship Forum.

Sen. Kerry is in Chicago this morning and Washington, D.C. this afternoon, when he will meet with Gov. Howard Dean and DNC officials.

Rep. Dennis Kucinich, Rev. Al Sharpton and Ralph Nader have no public events today.

And happy birthday to one of the great political reporters of the late 20th century and one of the great international affairs reporters of the early 21st century (and one of the best fathers in the Dupont Circle area) -- Bill Nichols of USA Today.

ABC News Vote 2004: Bush vs. Kerry:

The Boston Globe's Pat Healy reports that Kerry offered the idea of monthly debates with President Bush for the rest of the year, and he reveals that Kerry's proposal "was not quite a gauntlet-throwing challenge but a 'spontaneous [sic] idea,' a senior aide said, that the Massachusetts senator offered in response to an 11-year-old student reporter asking how the eight months till the general election might unfold." LINK

The Boston Herald's Andrew Miga writes that Kerry and Bush "traded barbed shots over who could lead the nation's sluggish economy to recovery yesterday as their battle for the White House took yet another contentious turn." LINK

The Boston Globe's Robert Kuttner watches the mud-slinging that could boomerang in some cases. LINK

By one account, so much for all that talk about record turnout in the nomination contests -- although keep in mind that we are talking about small numbers of voters making the difference between a high and a low turnout. A study by the Committee for the Study of the American Electorate said that turnout through the Super Tuesday was the third-lowest on record, reports the Washington Times' Donald Lambro. LINK

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

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