The Note

TODAY SCHEDULE (all times ET):

—8:30 am: Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, Sen. Orrin Hatch and Sen. Susan Collins speak before the National League of Cities' annual Congressional City Conference, Washington, D.C. —9:15 am: Sen. John Kerry attends a town hall meeting at the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Center, Hollywood, Fla. —9:30 am: Former White House Press Secretary Mike McCurry and former Rep. J.C. Watts discuss the election before the National League of Cities' annual Congressional City Conference, Washington, D.C. —10:00 am: Laura Bush speaks to the American College of Cardiology, New Orleans, La. —10:00 am: The Supreme Court meets to release orders and hand down decisions, Washington, D.C. —10:00 am: The National Council of Churches holds a news conference with families of detainees being held in Guantanamo, Washington, D.C. —10:30 am: Laura Bush speaks to the media following her speech, New Orleans, La. —10:30 am: Teresa Heinz Kerry speaks to supporters at a house party, Fort Lauderdale, Fla. —12:00 pm: The Senate convenes for debate on the budget resolution, Washington, D.C. —12:00 pm: Treasury Secretary John Snow speaks before the National Association of State Treasurers' legislative conference, Washington, D.C. —12:00 pm: The House of Representatives convenes for a pro forma session, Washington, D.C. —:00 pm: Sen. Kerry attends a rally at West Palm Beach Public Library Plaza, West Palm Beach, Fla. —1:05 pm: President Bush attends a Bush-Cheney 2004 luncheon fundraiser at the Fairmont Hotel, Dallas, Texas —1:15 pm: National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice speaks about foreign policy at the University of Louisville, Louisville, Ky. —1:25 pm: Vice President Cheney speaks at a luncheon for congressional candidate Stan Thompson at the Embassy Suites, Des Moines, Iowa —2:00 pm: Sen. Debbie Stabenow, Transportation Secretary Norm Mineta, and Reps. Don Young, Michael Turner, Jim Turner and Elijah Cummings speak before the National League of Cities' annual Congressional City Conference, Washington, D.C. —3:45 pm: President Bush attends the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo at the Reliant Arena, Houston, Texas —6:35 pm: President Bush attends a Bush-Cheney 2004 fundraiser at the Hilton Americas, Houston, Texas —7:00 pm: Sen. Kerry attends a rally at Centro Ybor, Tampa, Fla. —7:25 pm: Vice President Cheney speaks at a reception for John Thune at the Ramkota Hotel, Sioux Falls, S.D. —10:30 pm: President and Mrs. Bush return to the White House


Despite what you'll hear in some quarters, the prospects for the President's re-election are NOT just about the incumbent.

America's judgment on the job Mr. Bush has done is key, but John Kerry has to clear a series of bars on national security credibility; likeability; character; and being a potential good steward of a good economy if he is going to have a chance to win -- no matter what kind of campaign BC04 runs or what people think of the President.

So -- as we have written before -- the talking points, the surrogates, the Web sites, the research and (soon) the campaign ads from the GOP side are largely geared toward making sure that Kerry gets nowhere near those bars in the eyes of the American people.

Late winter and early spring, in other words, are the times to strangle the baby in the crib. (How's that for a Monday metaphor to get your attention?)

The talking point dissemination is impressive and disciplined -- to the point where it is hard to tell who is actually saying what.

Here's a weekend quote about Kerry from someone who wants President Bush to be re-elected.

"He's not a flip-flopper; he's like a political zealot (sic). He becomes whatever he is wherever he is. When he's with the Arab Americans, he says that the fence is a barrier to peace. When he's with Jewish Americans, he says it's a legitimate act of defense. When he's in Massachusetts on gay marriage, he's against the Constitution to ban them. When he's in a Southern primary, he's against gay marriage. Who is he? He would rather--I don't know. You just can't get a sense of this guy. He'd rather switch then fight. He's a political zealot (sic). Will the real John Kerry come down? We don't need that kind of person at the helm in these changing times. We need what we have, steady and steadfast."

Now, before you guess who said this, two things you should know:

1. Although every transcript we can find (including the official General Electric one) says the person used "political zealot," we are next to certain that the phrase was actually a movie reference, intended to compare the junior Senator from Massachusetts to Woody Allen's classic chameleon character (whereas The Note much prefers the Forrest Gump analogy . . . ).

2. To get the full flavor of the quote, you need to read it in a fast and (sorry) semi-hysterical Faulknerian stream-of-consciousness style.

So, who said the above? Was it:

a. Jim Dyke, practicing in front of the mirror alone?

b. 41, in the Kennebunkport horseshoe pit?

c. Jim Dyke, practicing in front of a crowd?

d. Mary Matalin, a woman with a range?

e. Dave Bossie, a man with limited range? LINK

f. Tom DeLay?

g. Rush Limbaugh?

h. John Fund, after an intense session with his thesaurus?

i. Marc Racicot, on a conference call after Nicole made him leave a meeting?

If you can't come up with the answer lickety-split, don't worry: it could have been any of them.

And, don't y'all worry there at 1600 and in Arlington -- we are going to be super-vigilant all year about what gets said on l'autre side too.

For instance, if President Bush had mangled the names and the facts of the James Byrd case (as Kerry did this weekend), we agree -- there would be heck to pay.

We're looking forward to today's new ABC News/Washington Post poll, which will give us the latest and greatest look, post-nomination battle, at the state of play between President Bush and Sen. Kerry.

Today's two must-reads:

1. Elisabeth Bumiller in the New York Times about the President's alleged (new) interest in polls and politics -- who would have thought???!!!! LINK

2. The AP's brainy Jennifer Loven on how the President is going to sports events galore lately. (Note to Jennifer: great story, but no mention of the Olympics!!???) LINK

(If Dick Morris worked for 43, one might be tempted to suggest there is a connection between those two must-reads . . .)

President Bush is in Texas today. He is in Virginia on Tuesday for the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Awards Ceremony, in Ohio on Wednesday for Women's Entrepreneurship in the 21st Century Forum, and in New York on Thursday to fundraise and attend the opening of the Nassau county 9/11 memorial.

Mrs. Bush speaks in New Orleans today -- and holds a press conference after her speech.

Vice President Cheney attends congressional campaign events today in Iowa and South Dakota.

Sen. Kerry campaigns in Florida today. His morning and evening events will be covered on tape. He is in Chicago tomorrow night and returns to Washington D.C. later in the week for meeting including one with former rival Howard Dean, ABC's Ed O'Keefe reports.

Rep. Kucinich is down today, recovering from an intestinal ailment.

Ralph Nader has no public events today.

Tomorrow voters head to the polls for primaries in Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas. Polls close in Florida and Mississippi by 8:00 pm ET and in Louisiana and Texas by 9:00 pm ET.

Weekend must-reads:

Sunday, Adam Nagourney of the New York Times wrote about the inherent flaw in conventional wisdom (namely that it is wrong as often as it is right) and then proceeded to offer up where the conventional wisdom of Bush v. Kerry currently stands. LINK

On Sunday, the Washington Post's VandeHei and Allen wrote about the place of national security, 9/11, Iraq, and Vietnam in the campaigns, Noting, "Developments from Haiti to Baghdad are driving the debate, but Kerry and Bush are strategically steering it." LINK

Perhaps it isn't as easy to get your phone calls returned, now that John Kerry has effectively wrapped up the nomination. Stan Greenberg and Bruce Reed each offered up campaign advice via the Sunday New York Times op-ed page. LINK and LINK

Reed argued that Kerry should be a reformer with results and validated the 100,000 cops Kerry claim!!! Apparently, he DID lead the fight!!!

One can only wonder if the Washington Post's Paul Farhi sat on a swing Saturday (after the rain) enjoying the sunshine when he wrote about swing voters in swing states for his Sunday story. LINK

Newsweek's Howard Fineman thinks this election can't be prognosticated based on recent history. LINK

Newsweek's Jonathan Alter watched all the campaign ads, and he Notes that the underlying message of the President's ads might be the "f" word. (No, Chairman Powell, we mean "fear.") LINK

On Saturday, the Los Angeles Times' Nick Anderson looked at all of the Spanish-language television spots out there. LINK

Helen Kennedy of the New York Daily News offered a quick guide to the differences (both stylistic and substantive) between President Bush and Sen. Kerry. LINK

Charlie Savage wrote in the Boston Globe on Sunday about the lightning rod effect of the Patriot Act on the campaign trail and how Republicans and Democrats are trying to deal with it. LINK

On Saturday, the Washington Post's Jonathan Weisman wrote about the two-front message campaign Democrats will work on the trail and on Capitol Hill about jobs lost. LINK

The New York Times editorial board asked Sen. Kerry to fully release his medical records and gently reminded Vice President Cheney to do the same. LINK

George Will wrote on Sunday, "If time flies only when you are having fun, time has been limping for the Bush campaign." LINK

On Sunday, the Los Angeles Times' Ed Chen examined the 9/11 focus of the Bush campaign. LINK

The New York Post's Heidi Singer wrote up President Bush's refusal to back down from using 9/11 images in his campaign ads and included the open letter by families of 9/11 victims who approve of the ads. LINK

The New York Times' Drew and Oppel wrote up the Cheney v. Whitman energy policy battle within the Administration and explored the potential influences on the players. LINK

In Sunday's New York Times' Sanger and Halbfinger explored Kerry's foreign affairs views through the lens of hot spots around the world. LINK

"Mr. Kerry clearly has not yet mastered the Clintonian knack of engagingly breaking down complex problems into simple, accessible terms, no matter his audience. On the campaign trail he regularly indicts the administration's 'arrogant, inept, reckless, ideological' foreign policy and warns that 'even the United States of America needs a few friends on this planet.'"

"But when pressed for details, Mr. Kerry can veer into the dry, Latin-heavy jargon of policy journals."

The Washington Post's Laura Blumenfeld decided Sunday to make a Kerry profile around his decision-making style. LINK

The gal seems to remain in semi-full swoon over the presumptive nominee; poetry obviously gets to her.

Speaking of which -- Maureen Dowd finally got her time with John Kerry and MoDo administered her cultural pop quiz to the presumptive Democratic nominee and perhaps provided more fodder for the BC04RNC troops to paint the Massachusetts Senator (who does indeed like to wax poetic) as indecisive. LINK

The headline on Halbfinger's Saturday New York Times story posed a question that gets to the crux of the battle of who gets to define John Kerry for the American people: "Kerry's Shifts: Nuanced Ideas or Flip-Flops?" LINK

Time's Nancy Gibbs also looks at John Kerry's penchant for nuance and gets this piece of news out of him: LINK

"As for the gritty details-how many U.S. troops are needed in Iraq and for how long-Kerry tells TIME that he 'almost certainly' will send a team to Iraq 'within the next few weeks or months' to help him formulate the more detailed answers that will be demanded of a nominee."

Here's the full interview: LINK

On Sunday, the Boston Globe's Pat Healy outlined Kerry's effort to lose that whole "Massachusetts liberal" shtick. LINK

On Saturday, VandeHei wrote that Kerry has "one glaring, though surmountable, vulnerability: a pedigree and stands on social issues that southerners have rejected in recent elections, according to Democratic strategists and outside experts." LINK

In Newsweek, Melinda Henneberger looks at the relationship of Sens. Kerry and Kennedy, and runs through the pluses and minuses of that for the campaign. LINK

Bill Whalen of the San Francisco Chronicle sums up the President's rocky relationship with the Golden Gate city, ignoring the Bay area during his 12 visits to the state. LINK

The Raleigh News and Observers' own Golden Boy -- John Wagner -- post-mortemed the Edwards' campaign. LINK

ABC News Vote 2004: Bush vs. Kerry:

"Rarely has Washington had such a large and diverse array of foreign policy problems to juggle as leaders of both parties hit the campaign trail. And rarely have those crises been so central to an election," write Robin Wright and Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post. LINK

Dick Polman of the Philadelphia Inquirer forecasts the hostile race ahead. "It'll be a contest that mirrors the clashing priorities of a polarized nation, it'll surely cost more than any previous presidential election and it could inflame political passions like no other race in a generation." LINK

Dooming and glooming, Bob Novak looks at North Carolina as a case study of how Democrats, abandoning free trade for tough protectionist talk, can gain traction among voters hit hard by an economic downturn. "It is not the war in Iraq," Novak argues, but jobs and playing to the anger over unemployment and the fear of falling behind in international competition that could turn Republican voters toward the other side. "North Carolina may be changing from a certain 'red' state (carried by Bush with 56 percent in 2000) to a potential battleground with hopes for capturing Edwards' Senate seat diminishing," he predicts. LINK

Jeff Zeleny of the Chicago Tribune Notes that while Florida Democrats are eager to vote against one of the Bush brothers, Kerry may decide to redirect his efforts to states like Ohio and Missouri to avoid the entrenched organization the Republicans have put together to fight for the state's 27 electoral votes. LINK

It's up to you to accept or reject the Palm Beach Post's report on Bush and Kerry's common bond in Skull and Bones. LINK

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

As Noted above, Elisabeth Bumiller tells us that decisions on last week's BC04 advertising buy and the defining of Kerry as "the senator from Massachusetts who has a record of weakening national defense and raising taxes" were made directly by a "revved up" President Bush. LINK

Bumiller also adds this golden nugget from the call that President Bush made to Sen. Kerry on the night of Super Tuesday: "The call was described by one Republican close to the White House as 'pure Bush;' that is, it had the gentlemanly aura of good manners but was designed to knock Mr. Kerry slightly off balance and remind him that the man he would spend the next eight months attacking was the person on the other end of the line."

Alas, nary a mention of any secret New Haven meeting.

The New York Times' Abby Goodnough details the parties' ground game efforts in Florida and reports that BC04 spent $900,000 in Florida ads alone -- "more than twice as much" as any other state. LINK

USA Today's Judy Keen Notes the President's recent big ideas which he hasn't mentioned since announcing them. LINK

And file this under the "everything counts in an election year" column: Houston Chronicle's Roth Notes this about Bush's appearance at the rodeo "Some analysts warn that the appearances at sports events could backfire if they turn off suburban women, who may be critical in a close election." LINK

The Presidents' BC04 fundraiser in Houston tonight is expected to bring in $1 million for the re-election coffers and the Houston Chronicle's Williams looks at the money Texans have given so far. LINK

AP's Scott Lindlaw reports that President Bush heads to Long Island this week for more fundraising. LINK

A particularly interesting comment in a presidential election year:

"'I have not discussed this with President Bush or anyone else in the White House, and have no desire to,' Mr. DeLay told The Washington Times in an interview in his majority leader's office. 'But if you don't set these conservative goals, you don't get conservative governance.'"

And a rare appearance by Vice President Cheney, who filled in for his boss this weekend at the Gridiron Club dinner. Cheney took a few jabs at Sen. Kerry, Sen. Clinton and even himself, reports Washington Times' Widhalm. LINK

Mary Matalin's new big schtick: the Veep cares about public service too much to defend himself from all these attacks.

The Weekly Standard has highlights of the Vice President's off-the-record remarks at the Gridiron dinner: LINK

Including this great nugget:

"Here's an unsigned question. 'Mr. Vice President, don't you think it's time to step down and let someone else add new energy and vitality to the ticket?'

No . . . I don't. And Rudy [Giuliani], you need to do a better job disguising your handwriting."

"What happened in the aftermath of Sept. 11 was an extraordinary labor of love. Mr. Bush's exploitation of our pain and sense of community to try to gain political advantage should outrage all Americans," writes Faye M. Anderson, the former vice chair of the RNC outreach advisory committee, in a letter to the Washington Post. LINK

Military spending has jumped sharply during the Bush Administration, "prompting warnings by lawmakers and defense analysts that the surge may no longer be sustainable in a time of deepening deficits," writes the Washington Post's Bradley Graham. LINK

"Underneath a 40-foot-tall pink woman's slip held aloft by a helium balloon, about 50 protesters gathered in front of the White House yesterday chanting 'Pink Slip George Bush,' calling for him to be ousted for his handling of the economy and the war in Iraq," writes Lena Sun of the Washington Post. LINK

The New York Times' Sam Dillon Notes the "widespread outcry" in legislatures and "broader public discontent" over the No Child Left Behind act. LINK


In a story sure to be sent around in certain circles today (likely by the same people who tipped our Deb off to it in the first place!), the New York Post's Orin writes that Kerry called Yasser Arafat a ""statesman'" and a "'role model'" in his 1997 book on foreign policy that is now out-of-print, "The New War."

Needless to say, Orin Notes that "Kerry expressed the opposite view eight days ago, when he told Jewish leaders in New York that he shares President Bush's belief that Arafat must be isolated because he's not a 'partner for peace' -- much less a statesman." LINK

The AP's Mike Glover previews Kerry's Monday in Florida, where he is expected to hit the President hard on national security as much as he can while talking about jobs and trade. Glover also Notes that Kerry will likely have a sit-down with Dean this week. LINK

The New York Times' David Halbfinger wraps Kerry's attack on President Bush for "stonewalling" the 9/11 commission, and an exchange on gay marriage with a questioner in Tougaloo, Miss. LINK

The Los Angeles Times' Brownstein says it is all about J-O-B-S for John Kerry's White House run, much as it was for the Democratic nominee in 1992. Of course, Brownstein Notes, the President has two pluses his own father didn't: a paramount role of national security issues, and an opponent who looks ripe for the pluckin' on social issues. (Do check out the Panetta quote!) LINK

Writing in the Wall Street Journal's opinion page on Democrats and the South,, James Taranto says it is not the Civil Rights Act, but rather Vietnam and social issues that have split the Dems and Southern voters.

Writes Taranto, "Kerry's "weakness on defense is a huge liability. He opposes capital punishment, voted against the Defense of Marriage Act, has shown no sympathy for abortion opponents, and last week left the campaign trail for the Capitol to cast a series of antigun votes. Come November, these issues will be far more salient to voters in the South, as well as in the rest of the country, than a civil rights battle that was settled decades ago."

The Los Angeles Times' Gold says Kerry "plans" to meet with Howard Dean this week and "is scheduling a similar meeting soon" with John Edwards. LINK

The Boston Globe's Pat Healy writes about Kerry's Sunday campaign swing through Mississippi, where he "excoriated President Bush from the lectern of a black church, insisted that New England has much in common with the Deep South, and decried the "crucifixion" of the young gay man Matthew Shepard as he compared civil rights for blacks to gay and lesbian rights." LINK

The Dallas Morning News' Jackson writes up Kerry's latest efforts in the South. "From peeling crawfish in New Orleans to attending church in Mississippi, John Kerry is busy doing the Southern thing -- no easy task for a Massachusetts Democrat who also writes poetry and hangs out with Sen. Edward Kennedy." LINK

The AP's Karen Testa Notes that Teresa Heinz Kerry has "embraced" her husband's run for president -- and "that's lucky for Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry." LINK

The Boston Herald's Andrew Miga reports on Kerry's possible Iraq-bound team. LINK

Roll Call's Preston and Cillizza report that Kerry "will meet separately on Thursday with the full House and Senate Democratic Caucuses" and that the "campaign is also developing rapid-response teams in the House and Senate to counter Republican floor attacks on the presumptive nominee and put Democratic Members forward as validators for Kerry on a variety of domestic and foreign policy issues."

From ABC News Kerry campaign reporter Ed O'Keefe:

TOUGALOO, MISS., March 7 -- By now, Texans hardly bat an eye at an 11-car motorcade swirling through the blocked streets and cleared expressways of their major cities. And, given the Bush-friendly roads of the Lone Star State, more than a few natives might have mistaken the challenger's motorcade for that of the either Presidents Bush.

Alas, it was Sen. John F. Kerry diving deep into the heart of enemy territory, greeting 600 friendly Texans in Houston and nearly 2,000 in the more Democratic San Antonio.

The Massachusetts Senator returned their favor by dabbling in Spanish and grilling the Governor-turned-President. As Lyle Lovett's "That's Right, You're not from Texas" spun to a close, Kerry clasped the microphone in San Antonio and opened, "Muchas gracias por un gran bienveniedo!"

The Boston Brahmin, who flaunted his fluent French in New Orleans Friday, taunted his new rival, "The President is holed up at the ranch in Crawford . . . This Administration has a loooong trail of broken promises."

Kerry continued to cut the brush-loving President: "I think George Bush ought to leave the ranch and talk to people with no jobs. I think George ought to leave the ranch and talk to people with no health care."

And followed with a less-than-stellar zinger: "George Bush is a walking contradiction, a broken barrel of contradictions." A day later, the line mutated into, "the President is a walking contradiction, a walking stack of broken promises."

Even with Kerry's tough, if oddly phrased, talk, there were no illusions about the Senator's chances in Texas this November. In his Houston introduction, Rep. Gene Green (D-Texas) pledged, "I'm going to do my best to make sure we carry Texas for Senator Kerry. If not…President Bush will know he had a darn good fight in his hometown."

While Kerry's trip was largely a symbolic to take after the President on his home turf, Kerry aides insist it was a good opportunity to campaign in the state before Tuesday's primary while organizing fundraisers and stirring the party faithful.

Kerry travels to the true battleground state of Florida for the first two days of this week, then settling back in Washington for three days of strategy and organizational plotting, including a meeting with former rival, Howard Dean.

Read more from the trail with Kerry on LINK


The Associated Press reports on the Sunday show performances of some possible veep choices, who incidentally all said they are very happy with their current jobs. LINK

Mort Kondracke writes in Roll Call, "Most of the most-discussed candidates for the No. 2 spot have definite virtues -- and drawbacks -- but none of them will exactly light up the sky for Kerry."


Sean Wilentz wrote in the Sunday New York Times Magazine that Nader's claim to represent the interests of third parties rings hollow. LINK

"Nader's intention is not to advance third-party politics, any more than it is to push campaign-finance reform or to stop global warming. Rather, he seems to think that his insurgency presages the end of the party system as we know it."

Not likely, says Wilentz. In fact, "third parties and candidates, whether they like it or not, have always been gadflies. They raise issues and propose programs that the major parties are either too timid or too unimaginative to embrace."

And unfortunately for them, "the price third parties pay for their success is enormous -- for after their issues have been taken up by others, they become irrelevant even as goads."


Al Sharpton, pundit (who happens to have hired William Morris two weeks ago). LINK


Adam C. Smith of the St. Petersburg Times writes up his paper's poll with the Miami Herald showing Kerry leading Bush by 6 points in Florida. LINK

The St. Petersburg Times reports on its own poll showing Floridians do not support gay marriage. LINK

Jane Musgrave of the Palm Beach Post writes that Tuesday's Florida primary -- and its touch-screen voting machines -- is making people jittery. LINK

The Tampa Tribune's Brad Smith reports on fears about more voting problems in Florida -- maybe not Tuesday, but possibly in the general election. LINK

The economy:

The Note wishes a happy belated birthday to Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, who turned 78 on Saturday -- a rockin' day for birthdays.

Legislative agenda:

The Baltimore Sun's Julie Hirschfeld Davis reports that the congressional agenda has become a backdrop for the presidential election this year, with votes on fetal rights and gun control, not to mention the proposed amendment against gay marriage.

Majority Leader Bill Frist calls it "almost inevitable" that the presidential election be fought by proxy in the Senate, with an aide to Sen. Santorum confessing "an unprecedented level of communication" between the Bush campaign and Senate aides. LINK

The Hartford Courant's Lightman looks at Congress and the fight for it this political season, writing that "each side is trying to force the other into recorded votes they'd rather not make in an election year. And they're trying to force debates -- debates whose transcripts will be available instantly on the Internet -- on those issues." Note that "2004 election season is the first presidential election cycle since 1928 when Democrats did not have control of either the White House or one branch of Congress." LINK

The politics of gay marriage:

The Washington Post's David Von Drehle and Alan Cooperman analyze the recent history of the same-sex marriage debate. LINK

The AP's Robert Tanner writes about how attorneys general across the country are handling the issue in different ways. LINK

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said that while he supports civil unions, he will stick to enforcing New York state's ban on gay "marriage" -- the first time he's gone public with his views on the subject. LINK

Democratic National Convention:

OK, so it's not really a convention story, but it sort of is . . . the Boston Globe's Anthony Flint reports, "Since the December opening of the southbound Big Dig tunnel, motorists from north of the city have shaved an average of 15 minutes off their commute." LINK

The Boston Globe's Andrea Estes reported on Saturday that DNC officials "may have to spend up to $500,000 to charter buses to transport conventioneers." LINK

ABC News Vote 2004: The Senate:

Rep. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) seemed to be edging closer to running for the seat being vacated by Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-Colo.), but didn't commit to a bid, the Denver Post's Julia Martinez reports. Politics:

The Los Angeles Times looks at Al Gore the "Unapologetic Populist" whose rhetoric now sounds "more like that of his father" and who has, as Chris Lehane sees it, a "'certain moral standing in the party.'" Note the blind quote at bottom from a "former advisor" who says the Gore campaign taught him/her to "'let your candidate be himself.'" LINK

The Wall Street Journal's Shailagh Murray looks at the Importance of Being Funny for candidates today, focusing on the Podesta-led Center for American Progress's recent Aspen fun fest. (We really wanted to make that trip . . .)

The New York Times' David Kirkpatrick reports on the "influence" that "Christian home-schooling is having on the political right" and looks at the students who matriculate to Patrick Henry College, with its, "knack for political job placement." LINK

The Chicago Sun-Times' Curtis Lawrence writes about disgraced former Congressman Mel Reynolds' attempt to come back to politics and challenge Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. in the Democratic primary for Illinois 2nd Congressional District. LINK

In Texas, Gov. Rick Perry's job approval rating has made him the most "unpopular Texas governor in 14 years, according to a poll released Friday." LINK

The New York Daily News reviewed the "hairy" Gridiron dinner with an eye looking toward the 2008 presidential election. LINK


The networks are Iraq-bound this week, Notes USA Today's Peter Johnson. LINK

The Boston Herald reports that Mike Barnicle is going to be a Tuesday/Thursday columnist for the…Boston Herald. LINK