The Note

—7:00 am: Ralph Nader appears on ABC's "Good Morning America" and NBC's "Today Show" —8:00 am: Nader is a guest on Pacifica Radio Network's "Democracy Now" —9:00 am: Sen. John Edwards holds a town hall at the headquarters of UNITE, New York, N.Y. —9:15 am: Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan speaks at the Credit Union National Association 2004 Governmental Affairs Conference, Washington, D.C. —9:45 am: Sen. John Kerry and Rep. Charlie Rangel attend a rally at the Alhambra Ballroom, New York, N.Y. —9:45 am: Off-camera press gaggle by White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan —10:00 am: Nader holds a news conference at the National Press Club, Washington, D.C. —10:00 am: Secretary Tom Ridge speaks on the one-year anniversary of the creation of the Homeland Security Department at George Washington University, Washington, D.C. —10:00 am: The National Governors Association discusses prisoner reentry at its Winter Meeting, Washington, D.C. —10:00 am: The Supreme Court convenes for judicial business —10:20 am: President Bush meets with the National Governors Association, the White House —10:30 am: Rev. Al Sharpton and local Democratic officials speak to the press, New York, N.Y. —11:00 am: Treasury Secretary Snow John Alan speaks at the credit union conference, Washington, D.C. —12:00 pm: Sen. Kerry holds a town hall meeting on the economy at the City University of New York, Jamaica, N.Y. —12:00 pm: The Senate convenes for legislative business —12:15 pm: Secretary of State Colin Powell and Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson release the Administration five-year plan for AIDS relief, Washington, D.C. —12:30 pm: On-camera press briefing by Press Secretary McClellan —1:00 pm: Politics Live on ABC News Live and AOL —1:30 pm: Vice President Cheney delivers remarks at a Bush-Cheney '04 fundraiser luncheon at the Hilton Hotel, Minneapolis, Minn. —1:30 pm: Rep. Dennis Kucinich speaks to the press at the Savoy Hotel, San Francisco, Calif. —2:00 pm: The Christian Defense Coalition and the National Clergy Council announce that they are making tickets to "The Passion of the Christ" available to all members of Congress, Washington, D.C. —2:10 pm: Vice President Cheney and Mrs. Cheney visit El Burrito Mercado Restaurant, St. Paul, Minn. —2:30 pm: Rep. Kucinich attends a luncheon fundraiser at the Savoy Hotel, San Francisco, Calif. —3:30 pm: Nader is interviewed live on CNN's "Inside Politics" —4:00 pm: Sen. John Edwards holds a town hall meeting at Thronateeska Heritage Center, Albany, Ga. —5:00 pm: Rep. Kucinich attends a rally and speaks to the press about civil rights outside City Hall, San Francisco, Calif. —6:00 pm: Nader is interviewed live on PBS' "NewsHour with Jim Lehrer" —6:00 pm: Transportation Secretary Mineta awards governors for their efforts to provide increased transportation services, Washington, D.C. —7:00 pm: Nader appears on MSNBC's "Hardball with Chris Matthews" —7:15 pm: President Bush speaks at the Republican Governors Association Reception, Washington, D.C. —7:30 pm: Vice President Cheney delivers remarks at a Bush-Cheney '04 fundraiser at the Hyatt Regency Wichita, Wichita, Kan. —7:30 pm: Sen. John Edwards holds a town hall meeting at the convention and trade center, Columbus, Ga. —8:00 pm: Nader appears on CNN's "Paula Zahn Now" —9:00 pm: Rep. Kucinich attends an event with the Progressive Alliance at the Convention Center, Richmond, Calif. —10:00 pm: Rep. Kucinich attends a rally sponsored by Democratization Tour and Dominican University, San Rafael, Calif.

NEWS SUMMARY

In American movies, literature, art, politics, journalism, and network news, powerful forces inexorably turn multi-force battles into two-sided contests.

So you have:

Republicans versus Democrats; Goofus versus Gallant; Oasis versus Blur; Yankees versus Red Sox; Begala versus Novak; Imus versus Stern; Torricelli versus Lautenberg; Corzine versus Schumer; Margo versus Eve; Lott versus Nickles; Post versus Times; Post versus News; Blitzer versus the world; Clinton versus Gore (no first initials specified); Ornstein versus Mann; Britney vs. Christina; Cook versus Rothenberg; Bob Schneider versus jealous husbands; Borsage versus From; USSS versus advance staff; Petrovsky versus Big; and Julia versus Sandra.

In the context of two-sided battles, most people in politics are now focused on:

Bush versus Kerry

The President's team looks to buy some TV time for positive ads starting next week in key states, while tonight's RGA speech will show the President letting it rip. For more on this, see the BC04 section below.

Will Scott or the POTUS himself be saved by the Racicot letter from being asked directly about the Vietnam debate challenge? (Don't worry, we don't really know what that sentence means either. We just put it in here because it sounded dramatic.)

Still, some keep their eyes on:

Kerry versus Edwards

With their "This Week" face-off yesterday and the newly added New York debate next Sunday, the temperature is being turned up at least a bit. If Andrew Kirtzman and Marcia Kramer can't inject some Empire/Gotham juice into this race, no one can. LINK and LINK

But we have two bigger questions: Will/can John Edwards do ANYTHING to shake up the current dynamic enough before then?

And, with Edwards (today) and Kerry (tomorrow) going before the New York Times ed board to win the coveted endorsement, will Gail Collins fall in love (like Richard Doak and Linda Fandel before her) with the son of a meeeal worker, or is even Gail under the electability spell?

Still, barely any paid media, and NO negative paid media. Somewhere, Alex Castellanos is scratching his head and smiling that smile he smiles.

(For more on this, see our Orinesque Kerry versus Edwards "Tale of the Tape" below.)

Nader versus the Democratic Party

Beyond Theresa Amato (Harvard '86/Pancho Villa '04) LINK, can anyone name a member of the "liberal intelligentsia" (Ralph's new favorite punching bag) who is supporting Nader 2.0/2004?

Is even Eddie Vedder on board?

But there IS one other key matchup:

Bush advisors speaking on the record and on background versus Kerry advisors speaking on the record and on background, all saying lots of insider-y and consultant-y things

Why the heck are the candidates failing in their attempts to get these people to pipe down?

President Bush is expected to announce a new phase in his campaign in a speech to the Republican Governors Association today. He meets with the President of Georgia on Wednesday, travels to Kentucky and North Carolina on Thursday, and meets with the Chancellor of Germany on Friday.

Vice President and Mrs. Cheney attend fundraisers and visit a restaurant in Minnesota and Kansas.

Ralph Nader is in Washington, D.C.

Sen. John Kerry is in New York City today. He is in Ohio on Tuesday and Wednesday and Minnesota and Los Angeles late in the week.

Sen. John Edwards is in New York and Georgia today. He is in Georgia and Texas tomorrow, Texas and California on Wednesday, and California on Thursday and Friday.

Rev. Al Sharpton has an event in New York City this morning.

Rep. Dennis Kucinich campaigns in California today.

The Democratic candidates participate in a debate sponsored by CNN and the Los Angeles Times in Los Angeles on Thursday.

Kerry versus Edwards: tale of the tape:

Weekend must-reads:

Ron Fournier Noted that as the frontrunner once again, Sen. Kerry is lapsing into his old habits. LINK

The New York Times' David Halbfinger wrote Sunday on Teresa Heinz Kerry. LINK

In the Washington Post's Outlook section, Bruce Reed wrote Sunday that one of the greatest challenges facing Kerry and Edwards in 2004 will be forcing President Bush to run against them, and not the "Ghost of Democrats Past." LINK

On Sunday, Dan Balz looked at the obstacles facing Sen. Edwards as he tries to sell his relative lack of foreign policy experience as expertise. LINK

George Will eviscerates Shays-Meehan. LINK

The New York Times' John Tierney compared Mr. Likeable vs. Mr. Electable. LINK

The New York Times' Adam Nagourney outlined Kerry's and Edwards' differing strategies on Sunday. LINK

The Washington Post's Tom Edsall reported yesterday Kerry and Edwards were barely solvent in January. LINK

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

Mike Allen and Dan Balz of the Washington Post preview President Bush's speech before the Republican Governors Association and the launching of his re-election campaign, including new ads. LINK

The New York Times' Elisabeth Bumiller highlights that the Bush-Cheney ads, part of the campaign's "aggressive new phase," will begin on March 4 even if a Democratic nominee has not emerged. LINK

The Los Angeles Times' Ron Brownstein looks at the next phase in the Bush-Cheney campaign and Notes "there is growing restiveness among Republican insiders over a series of recent polls showing Bush trailing the Democratic front-runner, Sen. John F. Kerry of Massachusetts, in early tests of sentiment for the general election." LINK

The Wall Street Journal's Greg Hitt reports that the Bush-Cheney campaign, tapping its "huge campaign bankroll," will begin its ad blitz "as part of a broader 'tactical shift' … designed to more aggressively promote the president's agenda" and define Sen. John Kerry.

USA Today's Keen and Benedetto: LINK

Knight Ridder's Hutcheson: LINK

The Associated Press' Deb Reichmann writes that "fighting back against a barrage of Democratic criticism, President Bush is unveiling a new stump speech that paints his opponents as politicians who want to raise taxes and put America on an uncertain path in the war on terrorism." LINK

From ABC News Bush-Cheney campaign reporter Karen Travers:

WASHINGTON, D.C., Feb. 22 -- For several months, the Bush-Cheney campaign has said that it would engage once the Democratic nominee emerged. Now there are just eight days until Super Tuesday, the Democratic race is not yet decided and the Bush-Cheney campaign is starting what campaign officials called "a new period of engagement for the President" -- beginning today with a speech to the Republican Governors Association in Washington.

Why has the BC04 campaign decided that now is go time? Campaign officials said it was a shift from their original plan to wait until the Democratic nominee emerged but they opted to engage in "the face of this barrage of negative attacks against the President."

The event will curtain-raise the President's campaign stump speech, previewing many of the issues that the campaign will use to highlights the differences between Bush's record and that of the Democratic nominee.

President Bush will focus on "efforts to move the country forward to greater security, greater prosperity, greater compassion and greater freedom," according to a campaign official. Without naming names (but you know who you are…), Bush will take on his Democratic critics and in particular what one campaign official called "their backward looking and failed ideas that would derail our economic recovery and weaken our ability to fight and win the war on terror."

The RGA speech is part of the campaign's four-point plan to launch a more aggressive stance that will feature ads, increased surrogate activity and more media visibility from the campaign leadership.

Today the campaign will begin the process of putting ads on the air, calling stations to secure time and rates for a national cable buy and a spot market buy, including Spanish-language TV. Campaign officials say that the first spot will be positive and focus on the President's leadership.

Look for BC04 surrogates and campaign leadership to hit the ground running, showing up on more national and local television, radio, and specialty media as well as going on the road more often to stump for the President.

Read more from the trail with Bush-Cheney on abcnews.com: LINK

In a battle of letters over the weekend, "George W. Bush's presidential campaign told John Kerry it 'does not condone' any effort to impugn his patriotism but asserted that the Senator's voting record on national security and defense issues is a valid target of political scrutiny," writes Nedra Pickler of the Associated Press. LINK

The Boston Globe's Bryan Bender writes about the anger that some former National Guard members are feeling over the criticism lobbed at the President implying that National Guard service was a way to avoid combat. LINK

On Sunday, the Washington Post's Josh White looked at the mystery over why President Bush stopped flying in the Texas Air National Guard. LINK

The Washington Times again looks at the bind that President Bush is in on the gay marriage issue: LINK

Calvin Trillin Notes on the New York Times' editorial page that Dan Quayle did better than President Bush in school and wonders why using patronage to get into the National Guard during Vietnam was treated differently for Quayle than for President Bush. LINK

The New York Times' Bumiller looks at Halliburton's current ad campaign that will continue through the presidential election. LINK

The Administration will revisit new rules on Medicaid that "could limit the states' ability to provide health care for millions of poor people." LINK

The Wall Street Journal's Kronholz leads simply and effectively: "President Bush's No Child Left Behind education law has met its enemy -- and it is the state legislatures."

The Miami Herald's Peter Wallsten and Lesley Clark write about the criticism that Gov. Bush's state programs for children are receiving, and how some Democrats want to use that against the President. LINK

Big Casino budget politics:

The New York Times' Robert Pear on the Bush Administration decision to revisit "tough new rules on the financing of Medicaid that could limit the states' ability to provide health care for millions of poor people." LINK

The Wall Street Journal's Sarah Lueck profiles Mark McLellan, who comes to the Medicare job "strongly favoring market forces" as a tool to make the health care more efficient, "a position likely to spur debate at his Senate confirmation hearing."

Novak on the White House-Hastert split on the transportation bill: the President is ready to veto "to show restive conservatives he really is an economizer," the Speaker wants nothing of it. LINK

ABC News Vote 2004: The race for the nomination:

The Boston Globe's Raja Mishra writes up the Kerry-Edwards virtual debate yesterday on "This Week with George Stephanopoulos." LINK

William Safire finds his own version of two Americas: "Pessimistic America is pandered to by politicians demanding tariff walls and costly entitlements, preaching resentment, envy, anger, class war" while "Optimistic America responds to competition, opportunity, openness, freedom -- ready to do the business that not only creates tomorrow's jobs but spreads the prosperity that leads to peace around the world." LINK

Bill Krueger of the Raleigh News and Observer reports on the millions of dollars lawyers have poured into the campaigns of Kerry and Edwards, Noting that law supporters for each Dem vary in their respective camps. LINK

The CFR champion -- otherwise known as the New York Times ed board -- gives a big ole plug to our friends at the Center for Responsive Politics as it praises the push for openness that is helping voters to "grasp the crass role special-interest money plays." LINK

"It's time for political reporters to swear off some long-standing habits," writes the Washington Post's Howard Kurtz in his column about how political reporters have had to adapt to this year's changing political landscape or get left behind. LINK

Check out Fineman and Nagourney reaching iconographic status!!!!

Nader:

So many questions for Mr. Nader. And he tried to answer some on the network morning shows.

When presented with the "simple fact" that he cost Al Gore the presidency four years ago, Ralph Nader told a skeptical Charlie Gibson on "Good Morning America," "That's not the simple fact. That's just taking one what if. 250,000 registered Democrats in Florida voted for George Bush… Let's give everybody in America a free chance to compete in the political marketplace. America does not belong to just two parties. We have to keep remembering that. Especially since they are becoming more and more similar and are dialing for the same dollars."

On "Today" today, Nader told Matt Lauer that Democrats predicting he will cost their nominee the election "are better advised to focus on replacing President Bush. They simply don't know how many votes I am going to get from independents and Republicans who are fed up with the corporate Republican Party and are furious with Mr. Bush over the corporate subsidies and NAFTA and shipping industries abroad and the big brother Patriot Act and the huge deficit."

He insisted to Lauer that the he will prove getting on the ballot in "every state, even North Carolina" is possible as an independent.

And Nader told Gibson that the Ralphdontrun Web site is "a statement of autocracy. With 100 million people not voting, we've got to give them more voices, choices, more exciting involvement and participation so they are not just spectators watching candidates parade in front of them with emotional slogans."

New York Times' Kirk Semple wrote yesterday about how few people out there, even on the left, seem to want a Nader candidacy.

Even former supporters:

"In the 2000 presidential campaign, Mr. Nader contended that the Republican and Democratic parties were so similar that it would make little difference whether Mr. Bush or Mr. Gore were elected. But now many of Mr. Nader's former supporters say that Mr. Bush has led the country far more to the right than they anticipated and that they deeply regret having backed Mr. Nader."

And certainly not Democrats:

"Even an independent, Representative Bernard Sanders of Vermont, urged Mr. Nader to reconsider. "At a time when the middle class is rapidly shrinking and the gap between the rich and poor is growing wider, it is imperative that all progressives come together to defeat Bush," Mr. Sanders said." LINK

Today, the New York Times' editorial board laments "the most regrettable thing about Mr. Nader's new candidacy is not how it is likely to affect the election, but how it will affect Mr. Nader's own legacy. LINK

The New York Times' Nagourney and Rutenberg Note that Nader's decision sent "shudders through the camps of Democratic presidential candidates just as they had grown hopeful about unseating President Bush." LINK

Jeff Zeleny and Jill Zuckman of the Chicago Tribune see Ralph Nader's run against a "two-party duopoly" as raising doubts among Democrats and a direct slap in the face to Terry McAuliffe. LINK

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer editorial board sees a positive side to a Nader run. "The country is served when a critic -- especially one who's exciting and engaging -- talks about ways to make this country more democratic." Yet they ask Ralph, please, "at least, do no harm." LINK

Today, the Los Angeles Times' Nick Anderson on some of Nader's challenges: LINK

The Washington Post's Shankar Vedantam on Nader's decision to run: LINK

Matthew Cooper of Time Magazine nails down four key points about a 2004 Nader run:

-- Nader's numbers will decline (he got almost 3 percent in 2000): "This time, Nader's not only old news -- he's resented."

-- He could still throw the election. "Are those progressives Howard Dean brought into the political process going to stay home, vote for John Kerry, or be pulled toward Nader?"

-- Trade gets on the agenda: "With both Bush and Kerry being pro-NAFTA, there is plenty of room for Nader to run."

-- Nader could fade and still throw the election: "It wouldn't take a huge draw of Democrats to tip another close state this time."

Perhaps many of them knew it was coming, or they suspected, but even some of his old friends were shaking their heads. Bill Hillsman, Nader's 2000 media consultant and the brain behind several of Nader's widely-lauded advertisements (remember the Mastercard ad?). LINK

Perhaps many of them knew it was coming, or they suspected, but even some of his old friends were shaking their heads. Bill Hillsman, Nader's 2000 media consultant and the brain behind several of Nader's widely-lauded advertisements (remember the Mastercard ad?): He told ABC News: "In 2000 this was right thing to do. I don't see what he can accomplish this time." Sunday, The Washington Post's Brian Faler and Paul Farhi took a look at the preemptive Nader backlash. LINK

The Boston Globe's Sarah Schweitzer reports on the announcement, the reactions, and some of the pre-announcement feelings that apparently did not affect Nader. LINK

USA Today's Tom Squitieri Notes, "Nader faces enormous odds to get on the ballots in 50 states as well as raise the millions he needs to run a campaign." LINK

USA Today's Kathy Kiely outlines the main reasons why many think that Nader will have less of an impact in 2004 than he did in 2000, even referencing comments made on the Dean campaign Weblog. LINK

The Boston Herald's David Guarino writes that Nader "pooh-poohed Democrats who said he'd ensure a second term for President Bush." LINK

Salon's Todd Gitlin on the Nader run and the Nader ego, and asks: "Does Ralph Nader's narcissism have no bounds?"

Gitlin muses about Nader's "wishful thinking" and "his hallucination of ideologically aroused masses," and wonders if "Nader's narcissism has metastasized to such proportions that he came forward to announce his candidacy without being able to brandish a single one of the celebrities who surrounded him in 2000 -- not Michael Moore, not Tim Robbins or Susan Sarandon, not Patti Smith."

AP's Sam Hananel with the nuts and bolts of the Nader announcement., including a glimpse into Nader's own unorthodox take on what effect his candidacy will have:

"Nader predicted he would get more net votes from conservatives and liberal Republicans dissatisfied with Bush's record than from registered Democrats."

"Democratic officials on Sunday claimed that Nader has promised not criticize the Democratic nominee but, rather, focus his ammunition on the Bush administration. Nader acknowledged the pledge but said it does not mean he will refrain from criticizing Democrats if they attack him. "I'm not going to avoid responding," he told The AP." LINK

Even the alternative press lashes out at Nader, calling his run, "a fundamental shift from an ethic of responsibility to one of damn the consequences, no matter how much populist precedent he tries to dress it up with." Sheesh. LINK

League of Conservation Voters President Deb Callahan didn't seem to take too kindly to a Nader run either, saying in a statement that "Ralph Nader's sense of self importance has again superceded his relevance to the presidential election. While he may say he speaks for the progressive community, he's been largely absent these last three years in fighting George W. Bush's anti-environmental, right-wing agenda."

Edwards:

The AP's Mike Glover reports that Edwards "is looking forward to two high-profile clashes with John Kerry as chances to show voters in 10 key primary states the 'real differences' between the two." LINK

The New York Times' Rick Lyman Notes that "time is running short" for Sen. Edwards and that he has echoed Gov. Howard Dean recently by "describing himself as the candidate of 'new ideas and a new vision.'" LINK

Ron Brownstein writes on the McCain Maxim's relevance to the Edwards campaign: "It's difficult to win a party's nomination by relying on voters who don't belong to it." Says Brownstein, "If Edwards can't significantly improve his showing among core Democrats, he won't seriously challenge Kerry." LINK

The Wall Street Journal's Schlesinger, quoting the North Carolina Senator's "This Week" appearance, Notes that Edwards "may have already won" the debate within the Democratic Party over veering away from "its embrace of free trade in the 1990s." (Garry South gets his say as well!)

Mark Johnson of the Charlotte Observer reports on the flow of ex-Dean backers to the Edwards camp, Noting that his courting of the organizers of some key states and Dean's Internet fueled troops is proving successful. LINK

The New York Post on the Edwards push for former Dean backers -- and the Senator's cancellation of a "planned visit to Albany." LINK

Anna Griffin of the Charlotte Observer Notes Kerry's criticism of Edwards as a self-proclaimed Southerner who the former claims cannot even win his own state in projected polls against Bush. LINK

From ABC News' Edwards campaign reporter Gloria Riviera:

ROCHESTER, N.Y., Feb. 22 -- Sunday afternoon the Edwards press corps meandered through a crowd made up of locked out employees formerly of RMI Titanium in Niles, Ohio. Both groups waited for the Senator, watching their breath vanish into a cold February sky tinged with the smell of burning wood.

And without the routine fanfare of cheers and booming tunes of John Mellencamp, Sen. Edwards strode up the road. No aides or police and accompanied only two members from Local 1255. For once, the candidate was momentarily unnoticed by the majority. And in that moment of silent pause before applause, as one by one the press and crowd caught sight of him, Edwards was already smiling and walking with purpose.

That event and the Senator's demeanor are emblematic of a weekend orchestrated to play to his strengths. From a Savannah town square under a sunny Georgia sky and framed by age-old Magnolia trees all the way to a dismal afternoon event in front of the literally and symbolically locked factory gates in Niles, Edwards was as "on" as he has ever been, seemingly consumed in a quiet, focused confidence that seems all the more so juxtaposed against downright frenzied crowds.

He is riding a wave of warm reception doled out from the national media as well as welcoming crowds in Georgia, Minnesota and Ohio. Is this the honeymoon before the storm? Do overflow crowds of Deaniacs wearing Howard pins with John Edwards' signature scrawled on top in permanent marker mean the movement has a new map? Does the addition of a second debate before Super Tuesday mean the Senator's wishes are slowly but surely coming true?

As intent and impassioned the press corps is at the unpredictable business of predicting, a few things can certainly be counted as dependable factors in the equation. For one, Edwards has proclaimed the Governor a man for whom he has "great affection, great admiration and great respect…my friend, Howard Dean."

This works with many who come to hear Edwards speak after realizing they may have heard the last from Dean himself, for now. One woman in St. Paul said she appreciated what Edwards had to say about Dean, liked him and what he had to say but would nonetheless spend her time "shopping hard" between the remaining four candidates.

In Iowa people wanted to touch John Edwards. They wanted to reach out and shake his hand or give him a hug or get his signature. Body man Hunter Pruette is the unfortunate recipient of several people's aggressive attempt to get a signature on their Edwards signs. A popular crowd move is to hit Pruette on the head, thrust a sign into his hand and gesture madly with a pen. He accommodates as many as he can.

And Monday he will have help. As of 12:01 am ET Monday, Edwards is under the protection of the Secret Service. From now on between 10 and 15 agents will accompany the campaign as it heads to Georgia, Texas and California.

No word yet on a code name, but it has been confirmed that the Senator will for the first time since he began his quest for the presidency be forced to compromise the one thing he is known to hold just about sacred. He will give up the solitude of his daily run. From now on, an agent will join him for every step of those five miles.

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

Kerry:

The New York Times' David Halbfinger on Kerry's visit to Atlanta theater yesterday -- a "lovefest," but no guarantee that he can carry the South in November. The good news? "The campaign stop may have showed that Mr. Kerry has no trouble winning over audiences of blacks and liberal voters, as well as those who are angriest about President Bush's leadership." (We only wonder why there was no Flying Biscuit stop!) LINK

Joshua Muravchik of the American Enterprise Institute writes in a Washington Post op-ed that Kerry's consistent record as a "dove" may cause problems for him in the general election. LINK

The Boston Globe's Pat Healy writes about Kerry's reaction to Gov. Racicot's remarks yesterday about being negative, which didn't include very many positive things about the President. LINK

Roll Call's Mark Preston reports, "As Congressional Democrats rally around Sen. John Kerry's candidacy for president, Republicans are preparing a plan that would force the Massachusetts Democrat to vote on politically sensitive issues, including judicial nominees opposed by powerful Democratic constituent groups."

The Boston Globe's ombudsman deals with rumors and responsibilities of news organizations. LINK

The Boston Globe's Mark Jurkowitz tracks the rumor's travel through the media. LINK

In Roll Call, Stu Rothenberg writes, "No matter how well Kerry performed among veterans in the early primaries, it's impossible to know whether he will do equally well among veterans in the general election. For instance, does Kerry have special appeal to Democrats who, like him, served in the armed forces in general and in Vietnam in particular? Will independent and Republican veterans be attracted to Kerry more than they would be to any other liberal Democrat?"

"Make no mistake about it: Kerry's military record is crucial to the candidate's efforts in a general election. Indeed, it's probably the main reason why some in his party view him as 'more electable' than other Democratic presidential hopefuls."

The Providence Journal's John Mulligan looks at Kerry's journey over the last year. LINK

The St. Petersburg Times' Adam Smith profiles Max Cleland's role in the Kerry campaign. LINK

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Tom Baxter reports on Kerry's weekend campaigning in Atlanta, including his response to Sen. Chambliss' conference call. LINK

Baxter also has a brief Q&A with the candidate. LINK

From ABC News Kerry campaign reporter Ed O'Keefe:

ATLANTA, Ga., Feb. 22 -- On Sunday, a well-rested, Christophe-coifed Sen. Kerry emerged in Georgia re-focused and energized. Before an overflow crowd seated inside and even stretching outside the Coca Cola Roxy Theater in Atlanta, Kerry limited his opening remarks to just over 10 minutes, reserving a full 55 minutes for 18 questions from the crowd.

In rapid-fire Q&A not present since Iowa, the often long-winded Kerry limited most responses to one to three minutes and drew affection from the crowd without once delivering his signature line: "Bring it on."

On only one occasion did Kerry appear more Brahmin and less common when during a question on troubled youth, Kerry capped his statement which included an assertion that he recognizes the difference between crack and powder cocaine by insisting, "This is not palaver."

Kerry did, however, riff on some more popular themes, invoking some familiar but far from copyrighted phrases.

When discussing trade, Kerry said, "We need a president who knows what it's like to be part of an America that's struggling to get by today."

And when asked by an incoming college freshman to give a post-Kerry administration economic forecast, the Senator would only promise his economic plan would center on "putting people back to work."

Kerry reserved his strongest criticisms for the Bush Administration, not his primary Democratic opponent. Kerry baited the Bush Administration to continue the publicity-wielding debate concerning the Senator's defense votes which the Kerry camp has deftly turned into a squabble over Kerry's military service record.

It appears "Minuteman" intends to continue riding the momentum wave, taking his now eight-car, 14-Secret Service agent motorcade to stops in New York, Minnesota and California, with a return trip to Ohio midweek.

The Kerry camp will likely forgo expensive paid ads in the delegate-rich Super Tuesday states instead strategizing that the traveling spectacle of the frontrunner will generate a free local media bonanza wherever Kerry goes.

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

Page Six on the Kerry, eBay, and the Electras! LINK

Sharpton:

"Democratic presidential candidate Al Sharpton, who has billed his campaign for hotel stays of more than $1,000 a night, has campaign debts totaling $485,696, including unpaid staff salaries dating to last May," reports the Washington Post. LINK

February 24:

Lisa Riley Roche with the Deseret Morning News in Salt Lake City, reports that in the Deseret Morning News/KSL-TV poll, one-third of Utahns plan to vote in the primary on "Forgotten Tuesday." LINK

Thomas Burr at the Salt Lake City Tribune Notes that Dennis Kucinich is the sole candidate visiting Utah ahead of the primary tomorrow; he held an event concerning nuclear testing in Nevada. The Googling monkeys are bemused; didn't Nevada all ready vote? LINK

Super Tuesday:

The Los Angeles Times on California's role in the March 2 face-off. LINK

The Atlanta Journal Constitution depicts an encounter between a "recovering Republican" and Kerry, "'I've got a single-step program for you. Vote Kerry.'" LINK

The Hartford Courant Notes that "Political experts see signs that Kerry is slowly edging his way into the front-runner's trap: Make sure you don't offend anyone, give all supporters something they can be happy with and make sure you don't say anything that will stoke controversy." LINK

Democratic National Convention:

Phil Primack writes about how the convention is tied to Mayor Menino's legacy in Boston. LINK

Mark your calendars: Protest plans underway for this summer's Democratic convention, reports the New York Times in a short piece by Katie Zezima. LINK

Republican National Convention:

And don't you fret, the other side already is readying plans to protest the GOP's Gotham get-together, reports the New York Times' Slackman. LINK

The economy:

The New York Times' Andrews on the political debate raging over the jobs numbers: Whether to follow the payroll or the household survey. Mankiw and Greenspan quotes included. LINK

The politics of gay marriage:

USA Today's John Ritter reports on the war of words brewing between Gov. Schwarzenegger and his attorney general over what exactly can be done about San Francisco. LINK

The Wall Street Journal's Schlesinger profiles "the two Beltway neophytes" at the center of the movement to pass a Constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.

The Boston Herald's Steve Marantz reports that Gov. Romney is being accused of flip-flopping by some Democrats and Republicans who remember him opposing a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage when he ran for office in 2002. LINK

The Boston Globe's Raphael Lewis writes about the fears some people have in Massachusetts over the fallout from San Francisco's activity that could "undercut the push" for same-sex marriage in the Bay State. LINK

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

Hillary Clinton helped the 527 "Voices for Working Families" get Florida women registered to vote in a walk this weekend. LINK

Politics:

Partisan gerrymandering: Look for a decision to come from a Supreme Court near you. LINK

From Roll Call this morning: Trying not to get beaten to a pulp on the gun issue by the NRA, Democratic strategists Penn-Hathaway-and-Cowan argue in a memo for the creation of "Second Amendment Democrats" who could "position the party as staunch defenders of gun rights while being equally tough on gun crimes."

Vince Morris of the New York Post on the Schumer-Clinton showdown for a seat on the Senate Finance Committee. LINK

"California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has stopped trying to charm voters. Instead, he sounds determined to scare them," writes the Washington Post's Rene Sanchez, in his efforts to get two propositions passed that he believes will help California climb out of its fiscal crisis. LINK

The Austrian-born Governator says he backs an amendment allowing those born outside the U.S. to become President. (We are sure he is thinking of a potential Gov. Granholm candidacy . . . ) LINK

The AP's Erica Werner reports on Schwarzenegger's thoughts on presidential eligibility. LINK

Liz Smith gives Vernon Jordan LOTS of good press! LINK

ABC News Vote 2004: The bus logs:

As the campaigns go national, so do our campaign buses. Here's a behind-the-scenes look at their daily logs.

From Red Bus producer John Boswell:

QUOTE OF THE DAY: "Could you move to the back of the bus please?" -- Secret Service agent, speaking to BIG RED staffers when Senator Kerry approaches.

RUMORS FROM THE ROAD: Our hosts at Jet Aviation (FBO for private jets aplenty) have suggested the next step for ABC News: The Big Red Jet, outfitted with red leather seats and Avid editing. Big Red Bus staff agrees.

From Blue Bus producer Andrea Owen:

QUOTES OF THE DAY: "Lets see if the Red Bus driver do that @!&#" -- Team Blue bus driver after brilliantly maneuvering into a bus challenged parking lot at Cleveland State University.

"Are you excited about being in Cleveland?!" -- Edwards supporter psyching up the crowd before the Senator's arrival, who was close to an hour late for the event. It reminded some of us who have seen the movie "Spinal Tap" of the "Hello Cleveland!" scene when the rock band got lost back-stage.

From White Bus producer Ursula Fahy:

CIRCUS FREAK OF THE DAY: Tie between guy with the Burger King crown on wandering around the steps of City Hall singing…."She bangs, she bangs!"

PHRASE OF THE DAY: "What's the bus like?" -- San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom to ABC crew after the interview. (before jumping into his getaway car).

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