The Note

TODAY SCHEDULE AS OF 9:00 am (all times ET):

— 8:30 am: Rev. Al Sharpton speaks at Dreher High School, Columbia, S.C. — 8:30 am: Sen. John Edwards attends a community breakfast with Rep. Bill Clyburn at Shoney's Of Aiken, Aiken, S.C. — 8:45 am: Gen. Wesley Clark attends a "Conversation with Clark" at Benedict College, Columbia, S.C. — 9:00 am: Gov. Howard Dean attends a campaign event, Columbia, S.C. — 9:15 am: RNC Chairman Ed Gillespie, California Republican Party Chairman Duf Sundheim, and others speak at the RNC Winter meeting, Washington, D.C. — 9:30 am: Sen. John Kerry hosts a "Town Hall for America's Future" event with veterans at the University of South Carolina, Columbia, S.C. — 9:45 am: Off-camera press gaggle by White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan — 10:00 am: Sen. Joe Lieberman visits Bowlerama's senior bowling league, New Castle, Del. — 10:00 am: Internal Dean For America staff meeting to discuss campaign changes — 10:35 am: President Bush meets with economists, The White House — 11:00 am: Sens. Kerry and Edwards, Gov. Dean, Gen. Clark, Rev. Sharpton and Rep. Dennis Kucinich participate in the "People's Agenda for Economic Justice" forum sponsored by Community Change, Columbia, S.C. — 12:00 pm: BC '04 Campaign Manager Ken Mehlman speaks at the RNC Winter Meeting, Washington, D.C. — 12:30 pm: Sen. Lieberman visits with patrons at Spence's Bazaar, Dover, Del. — 12:30 pm: On-camera press briefing by Press Secretary McClellan — 1:00pm: Politics Live on ABCNews.com and AOL — 1:15 pm: President Bush meets with NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, The White House — 1:30 pm: Sen. Edwards attends a rally at Francis Marion University, Florence, S.C. — 1:30 pm: Rev. Sharpton and Tom Joyner attend a rally at Benedict College, Columbia, S.C. — 3:00 pm: Gov. Dean makes remarks on education at the Missouri History Museum, St. Louis, Mo. — 3:10 pm: Gen. Clark greets voters at the Mt. Zion Baptist Church, Tulsa, Okla. — 3:30 pm: Sen. Edwards attends a rally at Anderson Library, Sumter, S.C. — 3:30 pm: Rev. Sharpton attends a leadership luncheon at Benedict College, Columbia, S.C. — 5:45 pm: Sen. Kerry attends a rally at IBEW Local 313, Wilmington, Del. — 8:00 pm: Gen. Clark greets supporters at the Inn and Spa at Loretto, Santa Fe, N.M. — 8:30 pm: Sen. Edwards attends a concert by Hootie and the Blowfish at Jillian's, Columbia. S.C. — 9:00 pm: Gov. Dean attends a rally in Alburquerque, N.M. — 9:30 pm: Rev. Sharpton attends a fundraiser at Club Inzone, North Charleston, S.C. — 11:30 pm: Gen. Clark greets supporters at the Savoy Opera House, Tucson, Ariz. — 11:30 pm: Rev. Sharpton attends a fundraiser at Club V12, Columbia, S.C.

NEWS SUMMARY

If you are lucky enough not to have access to Mark Mellman's polling data from the Feb. 3 states, you know/think that the race for the Democratic presidential nomination is still far from settled.

Still, with President Bush much in the news, the Googling monkeys have shifted some of their collective work to trying to divine the contours of the general election.

43 is still #1 for re-election, according to the lads at Ladbroke, but among Democrats, there is a real feeling that just maybe they can win back the White House in November.

So: a Note quiz and contest.

Put the elements below in order from most-likely to least-likely to play a role in a possible Democratic win in November.

To make things more challenging, we have included three bogus elements that do not belong on the list.

Put those three at the bottom.

Send your entries to loop@washpost.com or In the Loop, The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071. Don't forget to include home and work telephone numbers.

As always, congressional and administration staffers may enter on background. Winners will receive a coveted In the Loop mug or T-shirt. Deadline is this Tuesday, Feb. 3.

Here, then, in random order, are the possibles:

The Valerie Plame investigation.

John Kerry.

Ed Chen.

Manufacturing job loses in the Rust Belt.

John Edwards.

A slowing economy (Out this morning: GDP grew at a 4 percent pace in the 4th quarter, below expectations.)

Yucca Mountain.

"Mission Accomplished."

Drug re-importation.

Ed Rendell and Jennifer Granholm.

Don Evans' angry resignation and cooperation with the next Ron Suskind tell-all book.

Ellen Malcolm.

David Kay.

George Soros.

Karl Rove's failure to take full advantage of the benefits of incumbency.

The deficit.

Conservative unhappiness over spending.

Operation Area Code.

Teresa Heinz's pricey and independent defense of her husband's honor.

The inadequacy of the research and video files at the RNC and BC04.

Howard Dean.

Steel fallout.

"Change" versus "more of the same."

Harold Ickes.

Jobs, jobs, jobs.

The Federal Election Commission.

Opening schools in Baghdad and closing them here in the United States.

The National Guard year(s).

The President's failure to maintain his staggering support among Republicans.

Dana and Mike.

Jason and Tracy and Mike.

Don't forget health care.

Halliburton.

Fervent, constant, "bring it on" anti-Bush energy.

At 10 a.m. this morning, Roy Neel and other top Dean for America officials are expected to convene a staff meeting to discuss the potential for widespread changes to the campaign structure and function. We'll be waiting . . .

ABC News' Ramona Schindelheim reports that in the 4th quarter of 2003, the economy grew by 4 percent -- a lower rate than expected, particularly in light of the 8.2 percent growth of the 3rd quarter.

It's another day of no obvious news in the Democratic nomination battle, and no signs of dynamic altering ads or rhetoric.

Will the little rosebud of a Dean line of attack on Kerry actually blossom into something that matters? As they say in TV news -- only time will tell.

All candidates except Sen. Lieberman participate in the "People's Agenda for Economic Justice" forum sponsored by Community Change at 11 am ET in Columbia, S.C. The candidates will appear one at a time.

Following the forum, Sen. John Kerry goes to Delaware. On Saturday Kerry will be in Missouri and Oklahoma; on Monday he is in North Dakota and New Mexico; and on Monday he is in New Mexico and Arizona.

Gov. Dean goes to St. Louis and Albuquerque this afternoon. He travels to Arizona and Washington on Saturday and to Wisconsin and Michigan on Sunday.

Sen. Edwards and Rev. Sharpton remain in South Carolina all day. Sen. Edwards travels to New Mexico and Oklahoma tomorrow and returns to South Carolina to campaign on Sunday and Monday. Rev. Sharpton travels to Delaware tomorrow and returns to South Carolina on Sunday to campaign through the primary.

Gen. Clark goes to Tulsa, Santa Fe, and Tucson after the forum. On Sunday he travels to South Carolina and Oklahoma and on Monday he is in Oklahoma, New Mexico, Arizona and Missouri.

Sen. Lieberman is in Delaware all day.

Rep. Dennis Kucinich is in Arizona tonight. He is in New Mexico and Arizona through Feb. 3.

President Bush meets with economists and the NATO Secretary General today.

Chairman Gillespie, campaign manager Mehlman, and Chairman Sundheim and others speak at the RNC Winter Meeting today.

The South Carolina debate:

David Broder and John Harris lead on The Washington Post's front page with Dean's questioning Kerry about his achievements in the Senate and Kerry's response that if Dean knew Congress better he would know that much work is unsigned, calling it one of the "more energetic moments" in the well-mannered debate. LINK

The Wall Street Journal's Jake Schlesinger Notes Dean's swipe at Kerry as well, and that it appears that attacking President Bush isn't enough anymore. "Mr. Dean's jab at the Massachusetts legislator highlighted the new message he plans to take into the next round of primaries," he writes.

Dan Balz writes that Kerry "may have become the front-runner in the Democratic presidential race at just the right moment" -- when his rivals (except Dean) aren't attacking him and he can focus on drawing a contrast with President Bush. LINK

The Washington Times' Brian DeBose leads with Kerry's statement that the Bush Administration has overstated the threats of terrorism. LINK

The Boston Globe's Anne Kornblut reports that Dean "seemed subdued" and that Kerry for the most part "gave no direct responses to Dean." LINK

The Boston Globe's Peter Canellos writes that Kerry was "only a little wet" after "his first debate in the frontrunner's dunking booth." LINK

The New York Times' Kit Seelye and David Halbfinger highlight the candidates' attacks on President Bush at last night's debate and Dean's questioning of Kerry. LINK

The New York Times takes excerpts from all the candidates. LINK

Joe Trippi, political strategist:

Exclusively, Deborah Norville managed to conduct an interview with Joe Trippi yesterday without asking about Kate O'Connor or Bob Rogan or budget authority or anything else.

Amusingly, MSNBC put up a picture of "Roy Neal."

Trippi cried twice. (Several in Burlington cried along with him as they watched it.)

Catch Trippi next on tonight's Hardball with Chris Matthews.

We spoke with Trippi last night. He's doing fine, he says, but needs a few days to decompress before he considers what to do next.

ABC 2004: The Democratic nomination fight:

Ron Brownstein of the Los Angeles Times reports that Dean reverted to a "combative style he muted while campaigning in New Hampshire." LINK

If you listen to the former governor, current senator, and retired General, you might think that Sen. Kerry is the only politician in the nomination race. The Los Angeles Times' Rainey and Slater report on the collective approach to attack Kerry as the ultimate insider. LINK

The Washington Post's Dana Milbank and Tom Edsall report that due to an FEC ruling, "endorsement" ads for candidates that feature President Bush may become a thing of the past. LINK

USA Today's Andrea Stone reports on the state of the campaigns' funds, Noting that Kerry looks to be in the best shape. LINK

USA Today's Lawrence and Welch write that Dean "drew attention by raising questions about Kerry's effectiveness -- a role reversal from the days when Dean was the front-runner and taking punches from all his rivals, including Kerry." LINK

In the Washington Post, Michael Kinsley has a good chuckle at politicians who "never say die." LINK

The Washington Post's E.J. Dionne thinks that the Republicans will soon be using this line: "Sen. John Kerry is the establishment candidate who derailed Howard Dean's brave insurgency on behalf of a frightened party leadership." LINK

The Wall Street Journal's June Kronholz turns in a thoroughly interesting look at the would-be first ladies, writing that "The role of the candidate's spouse is being rewritten as the campaign rolls on. But no one -- not the voters, not the press, and certainly not the spouses themselves -- can agree on the script."

The Washington Post's Jonathan Finer and Brian Faler truth squad Kerry and Dean on the South, Iraq, and Roy Neel. LINK

Leave it to PBS to go and try to keep the nomination fight interesting. Take a look at the just-launched Presidential Futures Market (http://www.presidentialmarket.org/) and track whether a candidate's stock is up or down, and buy or sell shares in the contenders. The winner, with the highest-valued portfolio, gets a trip to the inauguration. And even those who don't win get a little practice at the skills it'd take to manage their privatized Social Security accounts.

Charlie Cook calls John Kerry the Democrats' Lazarus, coming back from so far behind and emerging as the frontrunner. While he just may be unstoppable ("may be" is the key phrase), the others in the field are competing to be the Kerry alternative. "It could be that Dean has a fairly sizable bloc of voters who will remain loyal to him, but that someone else will nevertheless emerge from the herd as the consolidator of the non-Kerry vote. While that candidate could be Clark, right now Edwards may be the better bet."

Dick Morris is not ready to call this nomination race over just yet. He says either Edwards or Clark will emerge as the moderate alternative. LINK

"To assume the nominating process is basically over this early is to misunderstand its nature. Until a liberal beats a moderate (or vice-versa), the primaries have a long, long way to go."

Roll Call's Ed Henry reports on collusion betweent he Kerry and Edwards campaigns: each agreed not to challenge the other to a traditional Super Bowl wager. Kerry would not force Edwards to declare his Panther pride before the New Hampshire primary, and Edwards would not draw attention to Kerry's Patriots fandom before South Carolina's primary. LINK

Kerry:

From ABC News Kerry campaign reporter Ed O'Keefe:

COLUMBIA, S.C., Jan. 29 -- There are certain advantages and disadvantages that come with the dubious title of frontrunner. On one hand, expectations, from minor daily details to the larger delegate gathering sense, could not be higher. On the other hand, the three "M's" of the nomination process -- money, media, and momentum -- all come a little easier.

So was the case when Sen. John F. Kerry's growing band of traveling press piled off three buses just before midnight Tuesday at the Hampton Inn in Columbia, S.C. Soon a look of dismay came over the Kerry press advance staff as the 100-member press corps lined up out the door and into the Southern "cold," just waiting to check into the hotel.

Sensing the logistical catastrophe in waiting, national trip director Setti Warren stepped in to honor reservations, call out room assignments, and facilitate credit card transactions. Assuming their supervisor roles, communications director David Morehouse and traveling press secretary David Wade looked on, but failed to process a single Starwood Preferred Guest card.

The crisis seemingly past, the traveling press corps retired to their rooms. But, as many colleagues prepared for their non-Heavenly bed, they were interrupted by the alarming sound of a plastic key card slipping past the security lock, giving the green light to an open door. Having double and in some cases triple booked press corps rooms, the circumstance provided the quote of the night from an identity-protected-producer who later remarked, "I opened the door to my room and there was a naked man sleeping in my bed."

Fortunately, the overnight ordeal hardly affected the spirits of the Kerry press corps, which headed out Wednesday morning to officially witness Rep. Jim Clyburn's endorsement of Sen. Kerry. During a light-hearted exchange, Kerry commented on his dancing at Clyburn's famous fundraising fish fries. Clyburn quipped, "I wouldn't call that dancing if I were you."

The Massachusetts Senator shot back, "I thought, for a white guy, I showed some real rhythm. I guess...I'll have to take a few more lessons."

(Note Note: Bernie Goldberg will ask, "What if Trent Lott had said this?")

The Kerry campaign will release their first Spanish language ad, a 30 second spot airing only in Arizona and New Mexico. Although the narrator highlights Kerry's commitment to health care and education in Spanish, the candidate, whose wife speaks fluent Spanish, utters only one foreign language line: "Soy John Kerry y he aprobado este mensaje proque quiero devolver la esperanza a este pias." (Translation: "I'm John Kerry and I approved this message because I want to return hope to this [non-existent word].")

The Note suspects Kerry, who claims to be listening to Spanish language tapes in his rare spare time, means to restore hope to this country.

Three additional ads -- "The Good American," featuring a white Kerry swift boat mate; "Alston" featuring an African-American and South Carolinian Kerry swift boat mate; and "Corruption vs. Opportunity", a more generic head-to-camera appeal on tax fairness -- continue to play in statewide rotation in all of the Feb. 3 contests. Veteran appeal is key; the "The Good American" plays in North Dakota while "Alston" is running more regularly in South Carolina and Arizona.

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

The Boston Globe's Pat Healy reports that Kerry was taking shots from all sides on Thursday, including the RNC. LINK

The Boston Globe's Scot Lehigh writes about the driving power of veterans in Kerry's campaign. LINK

The Boston Globe's Derrick Jackson writes that Kerry has seized control of the Democratic anger towards President Bush. LINK

Walter Shapiro writes, "Mostly, though, Kerry is the current beneficiary of Dean's dramatic meltdown." LINK

The AP's Fournier lays out Kerry's chances for this Tuesday: "The front-runner has at least one rival in each state who could beat him, or grab a bundle of delegates by targeting congressional districts." LINK

"Bubba Boosts John" ain't such a bad headline is it? LINK

Patrick Springer of the Fargo Forum reports on Kerry's potential win in the upcoming North Dakota caucuses. LINK

For another week it is...drumroll, please... John Kerry with the win in the National Journal Insiders Poll. Former No. 1'er now at No. 3 is Howard Dean, with John Edwards coming in at second.

Chris Cilizza at Roll Call sees Kerry and Kennedy double-teaming the opposition, trying to shake loose some of Dean's congressional supporters. LINK

We notice one Don Fowler is now on the list of Sen. John Kerry's superdelegates under the heading "DNC Members and Distinguished Party Leaders." Very interesting...and good news for the South Carolina effort? LINK

Dean:

The New York Times' Jodi Wilgoren and Glen Justice report on the status of the Dean campaign, writing that Dean is rebuffing the notion that he has to win on Tuesday; that Roy Neel and Dean told the campaign's donors they are planning to cut staff; and that the campaign has "at least" $3 million, minus "some bills." LINK

From ABC News Dean campaign reporter Reena Singh:

COLUMBIA, S.C., Jan 30 -- Greetings from the petri dish on wheels (a bus full of deathly ill reporters).

While Gov. Howard Dean stepped on his new press plane, which was last used by Pearl Jam, Chief Executive Officer Roy Neel started his first day at the Dean campaign head quarters. Neel arrived in Vermont from Washington DC mid-morning and called a staff meeting in the office lobby, about the same time as Joe Trippi's assistant, Kristin Morgante, finished packing up his items, like that fabled boxing glove signed by Walter Mondale.

"Neel is a great guy-real easy going," said staffer Sarah Leonard. "We gave him a big, warm welcome."

Neel's arrival has already spurred changes. Grass roots movements need time and space to grow. But the new-delegate focused strategy requires quick decision making and more traditional plotting. One campaign staffer explains the differences in styles this way: "I love Joe, but when it came to making a decision he liked to sit, involve everyone and mull things over. But even in one day you see Roy is so much different. I called him for an answer on something and he called right back and said 'this is what we are going to do.' It's what we need."

I spoke with Neel by phone last night.

RS: "Tell us about your first day?"

Neel: "Clearly it was an exciting day. Probably my most exciting day in politics. I got a chance to meet most of the staff and then it was nonstop meetings, debate prep, finance meetingss. I knew this was a passionate staff of people and this is a stressful situation to walk into."

RS: "And big shoes to walk into . . ."

Neel: "I'm a big fan of Joe's and he was an advocate of bringing me here over a month ago. I'm not here to fill Joe's shoes."

RS: "So Joe was one of the people who brought you on board?"

Neel: "I came on board to be a senior advisor. This changed over the past day o so and it did catch Joe by surprise. I wish Joe was still here and the door is still open.

RS: "What will you be doing on a day-to-day basis?"

Neel: "My job is to use the resources we have to go forward. We are in a serious situation right now. We're going to be looking at where ti be, where to send surrogates, streamline the organiation and where best to spend ad dollars. And also how to move all that talent we had in Iowa and New Hampshire. We need to help Governor Dean out there in the field more."

RS: "Speaking of talents, what about Karen Hicks?"

Neel: "She is a huge talent. I did not get a chance to talk to her today, but I'll be calling her tomorrow. Hopefully she will be a major part of the campaign. She would do a great job in the national organization."

RS: "What do you plan on doing about ads?"

Neel: "We'll be discussing that tomorrow. We are going to have the money but we need to be smart about where we go up."

RS: "Speaking of money?"

Neel: "The money is coming in. Since Iowa we have been bringing in big dollars. We are here to fight."

RS: "How did your candidate do in the debate?"

Neel: "I think he did fine. Sharpton did really well. And Edwards. I don't think Senator Kerry was as sharp as he could have been."

RS: "Do you plan on changing the Governor's style or fine-tuning his message?"

Neel: "I think we simply need to let him do what he does best. He connects to people because of his passion and energy. He is a great candidate. I think he needs to keep doing what he has been doing. We have to do a better job of supporting him. We did not win in Iowa and New Hampshire. We need to keep looking at creative ways of supporting him."

RS: "His passion often gets him in trouble."

Neel: "The flip side is it also energizes people. If you try to ton it down artificially you lose who he is. It's an art not a science. I don't want a group of people who reprogram him."

RS: "What about the Gore factor? Is it true that the VP insisted you come on board?"

Neel: There is absolutely no truth to that.

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

The AP's Theimer sums up Dean's cutbacks LINK

The AP's Cass reports that "most people who back a candidate -- even those attracted to Dean through the Internet - can't name the campaign manager. Those who can are...intense believers" LINK

What Howard Dean calls "tough times," Matea Gold of the Los Angeles Times calls a precipitously fallen standing in the race. (Dearest Matea: We don't recommend rounding delegates.) LINK

The Washington Post's Dan Balz and Jonathan Finer report that Dean's hiring Roy Neel was a long time in coming and only accelerated by his losses in Iowa and New Hampshire. LINK

The Wall Street Journal's Phil Kuntz, in Washington Wire, looks at the nuclear fallout after the Dean-Trippi shakeup, and reports that the SEIU is considering dating elsewhere if Dean doesn't start winning.

The Washington Times' Charles Hurt looks at Dean's scaled-back plan for Feb. 3. LINK

As does the Boston Globe's Glen Johnson LINK

Vince Morris of the New York Post heard Howard Dean put a lot of eggs into the Michigan basket. LINK

Dean's Michigan gamble, Trippi's tears, and the candidate's debate performance all wrapped into one New York Daily News story. LINK

National Journal's Charlie Mahtesian looks at Dean's supporters in Congress, Noting that the 38 endorsements he has picked up on the Hill tend to be from members in solidly Democratic districts who have little to lose by choosing to give him the nod. "Dean's inability to attract House members from all but the least competitive districts suggests that a good portion of the Democratic caucus still worries that he is more George McGovern than Jimmy Carter. Even Dean's well-publicized gambit to provide financial assistance to vulnerable candidates has failed to change that perception," Mahtesian writes.

The New York Times' Robin Toner writes that Dean's "his mark on the party is unmistakable. His defeats are less a victory for the Democratic establishment than a sign of the other leading candidates' ability to adjust, and harness the energy originally tapped by Dr. Dean's insurgent campaign: the anger at President Bush, the opposition to the war with Iraq, the demand for a different direction in domestic policy." LINK

Adam Nagorney and Jennifer 8. Lee on the Dean supporters, soldiering on. LINK

Lieberman:

From ABC News Lieberman campaign reporter Talesha Reynolds:

GREENVILLE, SC Jan 29 -- Schedules are tricky things on presidential campaigns, and they've been especially tricky for the Lieberman campaign in the days following the New Hampshire primary.

The senator and staff were first supposed to go to Delaware on primary night, but icy runways meant that trip had to be delayed. So first it was Oklahoma City and Tulsa and then Greenville for the debate. When Lieberman and press arrived at the airport, on the way to a hastily scheduled press availability to play up Lieberman's Arizona Republic endorsement, we learned that his stay in the Palmetto State would end earlier than expected. At 8 a.m. Friday morning it would be wheels up to Delaware.

The confusion has created a feeling among the traveling press of the blind leading the blind, and the question they all keep asking is, "Why are we not in Arizona?" After having received what could be a boon in that state, and considering how little time there is before the next round of voting begins, it seems like getting there should be a priority. The campaign just says they're working on it.

For now Lieberman is focusing his efforts and his dwindling resources on two states where he thinks he could finish strong. He will return to D.C. for the Sabbath and will then head back to Delaware for Sunday morning campaigning. Then it's back to Oklahoma and probably New Mexico. Lieberman and press may end up in Arizona before the February 3 primary, but then again, they may not.

The Lieberman campaign released two new ads on Thursday. One 30 second spot called "Clear," about Lieberman's national security record airs in Oklahoma. And "President," about the kind of president America needs, is airing in Delaware. No other ads are currently airing.

The New York Times' Phillip Sheldon reports that Sens. Lieberman and McCain will propose legislation to extend the 9/11 commission's deadline to next January -- after the elections. LINK

Edwards:

From ABC News' Edwards campaign reporter Gloria Riviera:

AIKEN, S.C., Jan 29--When asked to evaluate expectations from Iowa to New Hampshire to states beyond, Sen. John Edwards has long stood by his stock and trade response. "I leave that to you all," he will say or, "I don't make projections."

Except for one state, one fight: South Carolina.

Of course as far back as the days of hammering out even the most fledgling campaign strategy, South Carolina has played center stage. Edwards' tactic has been to tough it out early and hope to make the best of bad situations in the two early states before "Bringing it Home." It has remained the central campaign battle plan. "Meet us down South," spokeswoman Jennifer Palmieri told reporters back fall, when the landscape loomed with a Dean-Kerry showdown, after which a third candidate would presumably be sought as an alternative.

"I will win South Carolina," Edwards has said countless times. There has been only slight, interchangeable alteration in wording, from "will" to "need to" to "must" and back again, with no distinct shift on a progressive timeline. Edwards has always maintained determined certainty that he will win here. But simply looking at the difference in word choice provides the very glimpse of an all together different landscape on the current horizon -- an Edwards-Kerry showdown after which there could be no need for a third candidate if Edwards did not come out on top.

And so, even as the candidate runs his national campaign, zipping from Missouri to South Carolina to New Mexico to Oklahoma in the coming days, the focus remains on South Carolina. There are no changes whatsoever in the playbook on display on the trail. Edwards rarely tailors his stump speech to the large crowds he now addresses (the definition of "large" seems to be forever at debate, but it is safe to say the audiences hover in and around 350 give or take, oh, 250 if that helps).

And as the press corps has grown enough to now fill a 100-seater jet for Friday's trek west, time with the candidate grows slim. Ushered in and out of events with only backstage prep time for press to check mood and get a glimpse, the Senator seems driven by the knowledge that the time is, yes, now. This is a battle in his backyard, and there is only one way out of it Edwards would like to take.

The campaign has raised $1,000,000 dollars since Iowa, $700,000 in online donations. The campaign says those are key elements to fundraising because the majority of donations are from new contributors who can be revisited in the coming weeks.

Adwise, Edwards is on the air in Missouri statewide with "Two Americas" and "Believe" in addition to the last status check. Read more from the trail with Edwards on abcnews.com: LINK

The New York Times' Randy Archibold reports on Edwards' "Bringing it Home" tour, where he "now has to show he is a genuine national contender." LINK

And now we turn to the Veepstakes. The Wall Street Journal's Al Hunt puts Edwards at the top of Sen. Kerry's list of potential running mates.

The Chicago Tribune uncovers some interesting Edwards' campaign tactics. LINK

Clark:

From ABC News' Clark campaign reporter Deborah Apton:

COLUMBIA, S.C., Jan. 29 -- Gen. Wesley Clark has not been making any major news this week. Clark admits on more than one occasion that he's trying to stay on message on the stump: he continues to say he's running a positive campaign void of attacks, and he continues to say that he's certain he's going to do well on Feb. 3 -- all standard spin from a presidential hopeful and fairly uneventful news wise for national press coverage. But on Thursday a senior staffer hoped to add a little insight about the Clark campaign's fundraising and strategic status and plans for Feb. 3 and beyond.

Sitting on the second campaign plane in two days (they get a third tomorrow), press gathered around the Clark senior campaign official as he spoke. The biggest question in light of the Dean campaign's financial problems is how much cash-on-hand The General's campaign has to date. According to the official, the campaign currently has approximately $3.5 to $4 million cash-on-hand and is in "good shape short term and long term." The official added that the campaign is "fully viable" financially and has an "active Internet program and direct response program" and an "excess of 55,000 contributors" to date.

As far as advertising is concerned in the Feb. 3 states, the campaign official explained that "earned media will become a lot more important than paid media." The campaign has made no decision on how much to spend in Missouri but makes assurances that a lot of money is being spent into the state. We "have a very active draft movement in Missouri," the campaign official said, adding that he "would expect that competing [in Missouri] involves The General's time and paid advertising." As of now, there are no scheduled events in Missouri for Gen. Clark.

To date, the Clark campaign has ads running on television in Arizona, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and Wisconsin. In Arizona, Oklahoma, South Carolina, North Dakota, and New Mexico, "Future" and "Believe" are on the air. Buys are as large as $410,000 (South Carolina), followed by Arizona with $375,000 and Oklahoma with $220,000. Tennessee has a $275,000 buy for "Major" and "Hope." Virginia airs the older ad "Secretary."

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

General Clark addressed a Muslim group via videotape that is "under FBI investigation for terror ties," reports the New York Daily News LINK

Feb. 3:

The Boston Globe's Susan Milligan reports on Democratic efforts to court black campaign donors. LINK

USA Today's Kasindorf writes from Phoenix that "John Kerry's win in his native New England has acted like a desert downpour to restore clarity to Arizona's political atmosphere." LINK

Arizona:

The Arizona Republic's Pat Flannery writes that Latinos, veterans and senior citizens are being most heavily courted for their support in Tuesday's Arizona primary, and there's no one way to reach out to all of them.

"The only thing candidates can take for granted in Arizona, says state Democratic Party Executive Director Paul Hegarty, is the absence of a lone, powerful constituency that delivers political victories at will. And although it is tempting to see the state's large Hispanic, military and elderly voting blocs as monolithic, the reality is that they are as politically diverse as the rest of Arizona." LINK

The Arizona Republic's Judy Nichols and Paul Matthews take an interesting closer look at the way the candidates are wooing Hispanic voters. LINK

Missouri:

The Chicago Tribune asserts the complexities of Missouri, "Naturally skeptical and inclined toward ticket-splitting...'The threads that bind Missourians together are harder to weave than in other states...It's hard to find themes that unite Missouri.'" LINK

The Kansas City has a Show-Me state Must Read chock full of interesting info. The piece reports on the local Kerry/Edwards ad blitz and the conspicuous absence of Howard Dean spots. And Notes the Dean quote, "Do we have to win Feb. 3? Of course we want to, but we don't have to." Dean's state campaign chairman Dick King now says, "realistically, I'll be pleased if we come in second or third." Lots more here, too, including more from King. LINK

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that Kerry and Edwards are dividing what was Gephardt's base. LINK

The Sedalia Democrat on the upcoming primary's details and its $3.7 cost to the taxpayers. LINK

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch on the media caravan rolling into Show-Me territory. Note the ABC bus in the spotlight! LINK

Oklahoma:

The Washington Post's Lois Romano reports from Tulsa that that "In the next few days, this state will see more presidential action than it has in decades." LINK

A new poll shows Kerry got a huge bounce in Arizona from his Iowa and New Hampshire victories, the Oklahoman's Randy Ellis writes. He and Clark are the top favorites in the survey, along with "undecided," which more than a third of respondents used to classify themselves. LINK

South Carolina:

The State writes up last night's debate and how Sens. Edwards and Kerry spoke directly to South Carolina voters. Kerry talking of how he can relate to voters in the Palmetto State, and Edwards reminding people that he is one of them. LINK

The Charleston Post and Courier highlights the Kerry/Dean spar over healthcare, but gives Edwards the gold star for the night because he "delivered the most memorable quip of the night when he blamed Bush for spending too much time on terrorism while ignoring other pressing needs of the country." LINK

The State rates the debate performances last night in terms of who came closest to hitting their own mark. LINK

The State's Lee Bandy writes that the first-in-the-south primary lost much significance to Missouri last week when Rep. Dick Gephardt dropped out of the race. LINK

The candidates descended upon the Palmetto State yesterday, and the Charleston Post and Courier overviews the visits. LINK

Delaware:

Hadassah combines her retail poltics with a little shopping in Dover, reports Patrick Jackson at the Dover News Journal. New Mexico:

The Albuquerque Journal's Coleman writes up the importance of the Hispanic vote in Tuesday's caucuses and Gov. Richardson is already boasting about participation. LINK

"Richardson said 23,599 New Mexicans already have voted by absentee ballot, or nearly 79 percent of all people who asked for and received absentee ballots."

"Otero Mesa" shouldn't be that hard to pronounce properly. LINK

Teresa today, Teddy tomorrow reports the Santa Fe New Mexican. LINK

New Hampshire:

Terry McAuliffe's comments about the need for New Hampshire to become a blue state in 2004 in order to keep its first-in-the-nation primary were not that well received by Secretary of State Bill Gardner. LINK

Politics of national security:

The Washington Post's Dana Priest and Walter Pincus report that members of the congressional intelligence committees have found similar prewar intelligence failures as David Kay has pointed out and now believe that the CIA may have failed to consider that Saddam Hussein no longer had WMD. LINK

The Los Angeles Times' Janet Hook reports questions about pre-war intelligence have put Bush Administration officials "on the defensive" and given "fresh ammunition" for Democratic presidential candidates to use against President Bush. LINK

And Democrats are not the only folks questioning. "'Politically the president really needs to explain this to the American people,' said Rep. Ray LaHood (R-Ill.), a senior member of the House Intelligence Committee who supported the Iraq war. 'It undermines his ability to continue to talk to the American people about the war on terrorism.'

The Washington Post editorial board wants the 9/11 Commission's deadline to be lifted. LINK

The Washington Post's Dan Eggen reports that the White House is stepping up efforts to protect the USA Patriot Act. LINK

Big casino budget politics:

Why paraphrase what the Wall Street Journal editorial board had to say about Republican spending when they did it so well? "Elected as the party of limited government 10 years ago, the Republican imperium is starting to show signs of ideological dry rot."

Big casino budget politics: Medicare:

The Washington Post's Amy Goldstein and Juliet Eilperin write up the new estimate for Medicare by congressional and Administration sources: an additional $134 billion over what had been promised. They Note the difficulties in predicting Medicare spending ("Administration officials would not explain the precise reason for the discrepancy.") and how the announcement went over like a lead balloon with both parties in Congress. LINK

The Clintons of Chappaqua:

Mary Curtius of the Los Angeles Times doesn't have that masterful Senator Clinton quote on FPOTUS' visit to the Hill, but she does lead with the boffo words 42 had for the front-running man who hopes to become 44. LINK

The New York Times' Carl Hulse reports that Senate Democrats who met with Clinton yesterday liked what he had to say -- especially his wife. LINK

Clinton didn't' just talk up John Kerry in front of the cameras according to the New York Daily News' Bazinet. LINK

"Clinton also focused on Kerry behind closed doors, a West Coast Senate source told the Daily News. He 'had kind words for the candidates, but probably talked most about Kerry,' said the source."

Politics:

The Wall Street Journal's Jeanne Cummings writes that lawyers from the Federal Election Commission are recommending that the money going to outside groups from businesses, unions and big donors be outlawed. The FEC is expected to make a decision next week.

Meanwhile the Ney House Administration Committee continues to exchange a not-so-friendly round of letters with the folks heading the 527s on the left side of the spectrum in search of details on their groups' fundraising and GOTV activities. Keep your eye on this one as the last lines of the last letter from Rep. Ney to Cecile Richards, Ellen Malcolm, and Steve Rosenthal, among others, reads, "Please provide the requested materials by February 2, 2004. If you do not wish to provide the documents voluntarily, I suggest that you nonetheless begin collecting responsive documents."

Diebold's touchscreen voting machines count votes correctly but are prone to hackers, according to a report by security experts. LINK

The New York Times' Alessandra Stanley writes that "Just as many of the country's most admirable leaders eschew the paltriness of modern politics, the most brilliant, captivating entertainers aspire to something other than a night-time cable talk show." LINK

The New York Times' Edmund Andrews reports that the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee is raising concerns about the Administration's budget plans. LINK

Ebay:

For all the internet shoppers in the room, The Note has noticed a major mishap in the bidding wars on Ebay. Despite those happy musical performances on television, The Note is not singing Frank Sinatra and dancing around the office this morning.

It seems there is a market on the web for press passes from the campaign trail. This particular item, a caucus 2004 credential from another network, is going for $26.00. A pretty good price for a piece of plastic. LINK

However, this fine, vintage piece from the Iowa 2000 caucus -- perfectly maintained and restored to its original splendor -- is on the table for, well, let's just say less than $26.00. LINK

The Note is all for a free-flowing market place, but when such an injustice is being done to the market value of valuable goods, we feel it is our duty to point it out.

Let the bidding wars begin!

Politics Live:

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

A Happy Birthday to Vice President Cheney, who turns 63 today.

The Washington Post's Mike Allen reports that President Bush traveled to New Hampshire to "try to sweeten the aftertaste and reclaim the independents in a state that he barely won in 2000." LINK

And the Manchester Union Leader reports that the President dodged an important question: Will he be rooting for the Patriots on Sunday? "'Did you notice who was in the box with Mrs. Bush at the State of the Union,' asked Bush, alluding to Pats quarterback Tom Brady" before changing the subject. LINK

Facing no competition for his party's nomination, President Bush's reelection campaign spent $31.6 million last year, more than any of the Democratic candidates with the possible exception of former Vermont governor Howard Dean. LINK

President Bush will speak to the congressional Republicans' retreat tomorrow in Philadephia, marking his 25th visit to the battleground state of Pennsylvania since taking office. The Philadelphia Daily News reports that Vice President Cheney made a visit to the retreat on Thursday. LINK

The Wall Street Journal's Jacke Calmes and John McKinnon write that the huge federal deficit could crimp President Bush's election year legislative agenda.

The Wall Streeet Journal's Greg Hitt reports that while President Bush will espouse big themes this election year, Vice President Cheney will be defending his role in going to war with Iraq.

The New York Times and Washington Post report that the Medicare bill will cost a third more than originally planned. LINK AND LINK

The Washington Post's Al Kamen picks up on the President of Poland seriously annoying President Bush by violating the sacred rules of White House photo ops. LINK

Sen. John McCain yesterday called for the removal of a presidential space commission member to eliminate any conflict of interest. LINK

The additional 30,000 troops called up by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld could remain in the army five years or longer, the Washington Post's Vernon Loeb reports. LINK

From ABC News Bush-Cheney campaign reporter Karen Travers:

WASHINGTON, Jan. 29 - Sen. John Kerry's status as the Democratic frontrunner is clear whenever the Republican leadership is talking about his record in the Senate and position on issues like national security, tax cuts, and defense spending.

Following up on last Friday's rallying speech to the party's conservative base, RNC chairman Ed Gillespie gave the party leaders a laundry list of votes that Kerry cast on defense spending, intelligence spending and the Defense of Marriage Act.

Gillespie acknowledged Kerry's time served in Vietnam but quickly turned a critical eye to the senator's 19-year history of yeas and nays.

"John Kerry's record of service in our military is honorable. But his long record in the Senate is one of advocating policies that would weaken our national security," Gillespie said.

Today at noon at the Capitol Hilton, just a block from the White House, BC04 campaign manager Ken Mehlman will continue many of the same themes of Gillespie's speech when he previews this year's presidential race.

Senator John Kerry will again be a focus. Mehlman is expected to point out the philosophical differences between the Democrats and Republicans and paint Kerry as part of the "old, backward-looking Democratic Party," while highlighting President Bush's "forward-looking agenda," a senior campaign official said.

The speech will lay out more of Sen. Kerry's voting record, and based on Chairman Gillespie's speech today at the same meeting, it will likely focus on defense spending and intelligence spending.

According to the campaign official: "It is hard to square Kerry's defense record with the reality we face after 9/11."

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