The Note

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

— 7:30 am: Gen. Wesley Clark greets employees at the Dayton Tire Plant, Oklahoma City, Okla. — 9:05 am: President Bush meets with his Cabinet, White House — 10:00 am: Sen. John Kerry receives the endorsement of New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer at the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, N.M. — 10:00 am: Sen. John Edwards meets with voters at the College of Charleston, Charleston, S.C. — 10:30 am: The director of the Office of Management and Budget briefs the press on the fiscal year 2005 Budget, the White House — 11:00 am: President and Mrs. Bush kick off the American Heart Month, the White House — 11:00 am: Sen. Joe Lieberman and Gov. Bill Richardson visit the East San Jose Elementary School, Albuquerque, N.M. — 12:00 pm: Rev. Al Sharpton attends a "From Property to President" rally at the site of a slave market, Charleston, S.C. — 12:15 pm: Sen. Edwards meets with voters at Voorhees College, Denmark, S.C. — 12:30 pm: White House press briefing by Press Secretary Scott McClellan — 1:00 pm: Politics Live on ABC News Live and AOL — 1:00 pm: Campaign adviser Mary Matalin and others speak to the press on behalf of the Bush-Cheney '04 campaign at the Radisson, St. Louis, Mo. — 1:15 pm: Gen. Clark greets supporters at the Hispanic Cultural Center, Albuquerque, N.M. — 2:00 pm: Gov. Dean attends a get out the vote event at the La Fonda Hotel, Santa Fe, N.M. — 2:00 pm: Rev. Sharpton visits UAW Local 7898, Georgetown, S.C. — 2:00 pm: Rep. Dennis Kucinich holds a press conference to discuss weapons of mass destruction at Arizona State University, Tempe, Ariz. — 2:15 pm: Sen. Edwards meets with voters at Allen University, Columbia, S.C. — 2:30 pm: Sen. Lieberman hosts a town hall at Rose Garden Restaurant, Tucson, Ariz. — 3:45 pm: Rev. Sharpton visits the Weed & Seed Safe Haven, Florence, S.C. — 4:00 pm: Rep. Kucinich attends a get out the vote rally at Arizona State, Tempe, Ariz. — 4:30 pm: Sen. Kerry attends a "Rally for America's Future" event at the George DeMeester Performance Center, Tucson, Ariz. — 4:45 pm: Rev. Sharpton visits the It's All About You restaurant outside Shaw Air Force Base, Sumter, S.C. — 5:00 pm: Gen. Clark greets Tucson supporters at the Old County Courthouse, Tucson, Ariz. — 6:30 pm: Sen. Edwards attends a "Welcome Home" rally at the Seneca Institute Family Life Center, Seneca, S.C. — 7:30 pm: Rev. Sharpton attends a gospel concert featuring John P. Kee and Timothy Wright at Reid Chapel AME Church, Columbia, S.C. — 8:00 pm: Sens. Kerry and Lieberman, Gov. Dean, Gen. Clark, and Rep. Kucinich speak at the League of United Latin American Citizens convention, Phoenix, Ariz. — 9:00 pm: Gen. Clark greets supporters at his campaign offices, Phoenix, Ariz. — 9:30 pm: Sen. Kerry attends a "Rally for America's Future" event at Phoenix College, Phoenix, Ariz. — 12:15 am: Gen. Clark greets supporters at Two-Dee's, Las Vegas, Nev.


Seventeen of the 19 reporters who decide for all America the meaning of the results of presidential primaries and caucuses met yesterday for Sunday brunch on the second floor of Lauriol Plaza.

The two missing members approved the meeting Notes by e-mail later in the day.

With John Kerry expected to win at least some of the states voting tomorrow, the macro question is, how many of the day's contests does the Bay Stater have to take in order to winnow the field and become, in the eyes of the CW, the de facto nominee?

In the Boston Globe, Tom Oliphant sets the Feb. 3 bar in an awfully Kerry-friendly place today: "Carrying the day for Kerry probably means winning four states; a viable opponent will probably have to win two." LINK

The 19 (and the wider Gang of 500) are truly torn: are we in extreme "winnowing" mode or are we in "let's keep this going" mode?

And how do we balance caring about delegate accumulation versus our obsession with wins, wins, wins?

To answer, the group turned to that kitschy and tried-and-true method of divining the political truth: the Magic Eight Ball. LINK

By the sheerest of coincidences, there are 20 plausible checkerboarded outcomes on Tuesday and precisely 20 Magic Eight Ball answers.

So, here are the possible outcomes -- roughly from biggest Kerry day to worst Kerry day -- and the pre-determined verdict the Ball came up with, regarding the frontrunner's hold on the nomination:

Other Deep Thoughts (with apologies to Jack Handy):

1. We agree with Dr. Dean -- Roy Neel is a great guy.

But to simultaneously make your last-stand attack against John Kerry that he is too beholden to special interests and your defense of Roy Neel's recent lobbying that he is a good guy and he has held other jobs -- well, let's just say that it is causing some cognitive dissonance for your traveling press corps and others.

2. Now that the www.Trippi spell is broken, we can say it loudly and clearly: Dr. Dean's performance on "Meet" yesterday was, by Gang of 500 standards, even WORSE than the historically bad one he had on the show right before he formally announced his candidacy last year: contradictory, petulant, non-responsive, small, and unpresidential (or so thought the Gang….).

3. We understand why BC04RNC is trying to strangle the Kerry baby in the crib and define him as an out-of-touch liberal before the country gets to know him as anything else -- but don't they run the risk of using up all the good stuff too early? And do the President's pollsters really say that attacking past support for the nuclear freeze (!) tests well?

4. The stories in the Washington Post and New York Times over the weekend about the candidates (particularly Kerry) taking "special interest" money had nothing new in them.

Once again, if people (the media, the other candidates, voters) want to change the standards of acceptable behavior regarding fundraising, more power to 'em.

But there is nothing unusual or hypocritical about politicians raising money to pay for campaigns from people who have money -- rich people (the whole Willie Sutton/banks thing....).

Now, the recycled story from The Hill about Kerry allegedly taking an unusual public policy action on behalf of a contributor right around the time he received some contributions is potentially an important storyline -- the alleged/apparent quid pro quo aspect. The careers of many politicians are filled with examples such as this -- including the career of our current president.

The standard for this type of thing is of course the explicitness of the quid pro quo, the appropriateness of the action, the unusual quality of the action, and, for some, the timing.

Rest assured, IF John Kerry is the nominee, there will be all sorts of new things coming out about him -- including about fundraising -- even though he has run in competitive Senate races in the past and has been running for president for months. But the notion that "Senator Takes Money From Rich People" is a story is not one we quite get -- even about candidates who rail against special interests.

5. On the other hand, this Kerry quote from the Boston Globe is going to make some people at HQ quite dizzy:

"'What happens is, you have a fund-raising team and you might have breezed into some particular fund-raiser in Washington or somewhere, an event, and met somebody, and [aides] will bring a letter and say, "You met him at so and so." You write a quick note; that's part of the fund-raising contribution,' Kerry said."

That's why the Kerry campaign's position that someday it will release all the Senator's lobbying meetings when all the records are collected is both suicidal and destined NEVER to happen. (Although Terry Holt is working as we speak on buying http://www.wewantKerry' and putting up some sort of "DAY X" counter.)

President Bush meets with his Cabinet and kicks off American Heart Month in Washington, D.C.

All candidates except Sen. Edwards and Rev. Sharpton speak at the League of United Latin American Citizens convention tonight in Phoenix, Ariz.

Sens. Kerry and Lieberman are both in Albuquerque this morning before heading to Arizona. Kerry is in Washington and Lieberman is in Oklahoma, Delaware, and Virginia tomorrow.

Gov. Dean is Santa Fe this morning. Dean will spend Tuesday in Washington state, Wednesday in Wisconsin and Thursday and Friday in Michigan.

Sen. Edwards and Rev. Sharpton are in South Carolina today and tomorrow.

Gen. Clark is in Oklahoma and New Mexico in the morning and afternoon and in Las Vegas following the forum.

Rep. Kucinich is in Arizona all day. He is in Arizona and New Mexico tomorrow and in Washington state Wednesday and Thursday and in Michigan on Friday.

And all the Democrats will be talking about Iraq and deficits, as far as the ear can hear.

ABC 2004: The Democratic nomination fight:

The Los Angeles Times' Ron Brownstein asks: "Has a frontrunner at the height of the race for a party's presidential nomination ever had an easier two weeks than John F. Kerry since the Iowa caucuses last month? Since Iowa, three of the remaining major candidates in the race -- Sens. John Edwards and Joe Lieberman and retired Army Gen. Wesley K. Clark -- have chosen to raise virtually no argument against Kerry's possible nomination or even establish any sharp contrasts with him on issues. The other remaining major candidate, fallen frontrunner Howard Dean, has tried to frame a case against Kerry, though in such a hyperbolic fashion that he has undercut his own effectiveness." LINK

The New York Times' Jim Rutenberg Notes that the gloves haven't come off yet in ads running in South Carolina, "Yet it is safe to say that they are, at least, being unlaced." The question is, "How do you upset John Kerry's momentum without driving up your own negatives?" asked "one strategist." LINK

The Boston Globe's Tom Oliphant thinks that the Democratic candidates' choosing not to run in all seven Feb. 3 states has proven to be Kerry's biggest advantage. LINK

John Broder and Bernard Weinraub (a rare double byline indeed) of the New York Times report Hollywood is not yet fully on board with any one candidate. LINK

Nick Anderson and Matea Gold of the Los Angeles Times have Sunday wrap-up duty and lead with Sen. Kerry swatting away Johnny Chung questions and settling in at a Fargo sports bar to watch his New England Patriots. LINK

Dying to use more creative NASCAR metaphors, Sandy Grady writes in USA Today, "The Dixie primary races in South Carolina (Tuesday) then Virginia and Tennessee (Feb. 10) could be significant in deciding who takes the 2004 checkered flag." LINK

The Boston Globe's Mary Leonard reports that the candidates will focus on jobs in Michigan, the first primary in a "big, industrialized Midwestern state, where dissatisfaction with President Bush's economic policies runs high." LINK

Susan Page hosts a Rothenberg-Brazile-Dowd roundtable. LINK

The AP's Connie Cass has paragraphs encapsulating each state for tomorrow. LINK

The AP's Liz Sidoti surveys the ad wars as well as the free air time on television. LINK

Feb. 3:

The Wall Street Journal's Jake Schlesinger observes Feb.3 strategies where "Democrats are adjusting their tactics and messages to address new regions, largely in the South and West, as well as voters whose demographic profile reflects the core of the party."

The Wall Street Journal's Cummings reports that most of the candidates' finances are looking grim, most notably Sen. Edwards, who is "expected to drop out of the race if he loses the South Carolina primary Tuesday," and Sen. Lieberman's, who "will go broke" if he doesn't win a state on Tuesday.

Janice D'Arcy and David Lightman of the Hartford Courant report on the large influence of minority voters in Feb. 3 state primaries and caucuses tomorrow.

"Tomorrow's primaries and caucuses across seven states may hinge on voters, especially in Arizona, South Carolina and New Mexico, who were largely absent in the first two test states and in prior years have had less of a chance to influence the nomination. African Americans are expected to comprise between 40 percent and 50 percent of the Democratic voters in South Carolina. Latino voters make up about a quarter of the voting age population in Arizona and 38 percent in New Mexico." LINK

The Los Angeles Times' Glionna sees Tuesday as the "first test among Latinos." LINK

The New York Times' Kershaw writes up the Hispanic vote in light of the Arizona primary and New Mexico caucuses. LINK

David Doak's Missouri LINK, Janet Napolitano's Arizona LINK, and Bill Rauch's South Carolina LINK fill the New York Times op-ed page.

The Associated Press, which was formed in the 19th century to allow free media access to telegraph lines, discovers "free media." LINK

The Washington Post's Jonathan Weisman writes from Spartanburg, S.C. that the Democratic candidates' "leftward shift on trade is only part of a rising message of economic populism in the race for the Democratic nomination." LINK


The Arizona Republic says Sen. Kerry leads in their poll, though many voters remain uninterested in the primary. LINK

The Republic believes that nearly half of all ballots might be cast by the time polls open tomorrow morning. LINK

Turnout will be low, they say.


Johnny Apple Notes from St. Louis that Missouri "has most of the pieces of the American puzzle" and that "whoever wins here can claim to have demonstrated the sort of broad appeal that any presidential candidate needs, and done so in a state that is certain to be a battleground this fall." (His lead, by the way: "Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts seems poised to win the bulk of Missouri's 74 delegates.") LINK

South Carolina:

The Los Angeles Times' Ron Brownstein reports that "Edwards' groundwork may be too much for a sprinting Kerry, who stayed away for months." LINK

The Los Angeles Times' Scott Martelle writes up the ways in which Edwards has talked up the stakes of the South Carolina primary as both a proving ground in the primary and in a hypothetical match-up against President Bush. LINK

The State reports that South Carolina independents are scoffing at the idea of pledging themselves to the Democratic Party in order to vote in tomorrow's primary. The mandatory oath seems to be turning many independents away. LINK

The State writes of church stops and thunderous applause for the two candidates who stuck it out in South Carolina this weekend, Sen. Edwards and Rev. Sharpton. LINK

The Charleston Post and Courier says Sens. Edwards and Kerry are neck-and-neck in the Palmetto State and Notes Edwards' obvious presence on Super Bowl Sunday as well as Kerry's absence. LINK

The State writes how South Carolina voters are big campaign donors. However, most of those donations have gone to a candidate not on Tuesday's ballot: George W. Bush. LINK

Looking out for its readers, The State printed a voting tip sheet for those voting in tomorrow's primary. Tip #1: "Determine before arriving at the polling place which candidate you're are going to vote for." LINK

The Post and Courier reports that the women's vote is not easy to gauge . Many women are still holding out to hear more about employment, health care, and education. LINK

The AP details Sen. Edwards' progress in South Carolina, considering that "a lot of Howard Dean supporters are reconsidering and coming his way." LINK

Eric Dyer at the Greensboro News & Record Notes that "favorite son" status might not help John Edwards tomorrow, on the flip side, voters might resent the "piling on" nature of establishment support for Kerry. LINK


Patrick Jackson at the Wilmington News Journal reports that Gert Clark visited on Sunday, introduced at local events by Sen. Joe Biden a "close friend." LINK

Patrick Jackson also saw Joe Lieberman calling for "A New Destiny for America" while attending church in Delaware. LINK

New Mexico:

The Albuquerque Journal writes up its own poll with Kerry in the lead and optimism for Democrats come November. LINK

North Dakota:

Helmut Schmidt of the Fargo Forum reports on Kerry's Sunday speech in Fargo, Noting his attacks on the Bush presidency while refraining from mentioning his Democratic rivals. LINK

Lisa Davis of the Grand Forks Herald reports on the press and crowd at Kerry's rally. LINK

Janell Cole of the Fargo Forum reports on Kerry's Sunday meeting with the newspaper's editorial board, reiterating his stump positions on issues and claiming he does not have time to debate Dean before the Feb. 7 caucuses in Michigan and Washington. LINK

Janell Cole and Don Davis report that Clark's campaign signed an agreement with North Dakota's attorney general promising not to send prerecorded messages to North Dakotans. LINK

John Kerry buyer's remorse section:

A new Note section, devoted to the inevitable.

Had Howard Dean been the Democratic nominee (and, hey, he still might be!), the individuals who would have been leading the "we told you so" charge when he hit some inevitable spring and summer rough spots are pretty apparent.

(Joe Lockhart, John Breaux, Al From, etc.)

And the issues and areas that would have induced buyer's remorse among many of those who had supported Dean would have been pretty clear as well -- helped along by the RNC and tens of millions in BC04 advertising.

(Misstatements on foreign policy, the Vermont Miracle, ski days., etc.)

Now there is the POSSIBILITY that John Kerry might be the nominee, and the temporal gap between his becoming the frontrunner and the nominee might be so brief that the situation seems incredibly open to buyer's remorse down the road a short piece.

Sure, the Globe has scrutinized the bejesus out of the man, but (and don't be mad at us, John Farrell) not everyone in America reads the Globe.

So, until John Kerry is the nominee or is driven from the race, we will have a daily feature called "John Kerry buyer's remorse section:"

Those most entitled to say "we told you so," if Kerry is the nominee and the White House effectively takes him out before the convention by inducing wide-spread buyer's remorse and driving up his negatives:

1. Chris Lehane 2. DSCC staff from the '88 cycle 3. Massachusetts state legislators 4. Howard Dean and 500,000 hackey sack champions 5. Mark Leibovich 6. The Des Moines Register 7. the Bush adviser who told Adam Nagourney that Kerry "looks French" 8. Glen Johnson 9. the guys at the Herald

Those issues and areas that will most likely induce buyer's remorse:

1. stories about not remembering the names and faces of the little people 2. complex personal finances 3. alleged "Keating Five" type stuff (the helping of donors with their executive branch agency needs) 4. pictures with The Duke 5. the legislative "record" 6. voting against the first Gulf War and the $87 billion 7. the leaking of the 2000 Gore veep vetting file 8. votes and quotes galore 9. "Look -- I led the fight ..." not as catchy as "Ask not what your country can do for you ..." And giving the long speech is not the same as leading the fight. 10. re-reading of the Leibovich profile 11. Verbal tic A: "And I say to you..." 12. Verbal tic B: " the modern history of this country" 13. Verbal tic C: "Never in all my time in public life…" 14. those quotes in the Globe about secret pre-war dealings at the U.N.

For those Kerry supporters who object to this section, we say: if you can't stand the heat of The Heat, how can Democrats expect you to stare down Rove and Gorbachev?


Not that Bob Novak isn't always a pessimist, but if you listen to him lately, you'll know he fears for the White House and their strategy against John Kerry and isn't terribly sure that President Bush can beat him. He expands on these concerns in his latest column. LINK

"Most worrisome to Republicans is Kerry's war hero image while, in the words of one prominent Bush supporter, 'our guy was drinking beer in Alabama' (where actually he was working on a losing Senate Republican campaign in 1972). Republicans are trying to negate Kerry's heroism with his postwar peace activism, but that approach is not working."

Howard Kurtz writes that "Kerry may develop some new worry lines if the media launch a wave of Dean-style coverage against the newly crowned front-runner," including the Dean-encouraged investigation into his congressional meeting/voting record. LINK

More shades of Dean: "'There's this long history of hostility between Kerry and the reporters who cover him,' says Dan Kennedy, media writer for the Boston Phoenix. 'He doesn't pal around with them, and a lot of them don't like him.'"

Knight Ridder's Steven Thomma sees Kerry gaining inevitability as more and more people agree that he's better than Bush and electable. LINK

The Washington Post's Edsall and Cohen write that Kerry's rebound "was made possible by Kerry's decision to invest a fortune, $6.4 million, of his own money in his campaign." LINK

The Washington Post's Segal has Kerry reflecting on his days in the band: "We made a lot of noise. It was a very good time." LINK

"So what does it sound like? Let's put it this way: Kerry shouldn't run on this record. Then again, he shouldn't run from it, either."

The Wall Street Journal editorial page trots out the George Romney analogy and applies it to Sen. Kerry about the war.

And then it bemoans that his Democratic opponents have too little cash to highlight the (horrors of) Sen. Kerry's resume.

The Boston Globe's Healy writes that Kerry came under "withering criticism" from Dean yesterday on his connections to special interests and his campaign fundraising. LINK

The New York Times' Yale-obsessed Elisabeth Bumiller muses on what could be the "first skull-to-skull match-up of Bonesmen in history." LINK

Kerry's success has created a "complex political landscape" for Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. LINK

USA Today's Martin Kasindorf reports that Kerry has the big Mo in Missouri. LINK

From ABC News' Kerry campaign reporter Ed O'Keefe:

FARGO, N.D., Feb. 1 -- As the first half of Super Bowl XXXVIII drew to a close, Sen. Kerry turned back to the gathered crowd of Midwestern-turned-New Englanders and mouthed only two simple words: "Adam Vinatieri."

As the fourth quarter came near, the Patriots remained ahead yet still Kerry insisted, "This game will come down to Adam Vinatieri."

Indeed, with only eight seconds left on the clock, sitting in Playmaker's bar in Fargo, N.D., the Senator's prophecy about the South Dakota State University kicker became reality; Vinatieri stepped up, set, and, for the second time in three years, kicked the clutch field goal, again delivering a world championship to New England.

Kerry, tossing aside his barely touched Sam Adams bottleneck, jumped from his seat, raised both arms in the air and high-fived every native in sight.

The evening capped what could only be deemed a highly successful campaign day in the far flung part of "up north" country. Kerry arrived in North Dakota Saturday night but did not hold his only event of the day until noon on Sunday.

Considering only 2,000 North Dakota Democrats voted in the Gore v. Bradley 2000 race, Kerry's 1,200 crowd at the Fargo Air Museum was itself a success. Although the Senator arrived nearly a half hour late, the capacity crowd cheered his stump speech, appreciating the mere presence of the frontrunner in the three electoral vote, 14-delegate state.

The only artifact apparently not welcome at the Senator's Fargo rally was a replica of President George H.W. Bush's World War II Avenger. The vintage plane, dubbed the Barbara II, was moved out of the hanger where Kerry held his event, although five less political planes remained.

In a post-event availability, Kerry responded to the news of day, pushing back a Newsweek report on his connections to Democratic fundraiser Johnny Chung. Kerry stood before the "Plane Jane" and stated blankly of the charge, "This is old news. It's been fully vetted. It was investigated and the moment we learned anything about that contribution, we returned the entire contribution. It's one of the reasons why I have been such an advocate of campaign finance reform."

The Kerry campaign continues to advertise in all Feb. 3 states, rotating veterans-centered ads in North Dakota and South Carolina and Spanish language ads in Arizona and New Mexico.

On Monday in New Mexico, Kerry will receive the endorsement of New York Attorney General Elliot Spitzer. Over the weekend, Kerry picked up the endorsements of Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm, Rep. Sander Levin, and Washington Gov. Gary Locke.

Read more from the trail with Kerry on LINK


The Washington Post's Harris and Finer write up Dean's appearance on NBC's "Meet the Press" yesterday in which he "combined humility over the strategic errors that have hobbled his formerly front-running campaign with new blasts at Sen. John F. Kerry." LINK

The Boston Globe's Glen Johnson writes that Dean's new plan to "outlast" rather than "steamroll" his rivals "not only contradicts his earlier one, but it also defies conventional political wisdom and marks another attempt by his unconventional campaign to plow a new course to the presidency." LINK

The Boston Globe's Sarah Schweitzer reports from Seattle that the fervor over Dean's campaign has definitely diminished as some Washington voters thinks he's a bit too "gung-ho." LINK

Steven Thomma with Knight Ridder reports that Howard Dean will continue to fight even though he expects to lose badly on Tuesday. LINK

The New York Post's Vince Morris looks at just how Howard Dean's campaign spent $41 million, "betting the store on a gamble he lost." LINK

Read more from the trail with Dean on LINK


The New York Times' Nagourney and Archibold produce a wise and tough look at John Edwards' campaign style. "As he campaigns across the nation, drawing a portrait of an Edwards presidency, his has become a candidacy of broad brush strokes and biography, drawing attention more for his distinctive style than for substance." LINK

We urge you to go back and read the exchange between the Senator, his wife, and a reporter about Edwards' legislative accomplishments in the Senate.

Seneca, S.C.: known for the Playboy model AND Sen. John Edwards. A town in the spotlight. LINK

The Washington Post's Dale Russakoff writes that while Sen. Edwards' success has surprised the pundits, "it was no surprise to hundreds of doctors, trucking company officials and manufacturers who had faced him in court." LINK

The Boston Globe's Raja Mishra follows Edwards through a Sunday of South Carolina services, smiles, and football. LINK

Rob Christensen at the Raleigh News & Observer sees Johnny Edwards going back to Seneca today. LINK

Dan Kane from the News & Observer also saw Edwards making the rounds yesterday, going from church to Super Bowl parties, getting out his message. LINK

Bill Krueger sees Edwards nearly broke at the beginning of 2004: he knows how to bet that he'll win the big case. LINK

From ABC News' Edwards campaign reporter Gloria Riviera:

CHARLESTON, S.C., Feb. 1 -- It happened to Kerry, it happened to Dean. Sooner or later, it was bound to happen to Edwards.

No, Nick Baldick has not been replaced. The shakiest thing to happen back at campaign headquarters recently was a computer virus that resent zillions of old e-mails to the in-boxes of the entire press corps, dated in mid-November with headlines like "Edwards Will Return to Iowa." The campaign manager's job is safe and sound, strategizing an ideal world urge to surge to take place seemingly eons from now in Tennessee and Virginia.

And no, the candidate has not re-visited his decision not to "bust the caps," as Edwards likes to stay. That decision was made long ago by some but not Edwards, who in Florence, S.C., said he thought his campaign was in perhaps the best financial shape of any candidate in the game.

It's the voice. The voice is going.

Early Sunday a slight, raspy itch and sporadic break was just ever so evident when Edwards said, on "Face the Nation," that he "would not accept" the number two slot. It was the strongest language he has used to date on the topic. In Florence, S.C. at an afternoon event he gulped some water before his press avail, which apparently worked because his voice was very clear when he said, "I think you should ask Senator Kerry if he is interested in being Vice President."

The VP question has stolen the throne from those on his hair and his youthful looks as the single most stubborn inquiry Edwards gets on the stump.

But by 8:45 pm ET, when Edwards walked into LJ's bar in Charleston, S.C. to cheer on his beloved Carolina Panthers on in the Super Bowl, he had to swallow hard and belt out a "Go Panthers!" from his belly as he donned a team jacket and shook hands on the way through a cigarette smoke-filled bar. At the second bar hop stop, Manny's, the Senator's daughter, Cate, darted through the crowd to hug her father. "It's my voice," Edwards told her, rasping his way to the end of the evening.

It has been a very long weekend with little rest. Since Friday Edwards attended events in five states, and trudging behind him was an ever bulging press corps featuring an army of New York Times reporters as well as new additions from the New Republic and The Economist.

From Friday night's Hootie and the Blowfish onward the schedule became fraught with travel delays. Due to a snafu en route to New Mexico early Saturday morning, the entire press corps was individually searched by airport security. The Senator sat, shoes off, feet up and wand waving, as all reporters, photographers and camera crews removed item after item for the monitors then went through their own wand check.

At one point a pocketknife was found in the Senator's luggage, which he promptly passed off as belonging to body man Hunter Pruette. Pruette, meanwhile, had trouble of his own when his shoes tested positive for TNT.

Read more from the trail with Edwards on LINK


The Boston Globe's Robert Schlesinger reports that Clark yesterday called the Bush Administration "a threat to democracy itself," one of his "most pointed criticisms" so far. LINK

You'll be a hero.. LINK

From ABC News' Clark campaign reporter Deborah Apton:

FLAGSTAFF, ARIZ., Feb. 1 -- On the weekend before the Feb. 3 primary, the news of the Clark campaign was less about where Gen. Clark was heading and more about how he was getting there. Over the course of three days, Clark and the press had four planes -- the last of the bunch, a 32-seat propeller jet that could only hold The General, his press secretary, his brother-in-law, his trip director, his body man, a campaign press advance staffer, and varying numbers of press. Clark, unhappy with the prop jet and its third day in rotation, got on the plane Sunday and speaking loudly on his cell phone explained why the campaign needed a new plane: "It makes the campaign look second class." Plane number five will rotate in on Tuesday.

There are no plans on the schedule to go to South Carolina anymore and at this point, Clark will never go to Missouri to campaign for that primary. Instead it seems clear that the campaign is focusing on wins in Oklahoma and New Mexico on Wednesday, having also announced they will be spending the evening of the primary in Oklahoma City, Okla. before heading out late in the evening for Memphis, Tenn.

The Clark campaign is not conducting internal polls in the Feb. 3 states, according to Matt Bennett, because of the cost; they are relying on public polls instead. Bennett says once this primary is done, they will evaluate where to poll next.

And in this time of uncertainty, there is talk of the future of the Clark campaign and no signs that it is slowing down. With a packed campaign schedule and no down days, Clark's traveling press secretary, Jamal Simmons, is talking to press about possible campaign stops in Feb. 10 and 17 primary states. And Clark told one supporter in Lawton, Okla. on Sunday, "I will win Super Tuesday because people in New York and California like me a lot. And they know I'm the best person to beat Bush. You know, it's just the way it's gonna work."

Read more from the trail with Clark on LINK


From ABC News' Lieberman campaign reporter Talesha Reynolds:

TULSA, OKLA., Feb. 1 -- Sen. Lieberman learned of his New England Patriots' victory from the flight crew of his charter plane from Oklahoma to New Mexico Sunday night. Despite having visited two Super Bowl parties in Oklahoma City, he didn't see much of the game, and spent most of half time speechifying at a house party.

There was one event he didn't miss, though, and it was a doozey. At the Tulsa Boat Show, Sen. Lieberman and a few hundred others watched Twiggy the Waterskiing Squirrel do her thing. Outfitted in a rodent-sized Stars and Stripes lifejacket, Twiggy glided across a wading pool pulled by a remote control boat while the crowd looked on in amazement.

Sen. Lieberman called the performance "thrilling" and said it was evidence that "anything is possible in America." And just like Twiggy, Lieberman is managing to stay afloat in the rough waters of the presidential race and hanging on for dear life. He was thrown a rope early in the day in the form of endorsements from two of the largest papers in South Carolina, The State and the Greenville News, and from the Seattle Times. The Senator called the editorials a sign of his nationwide support.

As reporters tried to pin him down on how well he needed to do in the next set of primaries to stay in the race, Lieberman said he plans to do well and is looking beyond Feb. 3 to the next week of contests. Despite having just $350,000 on hand after debts at the end of 2003, Lieberman says his campaign has a "nest egg" sufficient to carry him through Feb. 10.

Read more from the trail with Lieberman on LINK


"In a state where as many as half the registered primary voters are black, Mr. Sharpton chose to make his stand here, hoping a solid showing on Tuesday will elevate his status from vanity candidate to a credible leader within the Democratic Party," writes the New York Times' Michael Slackman. LINK

Carl Chancellor at Knight Ridder saw Al Sharpton promise to keep his delegates and influence the Democratic platform this summer for his supporters.">LINK

From ABC News' Sharpton campaign reporter Beth Loyd:

COLUMBIA, S.C., Feb. 1 -- Rev. Al Sharpton kicks off his last South Carolina tour today beginning with a "From Property to President" Rally at the Charleston Slave Market.

The Sharpton campaign put all of its relatively few eggs into two baskets -- the Washington, D.C. basket and the South Carolina basket. (The campaign currently has three radio ads on the air in South Carolina -- including one with Johnnie Cochran and another with Russell Simmons).

The non-binding primary result in Washington, D.C. was quite satisfying for the campaign and all are hoping for the same here. Although it is unspoken, a third place or better finish would qualify as a victory and the campaign hopes it will provide them some much-needed momentum heading into Michigan and Virginia.

After the town hall meeting in Aiken on Sunday, Sharpton joked around with Rep. Clyburn and then was approached by a woman who was in attendance. She handed the Reverend a flier that her mother had given her. It was an advertisement for "the boy preacher" that her mother had saved all these years. It was certainly "a moment."

Rev. Sharpton is planning to file a court challenge to get on the Louisiana ballot -- a state he has visited more than a few times. The deadline was Friday and although the campaign met the deadline it used a personal check, not an accepted form of payment. The Secretary of State tried to contact the campaign, but failed numerous times -- the phone number listed on the paperwork was wrong.

Meanwhile the FEC is not recognizing Rev. Sharpton's request for federal matching funds, which the campaign desperately needs. While campaign manager Charles Halloran says he will work out the dispute, it turns out the campaign owes the FEC money, in the form of a $5,500 civil fine for failing to file a statement of candidacy and late submission of financial disclosure forms.

Read more from the trail with Sharpton on LINK

Politics of national security:

The New York Times' Sanger reports that President Bush's decision to back an independent commission investigating intelligence failures "came after a week of rising pressure on the White House from both Democrats and many ranking Republicans." LINK

The Washington Post's Milbank writes an absolutely amazingly toned story in which he says that the President "is implicitly conceding what he cannot publicly say: that something appears to be seriously wrong with the allegations he used to take the nation to war in Iraq." LINK

USA Today's Keen and Nichols call it "a major policy shift." LINK

The Los Angeles Times' Chen writes, "By creating a panel whose inquiry, the official said, is expected to run past election day, Bush may be immunizing himself -- politically speaking -- against criticism over faulty intelligence and against allegations from some Democrats that the administration exaggerated Iraq's weapons capabilities to build public support for the war." LINK

Bob Novak writes that Bush's credibility has been hurt by the failure to find WMDs in Iraq and the White House revelation that the new Medicare plan will cost one-third more than the president predicted. Novak also Notes about bringing down Kerry: "It's not easy."

The Los Angeles Times' David Savage writes up David Kay saying that the failed arms search undercuts the president's first-strike policy. LINK

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

The New York Times' Kit Seelye leads her overview of the day with DNC Chairman Terry McAuliffe saying on "This Week" that President Bush went AWOL during his time in the Air National Guard and RNC Chairman Ed Gillespie calling the charges "slanderous." LINK

USA Today's Susan Page also reports on The Macker vowing to go after the President's service record. LINK

The Washington Post's Eric Pianin reports that "As his reelection campaign heats up, Bush and his aides have reversed or fine-tuned a few of his most controversial actions, steps that might limit his political vulnerability this fall." LINK

The Bush-Cheney campaign is already mobilizing a grassroots efforts early, especially in the critical state of Florida. LINK

The New York Times' Jehl writes that intelligence officers "have reluctantly begun to acknowledge that a major overhaul could be in order after what may be two of the greatest intelligence setbacks in decades: the failure to anticipate the Sept. 11 attacks and the misjudgment of Iraq's weapons stockpiles." LINK

Read more on the Bush-Cheney campaign on LINK

Big casino budget politics:

The New York Times' Pear and Andrews report that the White House said yesterday that the CBO had grossly underestimated the cost of the Medicare bill and that President Bush will try to explain why today in the FY 2005 budget. LINK

The Washington Post's Jonathan Weisman details the $521 billion deficit in the FY 2005 budget. LINK

The Wall Street Journal's Greg Hitt and John McKinnon Notice that President Bush is downplaying his plan to create a tax-preferred Lifetime Savings Account and a Retirement Savings Account.

Elisabeth Bumiller of the New York Times takes a look at Josh Bolten's labor of love. LINK

The budget which the Administration will release today highlights President Bush's campaign themes, writes the AP's Martin Crustinger. LINK

Republican National Convention:

Michael Slackman writes up the RNC hotel assignments for the delegates headed to Gotham this summer. LINK

Politics Live:

It's Monday. You're feeling sluggish. January was a long, cold month. You're longing for something new, something exciting, something that will break up these dark winter days.

The Note has a solution: Politics Live on ABC News Live. It comes right to your personal desk top every day at 1 p.m. Perfect timing for a little mid-day break over a little PB&J and cookies.

To watch a clip of yesterday's show, here's a link.

AOL subscribers, don't you worry, you can watch it too.

But you can't tell the players without a program -- which means ya gotta sign up to have ABC News Live delivered right to your desktop. We don't underestimate the power of customer service around here.

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

Chris Cilizza at Roll Call Notes the success of 527 groups in 2003 with the most prolific being America Coming Together, which raised $13 million in the last six months.

Stu Rothenberg writes for Roll Call, seeing the convolutions of the hard money/soft money rules further sullied by "MCFL-status." The Googling monkeys are still trying to figure that one out.

Laurie David is putting on her "Victory Campaign 2004" party East Coast style this week. LINK


Rudy vs. Hillary part deux! The truncated mother of all Senate battles will rise again at this year's Gridiron dinner according to the New York Daily News' Tom DeFrank. LINK