The Note

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

—8:30 am: Sen. John Edwards appears on MSNBC's "Imus in the Morning" —8:30 am: The Commerce Department announces January retail sales —10:00 am: Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan testifies before the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee —10:00 am: Elizabeth Edwards has coffee with campaign supporters at Bentley's American Grille, Racine, Wis. —10:05 am: Gov. Dean tours the Living Healthy Community Center, Oshkosh, Wis. —10:55 am: President Bush participates in a conversation on Education and the 21st Century Jobs Initiative, Harrisburg, Pa. —11:15 am: Sen. John Edwards meets with voters at the Bray Center, Racine, Wis. —11:15 am: Gov. Howard Dean attends a town hall at the Grand Opera House, Oshkosh, Wis. —11:30 am: Rev. Al Sharpton speaks at the University of the District of Columbia, Washington, D.C. —12:00 pm: Massachusetts legislature reconvenes its constitutional convention, Boston, Mass. —12:45 pm: Rev. Sharpton visits the Greenleaf Senior Citizens Home, Washington, D.C. —12:55 pm: President Bush returns to the White House —1:15 pm: Mrs. Edwards meets with supporters at Bombay Louie's, Kenosha, Wis. —2:20 pm: Gov. Dean tours Northeast Family Medical Center, Madison, Wis. —4:00 pm: Gov. Dean attends a town hall at the Wisconsin Union Hall Theater, Madison, Wis. —5:00 pm: Mrs. Edwards attends a house party in Sheboygan, Wis. —7:15 pm: Mrs. Edwards attends the Brown County Democrats' "Bye-Bye Bush Bash" at the Riverside Ballroom, Green Bay, Wis. —7:30 pm: Sen. Edwards meets with voters at Culver City Senior Center, Los Angeles, Calif. —8:15 pm: Gov. Dean attends a grassroots fundraiser at the Minneapolis Convention Center, Minneapolis, Minn. —11:00 pm: Gen. Wesley Clark appears on PBS' "The Charlie Rose Show" —11:35 pm: Rep. Dennis Kucinich appears on NBC's "Tonight Show," Los Angeles, Calif.


We WERE going to have today's Note summary anchored by "Political dynamics to watch," a regular feature here, but there's actually only ONE dynamic to watch in the presidential race right now.

Political dynamic to watch:

1. How is the Kerry communications team (and the candidate himself) dealing with the stepped-up dredging/Drudging of his past?

Did the campaign know in advance about the Jane Fonda picture? How about the old Harvard Crimson interview? How about the gay marriage letter?

Leaving aside the merits of these matters (like the merits of a flag factory . . . .), there are the basic questions of knowing what's out there and being ready to respond to kill these things before they take on a life of their own and define John Kerry for a public that still mostly doesn't know him.

Everything else -- the Mankiw flap; Bob Novak's mindset; Howard Dean's mindset; John Edwards' mind; House special elections; the President's dental records; Joe Allbaugh's memory; the Massachusetts legislature; Fred Hochberg's lunch -- all these things are at most secondary, and, in many cases, tertiary.

President Bush stops in Harrisburg, Pa., to participate in a conversation on education and the 21st Century Jobs Initiative before returning to Washington, D.C. No gaggle or briefing at the White House today, so if you want to hear someone say the word "gutter," you'll have to look elsewhere.

Sen. Kerry is down in Washington, D.C.

Sen. Edwards is in Wisconsin and California.

Gov. Dean is in Wisconsin.

Rep. Kucinich is in Los Angeles, California.

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

Bob Novak goes atomic and must-read, writing that that this whole past week, "worried Republicans buzzed about George W. Bush's Sunday interview on NBC's 'Meet the Press.' " LINK

Novak is buzzing himself as he writes that what "flabbergasted" Bush's supporters "was the absence of any plan to use this event to stop being the target as the 2004 campaign began."

Novak calls the interview "Strike Two" -- Strike One being the President's State of the Union address.

Check out this Novackian sentence: "The suspicion is that his 2004 campaign organization, a fund-raising juggernaut, is otherwise inadequate."

Novak also doesn't like that Bush didn't try to "capitalize" on the gay marriage issue, writing the President "was informed in advance that Russert had no plans to bring it up but that the president, of course, could raise this important social issue. He did not."

We bet lots of folks at 1600 will be buzzing unhappily at the last sentence of this one.

President Bush heads to the Keystone State today -- his 25th trip to Pennsylvania since taking office. Bush is set to talk about education policies and jobs at a high school in the state capital of Harrisburg, AP's Reichman reports. LINK

The Wall Street Journal's Gregg Hitt reports that President Bush is revving up his re-election campaign to peak "in early March, when officials plan to tap into the campaign's unprecedentedly large war chest -- which may be $200 million by then -- and let loose a salvo of television ads in battleground states."

The attacks by Kerry and the Democrats have forces the Bush Administration to change its plan to stay above the political fray, fighting back "after passively enduring political shots for weeks," the Washington Times reports. LINK

Speaker Hastert says he's not too keen on what Mr. Mankiw had to say on the benefits of American jobs' movement overseas. LINK

The Washington Post's Mike Allen writes up Hastert's scolding as well. LINK

The New York Times' Stevenson and Johnston look at life in the White House, as the leak investigation gets more intense and Administration officials are called before a grand jury. "At a White House that has largely avoided scandal -- and one that has been distinguished by remarkable internal cohesion -- the escalating investigation has brought unusual personal stress and the uncertainties that afflict anyone caught up in a full-scale criminal inquiry." LINK

RNC Chairman Ed Gillespie speaks at the Washoe County Lincoln Day Dinner in Reno, Nev., today and the gloves come off again, with regards to Sen. Kerry.

The Note has a preview:

"One of Senator Kerry's campaign consultants was recently quoted in the New York Times saying, 'Everything is on the table…Everything.'

"We know that 'everything' means taking slanderous charges against the President of the United States, funneling money to shadow organizations in voter suppression tactics, and spreading lies on the Internet."

"It's only February and they have made it clear they intend to run the direct the dirtiest campaign in modern presidential politics. This is because they don't want a debate on the issues, and they don't want to run on Sen. Kerry's record. I guess I can't blame them for that."

"We as a party can not sink to their level. We must stick to the truth in this race."

Reminds us of the Bush campaign's interest in those Donna Brazile "kitchen" remarks from 2000 . . .

President Bush "proposed revoking the long-standing bargain in the 1970 Non-Proliferation Treaty that allows countries to develop peaceful atomic energy in return for a verifiable pledge not to build nuclear weapons. Calling that agreement a "loophole" exploited by North Korea and Iran, Bush instead proposed that nuclear fuel be provided only to countries that renounce nuclear enrichment and reprocessing," reports the Washington Post's Dana Milbank and Peter Slevin. LINK

USA Today's Keen reports that the President was eager to highlight intelligence successes in his speech. LINK

New York Times' Sanger Notes that the President "stopped well short of calling for an end to all trade in fissionable material - enriched uranium or reprocessed plutonium . . . Those carefully chosen words would make Iran's current activities illegal, as well as North Korea's -- provided the administration can persuade the country to dismantle its two nuclear weapons projects." LINK

President Bush has picked up an interesting and unsurprising endorsement from former New York City mayor Ed Koch, the Palm Beach Post reports. In a television interview from Boca Raton, Koch said he thinks he is going to vote for Bush and said that the President did the right thing going to war in Iraq. LINK

President Bush and the National Guard:

"The White House last night released a document showing that President Bush was at a military base in Alabama during the last year of his National Guard service, but aides backed away from his weekend pledge to release all his military records," writes the Washington Post's Mike Allen and Lois Romano. LINK

The Boston Globe's Robinson and Latour look at Bush's suspension from flight status and Note that Air Force regulations should have required "an investigation by his commander, a written acknowledgement by Bush, and perhaps a written report to senior Air Force officials."LINK

A former officer in the Texas National Guard told USA Today's Moniz and Drinkard that top-ranking officers in the Guard and Bush advisers "discussed ways to limit the release of potentially embarrassing details from Bush's military records," as he was preparing to run for president in the late 1990s. A second officer said that they "were particularly worried about mentions in the records of arrests of Bush before he joined the National Guard in 1968. LINK

And the New York Times has a copy of a letter that the same former officer wrote in 1998 that said Bush aides had "improperly screened" the President's Guard files for potentially embarrassing information. The officer claims in a book that is to be published this month"that Mr. Bush's aides ordered Guard officials to remove damaging information from Mr. Bush's military personnel files."LINK

USA Today features a timeline of President Bush's service: LINK

The Washington Post editorial board argues that there's plenty of hypocrisy to go around on both the Democratic and Republican sides of the recycled debate -- and posturing -- over Bush's National Guard service. LINK

The politics of gay marriage:

The White House did not commit to anything further yesterday, but conservative leaders said they had assurances that the President would support a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, the AP reports. LINK

The Boston Globe's Healy reports on some criticism Kerry is getting from gay media outlets for not speaking up on what's happening in Boston. LINK

And the AP's Solomon has the story on the letter Kerry wrote opposing a gay marriage ban a couple of years ago. LINK

The Boston Globe's Phillips and Lewis report on the failure of both proposed amendments on Wednesday in Boston. LINK

The Globe's Rick Klein explains why the legislative deals fell apart. LINK

USA Today's Bayles and Benedetto report on the continued dealings. LINK

The Hill GOP wrestles with the issue of what to do next on gay marriage, reports The Hill. LINK

The economy:

The Wall Street Journal's Ip reports on Greenspan's testimony on the deficits.

Writes Ip, "Mr. Greenspan's warnings on the budget deficit were more urgent than in previous remarks. He said the huge current-account deficit -- the shortfall on trade and investment income between the U.S. and the rest of the world -- makes it even more imperative to cut the budget deficit. He said that would minimize the harm if foreign investors cut back on their purchases of U.S. stocks and bonds, which finance the current-account deficit. But he refused to endorse higher taxes as a way to contain the deficit, as many Democrats have."

We are sure we will hear Mr. Greenspan quoted on this as the general election heats up . . .

Big casino budget politics:

Facing pressure from conservatives, House Republicans met behind closed doors yesterday to come up with a budget strategy that might include cutting back the President's $2.5 trillion budget, including requests for military and domestic security, the New York Times' Hulse reports. LINK

The Hill reports on the "mandatory" conference call Speaker Hastert put together with his members to talk fiscal restraint as the House's GOP leadership works to respond "to constituent complaints about the spiraling budget deficit, as well as growing anger among the conservative base over federal spending, which has reached record levels. It also reflected election-year concerns and signs that the voters are beginning to regard the Democrats as the party of fiscal responsibility, reversing a traditional GOP edge."

And DO check out this graph:

"The resolve to force budget cuts also reflects concerns about Bush's re-election."

"'There's no longer talk about the president having coattails,' said a conservative lawmaker. 'This is Congress worrying about whether the president is going to get reelected, not the president worrying about Congress getting reelected.'" LINK

ABC 2004: The Democratic nomination fight:

Dan Balz and Vanessa Williams of the Washington Post writes that the Kerry campaign is beginning to shift gears and is now preparing for a two-front race targeting both his remaining rivals and President Bush while Gov. Dean steps up his criticisms of Kerry and Sen. Edwards looks to be "increasingly more aggressive on jobs and the economy." LINK

Al Hunt of the Wall Street Journal writes that the even the "lefties" are falling in line behind Kerry as winning in November becomes the number one priority for Democrats.

Maria La Ganga of the Los Angeles Times writes on the rapidly moving electoral push toward Kerry, writing the Senator "is a candidate still under construction. But many Democrats are looking at him like a finished product -- one completed in record time." LINK

It's pretty clear that Ms. La Ganga thinks the current Kerry stump speech still has some extra wind in it.

Deb Orin writes on Bill Clinton's Clark connection and figures how it harms his wife's presidential prospects. Our favorite blind quote re: the Clintons: "There's starting to be a real resentment." LINK

The Boston Globe's Mishra and Healy report on why both the Kerry and Edwards camps are downplaying the push for Kerry-Edwards '04. LINK

Cox News' Scott Shepard looks at Kerry-Edwards pros and cons. LINK

The AP's Elizabeth Wolfe reports that Sharpton and Kucinich aren't going anywhere in more ways than one. LINK

The Orlando Sentinel's Mark Silva thinks things are getting fast and furious now. LINK

Tyler Whitley of the Richmond Times-Dispatch reflects on Kerry's win in Virginia Tuesday, Noting the comments of Brian Moran, who said Kerry's electability in Virginia in November against Bush is highly questionable. LINK


Scott Milfred at the Wisconsin State Journal reports on John Edwards taking his tale of "Two Americas" and job losses to Janesville, Wis., yesterday. LINK

Edwards tells WBAY Green Bay that it's a "two man race." LINK

WISC Madison interviews a teacher on No Child Left Behind, "One of the things they say all children should learn is data in graphs, and I never taught that before." LINK

Joel Rogers at the Capital Times opines that the state's progressives should naturally support Edwards. LINK

Craig Gilbert with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that Edwards thinks he can come back in Wisconsin using his successful Iowa message and Kerry's two-day absence. LINK

David Callender at the Capital Times Notes the numerical effect the withdrawn AFSCME endorsement has: AFSCME has 66,000 members in Wisconsin, compared to SEIU's 12,000. LINK

Graeme Zielinski from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Notes Dean's statement on Kerry's "politically corrupt fundraising" and connections to rebuked ex-Sen. Torricelli. LINK

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel announced that Kerry became the final candidate to commit to their debate. LINK

More on the debate: LINK


In an interview Kerry gave to the student newspaper at Harvard 34 years ago, he suggested that he would cede authority over the military to the United Nations and rein in, or perhaps eliminate, the CIA, write Sheryl Gay Stolberg of the New York Times. We bet Tim Griffin in particular enjoys this one! LINK

The Los Angeles Times on the Vietnam War-era photo of Kerry and Jane Fonda, and the hay conservatives would like to make of it. LINK

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that Fonda denies she and Kerry never even "shook hands" at the rally in which the two were photographed. LINK

The New York Times' Todd Purdum writes that Kerry and his party may have more to gain at this time by having the Senator's competitors stay in the race rather than be left without them. Writes Purdum, "so long as Mr. Kerry faces even nominal intramural opposition, President Bush's advisers worry that they will have a harder time getting equal attention for their political message, and Mr. Kerry's rivals seem to keep undercutting each other, not him. LINK

Kerry pollster Mark Mellman appeared on CNN's "American Morning" and said that people who are commenting on Bush's National Guard record "are not people who are affiliated with our campaign" though he acknowledged that the people making such comments might be supporting Kerry's campaign.

Mellman brushed off Dean's latest attacks by calling the former Vermont governor "increasingly desperate" and saying that such "scurrilous attacks" have "no place in our politics."

The Boston Globe's Ellen Goodman and Joan Vennochi each ponder the dynamics of Bush v. Kerry. LINK

and LINK

And Mort Kondracke goes through the same kind of thing in Roll Call today.

While the Globe's Jeff Jacoby looks at Kerry v. many Kerrys. LINK

The AP's David Espo offers another tale of Kerry and the South. LINK

Knight Ridder's Kuhnhenn reports on Kerry's effort to broaden his message. LINK

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

WASHINGTON, D.C., Feb. 11 -- Free from spending limits, the Kerry campaign has taken in over $5 million since Jan. 1, all but $500,000 of that amount pouring in post-Iowa. As late as January, top Kerry cash croppers publicly complained about their problems fundraising for the sagging candidate; a gathering in New York this month to welcome new donors and set future targets, they proudly wore "4JKB4IA" buttons.

And Kerry's congressional supporter list, which prior to Kerry's "surge" had been stagnant, now boasts a robust 58 House members and 11 Senate colleagues.

Perhaps more importantly, however, it seems Kerry is quickly slipping into the country's cultural consciousness.

Thanks in part to election success but also due to a Newsweek cover, "bring it on," a catchphrase four months in making, is not only greeted with boisterous cheers at every event, it's pre-empted. Crowds can hardly wait to chant the three magic words, often shouting it after every applause-baiting line.

At George Mason University on Tuesday, hundreds peered into the dark campus bookstore as Kerry prepared to do a round robin of network interviews. People of all ages waited upwards of an hour for an up-close encounter, prompting the stationing of Fairfax County police officers outside each exit.

And, of course, there was that public endorsement in front of a small audience of roughly 26 million from Coldplay's Chris Martin as he accepted a Grammy for "Clocks." Of the national exposure and endorsement, a source close to Kerry said, "It doesn't get much better than that."

The source added that several stars have supported Kerry in the past, including Robin Williams, Chevy Chase, Don Henley, James Taylor, Carly Simon, and Shawn Colvin. And, Steven Stills, Peter Yarrow, and Carole King are already on board.

The musically-inclined Kerry source also acknowledged that Bruce Springsteen is aware that "No Surrender" is the official campaign song, though the source could not confirm an official endorsement from the Boss.

Read more from the trail with Kerry on LINK


Sen. Edwards did "Today" and Imus, and got a lot of chances to answer process questions -- with the sunny disposition that only the SoaMW can bring to the table.

"I'm not going anywhere near that."

That's what Edwards said this morning when Imus asked if he'd put his hand on the Bible and continue to deny any interest in running for vice president.

Asked if he could spell the last name of Blue Devils coach Mike Krzyzewski, Edwards laughed and said: "Not even close."

David Broder looks at Edwards, sounds impressed with the Senator's appeal and basically declares that it's do-or-die time. Either step up and challenge Kerry on his record, or make peace with a spot as a running mate on the ticket. And keep a close watch on what he does, not what he says, Broder cautions. LINK

"The senator from North Carolina probably has campaigned his way onto the Democratic ticket, and the question is how hard he will fight to gain the No. 1 spot, which seems to be almost in the grasp of John Kerry."

The New York Times' Randall Archibold reports that Sen. Edwards, looking forward to a possible head-to-head race with John Kerry, is pressing the argument that he is the best candidate to face President Bush focusing on the issues of jobs and trade. (And not just the best candidate for vice president, as the media keep suggesting . . .) LINK

USA Today's Susan Page writes about Edwards' strategy these days and Notes at the end of her story the moral support he's received from a certain recently former president lately. LINK

Rob Christensen and John Wagner at the Raleigh News & Observer report that Edwards is maintaining his "happy warrior" disposition. And they quote Fred Baron, the finance co-chair, "We will not lose the race for lack of funds." LINK

The Charlotte Observer's Don Hudson argues that John Edwards would not bring any electoral votes (not even North Carolina) to a Kerry/Edwards ticket. LINK

From ABC News' Edwards campaign reporter Gloria Riviera:

GREEN BAY, WIS., Feb. 11 -- They were prepared for a yucky day.

Headlines, headlines, who needs 'em? Well, a self-proclaimed underdog candidate running for president, for one. And headlines were in abundance in Milwaukee, where early Wednesday Sen. Edwards started an airborne criss-cross of the state keeping to an Iowa-esque campaign schedule.

But first, he was greeted with the Milwaukee Sentinel's headline, "Kerry victories extend dominance to the South: Clark drops out: Edwards, Dean see hope in Wisconsin."


Surprisingly, Edwards acknowledged the front page of the Sentinel at his first event in Janesville, Wis. But there would be no nod to his competition. Instead, Edwards referred to the right column headline, "500 jobs in city going to Mexico."

Throughout the day's three events Edwards focused on job loss and what he would do as president to right the wrongs currently committed in that America.

You know the one.

As the press corps inevitably scratches its collective head, wondering when it will be time to venture guesses on what theoretical tricks might be pulled out of a Raleighwood magic hat, the candidate and staff are resolute.

The fact that Kerry is not in the state is fortuitous for them, as exampled by the Journal Sentinel's front-page photo of a glowing Edwards greeting supporters under that Kerry headline.

So while the rest of the country continues what the Edwards camp might call an ill-advised coronation, the candidate, wearing his "fighting shoes" (his lucky black boots) is marching on under the impression that far from popular belief, his time is still ticking in the here and now.

Read more from the trail with Edwards on LINK


So much for accentuating only the positive:

"Just days after he vowed not to run a 'scorched earth' campaign that could hurt the eventual Democratic nominee, Howard Dean lit into Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts on Wednesday, saying that if Mr. Kerry wins the nomination, 'once again we may have to settle for the lesser of two evils,'" writes Jodi Wilgoren of the New York Times. Do Note Dean's nice words for Sen. Edwards . . . LINK

Matea Gold and Nick Anderson of the Los Angeles Times Note Dean's "increasingly biting tone" when it comes to Kerry, coming as it does "after his own repeated pledges not to run a spoiler campaign that would damage the Democrats' ability to beat the Republican incumbent in the fall." The two also say Judy Dean is likely to join her husband on the trail in Wisconsin. LINK

The Boston Globe's Glen Johnson writes about why Dean is not happy with Kerry, the Torch, negative television ads by mysterious groups, accusations that he is going negative to regain an edge, the idea of Kerry as the nominee instead of Edwards, and a few other things. LINK

From ABC News' Dean campaign reporter Reena Singh:

BURLINGTON, VT., Feb. 12 -- For most campaign reporters, the term "down day" plays to the ears like a soothing string quartet. But for the Dean press corps it is a cacophony of alarmed trumpets heralding the chaos of breaking news. So while over the skies on the way to Vermont, the fear of the Governor making more headlines under the guise of "being down" loomed. After all, Dean is notorious for dashing plans of relaxation with a quick draw from the hip or, to be more precise, lips.

But on Wednesday all the news was made before the Governor touched down in Burlington. Scathing words for Sen. Kerry and his Republican-like ways as well as a strange endorsement-of-sorts for Sen. Edwards made its way to Vermont via the wires.

One staffer described the reaction to Dean's statements this way: "I just shook my head. What are you going to do? That's Howard Dean. And he can't believe that someone like Kerry -- someone so opposite of everything he stands for -- is where he is." As the plane taxied at Burlington's charter airport, campaign manager Roy Neel waited patiently inside a glass walled conference room where he, the Governor and Kate O'Connor had a long chat.

Back at the ranch, the mood is, according to another staffer, "definitely not upbeat." There are certainly fewer volunteers and on the table in the entrance sympathy cards reading "I know things look bad right now," have replaced good luck wishes.

Read more from the trail with Dean on LINK

Trippi . . .

So that's what is.

Joe Trippi's new blog. (It may also become the launch pad for Trippi's future grassroots endeavors).

First entry: a defense of the allegations that his firm was lucratively lined with commissions from the Dean campaign. And a very, very pointed reference to Bob Rogan, deputy campaign manager for Gov. Dean and the man who had budget authority (and, by implication), Dean's trust.


Adam Nagourney and Ed Wyatt of the New York Times take a look at how the Clark campaign, once expected to have so much promise, fell short. Finds the duo, "during what was arguably the most critical stretch of his campaign -- the eight days between the caucuses in Iowa and New Hampshire -- General Clark made a series of mistakes that served as a reminder of the risk many Democrats had taken in attaching themselves to a first-time candidate." LINK

Gen. Clark officially dropped out of the race for the presidency yesterday but he hinted that his political career may not be over, writes Paul Schwartzman of the Washington Post. LINK

The Boston Globe's Joanna Weiss has Clark reflecting on the five months of Clark '04. LINK

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution quotes California Democratic Party Chairman Art Torres foreseeing Clark as a future secretary of state in the Kerry administration. LINK

Read more from the trail with Clark on LINK


The AP reports Sharpton's loans from supporters may cause him FEC problems. Reports the wire, "The Sharpton campaign has a debt of about $500,000 and has scant thousands left in the bank." LINK

Democratic National Convention:

The Boston Globe's Murphy reports on Sec. Ridge's assertion that there will be maximum security for the FleetCenter and for the city of Boston in July. LINK

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

The folks over at are up with a new ad produced as part of its ad contest "Bush in 30 Seconds" showing the President failing a lie detector test.

The group says it is spending $1.4 million to air the spot through Feb. 25 in Florida, Missouri, Nevada, Ohio and West Virginia.

The New York Times' Rutenberg writes on the spot, quoting Terry Holt saying that the ad could actually help the President. (And we bet Ed Koch would agree!: LINK) LINK

And in the Washington Post, Harold Meyerson previews next week's FEC meeting to discuss whether advocacy groups should fall under the same regulations as federal campaigns. This, argues Meyerson, would "confer a huge advantage on the Republicans in this year's presidential and congressional elections" and would "make it all but impossible for advocacy groups that have never participated in electoral activity, and are not even legally structured to do so, to praise or condemn the positions of public officeholders." LINK

We would argue that Steve Rosenthal, Suzy Ballantyne, Cecile Richards, and Harold Ickes would agree with Mr. Meyerson's argument . . .

House of Labor:

It's now official!

ABC News' Gayle Tzemach reports the unions formerly known as Gephardt's decided on a unanimous vote during an afternoon conference call Wednesday to endorse John Kerry. The presidents of the unions in the Alliance for Economic Justice heard from their new candidate once the decision had been made, with the Massachusetts senator thanking them for their support and telling them he did indeed respect what they had done for Rep. Gephardt.

Look for an early morning event next Tuesday, the day of the Wisconsin primary, with Gephardt and a number of union leaders gathering at a hotel in Milwaukee to show their support for the Kerry candidacy.

Liz Smith ain't gotten nothing on us:

February 12, 2004 -- "I want minimum information given with maximum politeness." So said the always elegant former first lady Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy.

It seems the fabulous Mrs. Kennedy would be getting her wish at Fred Hochberg's 3rd Annual Valentine's Day luncheon (complete with petit fours for dessert) today at chef Tom Colicchio's stylish, laid-back Gramercy Park dining establishment, Craft.

"Won't You Be Mine 2004" will survey 70 or so of the Democrats' leading ladies on who they would like to see as the vice presidential candidate.

Mr. Hochberg, who served as deputy administrator and acting administrator of the Small Business Administration and served on President Clinton's management council, is now dean of the Milano Graduate School at New School University and a supporter of the John Kerry for President campaign.

Expected guests Kerry Kennedy Cuomo, Karenna Gore Schiff, Ann Richards, Lillian Vernon and others will dine on a simple, do-it-yourself, "family style in an era of family values," three-course-meal.

Instead of numbers, the tables will be named, cleverly, after possible VP choices. And just remember where you heard this list first!

The tables will be named after Sen. John Edwards (who has apparently been written off as a presidential candidate by the survey committee), Rep. Dick Gephardt, Gov. Bill Richardson, former Sen. Bob Kerrey, Gov. Jeanne Shaheen, Gov. Tom Vilsack, Sen. John McCain, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, Sen. Hillary Clinton, and Sen. Evan Bayh.

The survey will be done by colorful, graphically-enhanced paper ballots. Some of the highlights? Next to Sen. Clinton's name is a picture of the Empire State Building, next the Sen. McCain's is the RNC emblem, Gen. Clark is represented by the army logo, and Sen. Bayh by a picture of the Capitol.

The menu will be three courses, and "with [the furor over] mad cow disease" (and to maintain those girlish figures) lots of veggies. The first course will consist of arugula salad, beet salad, celery root remoulade, roasted red peppers, and chickpea salads. The second course will feature roasted organic chicken, roasted arctic char, potato puree, assorted mushrooms, braised carrots, and broccoli rabe (or Sicilian broccoli if available). Dessert will be, as mentioned, plates of petit fours and cookies.

This is a classy luncheon. There are even gift bags containing the goods of Estee Lauder, Lillian Vernon, and "some surprises."

Last year's theme? The tables were named after Mr. Hochberg's exes and his dog (he ran out of exes).

The Note will report (exclusively of course) the results of this scientific survey tomorrow.

ABC Vote 2004: The Veepstakes obsession begins!:

With Sen. Kerry seemingly on a glide path to the Democratic presidential nomination, the already incessant discussion of Kerry's running mate will gather momentum -- as will talk of who Kerry will ask to join his cabinet.

As regular readers of The Note might suspect, we find such discussion as distasteful as it is distracting. But we have an idea so good about who should be Kerry's running mate that we want to be the first ones to float it seriously.

Let's dispense with Sen. Edwards for just a moment. Despite the Tarheel's frequent and surprisingly definitive disavowals of interest, we understand how the son-of-a-millworker might be a nice complement to the Boston Brahmin.

On "This Week," this past Sunday, Edwards said "that is true" when asked by George Stephanopoulos to confirm he'd rule out accepting a nod. But then he said, "You don't know what's going to happen a month, three months, six months from now."

True that.

But in this first post-9/11 presidential election, credibility on national security is paramount.

That's why we think that an "all-Nam" ticket may prove even more appealing than some Southern comfort.

If Kerry wants a running mate who will reinforce his strengths, he may want to pick Bob Kerrey, his fellow combat veteran and virtual-namesake.

As Note readers know, Kerrey, a former Nebraska senator and current president of the New School University, served in Vietnam as a Navy SEAL. After losing part of his right leg when a grenade exploded at his feet, Kerrey returned to Nebraska where he ran a business, served as governor, and got elected to the Senate.

This Democrat knows how to handle a weapon, get elected in a very Red state, and, let's face it, he's perdy.

Kerrey's national security credentials go beyond his service in Vietnam. He was the ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee and is a current member of the 9-11 commission. Last week, the Bush Administration thought highly enough of him to float his name as the kind of "nonpartisan statesman" they were seeking for the commission probing the failures of pre-war intelligence.

If DNC Chair Terry McAuliffe is savoring a national-security debate that features Kerry, with his "chest full of medals," squaring off against President Bush, just think about his glee in picturing Kerrey, a Congressional Medal of Honor recipient, staring down Vice President Cheney.

It's not hard to imagine the man who said that then-nomination opponent Bill Clinton would be "opened up like a soft peanut" having the words "other priorities in the '60s than military service" come tripping off of his tongue.

In fact, Kerrey was making the AWOL charge about Cheney's running mate before the 2000 election, telling the Boston Globe's Walter V. Robinson: "If he is elected president, how will he be able to deal as commander in chief with someone who goes AWOL, when he did the same thing?"

What's more, as a deficit hawk and Concord Coalition co-chair, Kerrey also has the credentials to criticize the Administration for the rising tide of red ink and alleged failure to plan for the retirement of the baby boomers.

But there's also a personal dimension to the Kerrey pick.

As we have seen clearly in the last few months, the sometimes-aloof Kerry is more at ease in the company of his fellow veterans. After 12 years together in the Senate, Kerry and Kerrey share a personal friendship and have already stood together in trying times. And while Kerrey is compelling as a speaker, he will not overshadow his ticket-make's eloquence -- a potential problem with Sen. Edwards.

In 2001, when Kerrey revealed that he led a raid in 1969 that allegedly caused the deaths of 13 to 20 unarmed civilians, most of them women and children, Kerry marshaled the Senate's veterans in Kerrey's defense.

"He obviously feels anguish and pain about those events," Kerry said of his besieged colleague in a Senate floor speech in April of 2001. "But I don't believe they should diminish for one moment the full measure of what he has given to his country and of what he represents."

Is all this too good to be true?

Sure, there's plenty of oppo on Kerrey. When he ran for president in 1992 as the "health-care candidate," reports emerged that Kerrey did not provide health insurance for most of his restaurant and health club employees. His lack of focus on the campaign trail was legendary -- don't get us started on the movies in the back of the candidate's van. His failure to connect was widely panned.

More recently, as co-chair of a bipartisan commission on entitlement reform, Kerrey advocated a package of Social Security and Medicare reforms that could raise hackles on the left. The recent revelations about his Vietnam service could do the same.

But we're betting that the broadcast media can focus on only one narrative at a time and the against-type imagery of an "all-'Nam" ticket on the Democratic side will get the attention.

What's more, members of the press will root for Kerry to pick Kerrey if for no other reason than the love of a good soundbite. Who can forget Kerrey calling Bill Clinton "an unusually good liar"? Or his equally boffo comment that Al Gore is an "unusually bad liar"?

Plus, we are suckers for "Waltzing Matilda."

And best of all, just imagine what the RNC research staff would do when they got their hands on the New School's coursebook. LINK

and LINK

Presidential debates:

Third-party candidates are suing the commission because they feel left out, the AP reports. LINK

The politics of the judiciary:

The Washington Post's Helen Dewar looks at the fire conservatives are directing at Sen. Hatch over his part in the investigation into allegations that Republican Judiciary Committee staffers improperly accessed Democrats' computer files and leaked the strategy memos on judicial nominations. LINK


The Washington Post's Ben White turns in an interesting read on the monthly "Monday Meeting" in New York, where conservatives gather off the record to talk message, money, and occasionally, as White Notes in the case of Sen. Arlen Specter, throw themselves on the group's mercy. LINK

Tim Russert talks to The Hill about his POTUS interview and who he wants next. LINK

"Tucker Eskew who resigned late last year as deputy assistant to the president and director of the White House Office of Global Communications, is opening his own shop next week: Eskew Strategy Group," writes the Washington Post's Judy Sarasohn. LINK

ABC 2004: The Campaign Bus Logs:

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

From ABC News Red Bus producer Sean Smith, in Fairfax, Va.:

QUOTES OF THE DAY: "Can I see some I.D.?" -- TGIF bartender to Sean Smith (12-year ABC News veteran, and father of three, do the math and you can guess his age) after he ordered a beer.

"You are a kind man" -- Sean Smith to TGIF bartender

"You're having a New Hampshire kind of day" -- David Reiter to Sean Smith after learning that we have Kate Snow, Newsone (until 2 am ET), WJLA and Radio all using the bus to cover the Virginia Primary results.

RUMORS FROM THE ROAD: In order to make Big Red as profitable as we can, we have made the decision to open up "Club Big Red." We have a velvet rope outside, which is manned by Super Agent Chevin, we have Uber Engineer OZ spinning vinyl in our VIP lounge at the back of the bus. Beth Loyd serves as hostess and Sean Smith is the GM. There has been intense interest in "Club Big Red" and its exclusivity as the ONLY club on wheels has made it THE place to be seen. We will be in Foggy Bottom Wednesday, and believe the turnout will be overwhelming. ABC employees are comped, everyone else ponies up 20 bucks.

From ABC News Blue Bus producer Matthew Frucci, in Nashville, Tenn..:

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: "I wish my life had a soundtrack." -- Unnamed bus producer

OBSERVATION OF THE DAY: We're beginning to think that the New York Times' R. W. Apple has gotten a hold of the Blue Bus's playbook. He ends up in every state we've been in at the exact same time. We'll be joining him Wisconsin on Wednesday.

FOND FAREWELL Our driver, Terry Ford, left us on Tuesday to join the Godsmack tour. Terry drove the Blue Bus for close to 5,000 miles. He knew every mile of every state we drove through, and had a great deal of off-road wisdom as well. The ABC uplink SUV has arrived, so we also say good-bye to Michael Oat and Ben Larson, who return home to Virginia on Wednesday with the Live on Site truck, after driving just as many miles right behind us.

From ABC News White Bus producer Marni Harriman, in Los Angeles, Calif.:

QUOTES OF THE DAY: "Don't play the triangle game . . . and lose." -and - "We don't want to play the triangle game, now do we?" -- OSHA trainer Vince repeatedly during a 2 ½-hour course, while forming his fingers in the shape of a triangle for further emphasis

"I want to live on this bus!" -- one Providence High School faculty member