The Note

Fantasizing about a 50-state election is all well and good, but as both Ellen Malcolm and Matt Dowd know, this battle is about the electoral votes of the citizens of fewer than 20 states, and, increasingly, the real players on both sides see this election coming down to one thing: defining John Kerry in the hearts and minds of people in Orlando and Cleveland and comparably vital places.

Along these important lines, there is only one must-read today -- Robin Toner's nostalgic magical mystery tour (somewhere, Lee Atwater is smiling, and Ron Kaufman is stroking his chin) -- a look at whether John Kerry (2004) can be Dukakisized.

Bernie Weinraub, Sam Donaldson, Kim Hume, Tom Edsall, and T.R. Reid are going to feel all tingly and golden oldie reading this one.

Toner writes up the Republican's "familiar" line of attack against Sen. John Kerry. LINK

Note the key phrases "out of sync," "culturally out of step" and Massachusetts liberal. Also Note the focus on the gay marriage matter.

Note also the specter of the partial birth abortion issue, and this toughest of tough gal/guy quote:

"Another Kerry adviser was more blunt. 'This is not the Dukakis campaign,' the adviser said. 'We're not going to take it. And if they're going to come at us with stuff, whatever that stuff may be, if it goes to a place where the '88 campaign did, then everything is on the table. Everything.'"

The mind boggles . . .

On many levels, John Kerry has grown so strong, and his Democratic opponents so weak, that he seems able now to be suddenly running on a Clintonesque general election message of solider/prosecutor/Gramm-Rudman-Hollings supporter.

Every BC04RNC utterance and press release is clearly intended to decimate those impressions.

And we are ALL going to need a scorecard larger and more nuanced than a Frank Luntz MSNBC focus group to keep track of how this is going each and every day.

Beyond the Toner must-read, here are the things your eyes should rest on ASAP:

1. The Los Angeles Times' David Savage and Richard Serrano have more reporting on Supreme Court Justice Scalia's previously known duck hunting trip with the Vice President -- adding narrative detail galore, most Notably that Mr. Justice traveled down with the Veep on a small government plane that served as Air Force Two, raising questions for some about Scalia's impartiality on the upcoming case on Cheney's energy task force.

"Aides to Cheney say the vice president, like the president, is entitled to travel to vacation spots on government jets and to take along guests at no cost," the Times reports. LINK

We like any story with a Red-Blue sentence this fabulous: "It was terrible…There were very few ducks killed."

2. (Note to Terry Holt: please don't think us reprehensible for including this one)…The Boston Globe's national treasure -- Walter Robinson -- finally unfurls his updated take on the President's National Guard service. LINK

Amateurs and pros alike will devour every syllabalic morsel of this one.

The heart of Robby's take: "records contain evidence that a lackadaisical Bush did not report for required Guard duty for a full year during his six-year National Guard enlistment."

3. For anyone wondering if John Kerry is tough enough to stand up to Karl Rove, check out how he did against Campbell "Cammy" Brown on Today today:

CB: YOU PROMISED IN IOWA YOU WOULD MAKE PUBLIC EVERYONE WHO LOBBIED YOU. WHY HAVEN'T YOU DONE THAT YET?

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