The Note

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

—7:00 am: Gov. Howard Dean appears on NBC's "Today Show"

— 7:45 am: Gen. Wesley Clark attends a breakfast with supporters at Tudor's Biscuit World of Virginia, Roanoke, Va.

—9:45 am: Gen. Clark tours a National D-Day Memorial with veterans, Bedford, Va. — 9:45 am: Rep. Dennis Kucinich attends a meeting, Livonia, Mich. — 10:00 am: Michigan caucus sites open. — 10:00 am: Sen. John Kerry attends a rally with Davidson County Democrats at the Belmont College, Nashville, Tenn. — 10:15 pm: Sen. Edwards speaks with voters at the University of Memphis, Memphis, Tenn. — 10:30 am: Rep. Kucinich attends a meeting at the Dearborn Center for the Arts, Dearborn, Mich. — 11:00 am: Gen. Clark greets supporters at the Jubilee Family Development Center, Lynchburg, Va. —12:00 pm: Rep. Kucinich attends a meeting at the Ferndale Public Library, Ferndale, Mich. — 12:30 pm: Sen. Edwards receives the endorsement of UNITE from President Bruce Raynor at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, Wis. — 1:00 pm: Washington caucus sites open — 1:30 pm: Sen. Edwards meets voters at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, Wis. — 1:35 pm: Vice President Cheney attends a lunch event with House Speaker Dennis Hastert at the Donald E. Stevens Convention Center, Rosemont, Ill. — 3:00 pm: Washington caucus sites close — 4:00 pm: Michigan caucus poll sites close

— 4:00 pm: Gen. Clark greets supporters at Virginia Wesleyan College, Norfolk, Va. — 5:30 pm: Sen. Kerry attends a rally with Richmond Democrats at the Marriot Hotel, Richmond, Va. —6:00 pm: Washington caucus poll final results begin to come in — 6:30 pm: Sen. Edwards visits the Hyperlink Café, Richmond, Va. — 7:00 pm: Sens. Kerry and Edwards, Gen. Clark, and Rev. Al Sharpton speak at the Virginia Jefferson Jackson Dinner, Richmond, Va. — 7:35 pm: Vice President Cheney speaks at the Missouri Republican Party Lincoln Day banquet at the Renaissance Grand Hotel, St. Louis, Mo. — 8:00 pm: Michigan caucus final results expected — 9:00 pm: Rep. Kucinich attends a fundraising reception at his campaign offices, San Francisco, Calif.

— 9:00 pm: Washington caucus final poll expected

Politics today

It might be election day for Democrats in Michigan and Washington state, but for Republicans, it's almost time to see if the president can become the first politician in recent memory to increase the chances of getting elected president by appearing for an hour with Tim Russert.

On the very day of a massive cable run into the Oval, the New York Times publishes an interview conducted with First Lady Laura Bush (who has been on quite a media binge). LINK The interviewer, Elisabeth Bumiller (who combines the eye of Maureen Dowd with the sting of Elizabeth Kolbert), gets lots of good stuff, but here is the part that Bushologists, trying to get a sense of what is REALLY happening at 1600, will seize on:

"In a nearly hourlong interview with The New York Times on Thursday, Mrs. Bush … .characterized Karl Rove, her husband's chief political adviser, as not as powerful as 'the chattering class' believes."

"'I would say his role is definitely overstated, but he probably loves it,' she said, smiling. 'He's very happy to have his role overstated.'"

The Note is stunned and/but finds this fascinating — despite the fact (or, actually, because of the fact) that this runs counter to our long-standing thesis that Rove is MORE powerful than even the chattering class believes him to be. (Dare we say: More powerful than the First Lady herself?)

Plus: we like the First Lady's blithely referencing the "chattering class."

And while we weren't there, we bet that that "smile" had more than a bit of Silver Fox in it. (Or would that be a Steel Magnolia?) LINK and LINK and

LINK Although we eschew the who's-up-who's-down gossip that makes the engine of the Gang of 500 purr, we hereby declare this the single most interesting thing in any newspaper in at least a week.

Here are all the things it could be:

A rare insight into a White House that rarely gives up intra-White House insight?

A deliberate shot?

A sign that some powerful people think Karl has (finally) flown too close to the sun?

Another example of a presidential spouse and chief aide having a fight? (Think Nancy Reagan and Michael Deaver.)

A reflection of concern in the Bush family about what's going on with him politically?

Or was it just a little off-hand joke? (Yes, right. An off-hand joke for a front-page interview in the New York Times . Okay, we can probably scratch THAT one off the list … )

Whatever it was, the words of political savvy First Ladies have meaning and import, and for those trying to figure out what is going on inside the Bush political machine, this sure does give some pause. Imagine if Laura Bush's First Lady role model — Barbara Bush — had said such a thing about John Sununu.

From NBC Nightly News on November 13, 2000:

THOMPSON: For Laura Bush, a much more influential role than anyone knew. When Gore surges in September, she's the one who gets her husband's campaign back on track, calling campaign strategist Karl Rove.

Mr. AUCHINCLOSS: And told him in no uncertain terms that they had to rethink everything, that it was going badly. Rove said, 'You're absolutely right.' And one result of that was that Bush rather reluctantly went on the "Oprah" show.

Let's hope for all our sake that this gets cleared up pronto.

Overall, Laura Bush's sit-down interview causes the paper to write that she "is moving into a new role as a prominent surrogate for her husband in his re-election campaign," as she also offers the following: - a defense of her husband from Democratic charges that he went AWOL, calling such accusations "obviously political"; - a defense of the White House's use of intelligence on pre-war Iraq; - new insight into her husband's newspaper reading habits; - praise for Judy Dean, which sounds very genuine; - silence on the issue of gay marriage.

Michigan caucuses: Polls/caucus sites open: 10:00 am ET; polls/caucus sites close: 4:00 pm ET.

Washington caucuses: Caucus begin no earlier than 1:00 pm ET; caucuses end no later than 3:00 pm ET.

Virginia's Jefferson-Jackson Dinner: Three days before the commonwealth's Feb. 10 primary, Kerry, Edwards, Clark, and Sharpton will attend a dinner that party officials describe as their biggest fundraiser ever. Speakers will speak in the order they appear on the ballot: Sharpton, Kerry, Clark, Dean, and then Edwards.

C-SPAN says it will be there; thank you, Mr. Scully.

Sens. Kerry and Edwards, Gen. Clark, and Rev. Al Sharpton speak at tonight's Virginia Jefferson Jackson Dinner.

Sen. Kerry is in Tennessee and Virginia today.

Sen. Edwards is in Wisconsin and Virginia today.

Gov. Dean is in down in Vermont today.

Gen. Clark is Virginia all day.

Rep. Kucinich is in Michigan and California today.

Rev. Sharpton is in Detroit before attending the Jefferson Jackson dinner.


Don't forget, Michigan and Washington caucuses today!

The New York Times ' David Halbfinger on the Kerry "tour de force" in Michigan Friday with Dick Gephardt leading a band of pro-Kerry elected official all-stars on the Massachusetts senator's behalf. LINK The Los Angeles Times' Ron Brownstein focuses on Tennessee and whether a win there by Kerry could erase all hope for Edwards and Clark of winning the nomination. LINK

Kerry rocks in the Democrats Abroad caucus! LINK The Takoma Tribunes' Kenneth Vogel reports that it will be a horse race between Senator John Kerry and Governor Howard Dean in today's Washington caucuses. LINK "Michigan Democrats urged the party faithful on Friday not to be discouraged from voting in today's caucuses by recent polls showing a lopsided race" reports the Detroit Free Press' Kathleen Gray and Patricia Montemurri.LINK Kerry the Closer: The New York Times ' Kate Zernike finds Kerry's resuscitation in the 1996 campaign against Bill Weld "provides valuable insights into" Kerry "as a campaigner, his combative instincts and how he deals with adversity. " LINK David Brooks puts the "special" in John Kerry's interests, highlighting the special names Johnny Chung, AIG, and David Paul. LINK Dan Balz and Vanessa Williams on Kerry's moves to "stretch" his lead and the Clark-Edwards Southern face-off. LINK R. Jeffrey Smith writes of The General's papers on Kosovo which allude to pressure Clark felt to end the Kosovo war by folks who wanted to see the conflict end in time for Veep Gore's presidential campaign. Sandy Berger says he doesn't remember it that way. LINK The Washington Post 's John Harris looks at the Dean campaign's return to audaciousness as the Governor's candidacy looks to be as long a shot as he did way back when. LINK The Boston Globe 's Glen Johnson looks at Dean's mention of taking a veep slot … and has a reference to the "'final days'" of his campaign. LINK The New York Times ' Jim Rutenberg on the Dean camp's discovery of the "fickle" press corps. LINK The New York Times ' Richard Stevenson on the POTUS MTP appearance — Note the use of the phrase of the "heavy dose of politics." LINK

Note Sec. of State Powell joined the First Lady in defending the president from AWOL charges on Friday in a radio interview with Sean Hannity. The word "scurrilous" appears in the transcript …

In Sunday's Washington Post , George Will writes the president needs "spring training" and is quite a ways "from midseason form." This sentence is one the DNC will surely Note: "Republicans are swiftly forfeiting the perception that they are especially responsible stewards of government finances." LINK And in Sunday's Washington Post , David Broder examines Palmetto politics through the prism of South Carolina's economy. As GOP Gov. Mark Sanford says, "the economy is a big political and policy worry." LINK Perhaps as part of his spring training, the AP says the president is expected at the Daytona 500 next month … LINK David Sanger slaps the discord label on the White House's recent Iraq message, writing that the president "appears very much on the defensive just at a moment when his aides thought he would be reaping the political benefits of ridding the world of Saddam Hussein." LINK The New York Times ' ed board says the new commission to investigate pre-war intel lacks the necessary political heft and "looks more like an effort to deflect attention until after the election than a genuine attempt to get to the bottom of the Iraq fiasco." LINK

You know, sometimes a funny thing happens and predictions are right. The Washington Post 's Tom Edsall writes that, as promised, McCain-Feingold has sure helped the GOP more than the Dems. That, however, doesn't stop Terry McAuliffe from promising to be up with ads from the day his Democratic Party has a nominee … and onward. LINK The Los Angeles Times' Joseph Menn investigates what the failings of the Dean campaign mean to the future of the Internet in politics. LINK Michael Slackman of the New York Times writes of a Washington group that is urging the FEC to withhold matching funds from the Sharpton campaign. LINK The AP's Bob Lewis profiles the Virginia primary and what is at stake. LINK Salon looks at the economic woes of the "charming little town" of Greenville, Mich., and finds "bad news" for the president. LINK The Washington Post 's Griff Witte writes Democratic candidates are trying to channel the frustrations of job-struggling tech workers. LINK The Seattle Times' Postman and Brunner reports that members of the Green Party are torn in Washington as whether to support a Democrat in 2004. LINK The Boston Globe reports the state senate's president "will convene a long-awaited constitutional convention Wednesday and promised a vote on a proposed amendment to ban gay marriages." LINK "Bring It On," Renee Tawa of the Los Angeles Times looks at how pop-culture phrases has crept into politics. LINK ABC News' Edwards campaign reporter Gloria Riviera reports:

On the ground the Edwards campaign has found itself at a stubbornly persistent crossroad. And standing ramrod straight at the junction between the Highway to Wisconsin and the road to nowhere is General Clark. Throughout Friday The General's "attacks" on Senator Edwards' voting record on veterans' issues came up time and again, prompting at first a paper response from press secretary Jennifer Palmieri, then again for the cameras until ultimately the Senator fielded questions and responded himself during an afternoon press avail in Bristol, Tenn.

"I have voted dozens of times for veterans. I am the person who co-sponsored legislation in the Senate to give veterans exactly the same healthcare that members of the United State Senate get," he said. A wince of annoyance. "I have consistently supported veterans." He leans into the press corps just slightly and shakes his head. "General Clark knows that."

ABC News' Clark campaign reporter Deb Apton tells us:

On Saturday, the campaign has eight campaign stops in Virginia and one in Tennessee. Then on Sunday, Clark will visit African American churches in Tennessee, fly to Wisconsin and end up back in Tennessee. Clark's message has become more religious-he proved in a press availability that he did have a favorite scripture, John 3:16, and could easily recite it-his message has gone more in depth into his fighting in Vietnam, and his attacks against John Kerry and John Edwards have become more pointed-so much so, that Edwards spent the Saturday defending himself against the claims by Clark that Edwards has voted against veterans benefits.

The Clark campaign has only bought radio and television ad time in Tennessee. On television, "Secretary" still airs. And on radio, Ambassador Andrew Young's ad, "Vote," runs in rotation with "Jobs." And on Saturday, a new radio ad by country music singer George Jones will begin running.