The Note

The Baltimore Sun looks at the president's re-election bid and even gets Pikesville, Md., native Ken Mehlman on the record on the BC04 strategy and to downplay expectations:

"We are going to be very aggressive," Mehlman said. He added that the country is "very divided politically" and that "we are going to be behind at key points."

"But Reagan was behind, and he won," he said. "Clinton was behind, and he won." LINK

The Washington Post 's Allen and Sawyer report that some Bush Administration officials, led by senior adviser Karl Rove, are looking for that "Kennedy moment" and are considering several big ideas for the Bush agenda in 2004, including a new space exploration program.

The Post reports from an Administration official that "Bush's closest aides are promoting big initiatives on the theory that they contribute to Bush's image as a decisive leader even if people disagree with some of the specifics. 'Iraq was big. AIDS is big,' the official said. 'Big works. Big grabs attention.'" LINK

The Wall Street Journal 's Tom Hamburger and Greg Hitt turn in a gem about the White House's penchant for political hardball — and not just against Democratic opponents — despite President Bush's vow in 2000 to change the tone in Washington.

"Even some Republican stalwarts contend they have felt the sting after crossing Mr. Bush politically. Conservative economic analyst Stephen Moore says he was tracked down by telephone at a dinner party and excoriated by Mr. Rove for backing Republican primary challengers to White House-backed incumbents. Colorado Rep. Tom Tancredo says Mr. Rove told him 'never to darken the door of the White House again' after he told a newspaper that the administration's immigration policy could lead to another terrorist attack."

A new poll from the Miami Herald and the St. Petersburg Times finds that voters in Florida are concerned about casualties in Iraq and the president's handling of the situation there.

"Just more than four in 10 respondents said they would vote for Bush if the election were held now, while they were evenly divided on whether the country was headed in the right direction. Seven in 10 Florida voters feel Bush has not clearly explained when the troops will come home, and voters are evenly split on Bush's overall approach to the war." LINK

The politics of steel:

As expected yesterday, the Bush Administration rolled back steel tariffs on imported steel, avoiding a trade war with Europe and Asia but potentially sparking political backlash in several key states.

The Washington Post 's Weisman reports that the decision by the White House "marked a rare about-face for an administration not noted for reversing course. And it brought angry reactions from labor unions and executives in the steel-producing states of West Virginia, Ohio and Pennsylvania, all of which were closely contested in the 2000 presidential election and are expected to be battlefields in 2004." LINK

New York Times ' Stevenson and Becker on the steel tariffs:

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