The Note

Ambassador Moseley Braun is in Chicago today and Iowa on Saturday.

Polls in Louisiana open Saturday at 7:00 am ET and close at 9:00 pm ET. Stay tuned to the AP for returns.

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

President Bush made his 17th trip to Florida yesterday for a pair of fundraisers that brought in more than $2.5 million for his re-election campaign.

The AP reports: "The two fund-raisers increased the president's 2004 cash collection to at least $102.9 million — and with fund raising through the mail and over the Internet factored in, the campaign is probably at or over the record $106 million Bush raised for the primaries in 2000."LINK

Dick Stevenson reports that Bush's fundraising has "redefined the campaign landscape and raised questions about whether legislative efforts to reduce the influence of money in politics are having any effect."LINK

First Sister Doro Bush Koch was in Concord, NH yesterday to file the official paperwork to put her brother's name on the state's January primary ballot.LINK

The Tribune discusses the ramifications of Bush's steel decision, whether he will continue to support his free trade agenda, or cut the legs out from under it. LINK

Michael Kinsley looks at Bush's transition from skeptic to "wooly-minded idealist." LINK

The New York Times reports that the Bush Administration is considering plans to simplify the tax code, long a Rove dream. LINK

And USA Today reports that bigger refund checks next year for taxpayers "will aid consumers, the economy and President Bush's re-election campaign."LINK

The politics of national security:

The president vows to stay the course as his National Security Adviser acknowledges the acceleration of the transfer of power in Iraq and the majors pick up on ABC News' Martha Raddatz's report that Gen. Abizaid is relocating from Tampa to Qatar.

The New York Times reports on the stepped-up U.S. military response to the attacks, Operation Iron Hammer, and finds that "for all the technologically advanced weaponry employed in recent days, it is not clear what effect it has had on tamping down the insurgency. Wednesday, the day the American offensive began, turned out to be one of the most intense yet for American soldiers, who were attacked 46 times by Iraqi guerrillas." LINK

The Paper of Record finds "much of the anxiety about Iraq is being expressed by Republicans and Democrats in Congress, and those raising questions include both supporters and critics of the war." LINK

Do read the McCain and the Hagel quotes … We know the folks at 1600 will …

As for the speed of "Iraqification," the New York Times Notes the same White House folks who were beaten up for moving too slowly are now taking hits for acting too fast for "domestic political reasons." LINK

(The Times nicely contrasts Abizaid's "surprisingly blunt" assessment of the 100,000 Iraqi security forces with Dr. Rice's more upbeat view.)

Speaking of blunt (this section's second most favored adjective of the week, after "bleak") ABC News' Brian Hartman reports the Army released a remarkably blunt press release quoting soldiers talking about the challenge of training Iraqis to patrol the Iranian border: "This is a band aid on a sucking chest wound," Special Agent Larry O'Donnell called a five-hour training session. "There are several problems. They're under equipped, there is an issue of corruption and there are issues with the terrain working against (them)." LINK

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