The Note

And the Washington Times ' Donald Lambro looks at why an incumbent needs to raise so much money and why the new campaign finance laws actually help the president's re-election campaign — "Mr. Bush, thanks to the GOP's huge donor base, can easily raise what he needs under the law's contribution limits. The Democrats, hampered by the soft-money ban and its much smaller donor list, needs billionaires like Mr. Soros to make up the difference." LINK

Ron Fournier writes that death tolls and Iraq policy are hurting Bush among military voters. Says one soldier, "I liked Bush. He comes off as a decent fellow … But as commander in chief? No way. Not now." LINK

An NBC- Wall Street Journal poll released yesterday shows that 50 percent of respondents approved of Bush's handling of the economy, up from 43 percent two months ago, according to the AP. LINK

The Buffalo News previews Vice President Cheney's trip to upstate New York on Monday, where he will make stops in Syracuse, Rochester and Buffalo.

"Monday's event could be the only campaign visit of either Bush or Cheney during the 2004 race. If campaign officials think that heavily Democratic New York State will tilt away from the GOP next year, Bush and Cheney could repeat past Republican patterns and avoid the state except for its Manhattan fund-raising nexus."LINK

Christopher Marquis reports in The New York Times that Bush's allies plan to block effort to ease ban on Cuban travel. LINK

The politics of national security:

The majors say the U.S. has reached a "turning point" in Iraq leading to a "major shift" in strategy, with most everyone using the numbers "2004" somewhere in their story. Today everyone gives chase to the Philadelphia Inquirer's Wednesday CIA memo scoop (Kudos to Mr. Landay!), Italy's Berlusconi vows to stay the course despite Wednesday's attack, and $87.5 billion becomes one of the magic numbers on the Democratic presidential campaign trail. (Please see entries under "Dean, Howard," "Lieberman, Joe," and, oh, just about everyone else … )

In what is definitely not good news for a White House struggling to set American policy in Iraq right, the Washington Post 's Vernon Loeb and Thomas E. Ricks report the latest spate of attacks on U.S. and allied forces in Iraq "has appeared to be so methodical and well crafted that some top U.S. commanders now fear this may be the war Saddam Hussein and his generals planned all along." DO read all Major General Swannack's quotes. LINK

The Wall Street Journal reports on the latest "Iron Hammer" American offensive then turns to the "more aggressive political strategy" now being implemented. "In an effort to calm Iraqi anger at the U.S. occupation and to leach off popular support for the insurgency, President Bush, his top national security advisers and Mr. Bremer have decided to speed up their timetable for Iraqi self-government. At a White House meeting Wednesday, a senior U.S. official said there was general agreement for dissolving the current Iraqi Governing Council, and over the next four to six months creating a transitional government with a prime minister and cabinet to present a clear Iraqi face to the nation and the world."

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