The Note

The day started with a simple message, quickly overtaken by internal events made external. And in between, the candidate ever sharpened a strategic and rhetorical end game. Such is the new reality of a campaign struggling to recollect its dirty laundry tossed suddenly into public view.

On Tuesday, after dropping by a pre-parade breakfast, Kerry rallied 150 faithful at a Phoenix meet-up. "We deserve and Veterans deserve a president who doesn't just go to Arlington and lay a wreath on Veterans' Day," he said. "We need a president who protects the interests of veterans every day."

The Senator then faced the Arizona press, who asked one question about vets and five on his campaign's viability. Not 30 minutes before the Gibbs/Chidlow announcement, ABC News asked Kerry if he anticipated any further staff changes. He responded, "I can't tell you what will or won't happen at all. I'm just going to keep moving. I'm not doing the staff. I'm running as a candidate and I have great confidence in Mary Beth Cahill and Governor Shaheen — complete confidence. They'll make whatever decisions they'll make."

Kerry later headed to California, where he appeared on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" and held a fundraiser in Los Angeles. Playing second (third?) fiddle to "Ross the Intern" and "Triumph the Insult Comic Dog," Kerry, dressed in blue jeans and a leather jacket, rolled (literally) into the broad studio on a Harley.

While blunt political strategist Triumph assessed, "The poop I made in the dressing room had more heat than John Kerry," the Massachusetts Senator performed well under the constraints of short answer only television.

Leno asked about the staff shake-up to which Kerry, who obviously takes his morning dose of Howie Kurtz seriously (LINK), analyzed, "It's kind of a Grady Little/Pedro, eighth inning thing. Sometimes you've got to go to the bullpen."

Read more from the trail with Kerry on abcnews.com: LINK

Dean:

Tom Beaumont writes in the Des Moines Register that Dean is "expected to solidify his front-runner status … while again displaying his agility in exploiting the 21st century political landscape" by picking up support from "the few growing sectors of the labor movement." LINK

The Chicago Tribune's Tim Jones turns in an illuminating profile on Howard Dean, complete with his mother's take on his fist-waving, finger-wagging style. LINK

Jill Lawrence writes in USA Today 's cover story that "Dean is continuing to feed the perception among some voters, campaign strategists and academics that he is angry, edgy and — a cardinal sin in politics — not cheerful." LINK

You can't out-maverick the maverick, John Harwood Notes. And while Howard Dean is no John McCain (repeat that one like a mantra), no one who's trying to take him out even comes close to earning a seat on the Straight Talk Express. If you want to take Dean out, Harwood writes, step up now and act like it, or we're in for a short nomination season.

Dean went after Bush's fundraising yesterday, charging that lucrative awards in Iraq are linked to campaign contributions, while also pledging to name former President Clinton as his envoy in the Middle East.LINK

Read more from the trail with Dean on abcnews.com: LINK

Clark:

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