The Note

Today's Schedule (all times Eastern):

—9:00 am: General Wesley Clark speaks to Queens County Democrats, Queens, New York —9:30 am: Senate convenes for legislative business —9:45 am: Off-camera White House press gaggle with Scott McClellan —10:00 am: House convenes for legislative business —10:16 am: Senator John Kerry holds a campaign event, Concord, N.H. —10:30 am: Senator John Edwards holds a town hall meeting, Swanzey, N.H. —11:00 am: Senator Joe Lieberman attends a town hall meeting with seniors, Lauderhill, Fla. —11:00 am: President Bush makes remarks at the 20th anniversary of the National Endowment for Democracy, D.C. —12:00 pm: Lynne Cheney makes remarks at a Bush-Cheney 2004 fundraiser luncheon, Allentown, Pa. —12:00 pm: Laura Bush makes remarks at a Bush-Cheney 2004 fundraiser, Norfolk, Va. —12:15 pm: On-camera White House press briefing with Scott McClellan —1:05 pm: President Bush signs the emergency appropriations supplemental for Iraq and Afghanistan, White House —2:00 pm: Senator Edwards officially files to be a candidate in the New Hampshire Democratic primary, Concord, N.H. —2:00 pm: General Clark delivers a speech on America's role in Iraq at South Carolina State University, Orangeburg, S.C. —3:00 pm: President Bush makes remarks and presents the National Medals of Science and Technology, White House —3:00 pm: SEIU President Andy Stern holds a press conference to announce the union's presidential endorsement, D.C. —4:00 pm: Ambassador Carol Moseley Braun attends an endorsement event, Chicago —6:30 pm: Governor Dean holds a town hall meeting with undecided voters at Daniel Webster College, Nashua, N.H. —8:00 pm: Vice President Cheney makes remarks at a fundraiser for Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell, Denver


Everywhere you look today, political/media elites have stuff to say about Howard Dean.

In a 100%-proof must-read Wall Street Journal column, Al Hunt says, "More than ideology or issues, there are three qualities voters look for would-be presidents to convey: competence, strength and optimism. Dr. Dean, … (Democratic) party professionals fear, instead exudes inexperience, anger and pessimism." LINK

On Dean's overall trajectory and campaign funding para-decision, Schwarzenegger chief of staff emeritus Michael Murphy tells the Washington Post , "Dean is trying to combine McCain's insurgent appeal with Bush's huge resource advantage. It makes him very formidable."

In remarks you will read nowhere but The Note, John Kerry, acting like he was alone with Andrew Kirtzman, says about Dean, "The Governor moves faster in more different directions, tells more stories than anyone I've met in politics. This is not a straight talker; this is a guy looking for the new angle every time he can."

And/but (major props to the AP's Leigh "Who's Greenhouse?" Strope), union boss Andy Stern of SEIU should have something nice to say about Howard Dean later today.

(If you don't know how big that is to the Dean campaign, please go back and re-read Chapter 7 of "The Note for Dummies.")

And, it just might turn out that in the next fortnight we learn that the Burlington tent is big enough to fit Gerry McEntee under it as well.

(Chapter 8 of the same book for those of you who are wondering why this is in the summary.)

Al Sharpton is talking about Howard Dean — see ABC News' Beth Loyd's reporting below on a Dean-to-Sharpton phone call.

And the goo-goo campaign finance groups, driving Republicans looking for consistency batty, seem to be thinking about Dean's (tentative) decision to Busta Caps only in the breach, giving him a pass.

The Republican National Committee's Jim "Who's Mindy Tucker?" Dyke, in constant coffee-spew mode over the last day of Deania, tells The Note all of this in stream of consciousness:

"Clearly, Mr. Dean didn't read the New York Times editorial this morning before he went on TV, because he continued to have trouble with the truth. He said repeatedly on national TV that he will be outspent by the Bush-Cheney campaign with corporation money, all of those $2,000 contributions. If Common Cause and other 'watchdog' groups are abandoning their positions on public financing, they should at least send the Dean campaign a copy of the new campaign finance law (just so he doesn't get in trouble)."

"Mr. Dean, corporate contributions are against the law! In fairness, maybe he was just suggesting third party groups would be spending $200 million, and to that I say PROVE IT! What I can prove is that third party groups committed to defeating the president and Republicans are going to spend between $360 and $500 million to elect a Democrat."

"Note to Anchors: the next time a guest suggests that the entire election will be rigged by the people who make the voting machines, you may want to ask a follow up. Suggestion: So you need to forgo public financing because the election is going to be rigged?"

Other people have thoughts on Howard Dean too: Gail Collins; Ruth Marcus; Richard Cohen, Al Sharpton, George Will, Tom Edsall and his sidekick; Mark Barabak and James Rainey; Diamond Jim and Jodi; Glen Justice; and the super-influential John DiStaso, who writes up for the Union Leader the largest issues facing Dean in New Hampshire. LINK

Despite all this verbiage (or, perhaps, because of it) Joe Trippi keeps being right in saying that the other presidential campaigns still don't GET the Dean campaign.

But we wonder if Trippi GETS what Al Hunt writes today about Dean's semiotic and rhetorical relationship with religion and the military.

In the meantime, Hunt is right: there is a CW in some Republican and journalistic quarters that Dick Gephardt is the leading candidate to emerge as the anti-Dean.

At The Note, we still think: any of four or five people can still be that person.

And the ultimate Democratic nomination fight question remains: will the qualities and weaknesses that Hunt's Democrats think will make Dean a disastrous general election candidate turn out to, come January, stop him from even being his party's nominee?

President Bush is in D.C. today, where he will make remarks at the 20th anniversary of the National Endowment for Democracy, sign the emergency appropriations supplemental for Iraq and Afghanistan, and present the National Medals of Science and Technology.

Vice President Cheney will attend a fundraiser for Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell in Denver tonight.

Mrs. Bush and Mrs. Cheney will attend separate Bush-Cheney 2004 fundraisers today in Norfolk, Va., and Allentown, Pa., respectively.

Governor Dean is likely to join SEIU President Andy Stern for a press conference today in D.C. to announce the group's endorsement for his campaign. He heads to New Hampshire tonight for a town hall meeting.

Senator Kerry campaigns in New Hampshire.

General Clark campaigns in New York and South Carolina.

Congressman Gephardt has no public events today.

Senator Edwards campaigns in New Hampshire.

Senator Lieberman campaigns in Florida .

Congressman Kucinich is in D.C. with no public events.

Reverend Sharpton is in New York City today with no public events.

Ambassador Moseley Braun will attend an endorsement event with IBEW member Mike Fitzgerald in Chicago today.

ABC News Vote 2004: The Invisible Primary: House of Labor: From ABC News' Gayle Tzemach:

What does it mean for Dean to win SEIU's endorsement?

Paul Stokes, president of the union's Local 1984 in New Hampshire says, with only a bit of joke in his voice, "It means you are going to get elected president of the United States. We are the largest union in the AFL-CIO and it opens up a large segment of organized labor to a candidate."

As for Dean winning the endorsement, Stokes said, "Three or four months ago, I don't think anybody would have thought that. Conventional wisdom said it would probably be Congressman Gephardt or Senator Kerry, but Governor Dean has made some great progress."

And maybe he makes some more next week.

In addition to the big SEIU endorsement, look for more endorse-horse-racing next Wednesday when the politically potent American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) executive board members gather in Washington for a specially scheduled endorsement meeting.

Sources close to the union say Dean is looking likely to be the candidate of choice for the 1.4 million-member AFSCME, whose kingmaking credentials were burnished in the 1992 cycle when it came out early for then-Governor Bill Clinton.

General Wesley Clark had been the most recent contender favored to win the backing of AFSCME's Gerry McEntee, who only recently sat down with several candidates, including Congressman Gephardt, but more than one labor official said Clark's decision to skip Iowa and his less-than-energizing performance on the trail thus far led McEntee to cool on endorsing a second Arkansan.

While the original plan called for a December endorsement, a source close to the union says, "they are really trying to wrap this thing up" as the nomination season approaches.

As for whether SEIU and AFSCME — not known for their cordial relations with one another — could work together for the same candidate, a source close to the two unions says it isn't a problem. "This whole thing about (SEIU's Andy) Stern and (AFSCME's Gerry) McEntee is non-existent."

(We bet some in the labor community will beg to differ and we ask you not to flood our inboxes with examples of just how alive the Stern-McEntee tension really is!)

And while labor leaders backing Congressman Gephardt had been hopeful their candidate still had a shot at AFSCME backing, they say they are preparing to move forward with their plans for the pro-Gephardt Alliance for Economic Justice (AEJ). Alliance officials stress their group is not just designed to help the Missouri congressman, but also aimed at advocating issues such as trade and health care dear to their private sector union members.

On Saturday, leaders of the Alliance's 18 unions will gather in Des Moines to talk strategy and lay out plans for its field program.

An official Gephardt endorsement is scheduled for the 15th, also in Des Moines.

Kerry: From ABC News' Kerry campaign reporter Ed O'Keefe:

John Kerry never liked Howard Dean. More significantly, many argue, the Massachusetts Senator never took the former Vermont Governor very seriously.

As the presumed frontrunner toiled in the Washington summer diligently doing his day job and preparing for "the run," the upstart longshot hit the trail, creating indelible first impressions in Iowa and deftly navigating political cyberspace.

When Kerry officially started in September, he stumbled. Advisers came and went (sort of … ) while Kerry vets dismissed rumors of a demise, saying, "It's early," or "People aren't paying attention yet," or best of all, "This always happens in a Kerry race."

Whatever the ailment, the cure for "Seabiscuit Kerry" was seemingly thwarted by "Dean, Dean, Dean."

But, just over a week ago in New Hampshire, something happened.

The thoughtful, esoteric Senator, often taken to quoting Benjamin Franklin and referencing Dante in the same speech, tried something new: a simplified stump centered on deriding special interests and undercutting Dean's policy positions.

From foreign policy to Medicare — and don't forget guns — Kerry attacked the policies, but not the person.

It seems, however, fresh from two down days nearly full of closed meetings in Beantown, Kerry may have decided to unleash a last-lap strategy of Weldian proportions upon the Governor.

Following a brief tour of the Manchester Police Department with newly re-elected Mayor Bob Baines, Kerry stoked the embers of the Confederate flag imbroglio, hitting chief rival Howard Dean hard over the former his non-apology apology.

Outside the station, Kerry said, "Well, it wasn't an apology, the Governor himself said it wasn't an apology. He simply said that he regrets that his words hurt somebody. Now if he acknowledges that his words hurt somebody, he ought to apologize."

Then Kerry took it up a notch: "The Governor moves faster in more different directions, tells more stories than anyone I've met in politics. This is not a straight talker; this is a guy looking for the new angle every time he can."

Kerry also took a solid swing at Dean over the Governor's announcement that he will leave the decision whether or not to accept public financing to his supporters. Laughing at the thought, Kerry charged, "It's one of the biggest set-ups I've ever seen. What he's really trying to do is find a way to weasel out of the agreement that he made."

As for Kerry's publicly financed future, he demurred, "I haven't made a decision but I haven't been two-faced about it. I just haven't made a decision, period."

Read more from the trail with Kerry on LINK

Dean: From ABC News' Dean campaign reporter Marc Ambinder:

Governor Dean will meet today with the executive council of the SEIU, which will then convene in a private session and hold an up or down vote.

SEIU matters because:

--It's a huge, diverse, growing union;

--Having its full-throated endorsement would help inoculate Dean from charges that he attracts little support outside of whites voters, professionals and upper-income liberals;

--SEIU President Andrew Stern commands enormous respect and influence within the Democratic Party; Dean would acquire a very visible rabbi for his efforts to convince the party elite that he's electable;

--SEIU plans to make up what it lacks in numbers in Iowa and New Hampshire by spending lots of money to mobilize thousands, and provide their chosen one with thousands of volunteer hours;

--SEIU has a lot of money to spend on its political activities;

Stern has scheduled a 3 p.m. news conference in Washington, D.C. While the union deliberates, Dean will sit tight, awaiting the call to be summoned to his side.

Campaign aides insist that it's not a done deal; that their hesitant, hopeful (but not definitive) comments reflect a genuine uncertainty about what exactly will happen and how exactly the endorsement announcement will play out.

Read more from the trail with Dean on LINK

The AP looks at the (possibly?) impending endorsement. LINK

The Washington Post 's Balz and Edsall report on Dean's "impassioned case" for abandoning public financing. LINK

The Boston Globe 's Brian Mooney writes, "Dean's decision to let a plebiscite of supporters determine whether he will be the Democrats' first presidential candidate to forgo spending caps is the latest sign that the public financing system is breaking down." LINK

The Washington Post 's ed board agrees. LINK

Mooney has the Lieberman campaign's Jano Cabrera calling it "'gimmickry'" and the Kerry campaign's Kelley Benander calling it "'more politics of convenience.'"

Meanwhile, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch's Deirdre Shesgreen reports that "Gephardt, faced with a cash disadvantage against [Dean], is questioning [his] potential plans to forgo public financing." LINK

Gephardt "asked the Federal Election Commission on Wednesday for an advisery opinion on whether a candidate can legally opt out of the system after initially agreeing to accept public money — and the spending limits that come with it."

George Will writes, "Probably more than twice, but certainly twice, Howard Dean has said something sensible. He has been roundly roasted for both indelicacies, the roasters being his rivals for the Democratic nomination." LINK

The New York Times ' Wilgoren moves the Confederate flag story down the field with a piece that:

-Has the Governor speaking of being in a "jam" and a "big contretemps." -Captures Dean admitting "the things that make me a strong candidate are also my Achille's (sic) heel." -Tells readers Dean was up most of Tuesday night "pondering the problem" and "called former President Jimmy Carter" for advice. -Uses the adjectives "subdued" and "reflective" to describe Dean -Is simply chock full of news and insight. LINK

"Under pressure from friends and foes alike, Howard Dean apologized Wednesday for urging Democrats to court Southern whites who display Confederate flags on their pickup trucks," writes the AP's Ron Fournier. LINK

The New York Times editorial board says Dean must show he can fit the Bill as he proves "his Confederate flag moment was a one-shot, recoverable gaffe and not a symptom of something more haunting, like a pattern of misspeaking or a hardheaded combativeness that makes it impossible to give way with grace." LINK

James Rainey and a Z-less Mark Barabak team up on the Dean flag flap for the Los Angeles Times. After what must have seemed like a very long day for Dr. Dean, he may have forgotten that his theme was that of contrition. LINK

In a Los Angeles Times op-ed, civil rights attorney Constance Rice sees no need for Dr. Dean to apologize.LINK

David Lightman's Dean flag flap story in the Hartford Courant includes a letter exchange between Dick Harpootlian and the former Vermont Governor as well as some analysis from the Marist Poll's Lee Miringoff. LINK

Deborah Orin of the New York Post writes, "Dean's comments came after analysts agreed the Confederate-flag flap marked the first time rivals really laid a glove on him … " LINK

Dick Gephardt might disagree with that characterization.

The Chicago Tribune's Jeff Zeleny reports how Dean's decision to apologize for his Confederate flag remarks underscores the need for a reliable base of black voters. LINK

Lynn Sweet of the Chicago Sun-Times discusses why Dean, under ever increasing scrutiny from his rivals, won't be getting away with his usual barrage of verbal conundrums. LINK

The Washington Post 's Richard Cohen writes, "Somewhere in his past as a physician, Howard Dean must have faced a hypochondriac who not only diagnosed a nonexistent disease but self-prescribed the course of treatment. If so, Dean was prepared this week for the absurdity of taking moral instruction from Al Sharpton." LINK

USA Today 's ed board draws parallels between the Dean's flag comment and the "CBS dust-up" over the Reagan movie to talk about the First Amendment. LINK

The Boston Globe 's Joan Vennochi has a very interesting take on the Dean flag comment, the Rock the Vote confrontation, and the discussion that continues. LINK

Governor Dean appears for a discussion on today at 10:15 am ET. LINK

Sharpton: From ABC News' Sharpton campaign reporter Beth Loyd:

While on the way to the airport Wednesday, Reverend Sharpton's cell phone rang. Who was on the other end? Howard Dean. Campaign sources said Dean "simply apologized" to him. Still, it's too soon to say whether this will be good enough. Sharpton will wait to see if Dean will "walk the talk."

In a pre-personal-phone-call presser, Sharpton responded to Dean's apology in a too-little-too-late fashion.

"I think that it is about time … And I think that if he had done it from the beginning, he wouldn't have given the people the perception that he was false to do it or was in some way pushed to do it. But I think the apology is the right thing. I told him that last night — that he must apologize — he said he wouldn't … Maybe at midnight the Lord spoke to him."

Reverend Sharpton "filed" paperwork in Washington, D.C., Wednesday amid much media fanfare — which, clearly, was the purpose. For the D.C. primary, all nine "national" candidates are on the ballot automatically; there is no need to file anything. During the "filing," Sharpton was handed a document to sign. However, the document was already signed, so, essentially, he just looked at it and handed it back … .and then held a press conference.

On Sunday, at approximately 2:00 pm (or, perhaps, 3:00 pm Sharpton time), the Sharpton campaign headquarters will open on 25th Street in Washington, D.C.

Reverend Sharpton said yesterday that he does not support the filibuster of California Supreme Court Justice Janice Rogers Brown, President Bush's nominee to the U.S. Court of Appeals-D.C. Circuit — going against the NAACP's criticisms of her. The Washington Times has more. LINK

The Washington Post 's Richard Cohen has an op-ed, in case you didn't see it above, that takes a shot at Sharpton too, arguing that the Reverend should not be doling out any moral advice. "Sharpton is to the debates what the clown is to the rodeo … But humor turns dark indeed when Sharpton starts moralizing." He includes a mention of Tawana Brawley. LINK

The Post 's Metro section has a brief mention of Sharpton's D.C. Primary "show." LINK

Read more from the trail with Sharpton on LINK

Clark: Clark said Wednesday that even while he praised them, the Bush administration was failing America. LINK

Speaking Thursday at South Carolina State University, Clark offered up a four-prong strategy for exiting Iraq. LINK

From ABC News' Clark campaign reporter Deborah Apton:

General Clark is set to deliver a policy speech this afternoon in South Carolina outlining his plan to protect American troops and bring peace to Iraq. He appeared live today on "Good Morning America," to preview the address, in which he'll say in his speech that the reconstruction of Iraq should be turned over to a non-American.

ABC's Charlie Gibson asked, do you want Paul Bremer fired? "Yes," Clark said, "he should come home."

An excerpt from the speech: "Every American should understand: early exit means retreat or defeat. There can be neither. We need a 'Success Strategy' — for it is only success that can honor the sacrifice of so many American men and women; it is only success that will allow Iraq to stand on its own; and it is only success that will allow our soldiers to come home."

Clark outlines his four-point "Success Strategy":

1) End sole American responsibility for the country by, among other ideas, creating an Iraqi Reconstruction Council to replace the Coalition Revisional Authority.

2) Provide better border protection, more intelligence sources, formidable Iraqi security forces, and secure ammunition.

3) Give the Iraqis a stake in the country's success by transferring authority on an ongoing basis and by naming an interim Iraqi government with a written Constitution, written by Iraqis.

4) Creating a New Atlantic Charter to "reinvigorate our security partnership with Europe."

Read more from the trail with Clark on LINK

Edwards: Senator Edwards vowed to crackdown on predatory lenders and credit card companies yesterday, fine-tuning his economic plan specifically for the middle class. LINK

Edwards has spent about $1.5 million on ads in Iowa and New Hampshire. LINK

From ABC News' Edwards campaign reporter Gloria Riviera:

Highway 93 North, then South, then North again. The Edwards' campaign's Real Solutions Express hit the dark and rainy New Hampshire highway Wednesday for the first four of 25 campaign stops over the next three days.

Edwards announced what his campaign billed as "major economic policy" on Wednesday morning, but the question foremost on everyone's mind was the Dean scrap at Tuesday evening's Rock the Vote.

Responding to Dean's mea sorta culpa, Edwards was quick to say he wished Dean had apologized earlier but it was time to move on.

By the evening's Planned Parenthood debate the tension was apparently gone as the two joked with one another side by side. They looked distinctly more cordial than they had minutes before standing in line backstage, in silence, waiting to be introduced.

The forum audience got a slightly wider glimpse into Edwards when he talked about his family. Asked what kind of father he is, Edwards' response was as sincerely loving as it was, and always will be, sincerely difficult.

The Edwards' oldest son, Wade, died in a car accident in 1996. Edwards rarely mentions or explains it, lest it seem in any way politically calculated.

What he did say is that he and Elizabeth have had four children, an unusually spread out family with one daughter in college and two under the age of six. "I am connected at the breastbone to my children … my younger children are right on top of me when I am home and that is exactly where I want them, they are simply the joy of my life," he said, describing coaching basketball and soccer through the years.

He did not talk about Wade, but the subject has been covered in the national print and broadcast media. As the campaign continues Edwards will most likely have to address it more than once again. And for Edwards, as he himself told a supporter in Iowa who also lost a child, the pain never leaves.

Read more from the trail with Edwards on LINK

Gephardt: The Des Moines Register 's Lynn Okamoto reports that Congressman Gephardt told Iowa voters Wednesday that "he's 'furious' at President Bush for not getting the United Nations to help." LINK

Ben Goddard writes in The Hill that the Democratic race has come down to Gephardt and Dean, two candidates who are running very different campaigns.

"Gephardt and Dean are mirror images of each other. Dean burst into the lead with his strong opposition to the war in Iraq. Gephardt plods along with his message of jobs lost, healthcare unavailable and trade policies ruining economies in thousands of American communities." LINK

Read more from the trail with Gephardt on LINK

Lieberman: The AP says Lieberman will avoid a Florida straw poll, though he feels "badly" about it. LINK

Hartford Courant's Elizabeth Hamilton reports that Lieberman removed himself from consideration for an endorsement from the Caucus of Connecticut Democrats rather than face the possibility of losing it. "The irony, of course, is that Lieberman was a founding member of the CCD when it was created in the late 1960s by some of the state's leading liberals in reaction to the Vietnam War." LINK

From ABC News' Lieberman campaign reporter Talesha Reynolds:

After Senator Lieberman's Wednesday morning event at Nashua defense contractor BAE Systems, reporters wanted to know Lieberman's thoughts on the explosive exchange between Howard Dean and the other candidates at the Rock the Vote forum.

Lieberman said he was puzzled by Dean's refusal to admit he'd made a mistake. And apparently, he did not regard Dean's "clumsy" remarks that afternoon as an apology.

Following Dean's speech, Lieberman issued a statement saying, "While I am glad that Governor Dean now regrets the pain his words have caused, he continues to stubbornly refuse to admit he made a mistake in the first place. Part of the test of leadership is being willing to admit when you have made a mistake. Governor Dean has not met this test."

At BAE, Lieberman said that Dean's decision to opt out to the matching funds system would be "inconsistent" with his prior support of campaign finance reform. "I'm in the system," Lieberman said with a chuckle. "And working hard at it."

Read more from the trail with Lieberman on LINK

Kucinich: USA Today focuses on the faulty Ohio nuclear (run by Kucinich arch-enemy First Energy) and the Congressman's involvement in the issue: LINK

Santa Cruz, California, is "Kucinich country" according to the Santa Cruz Sentinel's LeBarth, and apparently locals are waiting for the candidate's arrival this weekend: LINK

The AP's Fournier, master of the lead, goes with Congressman Kucinich's personal ad at the top of his write-up: LINK's Pindell also recounts Kucinich's "personal ad": LINK

From ABC News' Kucinich campaign reporter Melinda Arons:

In a first for his campaign, Congressman Kucinich may just have been the most talked about candidate in the spin room last night after the Planned Parenthood Candidates Forum in Manchester, New Hampshire.

Responding to the question about what role the candidates' significant others would play in their administrations, the twice-divorced Kucinich had a bit of fun with the notion of being a bachelor president: "Maybe Fox wants to sponsor a national contest!" Over the roar of laughter, Kucinich went on to describe his perfect mate: dynamic, outspoken, dedicated to world peace and universal single payer health care (more laughs from the audience). He finished off with "If you're out there, call me!"

Read more from the trail with Kucinich on LINK

Moseley Braun: Ambassador Moseley Braun appears for a live discussion on today at 2:00 pm ET. LINK

From ABC News' Moseley Braun campaign reporter Monica Ackerman:

The "Seabiscuit campaign" is how Ambassador Carol Moseley Braun describes her run for the presidency. But can she pull out in front of the crowd? She's still campaigning and has participated in every debate, even if it means driving herself there. Today in Chicago she plans on getting some extra help. Mike Fitzgerald, Business Manager of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 134, is giving Carol Moseley Braun his personal endorsement. Her campaign calls Fitzgerald "one of Chicago's most prominent and powerful leaders."

As for Governor Dean's apology regarding the Confederate flag, Braun said, "I'm very happy about that; I'm glad he did. I think it helps us get past the issue all together."

Read more from the trail with Moseley Braun on LINK

ABC News Vote 2004: The Invisible Primary: The Boston Globe 's Glen Johnson reports on the Planned Parenthood candidates' forum in Manchester last night, where "[the] balance of the 90-minute session was tamer than the face-off the candidates had a night earlier, a cooling attributed to Howard Dean's decision yesterday to apologize for saying last week that he sought the support of Southerners who display the Confederate flag." LINK

The Boston Herald's Andrew Miga has sound bites from the forum. LINK

The event was far more subdued than Tuesday's Rock the Vote forum, writes John DiStaso. LINK

The Wall Street Journal 's Bob Davis and Jake Schlesinger follow yesterday's story on White House proposals for Americans to save money with a look at the Democratic presidential hopefuls' plans for saving. They also set up the campaign season finger-pointing on the economy and the dilemma of offering plans for low- and middle-income families while slipping businesses and the wealthy sweeteners as well.

"The sharp contrast between the Republican and Democratic emphasis on savings plans likely foreshadows the parties' election-year divide on economic issues. In addition to their stance on where to direct economic benefits, Democrats also are much more likely to blame American businesses for economic troubles, and to propose new regulations. And they are likely to attack President Bush's broad-based tax incentives, aimed at boosting the economy, as irresponsibly adding to the growing federal deficit and hurting the economy in the long term."

ABC News Vote 2003: the aftermath of Kentucky, Mississippi, et al.: The Washington Post 's Ed Walsh reports on the GOP cheering since Tuesday. LINK

The Boston Globe 's Anne Kornblut has the happy elephants as well. LINK

USA Today 's ed board writes, "Tuesday's Republican victories mask a larger message, a warning to incumbent officeholders of both parties." LINK

USA Today also gives bullet points on party-switching results of recent gubernatorial elections. LINK

In case you were wondering, the Washington Post 's Judy Sarasohn reports that Barbour Griffith & Rogers will go on without the one who's about to be a governor. LINK

Tuesday's elections put Democrats even farther from their goal of winning a majority of the governorships, writes the Washington Times ' Stephen Dinan. LINK

As Democrats rally around the DNC, many blame the DGA for losses in the South. LINK

The Boston Globe 's Brian MacQuarrie writes that Maine's "schizophrenic vote this week on commercial gambling offers a mixed message to Massachusetts lawmakers debating casinos and slot machines." LINK

ABC News Vote 2003: on to Louisiana: Polls by the University of New Orleans and Loyola University show Jindal and Blanco in a statistical dead heat heading into the November 15 Louisiana gubernatorial runoff. LINK

The politics of national security: Reuters reports the president today " will call for democracy across the Middle East today and cite a failure of U.S. policy spanning 60 years in support of governments not devoted to political freedom" in his "latest attempt to offer a justification for the war in Iraq as necessary to jump-start democracy in the region at a time of mounting U.S. casualties there." LINK

And as the next round of Pentagon call-ups grabs the media spotlight, LINK, the New York Times reports on a last-ditch, eve-of-battle Iraqi effort to avoid war. Check out the last lines of the piece — we know Democrats will. LINK

More on the call-up of the 43,000 Reserve and National Guard troops from the New York Times , which nicely Notes all the numbers: "The plan would draw down total American forces in Iraq to about 105,000 troops from 130,000 in the midst of next year's presidential election campaign."

The Los Angeles Times writes, "U.S. military planners had hoped to replace U.S. troops with foreign forces, but few nations have offered substantial numbers of soldiers … As a result, a thinly stretched U.S. Army has made yearlong deployments to Iraq standard." LINK

Administration favorite Senator John McCain invoked the memory of Vietnam and said Wednesday before lots of elites and lots of cameras, "'The simple truth is that we do not have sufficient forces in Iraq to meet our military objectives.'' LINK

ABC's Brian Hartman reports Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Peter Pace said Wednesday Pentagon brass did not adequately plan for the Post -war phase in Iraq because: "We did not want to have planning for the Post war make war inevitable." He said post-war planning started in January, when it became apparent the US was "more likely going to war than not."

You're (in)tel-ing us! The New York Times says the congressional dust-up surrounding the leaked memo from the Senate Intel Committee's Democrats underscores "the considerable extent to which Democrats and Republicans now believe that the question of who is to blame for the failure to verify those original assertions will carry enormous political consequences." LINK

The Hill Notes some Democratic nice-making, writing that over the course of less than 24 hours, what Democrats had viewed as an effective line of criticism against the administration became dramatically blunted and their air of indignation had turned to one of conciliation." LINK

Meanwhile, Zell Miller calls the memo "the first cousin of treason" and says "heads ought to roll." LINK

ABC News Vote 2004: Bush-Cheney re-elect: In another bout of fantasy on the left … ..a story that is quietly gurgling below the radar.

A Los Angeles Times op-ed looks at whether keeping Cheney on the ticket will be a political liability for President Bush in 2004:

"Another problem is Cheney's failed stewardship of the administration's domestic agenda in Congress … If Cheney, who was elected six times to Congress, can't hold together a GOP Congress for a Republican president, perhaps Bush needs to tap someone else for the job."LINK

The New York Times ' Maureen Dowd sets her sights on President Bush's public handling of casualties in Iraq (and throws in a little Mike Allen reporting): LINK

Vice President Cheney will be in Denver today for a fund-raiser for Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell that is expected to raise $500,000. LINK

The AP's Tom Raum weighs in on the political consequences of the partial-birth abortion ban for Bush. LINK

President Bush will head to North Carolina on Friday for a BC04 fundraiser, but before he arrives, the White House moved to soothe textile makers in the state who are angry about job losses in their industry. LINK

The economy: ABC News' Ramona Schindelheim reports that productivity jumped to 6.8% in the 2nd quarter, indicating that employers are accomplishing more with fewer workers. It's the best showing since the 1st quarter of 2002. Businesses' output increased by 8.8%, which is the fastest rate of growth since the 4th quarter of 1992. And while employees worked more hours, hourly wages grew by 3.1%.

More Schindelheim: "Initial jobless claims fell sharply last week, to 348,000, down 43,000 from the previous week. Claims for the week ending October 25 were revised up by 5,000. Continuing claims continue to trend down as well, falling to 3.51 million, the lowest total since March. The four-week moving average fell to 380,000, its lowest level since the beginning of 2001."

Expect this to be cited when economists and politicians talk about economic recovery: service sector employment is growing, report the Wall Street Journal 's Jon Hilsenrath and Michael Derby. The non-manufacturing index, which includes health care, retail and banks, rose 1.4 points in October to 64.7. Service jobs make up more than 80% of the job market, Hilsenrath and Derby Note.

Bob Novak highlights two momentous developments inside the Federal Reserve, and how they could influence the U.S. economy far into the future. LINK

Big Casino budget politics:

The Wall Street Journal 's David Rogers takes a look at both the specifics on the table in the Medicare debate as well as the broad, ideological issues underlying the fight. It's not just about cost and competition between the public and private sectors, Rogers writes, but about bigger questions regarding the role of government and fundamental beliefs about what it should do for citizens.

With Medicare reform potentially marooned on the rocks, Republicans are planning an exit strategy to fend off Democratic attacks, writes Bob Cusack of the Hill. LINK

Partial Birth Abortion Act: The Washington Post 's Dana Milbank writes, "In an indication of the potential sweep of the new law, Attorney General John D. Ashcroft assigned responsibility for enforcing it to the Justice Department's civil rights division rather than its criminal division." LINK

USA Today 's Judy Keen writes, "The restriction became law in a climate of renewed debate over abortion." LINK

Knight Ridder's Ron Hutcheson: "No matter what happens on the legal front, the bill-signing inflamed passions on both sides of the abortion issue in advance of next year's presidential election." LINK

The Boston Globe 's Wayne Washington and Lyle Denniston report, "Regardless of the outcome of those legal battles, Bush's signing of the ban is certain to energize religious conservatives, an important Republican constituency, as next year's election draws near." LINK

The New York Times ' Robin Toner looks at the successful strategy of incrementalism now being pursued by the anti-abortion movement. LINK

The Wall Street Journal 's editorial board argues that the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act finally catches up with the sentiments of the American people.

Legislative agenda: If the agreement on ethanol incentives is any indicator, the energy bill stands a shot at being passed next week, the Wall Street Journal 's John Fialka writes. And it only took a suggestion from the White House.

The Los Angeles Times' Richard Simon reports Vice President Cheney broke the stalemate over ethanol and moved the energy bill way down field. LINK

The New York Times reports on the energy bill's progress now that House and Senate negotiators have come to agreement on the ethanol issue. LINK

Playing judicial politics: The Wall Street Journal 's editorial board makes a fascinating connection between Democrats' filibuster of appeals court nominee Charles Pickering (of Mississippi) and Tuesday's elections (in which Republican Haley Barbour won Mississippi's governorship) and what the elections (Republican gubernatorial sweep) indicate about 2004 (the South isn't so Democratic). The argument? Watch those filibusters, or Southern voters will administer the smackdown.

"The vacancy rate on the federal bench is at its lowest point in 13 years, because of a recent surge of judges nominated by President Bush and confirmed by the Senate," writes David Savage of the Los Angeles Times. LINK

More Savage: "Experts who track federal judgeships say Republican complaints about a Democratic filibuster of four judges have obscured the larger picture." We have very little doubt that Senator Schumer will be carrying around this clip today just in case someone calls him obstructionist.

Politics: The Los Angeles Times' Ron Brownstein writes up the new Pew poll results showing "the gap between the views of Republican and Democratic partisans is now wider than at any point in the last 16 years." LINK

Pew Director Andrew Kohut: "It is still the 50-50 nation."

"Bush administration officials have drafted a rule that would significantly narrow the scope of the Clean Water Act," reports Elizabeth Shogren of the Los Angeles Times. LINK

More Shogren: "If implemented, the change would represent one of the most consequential of the actions the Bush administration has taken to ease environmental regulations."

The New York Daily News reports Governor Pataki may not seek a fourth term and he is "quietly urging Rudy Giuliani to run" as his replacement. LINK