The Note

President Bush was in California yesterday, viewing the devastation of the wildfires there. LINK

And USA Today 's Judy Keen writes that the trip also had "political overtones" as the president's campaign team works to build a strategy that could give the Bush-Cheney team California's 55 electoral votes. LINK

A Marist College poll released yesterday found that while 38% of voters will support his re-election, 44% of the voters planned to vote for the Democratic candidate.

The poll also found the president's approval rating at 53%, down from its high of 70% in April but about even with other recent major polls. LINK

The Wall Street Journal 's John Harwood looks at the legacy of LBJ hanging over the 2004 presidential race. Beyond the obvious foreign policy Vietnam/Iraq comparisons that we've all heard before, it's Medicare and the domestic agenda — and the refusal to cut or de-fund one program in favor of another - that's the biggest ghost hanging over the current Texan in the White House, Harwood writes.

Today President Bush signs into law the partial-birth abortion ban. LINK

Vice President Cheney circulated a compromise energy bill yesterday, in an attempt to break a deadlock between House and Senate Republicans on the Hill over ethanol taxes. LINK

The economy:

First the Bush Administration wanted you to spend your money; now they want to help you save it.

The Wall Street Journal 's Bob Davis and John McKinnon exclusively report that just in time to catch voters' attention, the White House will propose two new tax-exempt savings accounts: a "lifetime savings account" that allows people to withdraw money at any time without penalty, and a retirement account that works like current IRAs, but with a yearly contribution cap of $7,500 instead of the current $3,000.

These plans are designed to narrow people's choices for tax-exempt plans and would cap the $2.3 trillion now in those accounts, Davis and McKinnon Note — leaving the current plans to die on the vine, as it were.

For those particularly concerned with the jobs and economic worries of "ordinary Americans," this sentence jumped out at us:

"The accounts would affect a broad swath of taxpayers but would be a special boon to the wealthy, who now are barred from some federal tax-exempt plans but would benefit from the new ones."

American workers deserve a level playing field in China's markets, Commerce Secretary Don Evans writes in a Wall Street Journal op-ed.

Big Casino budget politics:

Senator Kennedy warns the prescription drug compromise is in peril. LINK

The Los Angeles Times' Vicki Kemper plays up Senator Kennedy's "life support" comments and writes chances for a compromise Medicare prescription drug bill "appear dimmer than at any time since Congress passed separate bills in June … " LINK

The Washington Post 's Helen Dewar reports, "Key Senate Democrats yesterday stepped up their attacks on Republican efforts to open Medicare to competition from private health plans, and they warned that the dispute threatens to block a compromise on legislation to provide a prescription drug benefit for elderly Americans." LINK

The Medicare negotiations are thisclose, writes David Rogers of the Wall Street Journal — now congressional Republicans just want to make sure the wealthy can pay those higher premiums — by expanding their health care savings accounts. Arguments also continue over how much money could go to Medicare.

The good folks on the Washington Times editorial board think the zero hour is approaching for a Republican prescription drug bill. LINK

Bush Administration strategy/personality:

Happy Anniversary President and Mrs. Bush! We look forward to seeing the original pictures you each give one another. LINK

California's new governor:

It's official. Per last night's release by the Schwarzenegger Transition Committee, the Governor-elect will make it official on Monday, November 17 at 2 p.m. ET (11 am PT).

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