The Note

Today's Schedule (all times Eastern):

—9:45 am: Governor Howard Dean addresses the Every Child Matters Forum at the University of New Hampshire, Durham, N.H. —10:00 am: Senate convenes for legislative business —12:00 pm: Former President Bill Clinton and Governor Ed Rendell attend a campaign rally for Mayor John Street, Philadelphia —12:30 pm: Senator John Kerry makes remarks on agricultural conservation and goes pheasant hunting, Colo, Iowa —12:35 pm: Vice President Cheney makes remarks at a fundraiser for Congressman Phil Gingrey, Atlanta —1:15 pm: Governor Dean has lunch at New Hampshire Community Technical College, Portsmouth, N.H. —1:30 pm: General Wesley Clark holds a roundtable discussion on health care, Columbia, S.C. —4:30 pm: Governor Dean attends a reception with SEIU Local 1984, Concord, N.H. —5:30 pm: Senator Kerry attends a meet and greet with Marshall County Democrats, Marshalltown, Iowa —6:35 pm: Vice President Cheney addresses the Southwest Florida GOP, Bonita Springs, Florida —7:30 pm: Governor Dean attends a campaign Halloween party at the New Hampshire Institute of Art, Manchester, N.H. —8:30 pm: Senator Kerry tapes an appearance on Iowa Public Television, Johnston, Iowa

NEWS SUMMARY

Eighty days until Iowa, 88 days until New Hampshire, and one year and three days until election day 2004.

But the real number to focus on today is 72.

NOT "7.2" — yesterday's paradigm-shifting gauzy growth figure about which we have been trying to alert you all week.

(Congratulations on the Friday-through-Thursday poker faces, you pre-knowing Administration officials, you.)

No, the number on which you should be focused if you care about who wins the White House next year is 72 — as in "72 Hours."

Slide the decimal point of 7.2 just one position, and you get the kind of seasonal spooky cosmic numerology that frankly freaks us out more than a little bit.

For the uninitiated, the greatest innovation of the Bush-Rove-RNC national political operation (after figuring out how to raise more money than anyone ever) has been the introduction of a coordinated political ground game from one election day to the next — known as the party's 72-Hour Task Force. LINK

These efforts now go on literally constantly, but they culminate three days out from the actual voting with a burst of activity (surrogates, coordinated spending, TV, voter-to-voter contact, earned media, radio, e-mails, on and on and on) that is meant to counter what everyone in both parties had come to realize was a superior final push by Democrats, largely on the broad backs and shoulders of union members and that cagey Steve Rosenthal.

With strong Republican candidates poised to snatch Democrat gubernatorial seats away, tomorrow, GOP strategists kick off their final push by wheeling out their biggest artillery piece.

President Bush's visits to Kentucky and Mississippi are sure to dominate all local media in the final days, making sure that Republican partisans know that (a) there is an election; and (b) that it is important to their commander in chief (he of the gauzy growth) that they vote for these "good men" with "R's" after their names.

And the visits will have some appeal to independents, too, don't you know. Maybe even some Democrats … .

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