The Note

The Chicago Tribune's Zeleny focuses on Lieberman's decision, and includes this mystical, inexplicable sentence about questions being "raised" — without saying by whom:

"The unexpected ascendancy of Howard Dean, the former Vermont governor, and the late entry of Wesley Clark have complicated campaign strategies for all the candidates and raised questions about the influence that states such as Iowa have in the process." LINK

ABC News Vote 2004: The Invisible Primary:

The Miami Herald 's Peter Wallsten reports that the Dean campaign "is quietly mobilizing for a show of force at Florida's state Democratic Party convention in December, despite calls by national party leaders for a boycott if plans proceed for a presidential straw poll." LINK

Wallsten writes that the campaign is e-mailing Florida Democrats to remind them that the straw poll in 1991 "ignited the candidacy of a future president with some parallels to Dean."

Note this: "National party leaders and several of Dean's eight rivals for the nomination have complained that the Florida straw poll would drain precious resources at a critical time. The Democratic National Committee has even asked each campaign to sign a letter to Maddox promising to boycott the convention if a straw poll is held. So far, the campaigns are reluctant to embrace the threat out of fear of alienating activists in the nation's biggest swing state."

And Wallsten later writes, "It appears increasingly inevitable that the straw poll would happen despite the DNC's protests."

More: "Among the campaigns, confusion reigns over what to make of the DNC's boycott threat."

"Aides to Edwards said last week that the North Carolina senator would definitely participate in the straw poll."

But, wait, what's this?: Joe Trippi "said he was told by DNC officials that every campaign had agreed to sign on to the boycott threat except Dean's. Matt Bennett, a spokesman for Clark, said the Clark campaign was given the same pitch by the DNC — that only Clark remained uncommitted to the boycott."

Newsweek's Howard Fineman is shocked, shocked we say to find that the candidates' tax plans have something to do with political posturing. He takes a look at the "leave-some-tax-cuts-behind" movement among the leading Dems, chronicling who's where on what to keep and what to cut. LINK

As Democratic candidates focus their attention on winning the February 3 South Carolina primary, black voters there find themselves in a very influential position. U.S News & World Report's Terence Samuel looks at a voting bloc that "may account for up to 50 percent of the turnout on primary day" and a state that will be the "first measure of which of those nominees can energize the black vote." LINK

Black voters bypass Democrats' stump stops in South Carolina, reports Schuyler Kropf of the Charleston Post & Courier. LINK

The presidential candidates aren't just looking to scoop up Bob Graham's donors, they are also looking for support from Sunshine State congressional members according to Roll Call 's Chris Cillizza. Mr. Cillizza goes on to report that Senator Nelson is less concerned with which remaining Democrat to back for president, and more focused on Senator Graham's pending decision regarding reelection. Senator Nelson expects an announcement this week.

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