The Note

Today's Schedule (all times Eastern):

—9:00 am: Senator Joe Lieberman hosts a pancake breakfast and makes remarks, Oklahoma City, Okla. —9:00 am: Senator John Edwards appears on "The Exchange" on New Hampshire public radio —9:10 am: Off-camera White House press gaggle with Scott McClellan —9:30 am: Senate convenes for morning business —9:30 am: Ambassador Carol Moseley Braun participates in a roundtable discussion at the East Bank Club, Chicago —10:30 am: Senator John Kerry makes remarks on health care for children, Nashua, N.H. —10:30 am: Senator Lieberman holds a town hall meeting with first responders, Oklahoma City, Okla. —11:00 am: President Bush participates in a photo-op with the 2003 NBA Champion San Antonio Spurs, White House —11:30 am: Congressman Dennis Kucinich speaks at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center, Albuquerque, N.M. —12:00 pm: House convenes for a pro forma session —12:30 pm: On-camera White House press briefing with Scott McClellan —2:00 pm: General Wesley Clark delivers remarks on public service at Hunter College, New York City —3:15 pm: National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice briefs reporters on the President's trip to Asia and Australia, White House —8:00 pm: Senator Edwards holds a town hall meeting at Dartmouth College, Hanover, N.H. —8:00 pm: General Clark attends a young Democrats fundraiser, New York City —8:00 pm: Reverend Al Sharpton attends a birthday campaign fundraiser at Jay-Z's 40/40, New York City —8:30 pm: Senator Kerry attends a private campaign fundraiser, Kansas City, Mo. —9:30 pm: Governor Howard Dean attends the Lee County Octoberfest, Montrose, Iowa


Between Al Franken; E.D., Steve, and Brian; Bernie Goldberg; Paul and James and Mary; American Journalism Review; Adam Levine; the Beltway Boys; Joe Lockhart; and Deborah Orin — between all of those folks, it's hard to know if the Chattering Class' press corps is too pro-Bush or too anti-Bush.

The Note tries so hard to be fair every day that it makes our teeth hurt, but, by regularly disregarding Thumper's Mother's Rule LINK, we set ourselves up for attacks from all sides.

Tomorrow, we'll give you the link to the site where you will be able to buy our new T-shirts (limited edition; only 800 made) that say "I'M THE FILTER," on the back and "Gang of 500" in small letters on the front pocket.

They come in three colors: peach, cherry, and wheat. (Or maybe that's "three flavors.")

They are going to be collectors' items at the White House, and our plan to generate PR is to give the first one to Ari Fleischer and leak that fact to Anne Schroeder, thereby knocking Clooney's sushi-eating-ways and "K Street" out of the lead-off "Names and Faces" spot, at least for a day. LINK

Today, we humbly offer America's political journalists the following mid-course (correction) reminders, knowing full well the effect this will have on our in-boxes — but we aren't afraid.

Let's all remember to:

1. Note when the president's poll numbers go up (since we go straight to chicken little mode when they go down). See Gallup today, which says "President Bush's job approval rating (is) running roughly five points higher than last month. Fifty-six percent now approve of the overall job he is doing." LINK (And/but there is a there's a fascinating ABC News/ Washington Post poll coming out tonight … )

2. Note when there is good economic news (since we act like we are in the Great Depression everytime a Subway closes).

3. Hold Democratic presidential candidates accountable for their rhetorical consistency and policy proposals — Deficit reduction? Job growth? Finding Saddam and bin Laden? (since we demand all that from the incumbent).

4. Not act like Joe Trippi is anymore intrinsically interesting than Ken Mehlman when assigning profiles (although it's true that we have never seen Ken huddled under an airline blanket on his office couch on a Sunday night).

5. Imagine what kind of coverage the president (or even his major surrogates) would get if he called his opponents "phony" or some such thing.

Now, let's all get back to our anti-Republican, anti-Bush, anti-incumbent, more-analytical-less-reporting mode of behavior!!

There is a lot to cover today (particularly the Manhattan doings of a certain General … and a President with a certain Admiral), and few things you must read:

1. Jill Lawrence on the front page of USA Today on Wes Clark. LINK

2. A Harold Bloom Wall Street Journal op-ed in homage to Clark that seems to aspire to do for The General what Mark Helprin did for Bob Dole.

3. Jeanne Cummings doing a fantastic job in the Journal with a first-draft-of-history look at the Dean campaign's Internet strategy (And, yes, this one has stuff in it you haven't already read that is both methodological and narrative … ).

4. Dean versus the world on busting the caps and Iraq.

More on all that below.

And to the Newsday editors who thought they'd scored when The Note wrote yesterday that Thomas DeFrank works for them: Sorry. We meant the New York Daily News.

General Clark campaigns in New York City. In a speech scheduled at New York's Hunter College, Clark will call for the creation of "a corps of civilians who could be called up for service in national emergencies much like the National Guard." LINK

President Bush will take part in a photo-op with the 2003 NBA Champion San Antonio Spurs at the White House today. For what it's worth, The Note points out that the Admiral is now retired and the president should consider offering him a job. Condoleezza Rice will brief reporters this afternoon on the president's upcoming trip to Asia and Australia.

Lynne Cheney attends a private Bush-Cheney 2004 fundraiser in Atlanta today.

Governor Dean campaigns in Iowa today.

Senator Kerry campaigns in New Hampshire and Missouri today.

Senator Edwards campaigns in New Hampshire.

Senator Lieberman continues his re-launch tour today in Oklahoma.

Congressman Gephardt is in D.C. with no public events today.

Congressman Kucinich continues his announcement tour today in New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas, Minnesota, and Illinois.

Reverend Sharpton will celebrate his birthday tonight at a fundraiser at 40/40 in New York City.

Ambassador Moseley Braun is scheduled to take part in a roundtable discussion in Chicago today with Representative Jan Schakowsky.

ABC News Vote 2004: The Invisible Primary:

USA Today 's Susan Page reports on a new poll that gives us the good, the bad, and the ugly (you decide which is which): "Solid majorities of Americans support changes in the nation's political system, want the power to recall elected officials and are angry about the way some things are going in this country." LINK

Page gets none other than presidential pollster plenipotentiary, "Triple P" Matt Dowd, to comment.

"Matthew Dowd, a senior strategist for Bush's re-election campaign, disputes any comparison with the California race. 'It's not an anger; it's just concern,' he says. He notes that Americans nationwide continue to have high regard for Bush's leadership."

The AP's Holly Ramer reports that Dean and Kerry "traded insults Monday over the war in Iraq, with Kerry faulting his presidential rival for a lack of policy and Dean complaining that 'we wouldn't be there if it weren't for Democrats like Senator Kerry.'" LINK

Lloyd Grove provides his readers with a sneak peak of Blender magazine's upcoming issue with the presidential candidates' musical tastes. The likelihood of John Mellencamp, Moby, or James Brown playing at a state dinner may affect your vote. LINK

Roll back vs. tax hike: Democratic hopefuls are walking a fine line between advocacy and rebuttal, reports Geoff Earle of the Hill. LINK


The phrase "man of destiny" isn't one that gets thrown around often in this post-Roosevelt, post-Churchill age.

Yet in his op-ed today in the Wall Street Journal , Yale humanities professor Harold Bloom makes the case for General Wesley Clark as just that. The United States has lessons to learn from the fall of the Roman Empire, Bloom argues, and only a general can fulfill the need for an imperial president.

"We need, at just this time, a military personage as president, one who is more in the mode of Dwight Eisenhower than of Ulysses Grant. In Wesley Clark, we have a four-star general and former NATO commander who is a diplomatic unifier, an authentic hero, wise and compassionate."

" … the time and the person have come together in Gen. Clark. There is potential greatness in him: Realism and hope intricately fuse in his character."

More than the piece itself, we are curious about how it came to occupy this piece of real estate.

USA Today 's Jill Lawrence has a meta good news/bad news must-read take on the Clark campaign. LINK

On the up side, Jill does as good a job as we have seen anywhere capturing Clark's campaign trail style and why voters find it appealing.

On the other hand (and apparently reporters don't write their own headlines), the "hits its stride" headline about the campaign might see a bit over the top to some.

According to another source who rode along on the same trip as Jill, the campaign trail wagon hit more than a few bumps — including showing up to a open press event that turned out to be closed, leaving journalists sitting in the parking lot. And, more than just switching traveling press secretaries, the Clark campaign has changed most of its traveling press staff from week-to-week.

From a top strategist for a rival campaign (and Lawrence aficionado) whose Blackberry has The Note's e-mail address pre-programmed:

"Clark had problems in weeks 1, 2 and 3 but has hit his stride in week 4??!!"

"It is TUESDAY, for God's sake! She wrote the story on Monday."

"Apparently, getting a bunch of computers, hiring your fifth press secretary counts as having a solid, national political organization to America's Paper."

From ABC News' Clark campaign reporter Deborah Apton:

"It is finally that time. The Clark '04 campaign is looking for a pollster and media consultant to help spread The General's name and track where he stands. We hear that pollster Geoff Garin of The Garin Strategic Research Group and media consultant Joe Slade White of Joe Slade White & Company are both doing 'preliminary research with the campaign.' As of now, neither has committed to the campaign full-time."

The Miami Herald 's Wallsten weighs in on Wes Clark's Sunshine State appearance, Noting The General "swooped" into Florida to "lure" supporters, "huddled" with local Democratic officials who'd been backing Graham, and stayed far away from those pesky reporters trailing him. LINK

Sam Youngman of reports that Clark is "set to re-open the doors to Graham's Manchester office — with different signs outside." LINK

"Less than a month after kicking off his campaign in South Florida," Clark "was back Monday — an indication that the Sunshine State is wide open since favorite son Bob Graham abandoned the presidential race," the Fort-Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel reports. LINK


The Boston Globe 's Sarah Schweitzer has an absolute-must-read about Dean's efforts to court black voters in the South. LINK

Get a load of this: "Dean has little of the down-home charm of Clinton, a near political deity to many African-American voters. His staunch refusal to discuss his personal life on the trail and his avowed adherence to policy talk — with an aversion to chatty asides — could not be more unlike the folksy Clinton or the chatty Edwards."

"But some African-American voters say he brings other qualities to the table: Coming from a white state, Dean has a history of few entanglements over difficult racial issues. Others say Dean strikes them as a man whose message stays constant, no matter the constituency, an important factor for some blacks who say some Democrats have lapsed in promises to their community."

The Boston Herald's Noelle Straub reports that Dean "yesterday called for five of his Democratic rivals to say they were wrong when they voted to give President Bush authority to use force against Iraq, aiming his harshest criticism at [Kerry]." LINK

Deborah Orin writes up Howard Dean's request that some of his opponents "apologize for the 'mistake' of supporting the Iraq war before they criticize President Bush."LINK

Sadly, yesterday's conference call colloquy between Ms. Orin and Governor Dean over his ends/means comment didn't make it into her story.

The AP's Sharon Theimer reports that Howard Dean is "taking another step toward possibly becoming the first Democrat to opt out of public financing" by gathering signatures to get on the North Carolina primary ballot. LINK

"Candidates who accept public financing automatically qualify for a spot on the state's ballot; those who do not must collect at least 10,000 signatures from party members in the state, said Don Wright, a state Board of Elections spokesman."

The Wall Street Journal 's Jeanne Cummings writes her paper's version of the miracle-of-the-Internet-for-the-Dean-campaign story. We thought we'd read them all before, but the anecdotes kept us in there to the end.

Nice quote, Professor Cornfield.

The Des Moines Register 's Lynn Okamoto reports that "Dean said Monday night at a Council Bluffs senior center that if elected president, he would direct the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to allow the purchase of prescription drugs from Canada." LINK

From ABC News' Dean campaign reporter Marc Ambinder:

"Vermont Gov. Howard Dean curtain-raised a 14-city tour of Iowa in Hollywood style last night."

"A senior center, colloquially named 'The Center' in Council Bluffs, was transformed into a studio for his media consultant, Steve McMahon, to professionally shoot Dean at a real town hall meeting. Where will you see the end product? Stay tuned."

"About 200 residents, including a mix of pre-selected activists and casual droppers-by, spent an hour quizzing the candidate. They were surrounded by enormous Tungsten lights, a thicket of wires, a slick camera rolling along an enormous track, and several production staffers, McMahon included, with digital video cameras."

"Dean was asked several times and in a variety of ways about Medicare: 'Is it true that you want to cut Medicare?' asked a questioner. 'No,' Dean replied. The campaign says they'd much rather get those kinds of questions now than later, and that they are generally satisfied with how Iowa seniors have responded — or have not responded — to Gephardt's attacks."

"Dean's three-day trip is, in fact, aimed at seniors, and Dean spent much of the evening yesterday discussing his record in Vermont on health care coverage and prescription drugs."

"A relatively new face in Dean's entourage last night was Matt Paul, an aide to Governor Tom Vilsack who is taking an unpaid leave of absence to work for the Iowa campaign on political and scheduling matters. He has the title of Iowa deputy campaign manager. And Mike O'Mary, formerly the lead advance guy for Dean in New Hampshire, is now a regular part of the road show."


During a visit to Franklin, New Hampshire, Senator John Kerry said "he wouldn't bring back the draft to deal with the situation in Iraq and would consider it only in a situation where there was a much larger war." LINK

"He said if the draft were reinstituted, he would want to see it administered 'without politics and favoritism,' noting that 'there are some people in high office today who pulled strings to get into the National Guard.'"


David Lightman gets to the crux of Lieberman's new(ish) tax plan. LINK

"The Lieberman plan, detailed in a 73-page manifesto released Monday, has three aims: to reinvigorate his ailing campaign; to move the economic debate beyond whether President Bush's 2001 and 2003 tax cuts should be repealed, rolled back or retained; and to put some teeth into the claims that as president he would reduce the deficit."

The Hartford Courant's Christopher Keating on Senator Lieberman's "re-launch" of his presidential campaign. Watch out for flying Lieberman posters on I-91. LINK

The Washington Post 's write-up of the Lieberman effort offers this:

"Lieberman is also weighing other options to refocus his campaign, including concentrating more on states such as South Carolina and Oklahoma, where his brand of centrism might sell better, advisers said." LINK

The Boston Globe 's Raja Mishra recounts … whoops … recalls … doh … relays the scene of the re-launch. LINK

Knight Ridder's Steven Thomma writes that Lieberman's "proposal comes as Democrats struggle to find a voice on taxes, torn between two lessons of recent history. They are haunted by the specter of Walter Mondale [ … and] they are inspired by the example of Bill Clinton." LINK

Elizabeth Mehren of the Los Angeles Times offers up some details on the Lieberman tax plan. LINK

More on the Connecticut Senator's tax plan from the New York Times :

"In addition to raising rates for higher-income Americans, the Lieberman plan would impose a 5 percent tax surcharge on individuals and families with incomes of more than $250,000 a year. The plan would also close some loopholes in the corporate tax code, including the use of offshore tax havens by American companies."

We bet we aren't the only ones who spotted this line:

"A family with adjusted gross income of more than $150,000 could see its rate rise to 39.6 percent from 28 percent." LINK

Sam Youngman of takes you inside the WinnebaJoe. LINK

From ABC News' Lieberman campaign reporter Talesha Reynolds:

"Senator Lieberman thinks his status as a career politician can only help him as president. Aboard the WinnebaJoe, Lieberman played off the tour's subtitle saying, 'It's time for a fresh start, but it's not time for rookies.'"

"Nearly everyone interviewing Lieberman asked why Iowa was not on the tour itinerary. The Senator answered, 'You can't go everywhere. I was in Iowa a couple weeks ago.' He would not admit that the Iowa omission was part of a strategy, nor would he admit support for a nominating system that would potentially minimize the state. When I asked Lieberman whether he still endorsed regional primaries and caucuses, he joked, 'Not this year.'"

"The WinnebaJoe, dubbed 'Integrity One' for the trip, was not nearly as colorful as the gorgeous leaf-peep-worthy scenery or the snazzy Joemobiles. It turns out there is no one WinnebaJoe. They are rented in different cities. This one was not even a 'real' Winnebago. The RV was decorated with taped Lieberman posters and banners, some of which fell victim to the wind soon after the initial departure."

The Boston Phoenix's Kate Cohen tells you where to find Joe Lieberman paper dolls. LINK


Jennifer 8. Lee uses the word "frenzied" to describe Kucinich's kick-off tour. LINK

"Standing at the site of his political birth — and his biggest public embarrassment — Dennis Kucinich yesterday formally announced that he wants to be president," the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports. LINK

Knight Ridder's Carl Chancellor reports that Kucinich made his first announcement "in the city council chamber where he won his greatest political victories and suffered his most humiliating defeats." LINK

The Boston Globe 's Michael Kranish reports on the official announcement barnstormer (or is it an airport stormer?). LINK

The Detroit News reports that Kucinich kicked off his presidential campaign in Detroit Monday by "pledging health care reform and an immediate removal of U.S. troops from Iraq." LINK

The Detroit News write-up has a photo of Kucinich with Congressman John Conyers.

Per the AP's Connie Mabin, Congressman Kucinich stressed "his anti-war stance, his opposition to international trade pacts and his support for a single-payer, universal health care plan" in announcing his candidacy. He also called for cutting the Pentagon budget by about 15 percent and said he would order a study of reparations for blacks whose ancestors were slaves. LINK

James Pindell writes up the New Hampshire leg of Kucinich's announcement tour, including the Ohio Congressman's call for bringing the troops home and getting the profit out of health care. LINK

From ABC News' Kucinich campaign reporter Melinda Arons:

"What do a polka reception, an endorsement from the Ohio Hip-Hop Delegation, and an ancient Native American tribal dance have in common? They all were part of events marking the first day of Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich's announcement swing that will take him to 11 states and the District of Columbia in four days."

"The polka reception, a tradition close to Kucinich's heart in honor of his Eastern European heritage, followed his announcement speech to a packed Cleveland City Council chambers in City Hall, the site where the Congressman made his political start as a 23-year-old councilman. There, introduced by current mayor Jane Campbell, actress and supporter Mimi Kennedy of 'Dharma and Greg,' and various local politicians and activists who referred to the candidate as their city's 'favorite son,' Kucinich spoke for 45 minutes (25 longer than planned) on his plans to bring U.S. troops home from Iraq, to provide universal single-payer health care and pre-Kindergarten, and to cancel NAFTA and the WTO."


The Gephard-tini?

Roll Call reports that the Gephard-tini was recently unveiled at one of Gephardt's "Parties Across America."

The cocktail is "a blue martini garnished with a bright red cherry, made with Stoli Citrus, blue curacao, sour and soda."

"Gephardt spokesman Erik Smith said the boss only drinks milk or Budweiser — which of course is brewed in his home state — but is happy to hear of the new cocktail."

"'I can't think of a more appropriate name for a red, white and blue cocktail with a little kick that might surprise you than Gephard-tini,' joked Smith."


E.J. Dionne offers kind words for Edwards' focus on working folks and Notes that while "the Democratic Party is becoming the party of the educated upper middle class," that support alone won't give it a win. LINK

A must-read indeed by the owlish Brookings scholar.

The AP's Ken Maguire reports that Edwards said last night on Hardball that "he's worried the Bush administration's $87 billion request for rebuilding Iraq will 'end up in the pockets of Bush's friends.'" LINK

Spotted in the crowd at the Edwards Hardball Harvard event: New England's finest — Stephanie Cutter — and some of her fellow conventioners (Rod apparently had Yankees/Red Sox tickets.), and the always fabulous Bridger McGaw, who grabbed the mike for a little o/c action.

New Hampshire:

Keying off the release of "Why New Hampshire?" John DiStaso reports that the roots of the Granite State's primary "run deep." LINK


The Des Moines Register 's Okamoto reports, "Despite several efforts by this year's Democratic presidential candidates to reach out to Iowa's growing Hispanic population, some activists say the state's Latino community is still too fragmented to have a real impact on the Iowa caucuses." LINK

The Note is very happy to report that three Iowa state directors are now brand new dads. The Kerry campaign's John and Jackie Norris had Hunter and Cole on August 16. The Gephardt campaign's John and Kim Lapp had Truman on September 11. The Edwards' campaign's Rob Berntsen and Stephanie Pickens had Eleanor on October 10.

And, according to our source, the Dads are all competing with their new additions for naptime.

South Carolina:

BusinessWeek's shining Starr looks at the combination of factors--heavy job losses, a large African-American population and a primary that will be open to both Republicans and Democrats — that has made South Carolina "one of the hottest contests on the Democratic political calendar." LINK


The good Doctor is leading in Michigan. LINK

"Dean got the support of 21 percent of the 400 Democratic residents likely to vote in next February's Democratic caucuses in the poll conducted by Lansing-based EPIC/MRA."

"Behind him were" Clark at 15; Gephardt and Kerry at 13; and Lieberman at 12.

ABC News Vote 2004: Bush-Cheney re-elect:

Some good news and some not-so-good news for the Bush campaign in the latest USA Today /CNN/Gallup Poll.

President Bush scored a 56 percent job approval rating, up from the low point of 50 percent last month, but USA Today 's Susan Page says that "The unease that voters express now is at almost precisely the same overall level that a similar survey found in January 1992. LINK

BC04 pollster Matt Dowd dismissed any connection to the voter discontent that fueled the California recall: "'It's not an anger; it's just concern.'"

President Bush tries to avoid the national news "filter" on Iraq and gave exclusive interviews to five regional broadcasting companies, "telling the administration's story directly to the American public" reports Washington Post 's Dana Milbank. LINK

The president took a "buck-stops-here stance" on Iraq with the regional reporters, reports the New York Daily News' Bazinet. LINK

The Boston Globe 's Peter Canellos looks at Vice President Cheney's recent statements on Iraq and al Qaeda and an Administration that is "split into warring factions over Iraq."LINK

President Bush will speak to about 800 supporters at the Riverside Convention Center tomorrow on a fundraising jaunt through California. The Los Angeles Times profiles event co-host and "Republican Party stalwart" Duane Roberts, owner of the historic Mission Inn in Riverside. Roberts "has given nearly $1.2 million in campaign contributions, primarily to GOP candidates, including the current president and his father, since 1999. LINK

Bush the Bully: A piercing gaze may have done it for 36 House GOP appropriators, but will it be enough to convince all 535 Members to take up the $87 billion Iraq reconstruction request, asks Roll Call 's Emily Pierce. LINK

If the 2004 election is another squeaker, President Bush could lose it by failing to follow through on his promise to help undocumented Hispanic immigrants gain legal status, says Mort Kondracke in today's Roll Call . LINK

The politics of national security:

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist offers his Volpac supporters some talking points in favor of the $87 billion:

"1. We are at war in Afghanistan and Iraq."

"2. The funds in this legislation provide both direct support for our soldiers fighting in Iraq, as well as an investment in creating a safer environment for our soldiers serving in that country. Remember, the $65 billion is for sustenance and support of our troops; the $20 billion is to make them safer, and to get them home sooner."

"3. Replacing the defeated regime of Saddam Hussein with a stable democratic Iraq is an essential turning point in bringing modernity and freedom to a part of the world that has produced extremism and terrorism for decades."

"4. Saddam Hussein was a tyrant. The legacy of his oppression is found in mass graves and torture chambers across Iraq. He pursued weapons of mass destruction and used them against other nations, as well as his own people. The Iraqi people, the Middle East region and the world are better off for the removal of Saddam Hussein's regime."

The economy:

Looking to keep confidence up on The Street and maintain the president's political hold on a key constituency, Treasury Secretary John Snow will be in New York Tuesday evening and Wednesday on a PR tour of his own — a series of Wall Street meetings and a speech about the economy and corporate governance.

Tonight's dinner at the New York Federal Reserve features the likes of such A-listers as Goldman Sachs' Hank Paulson, Citibank's Sandy Weill, UBS Paine Webber's Don Marron, JP Morgan's Bill Harrison, Morgan Stanley's Phil Purcell, Lehmann Brothers' Dick Fuld, CSFB's John Mack, Merrill Lynch's Stan O'Neil.

On Wednesday, Snow breakfasts with Wall Street economists, lunches with John Reed, and squeezes in some broadcast interviews. At the conference board's annual meeting at Cipriani Dolci Wednesday night, Snow will talk about the state of the economy, including the administration's six-point plan to create jobs.

Look for a focus on corporate governance, investor confidence and a proclamation that "the days of the passive boards are over."

Secretary Snow and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Mel Martinez will testify Thursday before the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee about regulating the mortgage companies Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae.

Next stop for Snow: Chicago, where he'll meet with CEOs in Illinois, and visit the MERC, the CBOT and the CBOE.

USA Today 's Sue Kirchhoff and Barbara Hansen report, "The swelling federal deficit and growing long-term costs — both political and financial — of the U.S. war in Iraq are having an impact on the economy, according to a USA TODAY survey of economists." LINK

Big Casino budget politics:

The St. Petersburg Times reports the effort to get a Medicare prescription drug benefit now pits Bush vs. Bush.

"The president sides with the Senate in arguing that the federal government cannot afford to provide for drugs for Medicaid patients."

"The governor of Florida, meanwhile, has been lobbying Congress and the administration in favor of a House-passed measure designed to help trim state expenditures by offering these people drugs under Medicare. Such a move would save Florida an estimated $913-million."

The papers says the president feels so strongly about his side that he phoned Bill Frist "and members of the House-Senate conference committee to explain his views" marking "the first time the president had gotten involved in the nitty-gritty of the negotiations." LINK

Friday could be the magic day for a Medicare compromise — though don't count on it, the Wall Street Journal 's Sarah Lueck reports. Both sides know that for a compromise bill to have any chance of passing, it needs to come in the next month. And in the face of fights about foreign policy, the economy, and the budget compromise might not be so easy to come by.

California's new governor:

Mark Martin and Mark Simon of the San Francisco Chronicle explain the trials and tribulations of a compressed transition schedule and the likelihood that the chief of staff and finance director will be the first two positions filled. LINK

The Sacramento Bee's Daniel Weintraub floats former Pete Wilson administration official and managing director of MetWest Financial Russell Gould as Schwarzenegger's leading candidate for chief of staff. If he takes the job, will the MetWest connection give Al Gore easy access to the Schwarzenegger administration? LINK