The Note

Vice President Cheney is the guest of honor at a fundraising luncheon for Rep. Chris Chocola at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana today. LINK

The New York Daily News' rapidly improving Lloyd Grove gives some details on First Lady Laura Bush's trip to the Big Apple today. Fresh off his appearance at the RNC presidential gala last night, New York Gov. George Pataki will host the $1,000-a-head private event at the Rainbow Room at Rockefeller Plaza for the BC04 campaign. Former NYC mayor Rudy Giuliani is expected to attend. LINK

From ABC News' Bush-Cheney campaign reporter Karen Travers:

"The RNC raised $14 million for the BC04 re-election campaign at the gala in Washington Wednesday night, well past its goal of $10 million, but far short of the $33 million raised at last year's event, which was held before new campaign finance laws went into effect."

"Often interrupted by thunderous applause, President Bush spoke of the lessons of September 11 and the new doctrine for American foreign policy. "One of the important lessons of September the 11th, 2001 is that our country must deal with gathering threats before they materialize, before they come back to haunt us. And that's what we did in Iraq," he said. 'This nation will not be intimidated. We will continue our war on terror until this threat to civilization is removed.'"

"The theme of the night was the Big Apple, as about 2,000 donors and loyal supporters ate hot dogs, pizza, and popcorn served by vendors walking around the ballroom and took in the scenery of all the New York landmarks --Yankee Stadium, the Statue of Liberty, the Brooklyn Bridge and Times Square."

The economy:

The Wall Street Journal 's John McKinnon writes, "The strengthening economy is helping to hold the federal budget deficit a bit narrower than the soaring level officials projected during the summer."

More from McKinnon: "It is also the first bit of good news the Bush administration has had on the budget front in some time. Democrats dismissed the difference as a drop in the bucket, but some economists said that if the trend continues, it could point the way to more decent budget news in mid to late 2004, just as voters are beginning to focus on the election and President Bush's track record on the economy."

In a separate article, the Journal also reports, "The number of workers filing first-time applications for unemployment benefits dropped to an eight-month low last week, offering hope that the labor market is indeed stabilizing."

"Initial jobless claims fell by 23,000 to 382,000 in the week that ended Saturday, the Labor Department said Thursday. That marked the best showing since Feb. 8 and the second time in the last month that weekly claims have been below 400,000. Economists say readings below that threshold signify a stable labor market."

The politics of national security:

The Los Angeles Times looks at the administration's new message offensive on Iraq and quotes "one Republican observer" as stating "the White House was foolish to draw attention to the new effort … 'They need to do what they are doing, but it was dumb to announce it. They should have just done it.'" LINK

National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice spoke to the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations yesterday, in what White House officials said is "the beginning of a public-relations campaign to counter growing doubts about Bush's rationale for the war and his handling of postwar Iraq."

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