The Note

"But the approval ratings for Reagan and Clinton were rising around this point in their presidencies. In the last 50 years, the only presidents whose approval ratings were unambiguously falling in Gallup surveys as they entered their election year were Gerald R. Ford and George H. W. Bush, the president's father. Both were defeated."

More Brownstein:

"That approach could still carry Bush to victory next year. [GOP pollster Bill] McInturff noted that incumbent presidents usually lose only when they suffer significant defections within their party and face strong primary challenges — the circumstances that helped doom Ford in 1976, Jimmy Carter in 1980 and Bush's father in 1992."

"Still, with the huge wave that lifted him after Sept. 11 having dissipated, Bush appears to be approaching the 2004 election much the way he began his term: with the country polarized almost evenly for and against him, and a critical slice of swing voters ready to break the tie based less on personal allegiance than the results he delivers."

A Quinnipiac poll of registered New York State voters released yesterday found not only falling approval numbers for President Bush (his lowest since before 9/11) but also several Democratic challengers would beat the incumbent, with The General leading the way. "In a reflection of Clark's political strength — and Bush's drop — the race's newcomer outpaced the president 48 percent to 41 percent." LINK

The Miami Herald looks at the Cuba issue and how it will play out in the 2004 election for Bush. LINK

BC04 officials announced yesterday that First Brother Governor Jeb Bush will lead the re-election campaign in Florida, a state that Karl Rove has called "ground zero" in the re-election effort. LINK

The Akron Beacon Journal looks at the BC04 strategy in the battleground state of Ohio, and finds that despite a narrow win in 2000 and falling favorability ratings, "he is still in good shape against the disorganized Democrats." LINK

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette looks at the how the steel tariffs will play out in 2004 battleground states like Pennsylvania and Ohio. LINK

More than 1 million new donors have given money to the Republican Party since President Bush was inaugurated in 2001, the RNC announced yesterday, surpassing the number of new contributors during Reagan's two terms in office, the Washington Times reports. LINK

The AP has it too. LINK

The new donors yielded $55 million for the RNC, mainly through donations of under $30. LINK

The New York Post 's Deborah Orin reports that the prospect of a Schwarzenegger win has Republicans "sporting giant grins as they ponder how that would change the political landscape and help boost President Bush in the 2004 election." LINK

Orin gets California-based Democratic strategist Bill Carrick to warn that if Schwarzenegger "does a lot of controversial stuff, he's going to get recalled himself."

The economy:

USA Today 's Matt Krantz reports, "The stock market Wednesday kicked the fourth quarter off Wednesday with its best rally since April, as newfound optimism about the economy allowed Wall Street to look ahead to upcoming third-quarter corporate profit reports." LINK

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