The Note

USA Today 's Kathy Kiely previews what's expected to be some heated debate this week on the Iraq reconstruction costs. LINK

"The White House defended its proposal to spend $87 billion on Iraq and Afghanistan, while disputing assertions by leaders of the House Intelligence Committee that President Bush ordered the invasion of Iraq on the basis of outdated and vague information," the AP reports. LINK

ABC 2004: Bush-Cheney re-elect:

The New York Times ' Stevenson and Nagourney turn for the Right Guy on the Bush-Cheney '04 strategy and find:

-- Campaign officials said they are likely to report more than $80 million raised since late June (Yes, that is an eight in the tens place for all you Dems out there … ) -- Bush's senior advisers find the Democratic crowd "unusually weak and divided." -- Karl Rove says when the nominee is finally selected, "our expectation is that it could be a close and hard-fought race." -- The re-elect folks are gathering a "pile of cash for a blanket advertising campaign expected to begin around the time Democrats settle on their candidate early next year." -- Ed Gillespie says of the field of aspiring Democratic nominees: "They're all Howard Dean now." LINK

Newsweek's Howard Fineman and Tamara Lipper give us a look at the Bush-Cheney campaign plan that will center on "state-of-the-art, precinct-by-precinct ground game to get out the base; a flag-waving defense of Bush's 'doctrine of pre-emption' and the Patriot Act; an equally stout defense of tax cuts, with the parallel dare to Democrats to "raise" taxes; finally, a depiction of Bush as a decent, resolute man of faith-a rock in parlous times."

Despite news over the last few weeks that could pose significant problems for the re-election campaign, "a sense of reality is setting in here, but no sense of panic," a Bush aide said.

Fineman and Lipper also give us an exciting and shorter way to refer to the Bush-Cheney re-election campaign which is "known on the inside as 'BC04.'" LINK

Howard Fineman admitted on Imus that he hasn't read the "Friends" cover story that bumped his Bush piece off of the cover.

The Los Angeles Times on the politics of steel from yesterday: LINK

In today's Baltimore Sun, Robert Novak lists reason after reason, after reason that Bush's re-election chances continue to swan dive to levels not seen since 2000, countering the Newsweek article. LINK

"But failure marks current efforts of the president and his vaunted political team, headed by Karl Rove. This judgment was made to me by a well-known Republican operative experienced in two presidential campaigns: 'For the first time, there doesn't seem to be a plan.'"

We await Novak's next column (presumably about Topic A); we urge you to read the last paragraph of today's; and you should laugh along with the finance staff on the column's premise that BC04 is having fundraising problems!

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution profiles Mercer Reynolds, BC04 Finance Chairman. Reynolds, an investment banker, former Ambassador to Switzerland and a Bush Pioneer in 2000, will oversee what is expected to be the largest fundraising haul in presidential election history but is "eager to cool down such expectations." LINK

The Union Leader's Jack Kenny looks at the price of access at BC04 fundraisers, where an additional $1000 often gets you a photo op with the president or vice president. LINK

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