The Note

Today's Schedule (all times Eastern):

—9:15 am: Governor Howard Dean speaks to the AFL-CIO convention, Detroit —9:30 am: Senate convenes for legislative business —9:30 am: Senate Armed Services Committee hears testimony from Ambassador Paul Bremer and General John Abizaid, Capitol Hill —9:45 am: Off-camera White House press gaggle with Scott McClellan —10:00 am: House convenes for legislative business —10:15 am: House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, and Congressmen Ciro Rodriguez and Robert Menendez hold a news conference to discuss the Democrats' Hispanic agenda, Capitol Hill —12:30 pm: Reverend Al Sharpton holds a media availability at Amy Ruth's soul food restaurant in Harlem, New York City —12:45 pm: On-camera White House press briefing with Scott McClellan —1:30 pm: House Armed Services Committee hears testimony from Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, Ambassador Paul Bremer and General John Abizaid, Capitol Hill —2:00 pm: General Wesley Clark greets supporters at Bowling Green Park, New York City —2:15 pm: Lieutenant Governor Cruz Bustamante makes remarks on veterans' issues at Patriotic Hall, Los Angeles —2:20 pm: President Bush meets with members of the congressional conference on Medicare modernization, White House —3:00 pm: Arnold Schwarzenegger attends a town hall meeting, Los Angeles —4:00 pm: Democratic National Committee presidential debate hosted by CNBC and the Wall Street Journal at Pace University, New York City —4:00 pm: House International Relations Committee hears testimony from Ambassador Paul Bremer, Capitol Hill —4:00 pm: Governor Gray Davis meets with the Los Angeles County Professional Peace Officers Association to talk about Meagan's Law, Monterey Park, Calif. —4:00 pm: California Republican county chairs meet to discuss whether to endorse a candidate for governor, Sacramento —7:00 pm: Democratic National Committee dinner honoring the presidential candidates at the Sheraton New York Hotel, New York City —8:00 pm: Governor Davis participates in a town hall forum sponsored by Town Hall LA, Burbank, Calif. —9:00 pm: Representative Dennis Kucinich meets with supporters at the Flat Hotel, New York City —9:45 pm: Democratic National Committee reception for young professionals and the presidential candidates at the Sheraton New York Hotel, New York City —11:35 pm: Secretary of State Colin Powell appears on The Late Show with David Letterman


Q. What's the only thing worse than a barrelful of hung-over Googling monkeys?

A. A barrelful of Googling monkeys stuck in middle seats on the D.C.-New York Delta Shuttle to cover a debate with stringent usage rules.

-- ancient Note riddle

Last night's ABC News Culinary Clash in the Capital party featured the first historic meeting between Jill Alper and Ken Mehlman (The Note feels it might have been present at the creation at the birth of the next decade's Quinn and Gillespie); a monstrously competitive limbo competition (Congratulations, Ben Ginsberg!); and an eerily Floridian narrow Bush win by over-vote in the dessert competition.

The California debate proved two things: Stan Statham is more of a Ted Baxter or Admiral Stockdale type than a George Stephanopoulos type, and bad format married with a weak moderation is a recipe for causing some to paraphrase Ray Donovan and ask, "Where do I go to get my 90 minutes back, and who TiVoed 'West Wing' for us?"

So, with one debate out of the way, a brutal WSJ/NBC poll with still-strong-by-historic-standards-but-trending-badly numbers for 43, and the situation on the ground and on the Hill vis-a-vis Iraq not trending so swell either, we move to what we affectionately call "The Double Digit Debate."

After the closing bell rings on Wall Street today, downtown will be the site of the second Democratic National Committee sanctioned presidential debate.

The two-hour ruckus is hosted by CNBC and the Wall Street Journal .

While the stated focus of this debate will be economic issues, the real focus will be on The General as he takes part in his first debate and makes his debut appearance with the other nine candidates. NBC's Brian Williams will moderate the debate. CNBC's Ron Insana and Gloria Borger will join Williams and the Wall Street Journal 's Gerald Seib as the questioners.

After the debate, the DNC will host a dinner to honor the presidential candidates at the Sheraton New York Hotel. Al Franken will emcee the evening. All candidates are expected to attend except Dean. And there's an after-party with young professionals.

President Bush meets with members of the congressional conference on Medicare modernization today at the White House.

Governor Dean flies to Detroit this morning to speak to the AFL-CIO convention. He will not go to the DNC dinner tonight after the debate; he is heading home to Vermont before the night is over.

Senator Kerry will attend a debate watching party after the debate.

General Clark will meet with supporters in Bowling Green Park on his way to the debate.

Congressman Gephardt has private fundraising events in New York City before heading to the debate and the dinner.

Congressman Kucinich will meet with supporters at the Flat Hotel after the debate and the dinner.

Reverend Sharpton will hold a media availability at Amy Ruth's restaurant in Harlem before heading to the debate and the dinner.

Senator Edwards, Ambassador Moseley Braun, Senator Lieberman, and Senator Graham have no other public events scheduled besides the debate and the dinner.

In the recall:

Republican county chairs will meet at the chamber of commerce in Sacramento today to discuss whether to endorse a candidate for governor.

Governor Davis will meet with the Los Angeles County Professional Peace Officers Association to talk about Meagan's Law this afternoon in Monterey Park. He also will participate in a town hall forum sponsored by Town Hall LA in Burbank tonight.

Lieutenant Governor Bustamante makes remarks on veterans' issues at Patriotic Hall in Los Angeles today.

Arnold Schwarzenegger appears on the Sean Hannity radio show this afternoon, which will also air live on FNC. He also will attend a town hall meeting hosted by KABC radio, FOX News, and the Republican Jewish Coalition in Los Angeles today.

State Senator Tom McClintock makes appearances on CNN, MSNBC, FNC, San Francisco's NBC 11, and San Diego's KOGO 660 today.

A day confined to your must-reads:

ABC 2004: Bush-Cheney re-elect:

Six little words mighty big on political meaning, that came as no surprise to Matt Dowd or the folks at Gallup: "The lowest point of his presidency."

A Wall Street Journal /NBC News poll shows "slow economic growth and persistent job losses" have hurt the president, and reports that "just 49% of Americans approve of his overall job performance, and only 43% approve of his handling of the economy." LINK

Do see Mr. Harwood for a discussion of what Dems are doing with the economy numbers and why their roll-back-the-tax cut strategy just might be "a gamble worth taking."

Al Hunt loses the "just might" and finds Clark as maybe the candidate in the best position to make the most of sagging Bush poll numbers.

Keying off its poll, the Wall Street Journal heads west to Independence, Missouri, gauges the mood of "wary on the economy" Show Me State voters, and offers Glen Bolger's assessment that "Mr. Bush has until June 2004 to turn around the economy because it takes months of good news to convince voters the improvement is real."

The politics of national security:

The New York Times ' Mr. Hulse, writing on Democrats' increasing comfort in the crouching-for-attack position regarding the president's $87 billion request, reports, "Top Democratic aides said public unease with the Iraq aid request as well as some slipping in the president's support reflected in polls is certainly making it easier to take on the administration. They said the criticism was not being orchestrated, though Senate Democrats met this evening to plot strategy on the spending request." LINK

The Republican wagon-circling is also chronicled.

Roll Call follows up by Noting that after making their political hay, Democratic leaders, "with a close eye on the political waters heading into the 2004 elections," are "likely to back the White House's $87 billion Iraq spending request even in the face of a split in their Caucus and internal polling showing problems with President Bush's credibility on the topic."

The Clintons of Chappaqua:

No, they don't protest too much — the Clintons really aren't heading Wes.

The New York Times says:

"Former President Bill Clinton has called at least three Democratic presidential candidates in recent days to assure them that he is not favoring former Gen. Wesley K. Clark in the party's presidential contest and would help any Democrat who wants to run against President Bush, officials familiar with the discussion said today." LINK

The front page of the New York Post screams: "Hill's Poll Shock: 69% say don't run for prez." LINK

Keying off the Marist College survey, the New York Daily News reports that New Yorkers are conflicted about a Hillary candidacy: "Democrats would stampede to a Clinton candidacy but at the same time (they) don't want her on the ticket." LINK

ABC 2004: The Invisible Primary:

The AP's Sharon Theimer reports that Howard Dean is "setting a torrid pace in the contest for dollars … but it's still President Bush who is proving to be the superstar in raising campaign cash overall." LINK

"Bush is expected to have taken in a record of roughly $43 million by the time the third quarter ends Tuesday, bringing his total this year to $78 million or so, Republican Party officials said."

"Dean, raising millions on the Internet, will probably take in $13 million to $16 million this quarter, a campaign insider said. That would lift him to at least $23.5 million for the race so far and probably make him the Democratic money leader for the year."

As the story makes clear, no one else will break $6 million most likely and there are a lot of candidates out there who would be delighted to break 5 (not to mention: 4).

The Washington Post 's Jim VandeHei thinks a storm is brewing for things to really get nasty among the candidates with "several [who] are looking to protect or improve their standing by hitting their nearest rivals — sometimes using questionable charges or remarks made nearly a decade ago." LINK

Ron Brownstein says the economic slump and organized labor's political potency explains the Democratic candidates' moves away from Bill Clinton's free trade positions. LINK

And, boy, are those Dems loving these three numbers: 527. LINK


Ms. Seelye writes on Clark's Tuesday domestic policy speech, Noting that "after his short outing," The General "secluded himself with some of the Democratic Party's most seasoned political operatives in a Manhattan office building in preparation for a Democratic debate today in New York." And Gen. Barry McCaffrey goes toe-to-toe with Gen. Shelton on the subject of Gen. Clark. LINK

We are too demure to print the names, but would you believe a certain Brookings scholar, a pair of brainy brothers, a Brooklyn-based member of a certain Society to which Bill Safire belongs, and many others were rounded up by intellectual Rahm Emanuel and bookish Joel Johnson to give The General some serious debate prep staffing?

"Clark said he would take the money that Bush gave the wealthy in tax cuts and create three funds: for homeland security, business tax incentives and relief for state governments," the AP reports. LINK

From ABC News' Clark campaign reporter Deborah Apton: "General Clark stood in East River Park yesterday morning amongst his supporters to give his first major policy speech since he announced his candidacy. Before General Clark arrived, the remnants of the Draft Clark campaign loomed. One volunteer handed out Clark candy bars and at the same time checked to make sure that supporters had the new Clark for President pins, rather than the Draft Wesley Clark ones. General Clark came and went without answering reporters' questions, but both times he did stop and talk to his volunteers and supporters."

The AP's Ron Fournier reports that two rivals are "questioning Clark's commitment to the Democratic Party." LINK

"Kerry said during a brief news conference … that Clark will have to answer for his past support of Republicans Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan."

"Dean told ABC he was surprised Clark voted for Republicans. Asked if Clark was a true Democrat, Dean replied, 'I think that we have to find out about that.'" And on the Hill:

"Congressman Gene Taylor (D-MS) is the latest House Representative to endorse General Wesley Clark for President. And his name, along with nine other House Representatives (Arkansas Democrat's Rep. Marion Berry, Rep. Mike Ross, and Rep. Vic Snyder; New York Rep. Charles Rangel; Illinois Rep. Rahm Emmanuel; New York Rep. Steve Israel; Minnesota Rep. Betty McCollum; Utah Rep. Jim Matheson; and California Napa Rep. Mike Thompson) appeared on 'An Open Letter to the Democratic Caucus' distributed today around the Hill encouraging colleagues to 'endorse [Clark's] candidacy for President of the United States.' They also mention the Tuesday, September 30th 4:30pm meeting at a private residence as the day for Hill colleagues to come meet General Clark 'so that he can share directly with you his vision for the future.'"


The Boston Globe 's Glen Johnson reports on Senator Kerry's endorsement from the fire fighters, which Johnson calls a "fresh example of establishment support for his presidential campaign." LINK

The Boston Herald's Noelle Straub reports that Senator Kerry went after The General yesterday after receiving the fire fighters' endorsement. LINK

The Des Moines Register 's Tom Beaumont reports on Senator Kerry's letter to Governor Dean asking him "to rethink his stance on repealing all the tax cuts enacted under President Bush." LINK

We assume the old letter trick/gambit is homage to Lehane.


The Barre Montpelier Times Argus leads,"Going into today's debate with his nine Democratic rivals, Howard Dean needs to keep his arrogance in check and make sure the newcomer to the race — retired Gen. Wesley Clark — does not hit him from the left, according to the former governor's advisers and political debate specialists." LINK

From ABC News' Dean reporter Marc Ambinder on the letter:

"Gov. Dean, in the name of campaign manager Joe Trippi, responded to Senator's Kerry's letter, which urged Dean to'change your position on two issues that are fundamental to our nation and Democratic Party and: the middle class tax relief and protecting Medicare.'"

"Note the first few words … . the Dean campaign says that they never actually received the letter from the Kerry. But Kerry campaign spokeswoman Kelley Benander insists they faxed the letter to Dean's Burlington headquarters earlier in the day."

"A Dean aide says the campaign is still at least a week and a half away from its big economic policy roll-out."

More from Ambinder:

"At a senior center in Dubuque Sunday, Dean will unveil another component of his health care plan — his prescription for long-term care for the elderly. Dean plans two more policy speeches in upcoming weeks. He'll talk about higher education during his 'Generation Dean' tour. Still in the hopper are Dean's proposals to create jobs and revive the economy. (To cut taxes, or not to cut taxes; that IS the question!)"

"With about a million raised since latest the bat challenge began, it's not easy for everyone to see how the campaign can meet their goal of $5 million by the end of the month. Of course, press skepticism is what lowers expectations for Dean to smash, what fuels Joe Trippi more than the Diet Pepsis in the refrigerator below his desk, and is generally seen as a catalyst for action by the idealists on the third floor of 90 Farrell Street."

"But they do have more than $4 million to raise in seven days, and that's an awful lot of money." "An early plan was to put multiple bats up at once as soon as the first bat was topped off. But they'd anticipated raising more early, so it's unclear what will happen now."

"Still, never underestimate the power of the Dean's supporters on the Net. If there's a mantra to be repeated, it's that."

"The Bat goals tend to gain momentum as they go along, and psychologically, the campaign believes that people tend to withhold donations until the last minute. The campaign hopes the 9/29 record-setting conference call and nationwide series of house parties will also spur giving."

"Even if they don't make $5 million, the campaign expects to raise at least $12 million, and some fundraisers are being told that the real figure will be between $14 and $15 million (maybe more)-- spectacular numbers in just about every way."

"(The AP's Theimer says it may be around $16 million:" LINK

"Also today: some 480-odd Texans for Dean will saddle up and head to Iowa and New Hampshire for a weekend of door-to-door canvassing." LINK

"Texas state coordinator Glen Maxey told ABC News last week that convincing that many people to give up a weekend, sleep in a stranger's bed, and show the flag for Dean was 'easy.'"

"'We just sent an e-mail around and asked, 'who wants to go to Iowa [and New Hampshire],' he said." Gephardt:

The Des Moines Register 's Tom Beaumont reports that the Laborers' International Union of North America's endorsement "moves Gephardt closer than any other candidate to the backing" of the AFL-CIO. LINK


The Raleigh News and Observer's John Wagner reports on the new internal poll showing Edwards "has a 10-point lead" in South Carolina at 23 percent followed by Clark at 13 percent. LINK

Edwards skipped 90% of all Senate roll-call votes this past month, though his attendance record is better than the other three senators running for the Democratic nomination. LINK

From ABC News' Edwards campaign reporter Gloria Riviera:

"The Edwards camp has tapped John Kraus to serve as state director for Wisconsin. Kraus was the communications director for Gore/Lieberman 2000 and Attorney General Jim Doyle's successful gubernatorial race in 2002."

"Edwards endorsed the Immigrant Workers Freedom Ride: More than 1,000 people are traveling to Washington from Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Minneapolis, Chicago, Houston, Miami and Boston to raise awareness of the plight of undocumented immigrant workers. The event is modeled after the 1961 Civil Rights freedom rides. As part of his education platform Edwards would allow states to charge immigrant students in-state tuition at public colleges. His platform also includes reforming the immigration system so 'there is a clear road map to legalization and citizenship for immigrants who work hard and follow the law' and cleaning up the backlog of immigrations cases at the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services. "


The New York Post reports that Lieberman "continues to lead the pack" in New York, but Dean is "gaining ground," according to a Marist College poll. LINK


From ABC News' Graham reporter Tarana Harris:

"Campaign aides say Graham knows all he needs to know, so debate prep will focus on delivery." "The closest Graham has come to attacking other candidates is to say that they gave President Bush a blank check by voting for the war resolution, and that they do not have a comprehensive economic plan. Expect Graham to focus on his pill for the economy. Graham's 'Opportunity for All' plan calls for improving America's infrastructure, creating a new millionaire's tax bracket at 40 percent, and balancing the budget in five years."

"Spokesman Mo Elleithee concedes that it's hard to stand out among so many candidates. Graham, therefore, will need to turn on a little Florida sunshine. He'll emphasize that as governor he created 1.4 million jobs in Florida and balanced the state's budget."

California recall, the "Super Bowl" of debates:

At last night's California gubernatorial debate, the candidates largely stayed on message, lobbed a few verbal grenades at one another, and generally made no news.

Here are some of the reviews: The Los Angeles Times: LINK

The New York Times : LINK

The Washington Post : LINK

The San Francisco Chronicle: LINK

No one scored a touchdown, writes the San Francisco Chronicle's Robert Salladay, but no one fatally fumbled either. LINK

California recall, Arnold v. Arianna:

The New York Times 's Charlie Leduff on the "Arnold and Arianna show." LINK

The Sacramento Bee leads with Schwarzenegger/Huffington sniping: LINK

With the vote to oust Gov. Gray Davis less than two weeks away, Arianna uses a prime-time debate to stage a relentless attack on the Terminator. LINK

California recall, color:

The Los Angeles Times on how the "real jousting began" in the Post -debate spin room: LINK

Hank Steuver of the Washington Post went party hopping. LINK

California recall, Arnold:

The San Jose Mercury News leads with Schwarzenegger's good, but not great, performance: LINK

USA Today 's John Ritter and Martin Kasindorf called it a "pivotal moment" in the recall where "Arnold Schwarzenegger blamed free-spending politicians for the state's problems and bantered with four other candidates in a raucous debate 13 days before voters go to the polls." LINK

USA Today 's Martin Kasindorf says that Schwarzenegger had the "most to prove" and "did what he had to do." LINK

The wildly prolific Mr. Kasindorf also has a big profile of "Schwarzenegger's American Dream." You have to check out the hard copy to see the photo (complete with a big old Texas-style belt buckle). LINK

Did we mention "prolific"? Kasindorf also profiles Schwarzenegger's financial profile. LINK Maureen Dowd talks with Arnold about bodybuilding, books, metrosexuals, and women's fashion. LINK

USA Today has a bio box for Schwarzenegger, and we're not sure when's the last time we saw "championed" on someone's file. LINK

California recall, the governor:

The Los Angeles Times' Gregg Jones looks at Davis' chances for surviving the recall — and gets in the fact that Dan Schnur roots for the Sacramento Kings. LINK

"Six weeks ago, Davis' chances of survival looked so bleak that donors were reluctant to contribute money and prominent Democrats were reluctant to stand on the same stage with him."

Davis' aides plan for him to keep on keepin' on over the next 12 days with town hall meetings and TV ads looking to plant doubt in voters' minds about the wisdom of the recall

"Planting those doubts may be easier, Davis aides believe, after Wednesday night's debate, in which the candidates broadly attacked one another's politics and personalities and only occasionally criticized the governor."

"'I look at Davis' team the same way I look at the Los Angeles Lakers,' said the Sacramento Kings fan. 'I root against them, but every once in a while you have to stop and admire how good they are at what they do.'"

ABC 2004: Taste of the Campaign:

Was the Culinary Clash in the Capital a measure of things to come?

At the ABC News Taste of the Campaign party, hosted by David Westin and Peter Jennings, the Washington cognoscenti mingled on a balcony overlooking the Capitol building and featuring one of the best views in the city.

A potential Florida election situation emerged as the ballots were tallied for the culinary clash, but guests were assured at the voting stations that there would be no chance for a recount.

Jennings, voting in his first American election, announced the winner of the dessert contest among the campaigns and President Bush's Cowboy Cookies triumphed over the10 Democratic dessert contenders, including close runner-up Congressman Dick Gephardt's peach cobbler.

ABC News Political Unit Director Mark Halperin counted and certified the vote, which first ended in a tie between the Bush Cowboy Cookies and the Gephardt peach cobbler. Giving the Gephardt campaign room for a potential appeal, one ballot featured a vote for the peach cobbler and a write-in vote. The ballot was tossed out, giving the Bush Cowboy Cookies the one-vote victory.

Lieberman could have been in a tie with President Bush, but, according to numerous sources, his own press secretary, Jano somethingorother, failed to vote.

Will this be a sign of things to come in the general election? The Bush campaign took its victory in stride. Campaign spokesman Scott Stanzel: "It's further evidence that the president's team knows how to succeed in a closely divided electorate."