The Note

On the main stage, Arnold Schwarzenegger (and the other Question 2 candidates) will be questioned, in effect, by the voters of California, in what is billed by his campaign as the one-and-only debate in which Schwarzenegger will participate.

The questions-in-advance thing is actually not as ludicrous as it might seem at first glance, Tim. Think of them more as topics for free-flowing discussion than a rigged game.

If C-SPAN was Nielsen-metered, we bet this would be their most-watched event ever, and it is perfectly possible that it will be the most-watched non-presidential debate in the history of the Republic.

We won't engage in that oh-so-common pre-debate analysis of "what Arnold HAS to do" or "the voters will be watching for … ." — but we do think this is a big deal — for theater critics, sports reporters, and, yes, voters.

But before the news pedulum sweeps west across the fruited plain, there is a lot of questioning going on back east.

Two men who have been questioned about their policy bona fides — Schwarzenegger and Wesley Clark — are making stabs this news cycle at proving they can play on the big issue of the economy:

Arnold in a Wall Street Journal op-ed that reads suspiciously like those Pete Wilson op-eds we used to like so much, and Wesley Clark in a Manhattan speech that will likely have ended by the time you read this.

While Clark is trying to answer questions about his economic vision thing, Howard Dean is questioning Clark's anti-war credentials (Howard Dean on Good Morning America was asked by Charlie Gibson if Clark is a "true Democrat." Dean said: "I think we have to find out about that. We don't know what his positions are."

… and in an interview with the New York Times aboard a jet plane. LINK

(And we still don't understand Clark's position. Would he have voted for the resolution at the time it was voted on or not?)

And John Kerry is questioning Clark's Democratic credentials in a motor car with the Miami Herald . LINK

And Kerry's campaign is questioning Dean on his questioning of Clark! (We kid you not — "Mr. Straight Talk can't be straight about whether he will criticize Clark" a Kerry adviser tells The Note.)

(Even) Judy Keen and Deborah Orin are questioning the president's political health (although neither says he is "fighting for his political life.").

Keen on the front page of USA Today : "Some Republicans are saying aloud something that seemed unthinkable just a few months ago: President Bush could lose next year's election." LINK

Orin hidden inside the New York Post : "Bush is now at a crunch point as he seeks to regenerate."

Judy is a must-read; the story makes many good points; although its failure to point out that one can't beat something with (so far) nothing and her suggestion that conservatives are/might be abandoning the president is not supported by facts.

Hill Republicans are questioning Democratic attacks on the president and the war. LINK

And Hillary Clinton has faced questioning over waffles at the Breakfast Formerly Known as Sperling. (More on that below.)

President Bush has separate meetings with Caribbean leaders, the German chancellor, the president of Ghana, the president of Pakistan, the president of Mozambique, and the prime minister of India at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City.

He will also attend a closed meeting in the afternoon with insurance and business leaders. He and Mrs. Bush return to the White House this evening.

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