The Note

USA Today 's Bill Nichols writes, "The applause was polite for President Bush after he gave his high-stakes speech to U.N. delegates Tuesday, but Bush's unyielding, almost defiant address appeared to do little to encourage the world to help rescue the troubled reconstruction of Iraq." LINK

Newly "emboldened" by internal poll numbers showing "60 percent of the public opposes the $87 billion request, while 54 percent believe Mr. Bush does not have a plan to win the peace and bring troops home," Democrats are turning up the volume on their criticism of the administration, using the $87 billion as the Rorschach test on the entire White House agenda, reports the New York Times .

Note Tom DeLay's use of the phrase "sticker shock," sure to delight those at 1600. LINK

Janet Hook of the Los Angeles Times reports congressional Republicans are coming to the president's defense as Democrats turn up the rhetoric. LINK

"As President Bush's approval ratings decline, Republicans in Congress on Tuesday launched a campaign to counter Democratic criticism of the administration's Iraq policy and to defend U.S. efforts to rebuild the war-scarred nation."

"They orchestrated a series of blistering speeches on the Senate floor, lambasting Senator Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) for recently calling Bush's Iraq policy a politically motivated 'fraud.'"

Hook gets Christine Iverson to read from that Matthew Dowd memo.

"GOP officials say they are not worried about the slide in Bush's approval ratings, arguing that a significant drop was inevitable given the stratospheric ratings he received after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks."

"'What we're seeing now is not the sky falling,' said Christine Iverson, a spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee. 'It is gravity.'"

"Even now, she said, Bush has stronger public support than former presidents Clinton and Reagan did at comparable periods in their first terms."

The Boston Globe 's Susan Milligan and Stephen Glain report that the president's $87 billion request for Iraq "drew heavy fire yesterday on Capitol Hill." LINK

Democrats have grabbed onto President Bush's budget request for post-war Iraq as a target for criticism, but in the end they don't have much leverage to do anything about it, writes the Washington Times ' Stephan Dinan. LINK

The Boston Herald's Noelle Straub is into full-blown Ted-watch. LINK

ABC 2004: Bush-Cheney re-elect:

Judy Keen's lead in USA Today will literally make some of you gasp (repeating for effect): "Some Republicans are saying aloud something that seemed unthinkable just a few months ago: President Bush could lose next year's election." LINK

But rest assured: "There's no panic. There are no calls to the White House urging an overhaul of staff or strategy. But apprehension has seeped into conversations among Republicans in Washington and beyond."

More: "Bush and his advisers have always said publicly that they expect a close election. Those predictions help create low expectations and motivate fundraisers and other volunteers to work hard. For months, Bush campaign manager Ken Mehlman has insisted that he's 'assuming a very competitive race.'"

"Privately, however, many supporters were confident Bush would coast to a second term. Now that confidence is giving way to anxiety among some of them."

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