The Note

Today's Schedule (all times Eastern):

—7:30 am: President Bush meets with Caribbean leaders, New York City

—8:55 am: President Bush meets with the chancellor of Germany, New York City

—9:00 am: Vice President Cheney meets with members of the House Republican Conference, Capitol Hill

—9:30 am: Representative Dick Gephardt receives the endorsement of the Laborers' International Union of North America, Chicago —9:30 am: General Wesley Clark gives a speech about jobs and takes questions in East River Park, New York City

—9:30 am: Senate convenes for legislative business

—9:30 am: Senate Foreign Relations Committee hears testimony from Paul Bremer, the U.S. Civilian Administrator in Iraq, Capitol Hill

—9:45 am: President Bush meets with the president of Ghana, New York City

—10:00 am: House convenes for legislative business

—10:00 am: Senate Appropriations Committee hears testimony from Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Joint Chiefs Chairman General Richard Myers, and CENTCOM General John Abizaid, Capitol Hill

—10:00 am: Vice President Cheney and OMB Director Josh Bolten meet with members of the House Policy Committee, Capitol Hill

—10:20 am: President Bush meets with the president of Pakistan, New York City

—11:10 am: President Bush meets with the president of Mozambique, New York City

—12:00 pm: President Bush meets with the prime minister of India, New York City

—12:15 pm: Governor Howard Dean speaks to the American Society of Magazine Editors luncheon, New York City

—12:30 pm: Senator John Kerry receives the endorsement of the International Association of Fire Fighters, D.C.

—2:00 pm: House Appropriations Committee hears testimony from Paul Bremer and General Abizaid, Capitol Hill

—2:00 pm: Representative Dennis Kucinich unveils legislation to repeal the USA PATRIOT Act, Capitol Hill

—2:00 pm: President Bush meets privately with business and insurance leaders, New York City

—3:30 pm: Governor Davis leads a discussion on health care issues and holds a signing ceremony for a measure on stem-cell research at the UC-Davis Medical Center, Davis, Calif.

—5:30 pm: Senator Bob Graham attends a reception with young professionals, New York City

—6:00 pm: Senator Joe Lieberman attends the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute 26th Annual Gala, D.C.

—7:00 pm: Vice President Cheney keynotes the National Republican Senatorial Committee fundraising dinner at the National Building Museum, D.C. (closed press)

—8:00 pm: Senator Graham attends a campaign fundraiser, New York City

—9:00 pm: California Broadcasters Association gubernatorial debate, Sacramento

—11:15 pm: Arnold Schwarzenegger addresses a post-debate party with supporters, Sacramento

—11:35 pm: Lynne Cheney appears on The Late Show with David Letterman


People in politics only question other people in politics after forethought.

Sometimes, with malice aforethought, but always with aforethought.

Even in the hyper-organized, super collegial Bush-Cheney campaign, there is more chaos, rivalry, disorganization, and hap than most political reporters (or political rivals) want to believe.

So a lot happens in politics and government NOT by design.

Questioning, though, usually DOES happen only after careful planning, and there is a lot of querying today.

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.

Vice President Cheney will meet with the House Republican Conference this morning on Capitol Hill. After that meeting, Cheney and OMB Director Josh Bolten have a closed meeting with members of the House Policy Committee. He keynotes the NRSC's fundraiser tonight in D.C.

Republicans just keep quietly raising lots of money. Roll Call 's Chris Cilizza and Paul Kane report that tonight's NRSC fundraiser (which is closed to the press) is expected to bring in "as much as $8 million."

We would love a copy of the Cheney tribute video if the talented videomaster wants to give us one.

Senator Kerry is in D.C. today where he will receive the endorsement of the International Association of Fire Fighters.

General Clark is in New York City today where he'll give a speech about jobs and takes questions in East River Park.

Governor Dean has private meetings with Democrats and speaks to the American Society of Magazine Editors luncheon in New York City.

Congressman Gephardt is in Chicago this morning where he'll be endorsed by the 800,000 member Laborers' International Union of North America. He then travels to D.C. for private fundraising events.

Senator Lieberman will attend the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute 26th Annual Gala in D.C.

Senator Graham attends a reception with young professionals and a fundraising dinner in New York City tonight.

Reverend Sharpton is in D.C. for the Congressional Black Caucus legislative conference.

Congressman Kucinich holds a press conference on Capitol Hill to announce legislation he'll introduce to repeal the USA PATRIOT Act.

Ambassador Moseley Braun and Senator Edwards have no public events announced for today.

It was really nice to see Dean on Good Morning America and Clark on Today simultaneously.

Welcome to the national political beat, proud pappy Ed Wyatt of the New York Times !!! LINK

In the recall:

The long-anticipated California Broadcasters Association debate takes place tonight in Sacramento.

Governor Davis will lead a discussion on health care issues today at the UC-Davis Medical Center. A signing ceremony for a measure on stem-cell research follows the discussion.

Arnold Schwarzenegger attends the CBA debate and addresses a post-debate party with supporters tonight.

Lieutenant Governor Bustamante, State Senator Tom McClintock, and Peter Camejo all attend the CBA debate.

Yesterday, just to make sure you were paying attention, we threw in a (bogus) reference to Dick Gephardt's nuptials best man.

Rather than try to clarify or explain (which might just lead to another need to clarify and/or explain tomorrow), let's just say you should ignore any alleged meaning in what we wrote.

The politics of national security:

USA Today 's Laurence McQuillan brings you sideline reporting from the United Nations. LINK

The New York Post 's Deborah Orin writes, "The speech came at a time when Bush is under fire at home and abroad over Iraq, with his poll ratings slipping dramatically, but he stood his ground and stuck by his policy of having the U.S.-led coalition continue running Iraq." LINK

The Boston Globe 's Wayne Washington reports that the president said the U.S. had "the right to topple the regime of Saddam Hussein." LINK

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."

"Few would discuss their concerns on the record, but in interviews with 20 Republican officials and strategists across the country, most said off the record that they are beginning to worry. They fear that if U.S. soldiers keep dying in Iraq and the jobless rate doesn't improve, Bush will be vulnerable to the Democratic nominee's charge that he doesn't deserve a second term."

Keen does give bullet points of the president's strength's: "Heaps of cash," "The powers of incumbency," and "Support for the war on terrorism."

Judy, Judy, Judy: Ms. Keen's excellent piece is going to set us back 15 months trying to train our journalistically ambitious interns with this passage:

"Few would discuss their concerns on the record, but in interviews with 20 Republican officials and strategists across the country, most said off the record that they are beginning to worry."

We think that was probably "deep background," Judy.

The New York Post 's Fredric Dicker reports, "President Bush arrived in New York to bad political news yesterday: a new poll showing his approval rating plummeting among state voters." LINK

The New York Daily News' Maggie Haberman has the same bad news. LINK

"Campaign officials said they intend to put New York in play — even though they concede Bush has zero chance of winning the state, where the GOP will hold its convention next year."

"Instead, the emerging strategy is to commit organization and campaign cash to the New York operation because the city media market overlaps New Jersey and Connecticut — two states some Bush operatives believe they have a shot at taking."

John DiStaso reports on Cheney's no pretenses re-election effort in Manchester. LINK

Kevin Landrigan of the Nashua Telegraph reports that Vice President Cheney "drew fewer than 90 supporters inside and roughly twice as many protesters across Elm Street outside Tuesday night." LINK

It was nice of the Govenor to stay as long as he did; those Cheney speeches can be long.


General-ists Harwood, Meyerson, and Lehigh raise some questions for us this morning.

-- Is Wesley Clark the new Bobby Kennedy? (And won't that delight the Kennedy-endorsement-primary winners over there at the Kerry campaign? We are reaching for our Theodore H. White as we write … ) -- Can Clark keep together the Democratic factions which seem, right now, to be going his way? -- Will The General be able to trade "artful pabulum" for domestic policy substance today? -- Can Wes Clark avoid becoming the John McCain of this campaign cycle? -- And is Clark's Iraq talk less or more muddled than it seems to "we the press?"

Writing in the Washington Post , Harold Meyerson praises Clark's prospects thus far and makes the case that Clark has swiped the momentum from the other guys in the race (and yes, he only mentions guys). Then he warns Clark to be careful not to get so close to the Establishment that he ignites the candidacy of People-Powered Howard. LINK

We are quoting the venerable Mr. Harwood when we use the word "pabulum," it is true.

Harwood goes on to tell his readers that "the thin record of the general's domestic-policy utterances suggest he is reading polls as closely as any center-left Democratic stalwart" and get Mark Fabiani to say 2004 "will not be an election that will turn on who has the best 10-point plan."

The Boston Globe 's Scot Lehigh writes about Clark's conflicting answers on supporting the war and reports that on the day Congress passed the Iraq resolution, Clark's thinking was:

"Use force only as a last resort. When you use it, use it decisively against a very clear objective. Limit your objective as much as possible to obtain your strategic aim." LINK

For his part, Slate's Saletan wonders why Clark is the new Kerry, and why, when Clark and Kerry share a penchant for having it all ways, does only Kerry take the heat for it? LINK

"Add it up. Like Kerry, Clark supported the resolution authorizing the use of force. Like Kerry, he says his purpose in doing so was to provide leverage for a U.N. solution and thereby avoid war. Like Kerry, he would have trusted the president. Like Kerry, he says Bush misled the country. Like Kerry, he says Bush rushed to war. But everywhere you look, people are talking about Clark as the man of steel who can lead the Democrats."

The Arkansas Democrat Gazette reports: LINK

-- Little Rock native, Rhodes scholar, and Clinton Administration veteran William Halter is briefing Clark on economic issues.

-- Clark refused to rule out support for vouchers speaking at DePauw University yesterday (Note that, Diamond Jim.).

-- Egypt, Syria and Iran must be at the table for a Middle East peace deal. -- The General himself said there is "some crossover" between his supporters and the Good Governor's …

Clark's fellow military man, retired General H. Hugh Shelton, came out strong against The General earlier this month, raising the character issue at the same time. (We are preparing our inboxes to see this quote again … A LOT.)

Said Shelton, speaking at the Foothill College Celebrity Forum:

"I've known Wes for a long time. I will tell you the reason he came out of Europe early had to do with integrity and character issues, things that are very near and dear to my heart. I'm not going to say whether I'm a Republican or a Democrat. I'll just say Wes won't get my vote." LINK

From ABC News' Clark campaign reporter Deborah Apton:

"On Today this morning, General Wesley Clark admitted that if he has learned anything in this short period as presidential candidate, it is that he should not answer 'hypothetical questions.'"

"In light of his flip-flop on the Iraq war resolution, he again tried to clarify his position, saying he would have gone to the American people for their thoughts, and ultimately, he would not have gone to war with Iraq."

"Clark was self-assured throughout the interview --'The truth is I have an awful amount of experience in international politics,' he said at one point, defending the criticism that he's not ready for primetime. He also responded to the polls, saying, 'I'm not surprised.'"

"General Clark also used this forum to deny rumors that he's 'Clinton's candidate:' 'No, I'm the people's candidate … I was drafted.'"

The AP's Calvin Woodward has an in-depth look at Clark's vacillating comments as a CNN military analyst, including this item which may prove troublesome for The General's political team: "Clark at times heaped praise on Bush and his team for skillfully handling the Iraqi operation — even so far as to say the president should be proud for forging ahead despite the naysaying." LINK

Don't look for Clark to take part in the Sunday scene any time soon. Reports the Hill, "word is that Clark's advisers, one of whom is the political operative formerly known as President Bill Clinton, have decided to carefully limit his media availability … Clark, like Dean, is said to have an anger management problem, and apparently needs more basic training on keeping his cool during hostile interviews." LINK

Clark is expected to make his first campaign swing in the leadoff primary state on Friday and Saturday, John DiStaso reports — in a hard-copy special.

"On Saturday, Clark will greet volunteers who successfully drafted Clark into the race in Dover, address a rally at Dover City Hall and then meet with police officials and officers and other 'first-responders.'"

The Clintons of Chappaqua:

As you know, the broadcast media is excluded from the Monitor Breakfast (formerly known as the Sperling Breakfast) because, well, those print reporters have to try to hold onto some power in their dinosaur industry.

Anyway, this morning at the St. Regis Hotel, Senator Clinton made her first appearance at this fabled event since almost exactly a dozen years ago.

At that '91 breakfast, under the watchful, plotting eye of their then-media consultant Frank Greer, the Clintons premeditatedly TRIED to put to rest any of the anticipated controversy over his personal life through an artful answer, which worked pretty well until the Flowers bloomed in January.

Sperling wrote about the breakfast — and then-candidate (Bill) Clinton's handling of those questions — in the Christian Science Monitor:

"Here Clinton spoke of his relationship with his wife, who was at his side. 'What you need to know about Hillary and me is that we've been together nearly 20 years. It has not been perfect or free from problems, but we're committed to our marriage and its obligations — to our child and to each other. We love each other very much.'"

Someone in the room today was nice enough to break off from talking to editors to fill us in.

Seated nearest the Senator was David Cook and Virginia Harris of the Monitor, with Broder very much at the Senator's table.

At least five of the questions on Wes Clark, out of about the 20 asked over the hour, served over waffles (no metaphor intended).

The Senator cagily avoided ever uttering the word "Clark" in her repeated answers to questions about who she will support (consistent with our reporting yesterday that the Clintons are trying to walk back the notion that they support The General).

"Neutral" the Senator shall remain, and, again, she ruled out running for president in 2004.

About China and her book, she said this was the second time she had been "censored" by the Chinese.

The New York Times ' Ray Hernandez came in a wee bit late, for dramatic effect.

The whole presidential thing is dealt with brilliantly in the Style section of the Washington Post today. LINK

The Hill's Dr. Hill discusses Hillary's invisible hand as it invisibly pushes Clark. LINK

Still on the Hillary beat, Slate's Noah attacks Senator Clinton's presidential credentials, quoting Berkeley economist Brad DeLong, "who served as a deputy assistant secretary of the treasury during the first two years of the Clinton administration and has a natural sympathy for his fellow Democrats" as offering this on the former First Lady:

"She had neither the grasp of policy substance, the managerial skills, nor the political smarts to do the job she was then given. And she wasn't smart enough to realize that she was in over her head and had to get out of the Health Care Czar role quickly."

Noah goes on to offer the 6 reasons the Right so badly wants a Hillary-for-President run. LINK

Chinese publishers censor Senator Clinton's memoirs. LINK

"Nearly everything Mrs. Clinton had to say about China, including descriptions of her own visits here, former President Bill Clinton's meetings with Chinese leaders and her criticisms of Communist Party social controls and human rights policies, has been shortened or selectively excerpted to remove commentary deemed offensive by Beijing," reports the New York Times .

Ueber-lawyer Bob Barnett promises that when Mrs. Clinton's husband's autobiography is published in China, "you can bet that translation will be carefully scrutinized."


The Boston Globe 's Glen Johnson reports that Governor Shaheen's endorsement ended "nine months of political inactivity" and that Shaheen "had been expected to maintain her independence into the fall because she was scheduled to moderate four candidate forums next month." LINK

Jeanne Shaheen's signing as Kerry's national campaign chair is treated as "expected" by John DiStaso of the Manchester Union Leader. LINK

Kevin Landrigan of the Nashua Telegraph writes that Shaheen's decision to back Kerry "could hardly qualify as a big surprise" but quotes Republican National Committeeman Tom Rath saying Shaheen's help "can't be overstated." LINK

"'She is a master of timing. Four years ago, she helped pick up Al Gore off the mat, dusted him off and brought him to victory in New Hampshire to resurrect that campaign,' (Rath) said."

"The International Association of Fire Fighters planned to endorse Kerry on Wednesday after a vote of union leaders," the AP reports. LINK

"The union, which reported 214,000 dues-paying members last year, likes Kerry's record as a decorated Vietnam War veteran; his political, legal and legislative experience; his sense of humor; and his personal interests in athletics and Harley-Davidsons, union President Harold Schaitberger said."

"Late entrant Wesley Clark has four-star credentials, but lacks political and legislative experience, said Schaitberger, who spent a couple of hours at breakfast with the retired general several weeks ago, along with other union presidents."

The Boston Globe 's Patrick Healy reports that Kerry "took a swipe" at Clark Tuesday "because the retired general voted for Republican presidents in the past." LINK

Kerry challenges Clark to answer for his support of Nixon and Reagan reports the Miami Herald 's Peter Wallsten. LINK

Senator Kerry (and Jordan, Gibbs, and friends) probably won't mind that Walter Shapiro calls him "lanky" because Shapiro does spend at least 90 percent of his column talking about Kerry's "steadiness." LINK


Shocked, just shocked! The New York Times ' squared W of Wilgoren and Wyatt write on Dean's swing at Clark's anti-war bona fides. LINK

"Dr. Dean, who himself has been accused by rivals of flip-flopping on issues, focused on remarks General Clark made last week when, in interviews, he first said that he probably would have voted for the Congressional resolution authorizing war in Iraq and then, the following day, was led to backtrack."

"'I was shocked' by General Clark's initial comment on the resolution, Dr. Dean, former governor of Vermont, said in an interview as he flew from a rally in Boston to a series of fund-raisers in New York. 'I was even more shocked that he switched the next day.'"

For his part, The General is quoted thusly: "'I've been against the war from the beginning,' he told reporters in Indiana, where he later addressed students at DePauw University."

The (and we mean "The") Dan Balz of the Washington Post writes, "Dean launched his broadside against the administration in Kerry's backyard, at a rain-drenched rally in Boston's Copley Square, where he called on supporters to lead a modern-day grass-roots campaign to oust the president by pointing to the Revolution as a comparison." LINK

SEIU's Dennis Rivera put his " fund-raising muscle " behind Howard Dean Tuesday , hosting a reception that raised about $30,000. LINK

The New York Post 's Stefan Friedman and Ed Robinson reports on Dean's fundraiser with Rivera in Gotham yesterday. LINK

"Campaigning on a top rival's home turf, Dean reminded a raucous crowd that Bostonians of an earlier time rebelled against tyranny and argued that today's political environment demands a similar response," the AP reports. LINK

"'They had a king named George who had forgotten his people and only listened to special interests,' he said, drawing cheers from onlookers, some carrying signs that read 'Beantown is Deantown,' and 'Harvard 4 Howard.'"

The Boston Globe 's Sarah Schweitzer reports on Dean's Boston speech "rallying a lunch-time crowd in Copley Square with a speech threaded with anti-President Bush one-liners." LINK

The Boston Herald's David Guarino reports on Dean's Boston stop, where he was "using deeply Colonial metaphors." LINK

We were getting a little concerned because we hadn't seen one of these in a little while. Have no fear, the Los Angeles Times provides your daily dose of a "Dean and the Internet" story. LINK

Howard Dean has an Israel problem — so says Salon, which goes on to look at just how different Dean's views are from those of AIPAC or the Clinton Administration. Steve Grossman calls the idea Dean is "breaking faith with this 55-year tradition of the United States' special relationship with Israel" "patently absurd." But some observers say there is a real ideological shift underway and Hank Sheinkopf says Dean keeps "changing his position." LINK


Gephardt picked up his 14th union endorsement when leaders of the Laborers International Union of North America decided Tuesday to back the Missouri Democrat , the AP reports. LINK

"After a disappointing showing in fund raising so far, Gephardt's third-quarter results, out Sept. 30, will be a key indication of whether he can win enough support for a laborwide endorsement from the AFL-CIO."

The Boston Globe 's Brian Mooney reports on the LIUNA endorsement. LINK


The Des Moines Register had Edwards' comments on campaign finance reform. LINK

John Wagner of the Raleigh News and Observer reports on Edwards' proposal to ban campaign contributions from lobbyists to presidential and congressional candidates LINK

From ABC News' Edwards campaign reporter Gloria Riviera:

"According to local political legend (unofficially confirmed by locals with serious nods over pancakes and eggs), it has been over half a century since a major political candidate visited McAlester, Oklahoma. Senator John Edwards brought that run to and end Tuesday morning when he stopped by a breakfast organized by state senators in the small southest Oklahoma town. About 120 men and women came to meet Edwards and hear him speak at his seventh campaign stop in the state, and Edwards has been endorsed by 23 state senators."

"Edwards campaign staffers say the small town, small gathering is Edwards' best format. He is more relaxed, more apt leave his stump speech and go off the cuff. He is clearly at ease with people and one-on-one interaction, unhurried and focused."

"'All of of these people are just excited that a candidate on a national level is here,' said State Representative Mike Mass. 'It makes me feel very proud that he would pick McAlester,' attendee Barbara Gilbertson told me. 'We want to feel like the candidate running for President knows about small town USA and understands it.'"


From ABC News' Graham campaign reporter Tarana Harris:

"Senator Graham met with the League of Conservation Voters yesterday in Washington, D.C. Graham scored a 64% on LCV's 2002 report card, compared to Kerry's 92%, Gephardt's 91%, Lieberman's 88% and Edwards's 68%. So far, candidates Kerry, Lieberman, Edwards and Dean have also lunched with LCV."

"Mark Longabaug, LCV's Senior Vice President of Political Affairs, was forgiving about Graham's missing the hearing on Utah Governor Mike Leavitt's confirmation hearing for a fundraiser. The hearing was moved from its originally scheduled date due to hurricane Isabel, he said."

"Graham, the oldest candidate, set his sights on younger voters yesterday at a fundraiser on a sunny patio at the Capitol City Brewing Company. It was the only non-private event of Graham's day. He'll attend another event for young professionals tonight at Pier 63 in New York. On Saturday he'll keynote a Young Democrats rally in South Carolina before attending the South Carolina State football game."


From ABC News' Kucinich campaign reporter Melinda Arons:

"If every event in which Kucinich participated had the crowd of the Tibet House's forum on 'Ethical Revolution and the World Crisis,' one would think he was poised to take the White House in a landslide."

"The Congressman had definitely found his audience in the left-leaning crowd (also on the program: Susan Sarandon, The Nation editor Katrina Vanden Heuvel, a holistic medicine expert and various peace activists) and was greeted with rousing applause as he dominated the conversation sitting beside Rev. Al Sharpton, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, and a fellow nuclear de-proliferation activist."

"He really got the crowd going when he spoke of the interconnectedness of the entire world's population and said, 'Our politics must be heart-centric,' imploring the Dalai Lama to become involved in world politics in order to purify it. It was a tailor-made group event for his message."

As for that other group event this week, the debate, he would only say 'I'm ready to debate every second of my life.'"


ABC News' Sharpton campaign reporter Beth Loyd was also there:

"Tuesday at Town Hall in New York City, both Reverend Al Sharpton and Congressman Kucinich spoke on a panel with Dr. Helen Caldicott and the Dalai Lama on Ethical Revolution and the World Crisis."

"The event was delayed for 10 minutes while the panel waited for the arrival of … yes, that's right, Reverend Al Sharpton kept the Dalai Lama waiting. Sharpton explained his tardiness: 'I was trying to get through President Bush' traffic. When I'm president, I won't stick up traffic for the Dalai Lama.'"

"During the event Sharpton asked the Dalai Lama, 'Can you imagine: actors with stuntmen and phony guns are being extolled to be governors in this country? And I'm not asking you to endorse in California. If you want to make a presidential endorsement, I would welcome it.'"

"The Dalai Lama with legs crossed and shoes off, leaned over to hear the translator and then chuckled. Sharpton leaned over to Kucinich, put his hand on his shoulder and said, 'I'll take that as a positive chuckle.'"

"Later, Sharpton again put his hand on Kucinich's shoulder and said, 'Don't worry; we love each other. I told Dennis he'd make a good Vice President for me.'"

California recall:

Michael Finnegan leads his recall wrapup with the court's decision to overturn the three-judge panel and move forward with an October 7 election. Don't be fooled. There's plenty more in Finnegan's story than meets the eye, including: Issa's about-face including a promise to endorse a candidate by the weekend, Brulte's endorsement of Schwarzenegger, Tom McClintock's determination to see this through to the end, and those negative ads flying about. LINK

The New York Times on the court's ruling and the ACLU's decision to not appeal with the Supreme Court: LINK

USA Today 's Martin Kasindorf can't wait for the "frenetic 13-day home stretch" for the recall. LINK

His colleague, John Ritter, reports that pundits say the recall is about to get nasty, though there's no comment from Janet Jackson. LINK

The Los Angeles Times reports on the unprecedented interest in tonight's debate. LINK

"Underscoring the potential effect of the debate, two out of three likely voters say the event will play an important role in influencing their vote, according to a new poll by the Public Policy Institute of California."

The Wall Street Journal editorial board is thrilled with the court's decision, but incredibly disappointed that the 9th Circuit won't be humiliated by the Supreme Court on this case.

"We have to confess, though, to being a tad disappointed that the High Court won't be heard from on this issue. The Ninth Circuit slapdown is welcome."

California recall, Arnold:

Arnold Schwarzenegger puts forth his Friedman/Smith based economic principles in a Wall Street Journal op-ed and slams Governor Davis and Lieutenant Governor Bustamante for their tax and spend ways.

"It was not always like this in the Golden State. When I moved to California, as a penniless immigrant from Austria with a pretty rough time of it speaking English, this state was the promised land for anyone who wanted to work hard to get ahead in life. My own dreams fortunately came true in this great state. I became Mr. Universe; I became a successful businessman. And even though some people say I still speak with a slight accent, I have reached the top of the acting profession. (I shouldn't advertise that too loudly or Gov. Davis will probably try to raise my taxes again.)"

Carla Marinucci of the San Francisco Chronicle sets the stage for tonight's debate by calling it a "defining moment" for Arnold Schwarzenegger. Marinucci also gets Dan Schnur to offer up some free advice to his friends in the Schwarzenegger campaign. LINK

"'There's an old saying: You only get one chance to make a first impression,' said GOP consultant Dan Schnur, who advised Peter Ueberroth before the businessman dropped out of the race."

"'For a lot of voters, there are two Arnolds: the celebrity that goes on 'Howard Stern' and 'Oprah' and the serious Arnold that talks about campaign finance reform and workmen's comp,' Schur said. '(Last) week, we saw both of them . . . the less of the celebrity Arnold we see, the better off he'll be on election day.'"

"With just two weeks until the Oct. 7 recall election, Schwarzenegger's appearance today at the California Broadcasters Association debate — where candidates received the questions in advance — represents a defining moment for his campaign and the voters."

The New York Times has some debate strategy from the Schwarzenegger camp. LINK

"'We expect Tom to throw long, try silly stunts, do something to distinguish himself,' an aide to Mr. Schwarzenegger said. 'We expect him to ask for a no-tax pledge or challenge him to another debate. Arnold will be prepared to answer.'"

"Mr. Schwarzenegger's strategy will be to raise the specter of special-interest money, which has flooded the Bustamante campaign and to a lesser extent Mr. McClintock's, the aide said. The Schwarzenegger strategy is to make a boogeyman of the Indian tribes who have contributed generously to his opponents."

Writing for two, Margaret Talev of the Sacramento Bee writes up Schwarzenegger's efforts to woo women into the Republican fold. LINK

"Weathering weeks of scrutiny in his campaign for governor about his views on women, Arnold Schwarzenegger positioned himself Tuesday as a respectful husband committed to restoring women's faith in the California Republican Party."

"'One of the biggest mistakes the Republican Party has made is they haven't reached out enough to women,' Schwarzenegger told a group of about 150 supporters at a town hall meeting in Sacramento. 'You have to include women much more, to bring them to the table, make them really part of the party.'"

The Los Angeles Times' John Horn looks back at Schwarzenegger's rise in Hollywood for some insight into his quest to climb the political ladder. LINK

"Looking back at Schwarzenegger's management of his career in this span, some signature traits emerge: an appetite for risk-taking and hard work; an ability to look ahead and imagine career leaps others thought preposterous; an aptitude for parlaying perceived shortcomings (inscrutably accented English, unintentionally robotic acting) into an asset; and a knack for discovering and collaborating with talented unknowns who could help him advance his vast ambitions."

California recall, the GOP:

Remember when California Republican leaders were talking about how there was plenty of time and that no one candidate needed to drop out of the race to clear the field for another candidate? That time seems to have come to an end. Pulling double duty today, Carla Marinucci gets to the crux of the GOP dilemma. LINK

"With California's Oct. 7 recall election now a certainty, a growing chorus of Republican leaders ramped up the pressure to narrow the GOP field — lining up behind the candidacy of actor Arnold Schwarzenegger and urging state Senator Tom McClintock to withdraw from the contest."

More Marinucci: "The continuing fight between Schwarzenegger and McClintock entering tonight's debate among the major replacement candidates is helping Democratic Gov. Gray Davis, as he continues attempting to remain detached from the political fracas of the recall election."

"The clash diverts attention from the governor's record — and weakens both GOP campaigns in the eyes of voters."

The Los Angeles Times on McClintock's refusal to quit. LINK

California recall, the governor: Mark Z. Barabak writes up the forgotten pro-recall effort and wonders if all the attention on question 2 has given Gray Davis his best chance for survival. LINK

"Taking his ouster in the first part of the recall ballot for granted, the GOP and its leading candidates have put most of their time and virtually all of their resources into the fight to replace Davis. That, in turn, has given the embattled incumbent and his Democratic allies a priceless opportunity — a chance to redefine the recall itself."

If anyone's polled e-mail users, this issue alone might win Gray Davis support in fighting the recall. The Washington Times reports that the embattled Governor signed a bill yesterday prohibiting the sending of spam from California or to citizens of the Golden State. LINK

ABC 2004: Taste of the Campaign:

Frequently Asked Questions (and answers) about The Taste of the Campaign:

Q: What will the ballot look like?

A: If what you're asking is will there be hanging chads, the answer is NO — this is a check-box ballot. The candidates and the desserts will be listed on a pre-printed ballot — with a line for a write-in candidate should The good General choose to deliver the good (ies).

Q: How was the order selected?

A: The order was chosen in a drawing conducted by ABC News Washington Bureau Chief Robin Sproul with two witnesses present to ensure complete and total fairness. The Note will now reveal, for the very first time, the order, as it will appear on tonight's ballot, along with the desserts that will be sampled by voters:

1. Senator Joe Lieberman

Apple Crisp

2. President George W. Bush

Cowboy Cookies

3. Reverend Al Sharpton

Sweet Potato Pie

4. Governor Howard Dean

Maple-Powered Howard

5. Congressman Richard Gephardt

Peach Pie

6. Ambassador Carol Moseley Braun

Mom's Favorite Pound Cake

7. Senator Bob Graham

Lost Creek Sawdust Pie

8. Congressman Dennis Kucinich

New Deal Vegan Chocolate Cake

9. Senator John Kerry

Mama T's Brownies

10. Senator John Edwards

Chocolate Torte

Q: How will you ensure a free and fair election?

A: All guests will register to vote with a signature required to receive their ballot. The one vote per guest rule will be strictly enforced.

Q: Who will certify the results?

A: Playing the role of Katherine Harris, ABC News Political Director Mark Halperin will oversee the vote counting and certify the results. He's your go to guy for problems/complaints with the process.

Q: How am I supposed to both attend this party and watch the California debate?

A: If we've told you once, we've told you a thousand times, this will be the premiere (and maybe only) debate watching party in Washington tonight — don't miss it.

Big Casino budget politics:

Robert Pear writes the White House is siding with the Senate and telling Congress not to provide the prescription drug benefit to the six million poor elderly and disabled people who already qualify for such help through state Medicaid programs. LINK

Said a senior Administration official, "To spend federal money on people who have reasonably good drug coverage does not seem like the best use of the available resources."

Keep it tuned here for more on the coming Bill Thomas — Bush White House showdown.

Negotiations to resolve differing House and Senate plans for Medicare prescription drug benefits have stalled, reports the Wall Street Journal 's Sarah Lueck, and the White House doesn't look to be interested in helping move things along, according to Democrats.

Some Republican leaders, including Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) have been cautiously optimistic in public that a deal will be done — a concern on both sides that they'll be facing an election without the promised drug benefit. And at the moment, there's no Plan B.

"The most vexing problem for congressional negotiators is how to fashion legislation that reshapes Medicare sufficiently to satisfy House Republicans without alienating so many Democrats that a bill can't get through the closely divided Senate. Some supporters of the Senate bill suggest the House isn't interested in compromise. Staffers say there are ways to craft a compromise that will be agreeable to both sides. But without active involvement by Mr. Bush, many on Capitol Hill say, lawmakers are unlikely to cut a deal."

"This conundrum has sparked speculation that the White House may send a high-level official, possibly Vice President Cheney or Bush political adviser Karl Rove, to sit in on congressional negotiating sessions and press for progress. Administration officials won't say whether they will take that step."

Politics: The Wall Street Journal 's John Fialka sets the scene for the hearing to confirm Utah Governor Mike Leavitt's nomination as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency — and the opportunity the Democrats are seizing to vent their spleen(s) about the White House's environmental policies.

Nothing personal, Governor Leavitt.

"'Into this cauldron comes a good man,' said Senator Ron Wyden (D., Ore.) before launching an attack on what he claimed was the Bush administration's secret assault on environmental laws."

The first round of fighting over Leavitt began yesterday with several Senators — Lieberman and Clinton among them — placing a hold on it, the Washington Times ' Amy Fagan reports. Senators Kerry and Edwards also promised to get in on the act if the administration doesn't study the health effects of proposed changes in air quality standards. LINK

USA Today 's Traci Watson reports on the power plant issue that highlighted Governor Leavitt's confirmation hearing on Tuesday. LINK

The AP reports that the ACLU "yesterday asked the federal courts to prevent the Secret Service from keeping anti-Bush demonstrators far away from presidential appearances while allowing supporters to display their messages up close." LINK

Salon on the "ties" the Rev. Sun Myung Moon has "cemented" with the Bush Administration — and the government money he has won for his closest disciples. LINK