The Note

Today's Schedule (all times Eastern):

—9:30 am: Senate convenes for legislative business —9:45 am: Off-camera White House press gaggle with Scott McClellan —10:00 am: House convenes for morning business —11:25 am: President Bush meets with the Prime Minister of Kuwait, White House —12:30 pm: On-camera White House press briefing with Scott McClellan —12:30 pm: Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld speaks at to the National Press Club luncheon, D.C. —1:00 pm: Senator Joe Lieberman addresses the Council on Foreign Relations, New York City —1:00 pm: Arnold Schwarzenegger hosts an education summit, San Jose —2:15 pm: Fundraiser for Arnold Schwarzenegger at the Pasadera Country Club, Monterey, Calif. —3:00 pm: California First Lady Sharon Davis speaks to high school students and faculty, San Mateo, Calif. —3:05 pm: President Bush makes remarks on homeland security, Quantico, Va. —3:15 pm: Secretary Rumsfeld gives a closed briefing to senators, Capitol Hill —4:30 pm: Vice President Cheney makes remarks at the unveiling of the marble bust of former Vice President Dan Quayle, Capitol Hill —5:30 pm: Senator Lieberman attends a fundraiser, Florham Park, N.J. —6:00 pm: Senator John Kerry attends an "unplugged" jam session with Moby, Boston —7:30 pm: Senator Lieberman attends a fundraiser, Tenefly, N.J. —8:00 pm: Fundraiser for Arnold Schwarzenegger at the Blackhawk Museum's Auto Gallery, Danville, Calif. —8:00 pm: California Secretary of State Kevin Shelley keynotes League of Women's Voters forum at UCLA, Los Angeles —10:00 pm: Governor Gray Davis holds a town hall meeting, Fresno, Calif.

NEWS SUMMARY

Will Americans feel the economy is still a weak, job-hemmoraging mess one year from now?

Will the Democrats figure out how to nominate someone for president who is credible on national security and can talk convincingly about the economy?

Who will turn out to vote in the recall election?

Sure, we could try to come up with a new, punchy lead every day, but why hide the truth from our loyal readers?

All political wisdom can be distilled down to those three queries.

CAFE standards; Breaux's potential retirement; Bill Thomas' temperament; three governors races — sure, there ARE other things out there on any given day.

But just stay focused on our Big Three questions, and we'll all be safely on the same page.

Today, the president meets with the Prime Minister of Kuwait at the White House. He is scheduled to have a brief meeting with the Dalai Lama at the White House this morning.

After that, he heads just a little south to make remarks on homeland security at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia. The AP reports he has a private dinner tonight at the White House with a screening of the Academy Award-winning documentary "Twin Towers."

Vice President Cheney will be in the Capitol today to make remarks at the official unveiling of the marble bust of former Vice President Dan Quayle.

Senator Kerry is in Boston tonight for his unplugged session with Moby.

Senator Lieberman addresses the Council on Foreign Relations in New York City and attends a pair of fundraisers in New Jersey today. We wonder if he will mention Howard Dean.

Reverend Sharpton is in New York City with no public events announced.

Ambassador Moseley Braun, Governor Dean, Senator Graham, Congressman Kucinich, Senator Edwards, and Congressman Gephardt have no public events announced for today.

In the recall:

Governor Davis holds another town hall forum tonight, this time in Fresno. Mrs. Davis will speak at a high school in San Mateo today.

Lt. Governor Cruz Bustamante has no public events scheduled for today.

Arnold Schwarzenegger is in San Jose hosting an educational summit featuring former Los Angeles mayor Richard Riordan. He goes to closed-press fundraisers in Monterey and Danville, and Maria might join him for those. And he just might have another event tonight that needs to be Factored in.

Tom McClintock is in session in Sacramento and on "Good Day in Sacramento" in the morning and on Fox's "Hannity and Colmes" in the evening.

ABC 2004: Bush-Cheney re-elect, national security:

The New York Times ' David Sanger has this amazing section that is must-reading for Terry McAuliffe and Rod O'Connor in his piece on the president's relatively low-key plans for tomorrow's somber anniversary:

"The contrast could not be greater with the second anniversary, on Thursday, when the president will not leave Washington in a day of low-key remembrances, starting at the small church across from the White House and ending at a nearby military hospital where, out of sight, he will visit soldiers wounded in Iraq." LINK

"And inside the White House and the Bush campaign, discussion has begun on how to handle next year, when the Republican convention is deliberately scheduled for New York a week before the third anniversary. In the heady days of April, when the air was thick with the sounds of military victory in Iraq, convention planners were talking about rolling the political events seamlessly into the solemn remembrance. But the White House now has different ideas."

"'I think next year will look a lot like this year,' a close Bush aide said today. While the last Sept. 11 was a moment for the president to lead the nation in grief, 'from here on out, the president believes this is not a day about him, but a day about those who lost their lives.'"

"In fact, as Mr. Bush prepares for the second anniversary, the tone of remembrances past, present and future underscore the continued sensitivity at the White House and within the Republican Party about how to mark not only the 9/11 attacks, but all that followed."

"It is a calculus that hinges not only on measures of taste, but measures of success — especially now that the glow that surrounded Mr. Bush in May as he landed in full flight suit on the aircraft carrier Lincoln, beneath the banner proclaiming 'Mission Accomplished,' has burned off, and the successful reconstruction of Iraq is an open question."

The New York Daily News' Tom DeFrank has a hauntingly similar piece with this:

"'If he's reelected, it will be on the strength of his leadership since Sept. 11,' a senior Bush adviser told the Daily News." LINK

"His aides contend the public's perception that Bush is keeping the country safe is so potent that even another massive attack wouldn't damage him politically."

"'It's possible some Democrat can beat him on the economy,' a senior Bush counselor theorized. 'But no Democrat can beat him on the security issue unless something really terrible happens and he appears to have mishandled it.'"

And John Harwood's Wall Street Journal column also looks at this topic, saying that Bush is no LBJ, Iraq is no Vietnam politically, and that the president and his party have an advantage with voters on national security matters that is still the foundation of his electoral strength.

ABC 2004: The Invisible Primary: taking the "charm" out of Charm City:

Another Democratic presidential debate in which the candidates largely competed to be the most critical of President Bush on the economy and foreign policy, rather than turning their attacks on each other.

And another one with no big news.

Although there were expectations (again) that this time there would be many efforts to take on Howard Dean, there were almost none.

It was one of the few times in the evening when the moderator (fella named "Brit Hume") allowed the candidates to directly engage each other, but the sparks were medium-grade and Lieberman did not seem to do Dean much damage.

In general, there was a real split between those who opposed the president going to war with Iraq and those who supported it, with the audience clearly supportive of the anti-war side and its "I told you so" ethos.

Joe Lieberman succeeded again in making the story "Lieberman v. Dean" with his attack on the Middle East.

The Washington Post 's Dan Balz led with it. LINK

The New York Times ' Nagourney and Wilgoren made that their off lead, with the pro- and anti-Iraq war clash getting their top billing. LINK

Jano's masterplan totally captures the Wall Street Journal 's Jake Schlesinger, who makes his whole debate piece about it, closing with this oblique reference to George Stephanopoulos, whose "This Week" is going to be very special this Sunday LINK

"In the first Democratic debate earlier this year, the moderator suggested that Mr. Lieberman's main disadvantage in this campaign would be that he was too nice and wasn't tough enough to go on the attack. But Mr. Lieberman — perhaps the best-known candidate in the field for his role as Democratic candidate Al Gore's running mate against George W. Bush and Dick Cheney in 2000 — has seen his standing in the polls slip and his fund-raising activity languish, at least compared with Mr. Dean's Internet-driven trove. He appears to have calculated that launching a prominent attack is the best way for him to get some attention and to distinguish himself from the crowded field."

Those of you who watched at home or in the spin room, or basically everyone who wasn't running through the hall trying to see what the protestors were all about, probably have no idea that guests were still arriving even 45 minutes into the debate. The Note asked a couple of organizers about that, and was told that the dozens of people coming through security, as the protestors were cuffed on the ground in front of them, were "just late."

Did anyone else besides Howie Kurtz notice Senator Graham "pulling an Arianna" while Senator Lieberman held court in the spin room? Doesn't do much to dispel the whole "running for veep" thing, does it?

At issue are three words: "an enormous number" of settlements — that Dean believes Israel will have to dismantle. LINK

Wondering as we always do, we broke off from flirting with George Clooney to ask James Carville whose position was truer to what Clinton believed. He said both candidates had merit in what they had to say, but "the distrinction here might be more heated than substantive."

We've reviewed what Senator Lieberman says — we've listened many a time to Dean refer to Israel and the Middle East in his stump speech — and we're not entirely certain where the crux of the debate lies.

Even when baited by anti-Israel liberals, we've heard Dean say basically the following: the first step is for Israeli mothers not to fear sending their children to school. We must end the terror first, he says. And then the negotiation can truly begin.

And it's hard to find an Establishment type in U.S. foreign policy circles who doesn't think Israel will have to destroy a good number of its settlements if the U.S. plays its honest broker role. (In this arena, it's not "Even Judy Keen," it's "Even Wolf Blitzer" … .)

So perhaps Dean is saying something that Bill Clinton's rhetoric on the Middle East implied, but that 42 didn't exactly shout out.

USA Today 's Jill Lawrence says the expected focus on the concerns of black voters was displaced by a "competition" to condemn the president's foreign policy. (Does that mean black voters aren't supposed to be concerned about foreign policy?) LINK

The Boston Herald's Noelle Straub and Andrew Miga team up to Note, "Lieberman's words clearly struck a nerve with the usually combative Dean." LINK

And Noelle had just about enough of those LaRouche people. LINK

The Boston Globe 's Anne Kornblut and Glen Johnson included the LaRouche protestors in their lead! LINK

Could it be that the LaRouche people are just upset that they can't partner up with a television outlet and host their own debate?

Knight Ridder's Steven Thomma and Tony Pugh bring us sound bites from everyone except Gephardt and Moseley Braun.

"What will be remembered most, was Lieberman accusing Dean of turning his back on Israel, and Dean saying Lieberman was demagoguing the issue," reports David Lightman of the Hartford Courant. LINK

Donna Brazile and James Carville disagreed on "whether Lieberman had helped or hurt himself."

"'I don't know if this is winning him any points,' said veteran activist Donna Brazile. 'I know candidates are looking for a two-person race, but it's too early. They do better when they offer their views.'"

But Carville told Lightman that he thought Lieberman "did the right thing."

"'You want to go after the front-runner, and Dean is the front-runner,' Carville said, 'and this is an issue where Lieberman feels a lot of energy.'"

Lightman highlights the Lieberman-Dean to-and-fro on Israel.

Writes the Connecticut scribe, "There was plenty of serious talk about issues the Congressional Black Caucus, the debate's sponsors, sought to spotlight. But what will be remembered most was Lieberman accusing Dean of turning his back on Israel, and Dean saying Lieberman was demagoguing the issue." LINK

And Lightman captures a bit of fire from Craig Smith on Kerry charges that Lieberman has only recently begun discussing how to manage the Post -war period.Said Smith:

"For him to attack Joe Lieberman for only recently focusing on this issue is as shaky a charge as Kerry's own, ever-wavering position on the war itself." LINK

Slate's Saletan says righty-oh to the Dems on the stage last eve, arguing they did much better in Baltimore than in New Mexico. Howard Dean: "near-perfect." John Kerry: "clear, candid, and matter-of-fact." LINK

The Baltimore Sun's Paul West leads with Dean defending his positions on the Middle East and gun control. LINK

The Sun also credits "long shot" Dennis Kucinich with getting "one of the loudest crowd responses of the evening" with his call to bring the troops home, "a position that none of the others supported."

The Forward's E.J. Kessler provides this bit of context for Tuesday's skirmish: "The dustup brings up issues larger than the Dean, Lieberman and Kerry campaigns, however. The anti-war Democrats who are driving the primary and who have been fueling Dean's ascendancy represent the segment of the electorate least likely to support the strongly pro-Israel positions that are the consensus of most Jewish communal organizations."

Dean told Kessler that "the shape he envisioned of an Israeli-Palestinian settlement looked like the one" Clinton, Barak and Arafat "were pondering when negotiations broke off in 2000, with Israel giving up the far-flung settlements but 'some big major settlement blocs incorporated.'" LINK

Dean "rejected the suggestion that his seemingly even-handed rhetoric on Israel, coupled with a recent position he took against racial profiling of Arabs, was a bid for Arab votes in the Michigan primary. 'That's silly,' he said. 'I'm not thinking about who's going to vote where.'"

The Dean campaign issued a rare on-the-record, unsoliciated, unprovoked attack press release claiming that Senators Kerry and Edwards missed a vote on an amendment to fully fund NCLB in March of 2003: "Neither was present on March 19, 2003 to cast a vote that would have fully funded NCLB. (Murray Amendment #284, NCLB)"

In other Baltimore news, the AP's Brian Witte reports that Baltimore's Mayor Martin O'Malley easily won the Democratic primary on Tuesday to pursue his re-election. LINK

ABC 2004: The Invisible Primary: taking the "charm" out of Charm City, the color:

Overheard in the spin room: a grizzled, respected, occasionally mysterious American political journalist telling Elizabeth Edwards: "This is the stupidest f***ing party that [has] ever existed on the face of the earth."

Hey 04'ers … . give Steve Bolton a shout today. LINK

The Washington Post 's Howard Kurtz Notes that Clooney takes "off the record" seriously. LINK

Clooney's appearance produces a rare breaking news item on Page Six. LINK

Liz Smith has Clooney on Arnold and with Tina. LINK

The AP breaks down the song lyrics. LINK

Does Dick Gephardt know the words to "Born in the USA"?

ABC 2004: Bush-Cheney re-elect:

Manchester resident Jack Kenny has an awesome Union Leader opinion piece extending the Ed Gillespie v. the MUL debate, with the missing piece we have been waiting for someone to stumble into: that Ronald Reagan wasn't much for actually fundamentally cutting the size and scope of the federal government (although at least he talked about it more than the Bush-Gillespie wing of the party does … .). LINK

The New York Times ' Elisabeth Bumiller chronicles the president's Florida trip, complete with Ted Kennedy's use of the New England word "chutzpah" regarding No Child Left Behind. LINK

Speaking of which, a New York Times piece makes a link between class size and NCLB. LINK

Norm Ornstein's latest column asks: "Can the White House find a new balance, or a new hybrid approach? Can it operate on an ad hoc basis, cobbling together strategies on the go for issues like prescription drugs, energy and Iraq? This promises to be a fascinating exercise in presidential/congressional relations."

The Miami Herald writes up the "dollars and hollars" that greeted Bush in Florida. LINK

While raising $3 million for his re-election campaign, President Bush's trip "underscored what Democrats believe is his increasing vulnerability, not only on the war and job losses but on education as well."

Big Casino budget politics meets the politics of national security:

Dick Stevenson has the must-read of the day in this category, big thinking in the New York Times on the political and budgetary implications of the $87 billion decision. LINK

No news or McCainiac/Hagelian quotes, but Dick nicley sets out the parameters of the certain of the possible.

Sage Al Kamen in the Washington Post Notes that former Bush economic guy Larry Lindsey was apparently wrong to have been sent to the doghouse for his once-upon-a-time estimate to Dow Jones regarding the costs of dealing with Iraq. LINK

The politics of national security:

Noting that President Bush has not taken a reporter's question in 18 days, the Washington Post 's Dana Milbank says that GOP supporters of 43 worry a bit about the political fallout of Iraq and the economy. LINK

Kudos to Dana for getting some of Mercer's donors to talk to him; why is it that we suspect that steps will be taken to keep THAT from happening again?

The Senate was the scene of a lot of partisan debate about the POTUS' budget request yesterday.

The Washington Post and New York Times have Daschle and Kennedy gearing up to keep asking questions. LINK and LINK

The New York Times and many others plays catch-up to the Washington Post in looking at the politics of the Guard/Reserve situation. LINK

The Union Leader does the Granite State angle. LINK

The Des Moines Register does the Iowa angle. LINK

Harold Meyerson does his Washington Post column on Bush-as-LBJ (compare to Harwood … ), with alleged unilateralism leading to a quagmire-type situation. LINK

Big Casino budget politics:

A VandeHei protégé — this young Broder fellow covering the Hill for the Washington Post — suggests that some incremental Medicare conference project doesn't mean there is anything like a macro deal yet. LINK

Similarly, the New York Times ' Robert Pear says that Democrats and some Senate Republicans are warning that a House GOP-led effort to conference out a measure that seeks to narrowly pass with only/mostly Republican votes is a big mistake. LINK

Health insurance premiums rose more in the past year than any year since 1990, just as some were getting ready to ride to the sound of the gun. LINK

California recall:

Former Major League Baseball Commissioner Peter Ueberroth bowed out of the California gubernatorial race yesterday, further narrowing the Republican field and leaving everyone asking how this will affect the race. Ueberroth never got out of the single digits in the polls since he declared his candidacy, but according to the Los Angeles Times' Scott Martelle and Mark Z. Barabak, the campaign said Monday's Field Poll didn't spell the end. LINK

Ueberroth promised to endorse another candidate (except Davis), of course, but what a sport in terms of his supporters.

"He promised Tuesday the equivalent of a money-back guarantee to his supporters. He said he would return the more than $2.1 million contributed to his campaign — largely by friends and business acquaintances — and pay all of the bills himself, a tab aides said would exceed $2 million."

More from the San Francisco Chronicle: LINK; the Washington Post LINK;

USA Today and LINK

The New York Times ' Kit Seelye and John Broder also talk about President Clinton's trip to California next week to stump against the recall (Note no current plans on the public schedule to appear with Davis.). Clinton will, however, dedicate the William Jefferson Clinton Elementary School in Compton. LINK

The Los Angeles Times' Peter Nicholas, Matea Gold and Carl Ingram on the three-candidate debate where the main target was Gray Davis. LINK

California recall, Arnold:

The Los Angeles Times' Tim Rutten talks about the role of talk radio in Schwarzenegger's strategy, and what the latest Field Poll numbers say about how it's working. LINK

First, Rutten says, Schwarzenegger is "struggling to increase his base of support among those Californians pollsters deem likely to cast a ballot."

"Second, this latest survey confirms the findings of the most recent Times Poll in reporting that Schwarzenegger has a significant problem with women voters, who make up 50% of California's total electorate and 52% of its likely voters. The Times Poll found that fully 50% of the women inclined to vote hold an unfavorable impression of Schwarzenegger, while 41% see him in a positive light. Field reports that Bustamante now leads his chief Republican opponent by 13 points among likely women voters."

Finally, Rutten writes, Schwarzenegger's christening by AM talk radio hosts caught the ears of conservatives — the question is whether he'll hold them.

And speaking of radio, Schwarzenegger may end up on Howard Stern yet, reports the Los Angeles Times' Edmund Sanders. LINK

California recall, the Democrats:

Bustamante has spent all this time looking like a moderate and talking like a moderate, and now he's going left, writes the Los Angeles Times' Matea Gold. LINK

"By pairing his personal biography with a campaign platform aimed at blue-collar workers, Bustamante has positioned himself as a staunch liberal — and is depicting himself as the antithesis of Arnold Schwarzenegger."

"But his approach carries the risk of alienating moderates, some analysts said. If more candidates follow the lead of Peter V. Ueberroth, who dropped out of the race Tuesday — and if Republicans succeed in uniting around a single candidate — Bustamante could find his strategy turning into a trap, they suggested."

"'The danger is he will not expand beyond his ethnic base,' said Tony Quinn, co-editor of the nonpartisan California Target Book, which analyzes state elections."

According to the AP, environmental groups have now joined on the Bustamante bandwagon. LINK

Cindy Adams agrees with fellow New Yorker Peter Ragone — Gray Davis will hold onto his job. LINK

The Los Angeles Times' "Ad Watch" on Davis' new ad, launched Tuesday. LINK

California recall, the courts:

Tomorrow, three U.S. judges will consider arguments about whether punch-card machines are unconstitutional and decide if the recall election should be postponed until March, according to the Los Angeles Times. LINK

More direct democracy. The Los Angeles Times looks at an amendment that could change further recall elections. LINK

ABC 2004: The Invisible Primary: Terry McAuliffe's appearance at the Monitor Breakfast this morning is sure to be energetic and you'll be seeing the quotes pop up plenty of places in this news cycle.

Steak-frying Tom Harkin creates a Link between the Baltimore debate and his efforts to get an overtime pay vote that would have the benefit of the Senators running for president actually being in town to vote. LINK

Dean, Gephardt, Kucinich and Lieberman have already agreed to attend the Arab American Institute's annual leadership conference, reports the Detroit News. "Two other candidates are expected." The presidential forum, "Vote 2004: An Agenda for Peace and Justice," will be held October 17-19 at the Holiday Inn-Fairlane in Dearborn, Michigan. LINK

Kerry:

You wouldn't believe (unless you have seen this phenomenon in action) the percentage of questions that the other 8 Democratic presidential candidates have to answer every day from local, national, and international media about Howard Dean.

"Why is Howard Dean successful?" "How will you beat Howard Dean" "Are you surprised Howard Dean has passed you in the polls?" "Why can't you be a doctor like Howard Dean?" "Don't you think Howard Dean is magical and adorable?"

At least one of Dean's rivals, per the New York Times ' Nagourney and Wilgoren, got a bit fed up with this yesterday:

"The dominance that Dr. Dean has enjoyed, and the corresponding exasperation that has caused his rivals, was clear even before the candidates sat down in Baltimore tonight. Senator Kerry was talking to reporters before the debate here, where he was repeatedly questioned about Dr. Dean's standing in the race and things that he had said." LINK

"After Mr. Kerry finished his news conference and began walking away with an aide, David Wade, a live microphone picked him up muttering with evident annoyance: 'Dean, Dean, Dean, Dean.'"

The Des Moines Register 's Thomas Beaumont has an ad box about Kerry's latest. LINK

Kerry and a gaggle of advisers met on the Hill yesterday with his superdelegates and their staffs, and a lot of ideas about how to get the Kerry message out there (and garner more money and endorsements) were tossed around, as were some ideas about that Dean, Dean, Dean, Dean guy, per many Democratic sources.

Dean:

From ABC News Dean campaign reporter Marc Ambinder:

The Burlington-based staff of former Vermont Governor Howard Dean got a surprise Tuesday night when the doctor's wife, Dr. Judy Steinberg Dean, popped by the campaign headquarters moments before last night's debate and stayed to watch the proceedings.

Steinberg Dean doesn't usually watch her husband on television, as the Deans don't have cable at home (They can't see those MSNBC embeds … ), certainly not Fox News, and they're not terribly proficient television watchers anyway.

Dean's advisers and aides and assorted staff (can the political journalism world come up with another word for these folks?) appeared satisfied with their candidate's performance last night.

Performance, in that the format of the debate left little room for break-out-the-box rhetorical anglings or basically anything beyond pre-planned, canned responses. Candidate Dean is more comfortable with give-and-take than he is with restricting his responses to 60 seconds.

One aide said that more angry and aggresive Joe Lieberman became, the more latitude their candidate had to return Lieberman's volleys.

Dean's decision to close with a message about jobs and the economy was a "game-time" strategem, according to an adviser. Dean is spending some of his down time these days huddled with economic and policy advisers to craft his economic plan. Look for "jobs," "tax reform," and "the middle class" to be the buzz words.

And the campaign swears that Dean thought up the line about MLK himself. For the second time this week, The Note is breathless.

Does Dean have time for debate prep? He had an early morning breakfast fundraiser yesterday; followed by this: LINK; followed by a mad-cap dash to Union Station; a train to Philadelphia for a fundraising lunch; back to Baltimore; more private meetings, a scheduled interview with American Urban Radio Networks … .

Dean makes Cindy Adams — again. LINK

Dean won last weekend's straw poll at a Tennessee Democratic Labor Day picnic, the Nashville Tennesseean reports. LINK

"Of 877 straw votes cast, Dean collected 348, about 40%, beating Gephardt's 232 votes, organizers said."

Edwards "came in third with 125 votes," and "Kerry balloted fourth with 58. All other candidates received fewer than 50 votes each."

Lieberman:

USA Today 's forum has a Q&A with and a bio box on Joe Lieberman. ( … and a huge picture too in the hard copy!) LINK and LINK

ABC News Lieberman campaign reporter Talesha Reynolds noticed that Senator Bob Graham tried to engage Lieberman in the spin room for a post-debate debate about Bush's $87 billion request.

Graham:

The AP's Sam Hananel reports on the fate of Senator Graham's Senate seat, and of course how Edwards' decision puts all the focus on Graham now. LINK

"Florida's U.S. Senator Bob Graham said he's running full speed for president and he's advised Democratic candidates for his seat to do the same in that race," the Southwest Florida News-Press' Bettry Park reports. "But Graham refused Tuesday to rule out the possibility that he could change his mind and seek re-election to the Senate post he's held since 1986." LINK

The AP has the same story. LINK

Kucinich:

ABC News Kucinich campaign reporter Melinda Arons noticed that George Clooney seemed to pay special attention to Kucinich, weaving his way through the crowds to shake the Ohio Congressman's hand and chat in the Post -debate spin room. When asked if Clooney would support Kucinich in the election the actor responded, "I used to live in Cincinnati so everybody knows him … he was the youngest mayor ever! And you gotta love someone who speaks his mind."

Sharpton:

From ABC News Sharpton campaign reporter Beth Loyd:

In the spin room, Sharpton grabbed Kucinich by the arm, and said, "And let me say this, Dennis Kucinich is a great man. He's the best candidate other than me. I never disparaged him. It's Steve Cobble gets out on the weekend." Kucinich smiled and laughed. This was followed up by a hug and a high five.

Sharpton's press secretary tells Loyd that the famously unscheduled campaign will be in NYC for the next few days and will head to Delaware this weekend.

Clark:

The AP's Leigh Strope reports that AFSCME wants to wait to hear what General Clark has to say. LINK

Mike Frisby, ex of the Wall Street Journal and the Boston Globe and now prospectively of the Clark campaign, was at the debate last night, dressed as if he were Mark Barabak.

Legislative agenda:

The AP's David Espo reports on the approval of Medicare discount cards in the Senate. LINK

The AP's Alan Fram writes about the prospects for the president's overtime proposal in the Senate. LINK

The Washington Post is all over the one-vote passage of the D.C. voucher bill in the House. LINK

Politics: The AP's Mike Smith reports on Lieutenant Governor Joe Kernan officially taking over as acting governor in Indiana. LINK

USA Today 's Larry Copeland reports on Alabamians' decision to vote down Governor Riley's tax proposal. LINK

Here's the AP's Phillip Rawls on that too. LINK

The Texas Democrats are apparently going home, so reports the AP's Natalie Gott. LINK

House Democrats try to pull a triple Luntz to win back the chamber through polling, focus groups, language, and a national message, says anthropologist Sheryl Gay Stolberg of the New York Times . LINK

Will Vito Fossella really primary Mike Bloomberg? LINK

The Hill says look for a Boxer-Jones match-up come 2004. The former California Secretary of State Bill Jones says he is leaning strongly toward challenging the Democratic senator and is waiting to see whether Arnold relocates to Sacramento. LINK

As for the White House, Jones says, "They've made it very clear to me that they are supportive. Obviously, it would be helpful if they wanted to help before the primary. That's probably not going to be the case."

The Hill's Bolton reports the NRCC raised $45 in the first six months of the year and spent $41 million, Noting that "more than $26 million in payments to InfoCision, a telemarketing company that has drawn criticism in recent years for its fundraising tactics and high operating costs." LINK

Some Republicans don't sound so pleased with these spending trends.

"Sounds like we need to be a little bit smarter raising money," said Rep. Joseph Pitts (R-Pa.), a leading House conservative. "Seems like a terrible waste to raise $45 million and spend $41 million. I know the fundraisers must be happy. Something doesn't smell right to me."

The Clintons of Chappaqua:

The New York Post ed board sides against Senator Clinton on the EPA flap, but we don't understand their last graph. LINK

Bush Administration strategy/personality:

The New York Post 's Keith Kelly resurrects the Sharon Bush book. LINK

Media:

The New York Observer's Joe Hagan fills us in on how Al Gore fits into this whole NBC-Vivendi thing. LINK

"According to sources familiar with the situation, Mr. Gore and [Joel Hyatt] met with Universal Television chairman Michael Jackson, president of network enterprises Patrick Vien and Vivendi Universal's chief operating officer, Jean-Bernard Levy."

More from Hagan: "It's possible that NWI is one of many prospective deals that the Gore-Hyatt team is looking at. Another possibility: Vivendi could get the green light to sell NWI to Mr. Gore as part of a potential deal with NBC, which until now has not tendered any cash with its partnership offer."