The Note

Today's Schedule (all times Eastern):

—8:00 am: Senator John Edwards addresses a "Politics and Eggs" breakfast, Bedford, N.H. —8:00 am: Polls open in Alabama tax referendum —9:30 am: Senate convenes for legislative business —9:30 am: Senate Foreign Relations Committee receives closed briefing on North Korea from Secretary of State Colin Powell, Capitol Hill —10:00 am: Reverend Al Sharpton addresses the AFSCME meeting, D.C. —10:00 am: Senator Edwards meets with voters at Marryanne's Diner, Derry, N.H. —10:00 am: Senate Armed Services Committee hears testimony from Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz and General Richard Myers, Capitol Hill —12:25 pm: President Bush attends a Bush-Cheney 2004 fundraiser, Jacksonville, Fla. —12:30 pm: House convenes for morning business —1:50 pm: President Bush makes remarks on education at Hyde Park Elementary School, Jacksonville, Fla. —2:00 pm: Senator John Kerry visits and holds a media availability at the Downtown Baltimore Children's Center, Baltimore —2:00 pm: House convenes for legislative business —2:30 pm Senator Edwards addresses the AFSCME meeting, D.C. —6:35 pm: President Bush attends a Bush-Cheney 2004 fundraiser, Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. —8:00 pm: Polls close in Alabama tax referendum —8:00 pm: Democratic presidential debate sponsored by the Congressional Black Caucus at Morgan State University, Baltimore


The most common human refrain one hears in a roomful of bickering Googling monkeys is, "Can't we all just get along?"

But in presidential politics, war-time budgeting, and recall madness, things tend to be more about conflict than cooperation.

There's that whole Winston Churchill thing about how democracy is the worst form of government except for everything else that has been tried, but sometimes, loving Kumbaya togetherness (Don't tell a soul, but The Note's theme song is the Partridge Family's "C'mon, Get Happy." LINK), we can't help but wish that the people we cover (and the consultants who advise them) would stop fighting and start working as one big happy American family.

We aren't cynical or overly idealistic, but as we survey the political landscape today, we see various dueling couples that are making things dynamic, interesting, and heavily conflict laden.

George Bush and people with green eye shades.

Joe Lieberman and Howard Dean.

The Guard/Reserve families and Pentagon planners.

Don Rumsfeld and all sorts of people.

John Kerry and himself.

Joe Trippi and his conscience.

Ed Gillespie and Joe McQuaid.

Maria Shriver and Wal-Mart shoppers.

The staff of The Note and the Boston Globe 's webmaster.

Bob Riley and tax haters.

Erin and Wade.

Hillary Clinton and her mouth.

Deborah DeShong and Deborah Desant.

With precisely four weeks to go until the California recall (which we heard Ann Curry mention a time or two this morning); with Administration officials up on the Hill beginning the long, painful process of justifying their multibillion-dollar request; and with a potentially crabby Baltimore Democratic presidential debate — there is plenty of stuff leading inexorably to more conflict within the shining city on the hill that is the United States of America.

In Baltimore, the third major Democratic presidential debate of the 2004 cycle happens this very day.

The program lasts 90 minutes with two commercial breaks at 8:40 pm ET and 9:20 pm ET. Congressman Cummings will present a one-minute videotaped welcome at the top. There will be no opening statements by the candidates.

The topic areas are: health care, education, civil rights, homeland and "hometown" security, the economy, and foreign policy.

Brit Hume will moderate "to keep the debate moving," but he will not ask questions (We wonder why … ).

Questions no longer than 30 seconds will be asked by journalists Juan Williams, Farai Chideya, and Ed Gordon. The candidates will have up to one minute to respond. There may be follow-up questions and responses at the moderator's discretion, but there will be no rebuttals unless they are incorporated into answering the question at hand in the same general topic area.

Senator Edwards campaigns more in New Hampshire today in Bedford and Derry before coming south to address the AFSCME meeting in D.C. and go to the debate in Baltimore.

Senator Kerry visits a child care center in Baltimore before attending the debate.

Reverend Sharpton addresses the AFSCME meeting today and goes to the debate in Baltimore.

Governor Dean, Ambassador Moseley Braun, Senator Lieberman, Senator Graham, Congressman Gephardt, and Congressman Kucinich are in Baltimore for the debate.

Today, the president attends a lunchtime Bush-Cheney 2004 fundraiser at Alltel Stadium in Jacksonville, Florida and a dinner fundraiser at the Hyatt Regency Pier 66 in Fort Lauderdale. In between those fundraisers, he'll make remarks on education at a Jacksonville elementary school

Polls will be open in Alabama from 8:00 am to 8:00 pm ET today, where voters will decide the fate of Governor Bob Riley's $1.2 billion tax proposal. For the first time in the history of the state's elections, all of the polls will be open for the same hours and voters will be required to show identification-- two measures enacted in recent years to ensure more sound elections.

There will be a recount if the vote is very close, and the official results won't be certified until September 24. Governor Riley will fly home to Ashland, Alabama, today to vote, and later he will attend a returns party in Montgomery with supporters. Riley will make a statement tonight at the party on the outcome whether the plan passes or fails.

Based on all of the recent polls and media coverage in the state, it looks as though the governor's proposal will not pass, possibly by as much as 30 percent margin, but The Note likes to let the voters decide.

The Huntsville Times' John Anderson says that the Governor is putting his hopes in undecided voters. LINK

In the California recall:

-- Field Poll has 55% of California voters in favor of recalling Governor Davis while 40% are opposed. Question 2 results have Bustamante at 30% and Arnold Schwarzenegger at 25%.

-- Governor Davis unveils a new campaign ad today.

-- Both Governor Davis and Arnold Schwarzenegger lay low today with no public events planned.

-- Lt. Governor Cruz Bustamante will take part in a debate with Peter Camejo and Arianna Huffington today at 1:30 pm ET at Bob Hope Patriotic Hall in Los Angeles.

-- Peter Ueberroth will make a couple of radio appearances today on the "Armstrong and Getty" show in Sacramento and on "Good Morning Monterey Bay." (We LOVE "Good Morning Monterey Bay.")

-- The California Labor Federation's Art Pulaski will lead a conference call today at 12:30 pm ET to make an announcement about Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Big Casino budget politics meets the politics of national security: With National Referee David Rogers quoting anonymous Republicans feeling "sticker shock" over the president's Iraq/Afghanistan number; a certain senior Administration official taking his lumps by admitting Iraq is going to be expensive; with Rumsfeld making some provacative remarks on the plane; and with Democrats (and some Republicans not named "McCain" or "Hagel") promising to support the $87 billion request (but only after 17 trips to the dentist for the administration), we find ourselves simply in the midst of Day 2 of what is now the defining dynamic of our politics for the foreseeable future.

The economy might get better or it might not before the president stands for re-election, but the Chattering Class is invoking one of Washington's favorite phrases ("Everything has to be on the table.") and that rhetorically puts in play taxes, prescription drugs, Administration personnel, and somber, weighty columns about presidential character.

Congressional Democrats say the are going to support the president's request for military and reconstruction funds, but there will be hearings, gimmicks, communcations stratagems, and lots of waiting and seeing before the checks get written, with Congressional Republicans (beyond the lock-step leadership) worried about the substantive costs and the political politics of all this.

The Washington Post 's Jonathan Weisman turns in a blockbuster on the manage a trois strange bedfellows — congressional Democrats, budget hawks, and conservative defense analysts — who aren't taking kindly to the economic implications of President Bush's budget requests for Iraq and Afghanistan. LINK

The perspectives on spending alone make this story one of many of today's must-reads on this topic.

"'We can't do it all,' said Lee Hamilton, director of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and a former Democratic member of the House. 'From the president's speech, I haven't seen the hard recognition of the economic costs of this decision. I don't think he gave us a picture of how he intends to pay for his foreign policy.'"

While the Bush administration argues that there's no contradiction between the temporary spending boom and tax cuts meant to help the sagging job market, Democrats are jumping on the plan to shore up their priorities, even though they're expected to OK all this in the end.

And Democratic interest groups (including some of those splashy new, well-funded ones) are churning out the stats for eager reporters (many of whom want the president to cry "uncle" on taxes).

"To put it in perspective, Bush hopes to spend more in Iraq and Afghanistan than all 50 states say they need — $78 billion — to finance the budget shortfalls they anticipate for 2004."

"The request is higher than the $74 billion the Defense Department plans to spend on all new weapons purchases next year, and higher than the $29.5 billion the Education Department hopes to spend on elementary and secondary education plus the $41.3 billion the administration plans to spend to defend the homeland."

"With $166 billion spent or requested, Bush's war spending in 2003 and 2004 already exceeds the inflation-adjusted costs of the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, the Mexican War, the Civil War, the Spanish American War and the Persian Gulf War combined, according to a study by Yale University economist William D. Nordhaus. The Iraq war approaches the $191 billion inflation-adjusted cost of World War I."

The Wall Street Journal 's McKinnon and Ip have a must-read as well, looking at the about the only thing worse on the economic front than the housing bubble bursting or manufacturing jobs hemmorhaging — a possible rise in interest rates from all this deficit spending.

Thank goodness for the president that Al Gore isn't around to talk lockbox, because the numbers would look even worse.

The Baltimore Sun gets this Jon Kyl quote regarding the White House funding request:

"Republicans and Democrats signaled that the administration might face a tougher sell than it has with any defense-related funding request since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. 'I think they'll have to be more specific this time,' said Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona, the chairman of the Republican Policy Committee. 'Members are a little more skeptical.'" LINK

The Los Angeles Times' Janet Hook and Richard Simon report on the difficulty some members of Congress will have voting for the president's request. LINK

"Members of Congress are preparing to swallow hard and pass President Bush's new funding request for U.S. operations in Iraq, but it will be a more bitter pill for many of them than earlier votes on the issue, lawmakers and political analysts say."

More Hook/Simon: "Congress, in the end, is expected to give the White House the $87 billion it wants to pay for the U.S. missions in Iraq and, secondarily, Afghanistan. But the debate may find lawmakers more willing to question Bush's foreign policy than at any time since the 2001 terrorist attacks."

And Alan Murray in his must-read Journal column flashes enough supply-side cred to pull the alarm bell, warning of higher rates, dafatecs*, and a President who won't change his mind when circumstances dictate.

Basically, Murray sides with the Union Leader and Joe McQuaid over Ed Gillespie, in saying 43 is a big spender.

(And, Chairman Ed, all we can say after watching you be Cavutoed is: saying you are the Party of Reagan and you like lower taxes doesn't mean big federal programs and control of education from Washington can just be ignored. Facts, someone once said, are stubborn things.)

USA Today 's Peronet Despeignes takes a look at the impact of more spending and Notes that "Democrats share some blame for deficits inflated by tax cuts and the biggest buildup in military, homeland security, education, health and transportation spending in more than a decade. All passed with various levels of support from Democrats." (And, by the way, he mentions a Dean as one who has been vocal against the president's increasing deficit.) LINK

Exhibits A and B in the Gang of 500 on the president and taxes:

A: David Yepsen wants a Freedom Tax. LINK

B: The Washington Post 's E.J. Dionne says that if President Bush wants Americans to accept the sacrifice he calls for in the war in Iraq, he needs to sacrifice some tax cuts. LINK

The politics of national security: David Brooks kicks off his New York Times column with some reportage that suggests Rummy is down and White House officials won't ever admit to making mistakes or changing their minds LINK

(The White House is going to have to worry that Brooks' column is going to be "reporting"-heavy (but with the dinner party journalistic Standard that, say, his former colleagues still often use) that relies on the chattering gossip that emerges from the increasingly common intra-Bush battles — all under the Gray Lady imprimatur.)

The first paragraph of David Brooks' first New York Times column had us thinking the Times substituted a Paul Krugman column as a malicious joke:

"The Bush administration has the most infuriating way of changing its mind. The leading Bushies almost never admit serious mistakes. They never acknowledge that they are listening to their critics. They never even admit they are shifting course. They don these facial expressions suggesting calm omniscience while down below their legs are doing the fox trot in six different directions."

But, ah, now we get it.

"Sunday night's presidential speech was a perfect example. The policy ideas Bush sketched out represent such a striking series of policy shifts they amount to a virtual relaunching of the efforts to rebuild Iraq. Yet the president unveiled them as if they were stately extensions of the policies that commenced on Sept. 11, 2001. Fortunately, while in public members of the administration emphasize their own incredible foresight, in private they are able to face unpleasant facts and pivot in response. Sometime around the middle of August, while the president was on the ranch, members of the Bush team must have done a candid and scathing review of how things were going in Iraq."

Excellent trendy flip, Mr. Brooks. Your trendy new readers will love it. And welcome to the Times !

The Rummy point is made in a must-read Eric Schmitt/Doug Jehl story in the same paper (with some essential Mary Matalin, Newt Gingrich, and Bill Kristol quotes) LINK, while the point about mind-changing (not) is fleshed out in a fantastically archive-driven Dana Milbank Washington Post story. LINK

Rumsfeld gave those Rumsfeldian quotes on the flight home that, well, we can't help but feel that Ms. Torie Clarke would have stopped him from making.

While President Bush talked up his plan for Iraq, Rumsfeld said those who oppose it are siding with the enemy, the Washington Post 's Mike Allen reports. LINK

"No administration official cast the message more bluntly than Rumsfeld, who said critics of Bush's Iraq policy are encouraging terrorists and complicating the war on terrorism."

"'We know for a fact . . . that terrorists studied Somalia, and they studied instances where the United States was dealt a blow, and tucked in and persuaded themselves they could, in fact, cause us to acquiesce in whatever it is they wanted us to do,' Rumsfeld told reporters as he returned from a four-day trip to Iraq and Afghanistan."

Thousands of National Guard and Army Reservists will be on extended tours of duty in Iraq for a year, the Washington Post 's Vernon Loeb and Steve Vogel report. LINK

The extensions for the 3,000 National Guard soldiers and 5,000 reservists in Iraq could end up one month to six months longer than their original mobilizations, which included training and debriefings.

USA Today 's Bill Nichols reports Congressional support for the president's request is expected, but not without some debate. LINK

The Boston Globe 's Wayne Washington has fallout from the Sunday night speech, including "senior administration officials" acknowledging for the first time that they "vastly underestimated the damage to the country's infrastructure and greatly overestimated the amount of oil revenue that could be used to help rebuild the war-torn country." LINK

Watching Howard Dean refuse to say how he would vote on the $87 billion made us think he just might be an ordinary politician after all (See "Gibbs, Robert.")

The real Paul Krugman does a literal "I told you so" on the whole Iraq deal. LINK

David Broder covers much the same ground but with his normal more courtly and gentlemanly manner. LINK

The Wall Street Journal ed board is, oppositely, almost wholly supportive of the president (dinging him only ever so slightly for the aircraft carrier speech). Mostly, the Gigot line seems to be that the bare-any-burden ethos of this brave President is just what a nation at war needs.

Big Casino budget politics:

Vicki Kemper remains diligently focused on her Medicare beat. LINK

"More than two months after the Senate and House passed comprehensive but different Medicare prescription drug bills, key lawmakers and well-connected lobbyists peg the chances for a successful compromise at only 50-50."

More Kemper: "The road ahead for the House-Senate conference committee on the Medicare bill, which meets today for the first time since July, is littered with land mines."

California recall, Arnold and the Mrs.: Joe Matthews and Miguel Bustillo of the Los Angeles Times look at Arnold Schwarzenegger's shifting strategy and Gray Davis' continued fight for his job all in the context of the new Field Poll numbers. LINK

"Just four weeks from election day, a Field Poll showed that 55% of voters favored removing Davis from office, a slight decline from the 58% who told the same survey in mid-August that they backed the recall. The survey also showed opposition to the recall increasing from 37% to 40%."

"In the battle among the 135 candidates for governor, the Field Poll reported that Bustamante was supported by 30% of likely voters, making him the top contender to replace Davis, a fellow Democrat."

"Closest in contention were Republican Schwarzenegger at 25% and state Senator Tom McClintock of Thousand Oaks, another Republican, with backing from 13% of likely voters. The rest of the field remains stuck in single digits: former baseball commissioner Peter Ueberroth at 5%, columnist Arianna Huffington with 3% and Green Party candidate Peter Camejo with 2%, the poll found."

More Matthews/Bustillo: "Schwarzenegger's appearance before a group of invited guests at Chapman University in Orange underscored the campaign's new tactics — eschewing an earlier approach of making few public appearances, scrupulously avoiding political reporters and keeping his policy pronouncements as broad as possible."

"At Monday's forum before an audience of about 200, Schwarzenegger delved into more specifics and appeared to be striving to appeal to conservatives, whom most strategists believe he must win over to take the lead in the race."

Still more Matthews/Bustillo: "Saying he wants to debate Schwarzenegger at this weekend's state GOP convention, McClintock added: 'Let's have a debate and see who's the best man for the job. There's no way I'm getting out of this, period.'" We journalists love when politicians are on the record with such quotes, it makes for such a better story if/when they change their minds.

And that debate idea seems unlikely since Mr. Schwarzenegger is scheduled to address the lunch crowd at about 4:00 pm EDT/1:00 pm PDT (after a lovely introduction courtesy of Congresswoman Bono, who knows a thing or two about celebrity politicians).

However, Senator McClintock will be speaking to the dinner crowd at about 11:00 pm EDT/8:00 pm PDT.

ABC News' Schifrin reports on yesterday's "town hall" in Orange County: Standing in the middle of what could have easily passed for a commercial set, Arnold Schwarzenegger answered questions in Orange, California, from a very friendly group of about 175 people during his first of four planned town hall meetings.

The audience and four huge posters — "Bring Trust Back, "Bring our Schools Back," "Bring our Jobs Back, and "Bring Fiscal Accountability Back" — gave the cameras all the backdrop that campaign media guru Don Sipple needed to make sure the event looked just like one of his snazzy Arnold-in-a-group-of-normal-folks commercials.

John Wildermuth takes a look in the San Francisco Chronicle at the makeup of Arnold Schwarzenegger's audience. LINK

"Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger opened his 'Ask Arnold' campaign talk show Monday at Chapman University, a friendly setting chosen with a serious purpose."

"Although billed as a 'town hall' meeting, it was quickly apparent the town was a mighty small one. Students from the private school in the heart of conservative Orange County were joined by local businesspeople and Republican activists in an audience that greeted the actor-turned-politician with thunderous applause and cheered every slam at Democratic Gov. Gray Davis."

The Sacramento Bee on Arnold's first Davis-like town hall (and its very friendly audience) and Maria's first appearance. LINK

ABC News' Schifrin reports Arnold Schwarzenegger will host an educational summit meeting in San Jose on Wednesday modeled after his Economic Recovery Council meeting of Aug. 20. One of the co-chairs of the educational council will be his old friend Dick Riordan, former mayor of Los Angeles and once-upon-a-time would-be gubernatorial candidate.

Kit Seelye and John Broder key off of Maria Shriver's protestor-infused campaign stop at Wal-Mart to explore how Arnold is faring with the female vote. LINK

"Like virtually every Republican candidate in California for more than a decade, Mr. Schwarzenegger faces a gender gap among voters, with women showing more support for Democrats."

"But his career as a professional bodybuilder and then as a star in a succession of violent movies, coupled with accounts of boorish behavior and chauvinistic comments about women, are making the problem worse for him. The situation has turned off thousands of potential female supporters, analysts here say."

More Seelye/Broder: "The Schwarzenegger campaign recognizes its weakness among women voters and the increased visibility of Ms. Shriver, 47, is part of the answer, aides said."

We will undoubtedly be seeing more and more of Maria in the final four weeks of this campaign.

Here's the Reuters account of Maria's visit to Wal-Mart. LINK

The Contra-Costa Times on the potential First Lady. LINK

Charlie LeDuff writes up the accent flap a day late, but with the added value of California GOP response. LINK

Arnold Schwarzenegger's former girlfriend may have a new tell-all coming to your local bookstore soon. LINK

Arnold Schwarzenegger's corporate donations as reported by the Los Angeles Times: LINK

California recall, the Democrats: ABC News' Apton reports "Californians Against a Costly Recall" will release a new ad in four markets: Sacramento, Fresno, Chico/Redding, and Bakersfield. There will be no public preview.

The aforementioned Matthews/Bustillo team of the Los Angeles Times has Governor Davis promising to do two town-halls a month if he is allowed to continue to serve as California's chief executive. The Davis camp claims to be happy with the Field Poll too. LINK

The San Francisco Chronicle reports that Arnold Schwarzenegger is not the only candidate with a shifting strategy. LINK

Bustamante continues to walk a very fine line in regards to the state's campaign finance laws according to the Los Angeles Times. LINK

Peter Camejo slaps the "conservative" label on Lieberman-leaning Cruz Bustamante. LINK

The Los Angeles Times' Michael Finnegan looks at the crucial political role being played by California's Central Valley voters. LINK

ABC 2004: The Invisible Primary: taking the "charm" out of Charm City: In 1996, before every general election debate, Bob Dole's strategists would talk about how he was going to (because he had to because he was behind) attack Bill Clinton.

The build-up would have made any attacks seem negative and pre-meditated, and, well, it all was a big mess.

Whereas before the New Mexico debate, The Note predicted that few if any of Howard Dean's rivals would pull the trigger, we boldly state that tonight, the gloves will come off.

It's not that hard to make that prediction, however, because some candidates actually aren't even taking their gloves with them to Charm City.

The Baltimore Sun shines on this eve's Morgan State debate under the headline, "Nine Democrats take stage, with black vote up for grabs" LINK

Says Edwards backer and Maryland Rep. Albert R. Wynn, "There hasn't been much campaigning in communities with large African-American constituencies. That's about to change."

The piece Notes Dean, "whose campaign events attract predominantly white crowds, recently began airing commercials on black radio stations in South Carolina" and quotes Carol Moseley Braun as saying she doesn't expect any linguistic appeals to the crowd a la New Mexico. "'Yo, yo, homeboy?'" mused Braun. "I don't think so."

And the Sun runs a story saying this eve's debate poses a risk to those in the Democratic field — just ask Kathleen Kennedy Townsend. LINK

Says Political Science Prof. Thomas F. Schaller of University of Maryland, Baltimore County, "This debate is in the wrong state, on the wrong date, in the wrong venue, with the wrong media co-sponsor."

The Boston Herald's Noelle Straub gives a brief preview of tonight's debate, chock full of fresh-as-autumn Larry Sabato quotes. LINK

ABC 2004: The Invisible Primary: Dean v. Lieberman (and Kerry): The Washington Post 's Diamond Jim has Senator Lieberman (and tag team partner, Senator Kerry) trying to tie Howard Dean to the REAL third-rail of Democratic politics — questioning Dean's support for Israel. We wonder if this is a line of attack that works at the CBC. LINK

ABC 2004: The Invisible Primary: Dean v. Kerry: We watched the impenetrable reaction on Howard Dean's face last night as Joe Trippi whispered this Kerry quote into his ear:

"'We've seen governors come to Washington who don't have the experience with Washington and they get in trouble real fast. And they don't have the experience in foreign policy, and they get in trouble pretty fast,' Kerry said. 'Look at Ronald Reagan. Look at Jimmy Carter and now, obviously, George Bush.'" LINK

A Dean aide wondered why Kerry was intent on attacking the credentials of just about everyone: his fellow Democrats, Carter, Reagan, … and they Note the convenient omission of the last president from a small Southern state (whose foreign policy credibility (the draft) and credentials (next to none) were attacked).

Nonetheless, attacking Dean as a member of a group of failed governors appears to be a selling point for Kerry, a way of getting at Dean's national security problem without claiming that Dean personally is insufficiently committed to "the troops" or "the country" or "the national security of this nation."

On Iraq: "'I'm not going to vote for an open-ended ticket,' Kerry told The Associated Press."

Last night, Dean said he'd support the Afghanistan portion of the Bush request but would reject the rest of it unless it was twinned with some social spending back in the U.S. of A. (Earlier in the day, Dean had told a gaggle of cameras that he'd spend time evaluating the $87 billion request and didn't feel particularly hard pressed to come up in an answer in the short term — it was Mr. Bush's problem, after all, and he himself isn't in the Congress.)

ABC 2004: The Invisible Primary: the House of Labor: This morning, the 1,500 political active SEIU members will fill out very important questionnaires. At the top of the paper will be space for them to write in their top two candidate choices.

The SEIU will collate that data and present it to the executive board Wednesday.

At the board meeting, they'll look at their member preferences, internal polling, and do a gut-check, and then make their decision.

If we were a betting Note, we'd wager that the SEIU will decide to push back its endorsement for a month.

An SEIU official Noted that president Andrew Stern may elect to give his members more time to look at the candidates, and give the politically active members another month to digest and sift through the Democrats' messages and proposals.

The SEIU endorsement will, in all likelihood, reflect the actual preference of a majority of its members.

Which is why we were so attuned to the crowd noise at yesterday's Member Political Action Conference.

Edwards and Dean got roughly the same amount of applause, by which we mean, a lot … Gephardt was also soundly applauded. Applause for Kerry was mostly polite.

The Edwards response surprised several senior SEIU leaders. The crowd really seemed to build for him, and by the end of his speech, they were on their feet applauding, hooting, and yaying.

Gephardt's campaign wants an SEIU endorsement now. Dean and Kerry and especially Edwards would be satisfied with a postponement.

The AP's Strope heard louder applause for Dean and heard from a more in sadness than in anger Liebermanesque candidate wishing the SEIU would give him a second look. LINK

The Times noted all the goodies Andy Stern offered at his morning press conference. LINK

Jim VandeHei has the day's best coverage. LINK

ABC 2004: The Invisible Primary: New Hampshire Democrats aren't so pleased with the District of Columbia's January 13 presidential primary — particularly given the lobbying for superdelegates, the Washington Times ' Donald Lambro reports. LINK

No delegates will be chosen in the D.C. primary, which allowed New Hampshire to retain rights to being the first delegate-selecting primary.

But state party chair Kathleen Sullivan is calling foul over reports of lobbying for the support of at-large delegates, which "DNC communications director Deborah Desant" says doesn't violate DNC rules, given that the superdelegates can essentially do whatever they want.

Kerry: Over the course of human history, hometown paper columnists have written thousands of pieces that are meant to give a politician with whom they have a love-hate relationship advice about how to turn things around.

Often, these pieces are self-serving, misguided, and off base.

Brian McGrory of the Boston Globe has one today about what is wrong with John Kerry's campaign that could be seen as being (we estimate) 99% correct.

Actually, in its analysis of what's wrong (and how bad things are) it is 100% correct, but we subtracted a point because its prescriptions for how to turn things around are a bit off, what with some of them being impossible. LINK

The AP's Ron Fournier reports that Senator Kerry met with a bunch of AP reporters for more than an hour yesterday, and lots of interesting things were said, mostly by Kerry, because everybody knows that Fournier tries to make you crack by being quiet.

First, off, Kerry said "he would not support President Bush's $87 billion request for Iraq and Afghanistan without a dramatic shift in White House policies." LINK

Kerry said Dean "lacks foreign policy experience in a post-Sept. 11 period that demands it."

Kerry then seems to forgo the Jimmy Carter endorsement/blessing for his candidacy …

"'We've seen governors come to Washington who don't have the experience with Washington and they get in trouble real fast. And they don't have the experience in foreign policy, and they get in trouble pretty fast,' Kerry said. 'Look at Ronald Reagan. Look at Jimmy Carter and now, obviously, George Bush.'"

" … Kerry criticized Dean and fellow Democratic candidate Dick Gephardt for seeking to repeal Bush-backed tax cuts for the middle class."

Also, "Kerry waded into the California recall fight — he'll campaign for embattled Gov. Gray Davis later this month — and gingerly addressed his own state's liberal political lineage."

With Jimmy Carter out of the way, Kerry then distances himself from Michael Dukakis …

"While he would 'absolutely and with pleasure' welcome [Senator Ted Kennedy] on the campaign trail, Kerry noted that he didn't always agree with former Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis … "

While Kerry fought off the notion that he is an aloof candidate, he maintained aloofness on at least one topic: "Asked what he was doing to slow Dean's momentum, Kerry replied, 'I don't know what you mean. What about my momentum?' He cited national polls as proof that his campaign has grown stronger."

There's also more on Kerry's views on Iraq and what the U.S. needs to do logistically and financially there. Go check it out.

One of Fournier's AP colleagues, Nedra Pickler, wrote up their encounter too, with lots of quotes from Kerry on why it's helpful being a four-term senator when you're running for president (presumably more helpful than being a former governor). LINK

The Boston Globe 's Joanna Weiss preps everyone for Kerry and Moby. Tomorrow … live at the Boston Park Plaza Hotel … Senator John Kerry on guitar and Moby on, umm … .everything else. One night only. LINK

Spanish-language daily La Opinion picks up on Kerry's support for the "vital force" of immigration. The Massachusetts Senator gets a big photo on the Web site, with the story of both Kerry and Dean's backing for immigration reform placed two stories below. LINK

Dean: Last night's College Park event was not remarkable for the crowd size (3,700 people, with students literally sprawled on the top of bus shelters) or for the Bush protestors (who were undeniably rude) or for the whiteness of the crowd (which was white) or the enormous press contingent (We counted twenty broadcast quality cameras.) but probably in the spontaneous way that the largely un-Dean-staffed event just came together, and worked, as another moment in time for the campaign, a big post on the blog, a reservoir of new signs-ups for the e-mail, a great spate of press coverage, and the like.

Local TV news coverage in DC was beyond boffo.

The AP got most of the highlights: LINK

The Washington Post focuses on Dean's new Maryland endorsements: LINK

On the eve of the CBC/Fox News debate, Will Lester does the "no minority faces" thing: LINK

For the Dean campaign, such stories are simply another hurdle thrown in Dean's path by an Establishment that can't accept the magic that some see in his candidacy.

The campaign is confident that they'll hop right over it; they see the media coverage as examples of the elite's cognitive dissonance and its penchant for sticking to the old method of evaluating campaigns.

Despite all that, Dean is doing a lot of things to try and diversify his crowds; the campaign is deliberately staging him differently; his stump speech is evolving to more directly address the concerns of black and Latino Democrats; deputy campaign manager Andi Pringle is outreaching and outreaching; Dean is running ads on black radio, etc.

Look for him to be asked about his black support tonight, and look for him to give an interesting answer.

Now … not to say that Dean blogger Mathew Gross is isn't interesting … . we love the guy … but does every newspaper in the world have to do a profile of him? LINK

Salon's Technology and Business section goes further with the "Dean reaches out" storyline, reporting on Dean camp efforts to step offline and reach out to communities that don't yet know how to pronounce the word WiFi. Salon finds Dean supporters worried the governor has been too reliant on the tool that has helped hurl him into his current position. LINK

"This concern, which has popped up repeatedly in the media, is shared by many other Dean supporters, including Richard Hoefer, a San Francisco filmmaker who believes that the campaign has been too "blog-centric." Asked if he thinks there's a homogeneity to Dean's base, Hoefer responds, "You mean whitey?"

Dean's back on the air in Iowa. LINK

The Hill's Hans Nichols reports that Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill are seeking to replicate Dean's online success. LINK

"Dean knows what's gotten him this far, and he's not about to let up now," writes Michael Kramer of the New York Daily News. LINK

Gephardt: Gephardt will meet in Washington on Wednesday with key House Democratic supporters to try to cash in on their endorsements and put them to work, Roll Call reports.

Clark: Check out Bill Clinton's alleged remarks in the New York Times about a certain General. LINK

The Washington Post 's David Ignatius looks at "the Democratic presidential race's leading non-candidate, Wesley Clark," whose military experience and predictions on Iraq (He was right, and he'll tell you so.) could give him and his rivals for the nomination some credence in criticizing President Bush's military operation. LINK

Graham: After Senator Edwards made the plunge, Senator Bob Graham is facing increasing pressure from rivals to make clear his intentions about a Senate bid. LINK

Edwards: Edwards called yesterday for a partial repeal of the Patriot Act — a bill he supported way back when. LINK

"Edwards, who voted for the Patriot Act in 2001, argues that Ashcroft has abused the power given to him under the law and taken away citizens' freedoms without making them safer."

Applause in Iowa (by some, and some paid to applaud) for Edwards' Senate decision — but still concerns. LINK

Sharpton: Mark Jacobson's New York Magazine profile on Al Sharpton begs one question. Will Dennis Kucinich demand an apology/clarification from the reverend at tonight's CBC debate? LINK

Referring to presidential hopeful Dennis Kucinich, Mr. Sharpton offered this observation: " … about whom the Rev sometimes worries, wondering if the former Cleveland mayor is 'out on a weekend pass.'"

ABC 2004: Bush-Cheney re-elect: The Herald on President Bush's visit. LINK

President Bush will return to the Sunshine State today to raise $2.5 million, reports the Orlando Sentinel. LINK

President Bush raised $1.2 million Monday at Loews Vanderbilt in Nashville, Tennessee after pushing his "No Child Left Behind" Act. LINK

Vice President Dick Cheney personally delivered the White House's endorsement of Ernie Fletcher, the Republican candidate for governor of Kentucky. LINK

The Ghost of Howell hovers over and enfuses this New York Times ' editorial on President Bush's "character." LINK

The Los Angeles Times' Ed Chen writes up the president's post-$87 billion funding request return to the campaign trail LINK

"A day after warning the nation that U.S. involvement in Iraq would be longer and costlier than anticipated, President Bush on Monday turned his attention to his reelection campaign, collecting $1.2 million at a Tennessee fund-raising event."

"He also stopped by a public school in a low-income area of Nashville to underscore his credentials as an education reformer."

It is for last lines such as this one that The Note loves Ed Chen: "The fund-raiser was held in the same ballroom that served as Gore's election night headquarters in 2000."

The Hill's Cusack reports the White House just said "no" to the Teamsters once it looked unlikely the union would bestow its blessing on the president. LINK

"President Bush declined to deliver a promised video greeting to the International Brotherhood of Teamsters this weekend, signaling a near total breakdown of relations between the union and the White House.

"The administration's decision to go back on an earlier commitment came a week after James P. Hoffa, president of the 1.4 million-member Teamsters suggested his union would not support Bush's re-election bid."

Politics: Indiana Governor Frank O'Bannon remains in a drug-induced coma after surgery Monday after a stroke and apparent fall in Chicago Monday, the Chicago Tribune reports. LINK

O'Bannon underwent about three hours of surgery at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, where doctors said his prognosis is unclear.

"Lt. Gov. Joe Kernan, 57, a former mayor of South Bend, assumed the duties of 'acting governor,' with the potential of taking over the full duties of the office if O'Bannon, 73, a two-term Democrat who enjoyed bipartisan support, is unable to recover," the Tribune reports.

The Note sends best thoughts to the O'Bannon family

Mark your calendars: this November 13, a Mr. Brian Lamb will be the featured speaker at the inaugural Nackey S. Loeb First Amendment Award dinner in a certain place known by reverse carpetbagging 20-something presidential campaign staffers as "Manchvegas." LINK

The AP's Philip Rawls previews the Alabama tax referendum vote. LINK

The Washington Post 's T.R. Reid talks to Texas state legislators who are backing Colorado Democrats in a redistricting fight similar to their own. LINK

The Note was struck by the familiar language of San Antonio lawyer and Democratic legislator Trey Martinez Fischer.

"'This is part of a national power grab,' Fischer said. 'We have to stand by our fellow Democrats anywhere to stop the Republicans from trying to fix elections so they always win.'"

With Senator Edwards out, the Blue-Bowles talk kicks up in North Carolina. LINK

While the New York Times looks at the Senate landscape overall. LINK

The Washington Times ' Charles Hurt on GOP efforts to pick up Senate seats in North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia. LINK

Clintons of Chappaqua: We don't know what to make of this one, other than to say that it's probably one of the best Hillary Clinton stories we've ever read.

Even when Senator Clinton says "a thousand times no" about whether she'll run in 2004, there are strong, weird hints like this:

"By the end of the night, 'no' was not quite the word ringing in every ear as the guests — about 150 major campaign donors to the former president or to the senator — left the gathering. During cocktails in the back yard, one group heard former President Bill Clinton say that the national Democratic Party had 'two stars': his wife, the junior senator from New York, and a retired general, Wesley K. Clark, who is said to be considering a run for the presidential nomination." LINK

"And during the dinner, according to a dozen people who were at the event, they heard Mrs. Clinton say how important their support would be 'for my next campaign, whatever that may be.' Later, Mr. Clinton, in discussing the presidential field, said, 'We might have another candidate or two jumping into the race.'"

"To others at the party, Mrs. Clinton, in alluding pointedly to an unspecified campaign, was merely having mild fun about a candidacy that not only has never been announced but whose existence has repeatedly been denied."

"Any other interpretation, say Senator Clinton and her aides, was a matter of wishful listening among eager political supporters. While they did not deny the remarks attributed to either of the Clintons, they said that these were casual comments, made about the need to raise funds for Mrs. Clinton's race for the Senate in 2006 — not about a run for president next year."

"In a telephone interview, Mrs. Clinton said the entire focus of the evening was how to marshal forces against the as-yet unformed and anonymous opposition she will face when her Senate term expires in 2006."

"'I try to be careful — but being careful was misunderstood, or misheard,' she said."

"Asked if it was impossible that she would run for president next year, she laughed. Asked again, she laughed again, then responded: 'I have said I am not running. If I knew another foreign language, I'd say it in that. I'm saying, 'I'm not going to do it.''"

"One close ally of Mrs. Clinton, who asked not to be named, said that the people who took note of the remarks by Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Clinton 'were not hallucinating. In the climate of heightened interest in a candidacy, they know they need to be extra, extremely careful with their language. Still, you don't engage a possible presidential run with a casual remark at a dinner.'"

Discuss among yourselves: Dick Morris — certifiably crazy and just purposefully provactive? His column today about how Dean can't win; Bush is sinking; and Hillary and Al should/will/might run is pure crystal meth for a certain segment of Googling monkeys. LINK

BCRA: A pair of New York Times ' stories, by the Dickensian firm of Greenhouse and Toner. LINK and LINK

The Washington Times ' Frank Murray on the BCRA argument. LINK

The Hill predicts a complex ruling. LINK

Roll Call reports that "no clear victors emerge." LINK

David Savage of the Los Angeles Times describes both a "deeply" and "sharply" divided court and predicts Justice O'Connor will be the swing vote on the case. LINK

Mr. Savage's colleague Nick Anderson depicts the scene inside the Court. LINK

USA Today 's Joan Biskupic and Jim Drinkard: LINK

The USA Today ed board writes about the importance of stopping the "seamy commerce" of campaign donations. LINK

The Boston Globe 's Lyle Denniston: LINK

The Boston Globe 's Michael Kranish writes about how interesting it was to see the president's lawyer arguing against the RNC's lawyers. LINK

*"Deficits as far as the eye can see."