The Note

Mort Kondracke didn't like the "weakness" he heard from Democrats last Thursday: "In their latest joint appearance last Thursday, not one Democratic presidential candidate said that America's purpose in Iraq should be to 'win,' 'prevail,' 'establish a democracy' — or even 'persevere." The message the Democrats sent is that the best the United States can do is to turn responsibility for Iraq over to others — the United Nations, NATO, the Iraqis. Some candidates made clear the purpose was not to succeed, but to get out. "

Senator Lieberman and Governor Dean are in the midst of a back-and-forth about Israel and the settlements, but we're pretty sure that the two are substantively at the same place … but are explaining differently to different audiences. LINK (We've heard Dean say many times that the first step to peace is to stop terrorism against Israelis.). (Yes, Deborah Orin wrote it up, too. LINK)

Per Adam Nagourney … the personal candidates: Edwards, Gephardt, Kerry. The political candidates: Dean, Lieberman.

"A striking stylistic divide has emerged among the Democratic candidates as they struggle to determine the extent to which they can — or should — build candidacies on often intimate details of their lives, in an era that celebrates the public airing of the most personal of tales." LINK

The Washington Post 's Howie Kurtz looked at the personal-story-versus-record dynamic in campaign ads on Sunday. LINK

California recall:

Let the voting begin! The San Francisco Chronicle's Mark Simon reports on all things absentee. LINK

"Starting now, any of the state's 21.4 million registered voters can walk into the offices of his or her county elections official, ask for an absentee ballot and cast the first votes."

"The growing popularity and political significance of absentee voting has prompted both recall-related campaigns and replacement candidates to expend time and money targeting absentee voters who will be making their decisions in the five weeks before the Oct. 7 election."

Matea Gold and Joe Matthews of the Los Angeles Times lead their Sunday recall wrap-up with Cruz Bustamante moving farther and farther away from that "no on recall" position. LINK

We wonder if the Bustamante campaign staff will soon change the way they answer the phones.

The Associated Press' Brian Sokoloff heard a similar strategy shift. LINK

We'll all be on the lookout for the latest Field Poll numbers despite what the Associated Press' Tom Chorneau reports. LINK

California recall, Arnold:

Congressman Darrell Issa tells USA Today 's Kathy Kiely that unless one or more Republicans drop out of the race, GOP front-runner Arnold Schwarzenegger can't win. Issa says it's simply "pure arithmetic." LINK

"'Pure arithmetic destroys the ability to win,' Issa said during an interview in his congressional office here. 'Three Republicans, one Democrat; you can't win. That's the situation we have right now. It is statistically almost impossible for Schwarzenegger to win unless we reduce (the field) at least by one.'"

"Issa's blunt comments come when GOP leaders appear to be ratcheting up the pressure for back-of-the-pack candidates to get out. In a telephone interview from his Sacramento office on Friday, state Senate Republican leader Jim Brulte, a key party strategist, echoed Issa's remarks. "

"'Three candidates dividing the vote lose to one candidate not dividing the vote,' Brulte said."

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