The Note

Today's Schedule (all times Eastern):

—:30 am: Senate convenes for legislative business —9:30 am: House Energy and Commerce Committee hears testimony from energy executives on the blackout, Capitol Hill —10:00 am: House convenes for legislative business —10:00 am: First Lady Laura Bush speaks about education at Savannah Grove Elementary School, Effingham, S.C. —11:30 am: First Lady Laura Bush attends a Bush-Cheney 2004 fundraiser, Florence, S.C. (closed press) —11:45 am: Congressman Dick Gephardt meets with seven of the Texas Democratic state senators in hiding, Albuquerque —12:30 pm: President Bush makes remarks on the economy, Kansas City, Mo. —1:30 pm: Governor Bill Richardson, DNC Chairman Terry McAuliffe, and Congressional Hispanic Caucus Chairman Ciro Rodriguez hold media availability, Albuquerque —1:30 pm: Senator Joe Lieberman holds meet and greet, Albuquerque —3:00 pm: Arnold Schwarzenegger makes remarks to Inland Empire residents and helps to register new voters, Riverside, Calif. —3:30 pm: First Lady Laura Bush tours, makes remarks, and participates in a ribbon cutting dedication ceremony at the National First Ladies Library Education and Research Center, Canton, Ohio —5:00 pm: Governor Gray Davis makes remarks about funding for school construction and modernization, San Diego —5:30 pm: Former Governor Dean holds pre-debate rally, Albuquerque —6:00 pm: Congressman Kucinich holds pre-debate rally, Albuquerque —8:00 pm: Democratic National Committee presidential debate hosted by Governor Richardson and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus at the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque —10:00 pm: New Mexico Democratic Party post-debate event at the Albuquerque Hilton


In print journalism, there are two kinds of headlines.

Good headlines — by which we means ones that sum up the story and are actually accurate. And then there are bad headlines — those that are misleading or wholly unrelated to what's going on.

Leave it to the Associated Press overnight headline writers to completely master what's happening with our two big September political stories in only 13 words.

"Dean Braces For Criticism In Dem Debate" and "Schwarzenegger Hit By Egg, Avoids Debate"

There are plenty of print big feet congregated in Albuquerque for what could be the most significant multicandidate Democratic presidential event since the candidates collided in Columbia.

Ever since that May day, there have been, by our count, more than a dozen times when all nine of the candidates or most of them have come together in one place.

What's different about tonight's event, which kicks off at 8 pm ET, is that it's being labeled a "debate" and it has the Democratic National Commmittee imprimatur as the first of six planned for 2003.

So we wouldn't be surprised if major news occurred. But we'd place bets (hedging, of course) that there'll be no news because of the math with which we're all now familiar: ( 90 minutes — moderator verbiage ) / 9 candidates simply doesn't = much time for any 1 candidate to make too many points.

The political press corps is salivating at the prospect of a gang-bang gang-up on Howard Dean. But it's not easy to see someone pulling that off effectively, with an attack just as likely (if not more so) to reflect badly on the attacker than it is to do damage to the Doctor.

And it's not as if Howard Dean isn't fully prepared, both substantively and stylistically, to bat stuff back.

See our debate preview section below for our pre-debate analysis and reporting of what might happen, along with the Boston Globe 's Glen Johnson saying that the macro debate in the Kerry campaign about whether to attack Dean as a general matter has been settled. And don't miss Bob Novak on John Kerry and GE properties.

As for the recall, the reviews of last night's debate are starkly uniform, although the Associated Press is remarkably opinionated in casting Republican Tom McClintock as the big winner.

And as the AP headline we cited above suggests, with 33 daily news cycles left to go, Arnold Schwarzenegger is now on his fourth one and counting in which his debate avoidance is not just his campaign's press lead, but that of the story overall.

There is both justice and injustice in the fact that Arnold seems to be being blamed for a California Broadcasters Association format which is at once, not his idea, and, when you actually study how it would work, isn't such a bad format after all.

Nonetheless, it does not appear that the Schwarzenegger campaign is on a clear trajectory to end the "Arnold Is Afraid To Debate" storyline, given the CBA's refusal to change their format.

In other recall news,

-- Arnold gets egged while skipping the first debate in the recall. He heads back out on the campaign trail today in Riverside.

-- Governor Davis promises to remain more connected to his constituents and in that spirit holds his 3rd town hall meeting today in San Diego.

-- Debate reviews have the replacement candidates covering a wide variety issues in a mostly staid affair.

Breaking as we write are latest economic numbers and reaction to the Wall Street Journal 's newsitorial announcing that Miguel Estrada is withdrawing his nomination. Watch 'em both today — and see them get inserted almost magically into debate talking points.

Per Reuters: "The number of Americans filing first-time claims for jobless benefits rose unexpectedly last week, a government report showed on Thursday, underscoring the labor market's continued fragility."

Today, President Bush travels to Kansas City today to talk about the economy. The First Lady travels to South Carolina today to make remarks about education and attend a fundraiser. She then goes to Canton, Ohio, to tour the First Ladies Library Education and Research Center.

The Democratic presidential candidates are of course in Albuquerque to have a chat. The format, per the DNC is:

1) An introduction by the moderators and a welcome by Governor Bill Richardson.

2) Approximately 20-22 minutes of questions focusing on Thursday's top news of the day.

3) Two segments of approximately 28 minutes in length; one focusing on international and one on domestic issues (order to be determined by the moderators).

The moderators, María Elena Salinas and Ray Suarez, will select the questions and their order. The networks will keep track of balancing the response time among the candidates.

Also, per the DNC, "Elena Salinas will introduce each of the new segments in Spanish and then translate that into English. There will also be several questions sprinkled throughout the debate which Maria Elena will ask first in Spanish and then in English. The candidates will be standing behind podiums in a semi-circle facing the two moderators, who will be seated, on the stage of the Popejoy Center. The order of seating will be determined by Univision and PBS."

Thus: no opening or closing statements.

And don't be thinking that every PBS station is carrying this thing — live or otherwise.

Congressman Gephardt will meet with seven of the eleven fleeing state senators from Texas who are holed up in the Albuquerque Marriott, as will Governor Dean.

Dean plans a big pre-debate rally.

Matt Lieberman campaigns for his father in New Hampshire today.

In the recall world:

Governor Davis speaks about school construction and modernization in San Diego today.

Arnold Schwarzenegger meets with newly registered voters in Riverside this afternoon.

State Senator Tom McClintock does a few radio interviews today with the Larson and Marino Show, Michael Savage and Brian Wilson.

Lt. Governor Cruz Bustamante has no public events announced.

There will be Peter Ueberroth meetings tonight.

The debate:

Glen Johnson has come a long way from the shackles of writing wire leads!

"The debate within the campaign of Senator John F. Kerry about how to deal with Howard Dean is over," the heaven-sent reporter from the Hub opens today's blockbuster. LINK

"As he tries to reinvigorate his Democratic candidacy for the presidency, Kerry has made it clear he is not going to wait and see if Dean's surging campaign will fade. Since Sunday, the Massachusetts senator has criticized the former Vermont governor, who leads in the latest polls in New Hampshire, for his opposition to the Iraq war, lack of government experience in foreign policy, economic plans, and membership in the National Rifle Association."

What's not clear is whether we'll see the attacks continue tonight.

(The Boston Herald's Andrew Miga reports that Mrs. Heinz Kerry wishes the television spots had gone up months ago, and urges everyone to add her "to the lengthy list of Democrats expressing doubts about how her husband's slow-starting presidential campaign has been run so far.") LINK The AP's Fournier has Bill Richardson predicting "fireworks" and Kerry's campaign debating what to do about Dean:

"Kerry's advisers have been divided over whether to attack Dean. Some fear the former Vermont governor will pull away with the nomination unless he is confronted; others worry that aggressive tactics would make Kerry look mean while firing up Dean's backers. Aides said the large field and restrictive debate format may limit Kerry's ability to take on Dean." LINK The Boston Herald's David Guarino speculates that Dean will be the focal point tonight, and whether the other candidates openly go after him remains to be seen. LINK ABC News Kerry campaign reporter Ed O'Keefe says Kerry will take "a confident approach." The campaign will be doing some light prep today; due to their announcement tour, they hadn't done a lot of prep so far.

We wonder: will Kerry's voice hold up?

This debate is a challenge for Dean in that some political observers will expect him to give a star-quality performance, befitting his status as insurgent-frontrunner. Others will expect him to fly off the handle, veins in full bulge.

He may not do either, for at least two reasons, reports ABC News Dean campaign reporter Marc Ambinder. Dean is not a natural debater and has no overriding inclination to show off.

And he plans to play it straight and stay on message. The fewer fireworks, the better--that's the prevailing belief among campaign staff. A "win" in that harsh plumbing calculus of campaign politics would consist of a candidate who stays the course, doesn't take the bait of his rivals, and plods through deftly.

The campaign won't say whether Dean plans to rebut what they anticipate will be attacks from all comers … though we're relatively certain they have specific answers in mind for the electability question, the flip-flop questions (war, Social Security, public financing), the liberal/centrist questions, and anything related to national security.

Dean takes strong personal exception to criticism that he's insufficiently committed to the military, so if the attacks veer in that direction, the chances that he'll personally engage his questioner will rise. Doing so may be risky.

In past debates and forums, the hotter under the collar Dean got, the more apt he was to say something that he may later regret. But Dean has done several debates now and knows at least a little better how to handle those situations.

Dean may respond to the inevitable barbs by trying not to respond — gently correcting the record, and then re-framing on the core themes that have fueled his rise.

Dean has spent the better part of two days this week preparing for the debate, holed up at an undisclosed location away from his campaign headquarters with campaign director Joe Trippi, communications director Trish Enright, media strategist Steve McMahon, policy guru Jeremy Ben-Ami, and several others. We're told the prep did not include a mock debate with a Kerry stand-in. Darn.

Newsweek's Howard Fineman quotes a Dean adviser as saying Dean's biggest threat is himself, which, in context, means that Dean might be the arbiter of his own fate. It's not a bad position to be in. LINK

Mired in the single digits, John Edwards has a lot riding on tonight's debates, says John Wagner of the Raleigh News and Observer. "'Edwards needs to have a big moment — something that makes him steal the debate,' said Chuck Todd, editor of The Hotline, a Washington-based political newsletter. 'He really needs to get some momentum before his announcement.'" LINK ABC News Gephardt campaign reporter Sally Hawkins says that Gephardt's main mission will be to go on the offensive toward Bush and articulate an alternative to Bush for the country. Spokesman Erik Smith says Gephardt has no plans to go on the offensive against the other Democratic hopefuls.

Gephardt will continue to talk about his health care plan, outlining why he thinks it's a superior plan to others, Smith said. On immigration, he plans to stress the bill he introduced in Congress in October of 2002 as a practical solution to the problem of illegal immigration. If he or she live by the rules and pay taxes, a person has the opportunity to earn legal status, Gephardt is expected to say.

Here's part of the text of an e-mail from Lieberman's campaign to his supporters: "Debate Prep: Tomorrow's debate will be the first bilingual debate and is sponsored by the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. To help Joe prepare for the debate, we wanted to know what you think about an important issue. Question: What do you think about current immigration laws [?]."

ABC News Graham campaign reporter Tarana Harris spoke with sassy Graham spokesperson Jamal Simmons, who questioned why the campaign would want to give away how the Senator plans to outshine the other candidates at tomorrow's debate. Also per Simmons, Graham's strategy will be to show how his record stacks up against the other candidates. Simmons said the debate will expose Graham's ability to not only compete in the primaries, but beat President Bush in the general election

ABC News Braun campaign reporter Monica Ackerman says that the candidate's campaign manager, Patrick Botterman, said Braun will act presidential and try to draw contrast between the other candidates and the White House. They want to make sure people see her as a serious candidate. Braun consultant, Kevin Lampe, said "she'll probably say the country is headed in the wrong direction and that she has the experience and qualifications to be the next president of the United States."

ABC News Kucinich campaign reporter Melinda Arons reports Kucinich press secretary Jeff Cohen says his candidate "will keep trying to distinguish himself from the field, that's the purpose of the debates. It's very easy to beat up on Bush but Democratic voters want to hear how the candidates differ from one another."

On whether fellow anti-war candidate Dean is Kucinich's biggest threat in the debates and beyond, Cohen said "We knew they'd all beat us in fund raising, and that even though the peace movement recognizes Kucinich as the real peace candidate, the mainstream media would be close to Dean and against us."

ABC News Sharpton campaign reporter Beth Loyd says Sharpton aide Frank Watkins thinks his candidate is "going to be good." As usual, says Watkins, expect laughs--and yes, Sharpton comes up with most of the quips himself. Both Watkins and campaign chairman Roberto Ramirez briefed Sharpton yesterday on the audience-specific issues: immigration, the economy, healthcare, bi-lingual education, Loyd reports.

The AP on the Hispanic angle: "Hispanics represent the country's largest and fastest growing minority group and securing their votes in the 2004 election is crucial for both political parties. In recognition of that political reality, Democrats are holding Thursday night's televised debate involving the nine candidates in a state with a large Hispanic population-- about 42 percent --and a Hispanic governor." LINK

David Yepsen is happy to see a "healthy and spirited" debate take place among Democrats. LINK The estimable Chuck Raasch makes USA Today with his story on the debate and the Latino electorate. LINK Jennifer Harper of The Washington Times looks at the bilingual aspect of tonight's debate. LINK

The Albuquerque Journal has extensive coverage and a pic of the stage: LINK

More local coverage: LINK

Governor Richardson:

For obvious reasons, the guy deserves his own section.

"With his ethnic background and an extensive resume including stints as Energy secretary and ambassador to the United Nations during the Clinton administration, Richardson is often mentioned as an ideal vice presidential running mate," the Los Angeles Times' Kelly reports. LINK

"But he flatly ruled that out Wednesday, at least for 2004."

"'I made a commitment when elected that I would serve four years,' he said. 'Then I will run for reelection. I think there are a lot of problems here in New Mexico that I have to deal with.'"

"As for 2008, Richardson gave a noncommittal smile when asked if he would run for president, a post many friends say he's keenly interested in."

"'Stop asking me,' he said. 'I don't want to look that far ahead. I want to end my career as a governor, but I know in politics you never rule anything out.'"

"Richardson, 55, may be the most visible governor in the nation. Whatever the issue — North Korea, energy blackouts or Iraq — he can be found in the thick of it."

Debate extra: The Note's Lonely, Small Planet:

Just in time for tonight's DNC debate in Albuquerque, The Note brings you the "Unofficial Guide to Getting Your Kicks on Route 66," prepared by DNC communications consultant Jenny Backus.

It's an outsiders guide, prepared by an outsider.

"While you might think you are in New Mexico to find the answer to whether or not the state is red or blue, the friendly natives will be more interested in your answer to the question: red or green?"*

"Best Breakfast: The number one breakfast place recommended by locals is Frontier, conveniently located across from where the press gets its credentials. (Try the sweet rolls and breakfast burritos)."

"Best New Mexican Cuisine: The best Mexican/New Mexican food in the city can be found just blocks from the press file at El Patio, on the corner of Harvard and Stephen. Good back-up: Los Quatros on Monroe and Lomas."

"Killer Margaritas: For a great night out and very cool ambiance, a cheap bill and killer margaritas, take a drive out to El Pinto. It has a fabulous patio, good music and a fun staff. LINK "

"Missing the Village? Nob Hill is sort of the "Village" of Albuquerque. It is conveniently located along Central Ave. LINK

. Best bets in Nob Hill are Il Vicino, the Flying Star Cafe, Monte Vista Fire Station and Yanni's Mediterranean Restaurant (rumored to be a Bill Richardson favorite)."

"Dead Head: For those of you missing your youth, Nob Hill is also home to Albuquerque's own "deadhead" restaurant and saloon: Stella Blue. LINK

"Boys (and Girls) on the Bus: The press party will be held Thursday night at Kelly's Restaurant and Brew Pub at 3200 Central Ave., SE. Tel: (505) 262-2739."

"Light Up the Night: Those of you staying through Friday can hang out at the Nob Hill Lights Up the Night evening festival from 5:00-8:00 p.m. LINK "

"Picture Perfect: Old Town is practically made for TV camera standups and "spontaneous" candidate drop-by's. And unlike the Garden State residents you'll find in Santa Fe, the people in Old Town might actually be from the Land of Enchantment."

"* — red chili sauce or green chili sauce (natives prefer red)."

The politics of national security:

Everybody covers the president's UN decision as more of a reversal than the administration will admit. (All the stories also make reference to the political stakes for Bush in turning the Iraq mess around). LINK , LINK, LINK What will catch the eye of the Gang og 500 is the Washington Post 's casting of gang member Colin Powell's pressure on Bush as having led to all this. LINK The best sentence in Judy Keen and Dave Moniz's USA Today piece is the last one: "The calculation Bush made this week suggests he's willing to endure criticism for changing his mind if it defuses the growing crisis he faces in Iraq." LINK

Bush-Cheney re-elect:

John DiStaso lays out the very interesting and actually rather important war between Ed Gillespie, Rush Limbaugh, and the Union Leader. LINK

The heart and soul of the party is being fought over before our eyes, as we continue to watch the tension between a conservative President who favors huge new federal programs and the fact that he is supported by over 90% of his party members. Amazing must-read stuff — along with other DiStaso sections on the Kerry campaign messing with the MUL, a Julie Teer update, Dick Cheney going Granite, and so much more.

The Wall Street Journal 's Tom Hamburger reports that a Brookings Institution study to be released today shows, "The Bush Administration has brought the era of big government back."

More: "The report finds that the growth is happening entirely outside traditional civil-service hiring channels. 'The Bush administration is overseeing a vast expansion of the largely hidden federal work force of contractors and grantees,' according to the report, written by Paul Light, who directs the Center for Public Service at Brookings, a nonpartisan think tank."

"The report finds that the growth is happening entirely outside traditional civil-service hiring channels. 'The Bush administration is overseeing a vast expansion of the largely hidden federal work force of contractors and grantees,' according to the report, written by Paul Light, who directs the Center for Public Service at Brookings, a nonpartisan think tank."

You should go read the whole thing.

A group that helped write No Child Left Behind has questions about the Department of Education's leadership. LINK The Los Angeles Times says President Bush's economy-selling tour faces a "tough sell."

"Many observers say Bush's proposal for a manufacturing czar is intended to make him appear decisive without actually having to make those decisions. The administration hopes that the economy will solve the problem for the White House by beginning to generate new jobs before political pressure grows for Bush to act." LINK

The Concord Monitor wonders whether Bush will make a token effort in the GOP primary. LINK The AP's Scott Lindlaw writes up the president's trip to Missouri today, Noting that it's a state "showing signs of the economic recovery he has been promising." LINK The Teamsters' James P. Hoffa tells the AP that the president "doesn't understand the economy or the problems of working families, and despite overtures from the White House, it 'would be difficult to imagine' the union endorsing him for president next year." LINK Take that, Bob Novak!

ABC 2004: The Invisible Primary: Ron Fournier's debate preview story also Notes that "The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, whose president, Gerald McEntee, signaled his favor with Kerry in the spring, is taking a second look at the field to judge the strength of Dean's surge and the extent of Kerry's political woes, according to labor officials who spoke on condition of anonymity. The Service Employees International Union, with 1.6 million members, is being heavily courted by Dean's campaign in advance of next week's meetings." LINK The Des Moines Register looks at the fall ad blitz blanketing the state. LINK James Hoffa wants the Democratic presidential candidates to support Chuck Schumer's new card check legislation. LINK

The Washington Post on the 2002 election data set for release: LINK

The Financial Times has a predictable and somewhat tiring editorial saying Democrats are adrift. LINK


Bob Novak's must-read column pans Kerry's perf on "Meet" and says Democratic wiseguys are in a panic. LINK

The Manchester Union Leader's take on Senator John Kerry's New Hampshire swing yesterday shows a focused, on-message, occasionally teary-eyed candidate. LINK

USA Today 's Jill Lawrence writes about Senator Kerry's emotional moment in Derry yesterday, and says that studies show it's ok to cry. Really, it is. LINK

WMUR's Scott Spradling reported last night that "there was more than enough room for [Kerry's] supporters yesterday. Crowd size was less than expected. Kerry reserved 9 buses capable of carrying 500 people down to his big speech in Boston … But only about 200 showed up, leaving many empty seats."

ABC News campaign reporter Ed O'Keefe says the crowd was very big in Boston itself — between 2 and 4,000 according to the cops — not the 15,000 estimated, O'Keefe reports, by one eager Kerry staffer.

Stu Rothenberg's Roll Call column says that while Kerry "still looks like a president, sounds like a president and has put together the type of national, well-funded effort that wins nominations, the emergence of former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean as the new Democratic frontrunner has created two schools of thought about Kerry's prospects. Some argue that the Massachusetts Senator still offers Democratic primary voters and caucus attendees the best total package, and he has the ability to stay in the race until he becomes "the alternative" to Dean. Others, however, say the Vermonter's success has turned the front-loaded calendar against Kerry and highlighted the Senator's continuing weaknesses. At this point, it's not clear which camp is correct."

The New York Post 's Deborah Orin used Kerry's tears at a jobless woman's story as a metaphor for his "slipping" campaign. LINK


Official campaign song: "We Can" by LeAnne Rhymes.

Ron Fournier's story on the debate has this: "Interviewed in his Santa Fe office, Richardson said Dean is the candidate doing the best among New Mexico's Hispanic activists. He said the progress became evident a few weeks ago as Dean's stock rose nationally." LINK Roll Call 's Mark Preston writes that once-skeptical lawmakers "appear to be warming to the idea that the former Vermont governor might be the voters' choice to challenge President Bush in 2004." Read the whole thing, especially for comments by Senators Wyden, Hollings, Lincoln, and others.

Roll Call 's Mort Kondracke says that Dean's opposition to No Child Left Behind may not be politically astute.


ABC News' Deilia Jackson attended Gephardt's addresses before the union-backed Alliance for Retired Americans legislative conference yesterday and reports that the Congressman's speech was well-received and seemed to reflect genuine affection from the politically savvy crowd.


Former Senator Bob Kerrey writes in the Wall Street Journal that Senator Lieberman, "[k]nowing that some of his views would be unpopular … .stood his ground and reaffirmed his support for open markets and free trade and for private school voucher experiments for poor children. He was loudly booed, and in response Mr. Lieberman said, "I'm going to speak the truth; I'm going say what I think is best for America regardless." I wanted to endorse him on the spot. He understands that America has always performed at its best when leaders know how to lead."

But Kerrey says he hasn't yet formally endorsed anyone.

The AP on Lieberman's supremely timed immigration proposals: "[He] would grant legal status to undocumented workers who have lived in the United States for five years and can pay their taxes, as long as they do not pose a security risk. The plan also would create a temporary work visa program for unskilled and semiskilled workers to fill labor shortages in the construction and service industries. Lieberman said such a program would reduce illegal immigration and stop the exploitation of undocumented workers." LINK

The Los Angeles Times' Brownstein Notes: "The Connecticut senator joined his party's other leading presidential contenders in urging an overhaul of immigration laws to legitimize the flow of workers from Mexico and provide a pathway to citizenship for the estimated 3.5 million illegal immigrants already living in the United States." ">LINK


The New York Times says Gen. Clark sounded like a candidate last night in New York. LINK The Note continues to wonder what all the fuss is about.

Legislative agenda:

A Pear-Bogdanich master work about the ongoing Medicare debate. LINK College football heads to the Hill today, while everyone stares out the windows waiting for Britney. LINK

California recall:

You know what they say: As California goes, so goes …

Jackie Calmes and Scott Thurm of the Wall Street Journal go brilliantly beyond the "other states are having budget crises too" California extrapolation thing and smartly look to see if Americans at large are as unhappy with the direction of the country as Californians appear to be with the direction of their state.

This then begs the question, is Arnold Schwarzenegger the Howard Dean of the recall?

"The movement to unseat Gov. Gray Davis was set off by a political chain reaction: A persistently lousy economy, with a chronically high jobless rate, soured public sentiment. An electricity crisis stoked the anxiety. Voters saw signs of a deeper malaise in lawmakers' inability to narrow the state's chronic budget deficit. Cynicism and political polarization grew. And voters found someone to blame in the aloof and unpopular Gov. Davis."

"There are some clear parallels in the rest of the country. Local and state taxes — in particular, property taxes — are a growing irritant as more states, cities and counties boost levies to close yawning budget gaps. The federal budget deficit is widening toward a record $500 billion and becoming a major problem for President Bush. Complaints about jobs moving abroad are turning into a staple of the political debate for next year's presidential election."

"And just as Arnold Schwarzenegger, considered a leading candidate to replace Gov. Davis if he is recalled, is trying to win California's recall race by stressing that he knows little about the people in the state's capital, the hottest national political figure is Howard Dean, a former governor who has never served in Washington and whose message is, in the words of Democratic pollster Mark Mellman, 'I'm not part of all this. They are.'

More Calmes/Thurman: "Americans generally aren't so despairing for the nation, but their angst is growing along similar lines: In Wall Street Journal /NBC News polls, the share of people nationally who say the country is on the wrong track doubled, to 44% in July from 22% in April."

George Skelton writes the recall effort is due to one major mistake on the governor's part and it has nothing to do with energy or budget crises. LINK

"Davis' single biggest blooper, the one that later sustained a recall rally for Republicans? It was his spending $9 million on attack ads in last year's GOP gubernatorial primary to flatten the Republican candidate he feared most, former L.A. Mayor Richard Riordan."

California recall:

George Raine of the San Francisco Chronicle wraps up the Schwarzenegger day complete with the egg throwing, debate absence, and that pesky 1977 Oui Magazine article that just won't go away. LINK

"Senator Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., also on Matthews' show, was more blunt: 'I don't think group sex justifies promoting a movie, if that's what he was saying. I don't have a great appreciation for that kind of thing, I'm afraid.'"

The shelling of Arnold made the covers of the NY Post and the NY Daily News. LINK and LINK

The Washington Post 's William Booth and Dan Balz write up the challenges the Schwarzenegger campaign has faced thus far and that perhaps they are more numerous than expected. LINK "In the dog days of August, Schwarzenegger's international celebrity gave him an advantage that no other candidate in the race could match — his bid created a huge buzz and turned the voters on to the recall race. But the fact that he has largely avoided specifics and rarely aired his political views — let alone that he has not run for office before — presents a challenge that he and his advisers may have underestimated."

Charlie LeDuff gets a Schwarzenegger strategist to lower some expectations and plead patience in the New York Times . The actor turned candidate is apparently working hard on boning up his policy credentials. LINK "The education goes on daily, with an endless procession of policy experts traipsing to his headquarters in Santa Monica. Sometimes, they go to his home for coffee discussions or to Schatzi, his beachside restaurant, for dinner conversations."

"People at the briefings say Mr. Schwarzenegger prefers to read along with his tutors' policy papers. An aide takes notes, and after hours of questions and answers, Mr. Schwarzenegger breaks down complicated issues into digestible catchalls like: 'Special interests have a stranglehold on Sacramento. Here's how it works. Money comes in, favors go out. The people lose.'"

Michael Finnegan explores Schwarzenegger's Hollywood style strategy on the campaign trail. LINK

Martin Kasindorf of USA Today heard Arnold express his love to debate and profess his respect for women in Long Beach yesterday. LINK The Los Angeles Times' Joe Matthews keys off of Schwarzenegger's campaign stop at an Edison charter school in Fresno this week to highlight the candidate's lack of an education policy platform. LINK

California recall: the debate:

Los Angeles Times duo Mark Z. Barabak and Michael Finnegan write up yesterday's showdown at Walnut Creek. LINK

"Five candidates for governor in the recall election differed Wednesday over taxes, the death penalty and campaign spending in a spirited debate that offered voters a widely varied set of solutions to the most contentious issues facing California."

"The forum, the first debate of the campaign, began with Democratic Gov. Gray Davis appearing separately from the candidates seeking to replace him. Davis vigorously condemned the effort to drive him from office, alternately sounding notes of frustration and contrition."

More Barabak/Finnegan: "For the most part, however, the candidates ignored their absentee opponent, who sought his own platform earlier in the day with a speech at Cal State Long Beach, where he was hit with an egg. Instead, they focused on answering the more than 20 questions put to them, staking out their partisan differences and striking broad campaign themes from the start."

The Sacramento Bee's Margaret Telev and Herbert Sample write Lieutenant Governor Bustamante "drew the brunt of criticism Wednesday in the first major televised debate of the race for taking more than $2 million in campaign donations from Indian tribes with casinos." LINK But ABC News' Apton ran into Mr. Bustamante eating a post debate cheeseburger and reports that he was quite happy with his debate performance. Why then did he leave the debate grounds without doing a post-debate spin avail? Bustamante campaign staffers think he left no question unanswered.

Marinucci and Wildermuth write in the San Francisco Chronicle, "The five broke little new ground as they answered rapid-fire questions on the economy, gun control and taxes during the campaign's first televised debate, where passion only occasionally broke into view." LINK

John Broder and Dean Murphy of the New York Times depict a "somber" debate. LINK "While California's recall election has at times been mocked as a circus because 135 replacement candidates are on the ballot, the debate was in large part somber. The candidates, sitting side by side, all pressed their own cases and made only a handful of references to the missing Mr. Schwarzenegger. They also largely ignored the subject of Governor Davis."

Bustamante held his ground and McClintock may have "improved his standing" according to the Associated Press' Tom Chorneau. LINK