The Note

Today's Schedule (all times Eastern):

—9:00 am: Senate convenes for legislative business —9:00 am: Secretaries Colin Powell, Don Evans and Spence Abraham address the Earth Observation Summit, D.C. —9:45 am: Off-camera White House press gaggle —9:45 am: Senator John Kerry meets with workers to discuss the economy in Manchester, N.H.— —10:30 am: Senator Joe Biden delivers foreign policy address on U.S. policy in Iraq, D.C. —12:30 pm: On-camera White House press briefing with Scott McClellan —12:30 pm: Reverend Al Sharpton participates in a protest of MetroLink, St. Louis, Mo. —1:15 pm: Senator Joe Lieberman makes remarks and holds press availability at a biotech lab, Lebanon, N.H. —2:15 pm: Congressman Dennis Kucinich addresses the Commonwealth Club, San Francisco —3:00 pm: Governor Howard Dean delivers speech on environmental policy, San Francisco —4:00 pm: Senator Joe Lieberman participates in a roundtable discussion with warehouse distribution employees, Keene, N.H. —5:30 pm: Former Governor Howard Dean, Congressmen Dick Gephardt and Dennis Kucinich, and Ambassador Carol Moseley Braun participate in the United Food and Commercial Workers presidential candidate forum, San Francisco —6:10 pm: Vice President Cheney delivers remarks to the American Legislative Exchange Council, D.C.


The facts of national political life:

1. The nation is badly divided, over both policies and President Bush.

2. The Republican Party is overwhelmingly united, first-most around President Bush, second-most around policies.

3. The Democratic Party — lacking congressional majorities, bedeviled by hovering Clintons, divided over the meaning and power of Deanism — is going to remain divided at least until it has a presidential standard bearer, and (depending on the skill and identity of said nominee) maybe beyond.

(If you wanted to put a human metaphor on this division, you'd need to look no further than last evening's … .words … between two perfectly lovely New England ladies, Dorie Clark of the Dean campaign and Judy Reardon of the Kerry campaign — the must-read insider exchange of the cycle.)

Stirring the pot, just the way the RNC likes it, is the New York Post 's Deborah Orin, who says it now a "fact" that Howard Dean is the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination. See more below.

For more on (1), see the WSJ/NBC poll in the Journal, Al Hunt's column, the Nagourney/Shenon take-out on national security, and Norah Vincent's Los Angeles Times op-ed about extremes in TV and politics.

For more on (2), see that same Nagourney/Shenon article, the coverage on gay marriage, and more

For more on (3), see Invisible Primary below, for all the Kerry-Dean tussling.

Democrats can be heartened that at least now their presidential campaigns seem to have figured out that talking about the economy is smart politics.

Democrats can be discouraged by the fact that talking about the economy is for now crowded out by talking about who is "worse" on taxes, which Karl Rove might even prefer to Democrats fighting amongst themselves about the war.

The facts of California political life:

1. The state is badly divided between left and right, but the left is still bigger and knows how to handle the media with more skill.

2. The Republican Party's chances of taking over the governorship are going to be in suspended animation until Mr. Riordan makes a decision, and even then, there will be breath-holding over what kind of campaign he runs.

3. The Democratic Party has one week and two days to keep major figures off the ballot — and that struggle is going to be a daily, intense one all the way through.

For more on (1)-(3), see our recall section below. Here's a short summary of yesterday's developments:

-- Representative Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) becomes the third Democratic member of the congressional delegation to urge Senator Feinstein to run on the recall ballot.

-- Governor Davis claims he will have "virtual unanimity" among Democrats on October 7.

-- President Bush claims to be an "interested political observer" when it comes to the recall, but asserts that it is up to Californians to decide what to do.

-- No official word from Arnold Schwarzenegger or Richard Riordan. However, the actor is still leaning against a run while the former mayor is continuing to meet with advisers about putting together a campaign team.

The president has no public events scheduled for today, but he will be happy about this:

Per ABC News' Schindelheim: "The first reading on economic growth for the second quarter came in at 2.4%, around what economists had forecast. First quarter GDP was 1.4%.Defense spending contributed a lot to the increase."

Schindelheim adds: "An economist did the calculations on the GDP and wrote, ' The leap in defense spending accounted for a stunning 70% of overall GDP growth in Q2.'"

In San Francisco today, candidates Governor Dean, Congressmen Gephardt and Kucinich, and Ambassador Braun will attend the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union forum. Senators Edwards and Kerry will appear via satellite.

The honorable Bill Press presiding.

Gephardt is expected to get more labor endorsements, with the worst-kept secret in American politics (the looming Teamsters endorsement) not expected for a couple of weeks.

Governor Dean campaigns in California, with a semi-major speech on the environment.

Senator Kerry campaigns in New Hampshire.

Senator Lieberman has a full day of campaigning in New Hampshire. On Monday, Lieberman will make remarks at the National Press Club's Newsmaker Luncheon. According to a campaign release, he plans to speak "about the future of the Democratic Party and his vision of a common agenda that can help unite the party and take back the White House." Just the thing to ensure a lively AFL CIO event the next day.

Congressman Kucinich addresses the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco.

Reverend Sharpton is expected to join a rally in St. Louis today aiming to disrupt MetroLink's 10th anniversary celebration.

Senator Graham will lead a press conference today to discuss the proposed legislation that would implement the recommendations of the House-Senate Joint Inquiry into the events of September 11, 2001.

Senator Biden delivers what's billed as a major foreign policy address on U.S. policy in Iraq at the Brookings Institution this morning.

California Recall: The Los Angeles Times' Michael Finnegan and Gregg Jones present a Gray Davis who is eager to convince anyone who will listen that Dianne Feinstein is on his team. LINK "In San Francisco, Davis said one of the Democrats in Congress who have urged U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein to join the race might soon 'take their comments back.' Feinstein, the state's most popular Democrat, has said she would campaign against the Davis recall and did not intend to run."

"'She's called me up constantly, telling me I ought to do this, do that,' Davis said on a visit to a shelter for battered women in Chinatown. 'She's called up other colleagues and told them to support me, and I believe we will go into this election with virtual unanimity in terms of Democratic support.'"

Mr. Finnegan and Mr. Jones also report that Representatives Dooley and Sanchez got company yesterday.

"But cracks in the facade of party unity grew wider Wednesday as Rep. Brad Sherman of Sherman Oaks became the third California Democrat in Congress to call on Feinstein to run. He believes 'the only way to boost Democratic turnout and defeat the recall is to get a prominent Democrat on the ballot,' said Mike Gatto, Sherman's district director."

The Los Angeles Times duo make sure to include President Bush declaring from the Rose Garden that he is watching the recall as an "interested political observer."

And Art Torres fills in for Garry South today for the "try to scare Riordan out of the race" quote.

"Torres signaled that Democrats could make an issue of Riordan's age and health if he enters the race. Riordan, 73, has undergone treatment for prostate cancer."

"'He's got some real weaknesses in terms of age and ability to run a state as large as California,' Torres said. 'You're going to have to have someone with an attention span larger than I think Dick has, given that he's been in semiretirement since he left the mayorship. I don't say that in a derogatory sense.'"

Of course not.

Carla Marinucci proves that you can do a star turn on Inside Politics and co-author a must-read story all in the same day. Ms. Marinucci and Mark Simon cover much of the same territory as their southern California colleagues in wrapping all the day's recall news into one packed story. LINK

"Davis downplayed the first cracks in the Democratic Party strategy to fight the recall as a GOP-backed effort, in part, by keeping Democrats off the ballot as alternatives to the governor. "

"'They understand this is a Republican cabal to undo a duly justified election.'"

Ms. Marinucci and Mr. Simon checked in with other members of the congressional delegation and were not able to find any other Democrat willing to jump ship … yet.

San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown was asked why cracks in Democratic unity are beginning to appear. Marinucci and Simon write up the exchange and answer this age old question: How do you get a Gray Davis staffer to guffaw?

"Brown, in an interview with KTVU Channel 2, said the governor has 'zero personal relationships,' is cold and distant, and that 'people do not like him.'

"Davis tried to laugh off Brown's criticism as he stepped up his campaign to keep his job now that the Legislature has settled a budget deal almost a month late."

"'He said I wasn't warm and cuddly,' Davis told KTVU political editor Randy Shandobil, who had asked for a response. 'Come over here, I'll give you a hug' — and he bear-hugged the surprised reporter as the governor's staff broke into guffaws."

The San Francisco Chronicle pair do a "in other recall news" roundup including President Bush leaving the recall up to the California people to decide. Richard Riordan continues his efforts to put together a campaign team, which may include Schwarzenegger adviser George Gorton.

Marinucci and Simon also report Riordan adviser (and Laura Bush press secretary) Noelia Rodriguez is suggesting the former mayor "distance himself from his Democratic advisers, political strategist Clint Reilly and pollster Pat Cadell."

Roll Call 's Paul Kane and David Perera do a masterful left-coast job writing up the mounting pressure on Senator Feinstein.

"'It's a very heartfelt vote of confidence and I'm appreciative of it,' Feinstein said of expressions of support from Reps. Loretta Sanchez (D) and Cal Dooley (D), both of whom urged Feinstein to enter the Oct. 7 recall election."

"'But I have no further comment,' she said, declining an offer to make any sort of unequivocal statement about the race."

Speaking of wiggle room, check out these quotes from one Senator Clinton and her former in-law Senator Boxer.

"Calling the entire situation 'such a bizarre circumstance,' Clinton said. 'I'm just going to do everything I can — until informed otherwise — to fight against the recall. Right now, as far as I know, we're all fighting against the recall.'"

"Boxer, who is up for re-election in 2004, said that the resolution this week of the state budget impasse, which shored up a $38 billion deficit, might be able to temper the situation and reinforce support for Davis."

"'We have to see how the public reacts. … Let's just see how the public reacts. There's still time,' Boxer said."

Mr. Kane and Mr. Perera also suggest that if Dianne Feinstein became governor, she might appoint either Congresswoman Jane Harman or Lieutenant Governor Cruz Bustamante to her senate seat.

The Associated Press' Erica Werner writes up Governor Davis' efforts to divert attention away from the issue of Democratic unity and on to the recently passed budget plan. LINK Dion Nissenbaum places Arnold Schwarzenegger still on the fence and writes the lack of announcement from the actor is causing GOP hope that "he might pull a last-minute surprise." LINK The Los Angeles Times' Claudia Eller and Michael Cieply take a look at what is ahead for Arnold if not the governorship. LINK

"With politics apparently headed to the back burner, according to associates, the actor will have to return his attention to one of Hollywood's most confounding tasks: how to become a fresh face without diminishing an aura built on the past. That probably will mean reaching out to filmmakers who once might have courted him, adjusting his screen persona and perhaps taking roles in smaller pictures that would showcase skills that may have escaped notice."

Robert Tanner of the Associated Press explores the perfect storm that produced the California recall election and wonders if they will start to be seen at a state near you. LINK Here's a link to the helpful Associated Press list of the 18 states that currently have laws allowing recall elections. LINK George Skelton of the Los Angeles Times declares the GOP the winning party in California's budget battle. LINK

The tax tussle/Clark and Reardon contretemps:

Dean planned an afternoon speech on job creation; Kerry pre-released remarks from an evening speech of his to muddle up the news cycle and create a contrast; Gephardt joined the fray by accusing Dean of theft; Dean speaks; Kerry speaks; then Graham issues a statement asking all of them to explain how they're going to pay for everything.

What's this all about?

Yes, it's about the battle for the pie of liberal and independent Democrat voters in Iowa and New Hampshire that Kerry and Dean must somehow split.

(It's official: Dean is the frontrunner of the Democratic presidential pack, per the New York Post 's Deborah Orin. LINK He's got momentum in the polls. He's got cash. He understands the Internet. He's leading — though to be conservative, we'll say at least tied — in both Iowa and New Hampshire. A national Zogby poll puts him tied nationally with Senator Lieberman. He's got true believers behind him.

Jim Jordan's comment du jour is delish:

"'Ultimately, voters are going to decide a small-town physician from a small and atypical state is probably not qualified to lead this nation in a dangerous world.'" )

And here we go.

Policy-wide, it's a battle of priorities — health care coverage versus income and spending money.

It's also a battle to see which candidate can connect with Democrats for whom the manufacturing sector's decline is the big obstacle in their life. Senators Edwards and Lieberman, among others, have recently tailored their economic messages to address that concern.

The Des Moines Register Notes: "Before Dean could speak, Bill Burton, the Iowa spokesman for Gephardt, accused Dean of lifting part of his economic plan from Gephardt." LINK Here's the AP's Mike Glover, who brings us the tick-tock:

"In remarks on the economy in Iowa and New Hampshire, the primary foes rushed to criticize each other, even if it meant upstaging their own speeches. Kerry fired the first salvo." LINK

"'There are some Democrats running around who think the way to start the economy up is to tax people at the bottom of the income scale … they're prepared to tax a teacher or a waitress' income. I'm not,' the Massachusetts senator said to a crowd at a waterfront park in Dover, N.H."

"Kerry's speech did not mention Dean by name, but aides made sure the speech was provided to the media before Dean addressed the Plumbers and Steamfitters Union in Iowa. Contacted for a response, the former Vermont governor said: 'Real Democrats don't make promises they can't keep.'"

"'Working Americans have a choice,' Dean said. 'They can have the president's tax cuts or they can have health care that can't be taken away. They can't have both.'"

"Kerry, asked in Dover whether he meant to engage Dean, said he only wanted to 'point out the differences.'"

"'He's saying Democrats didn't do this,' Kerry said. 'So I'm going to respond and make sure people understand that real Democrats don't raise taxes on teachers and waitresses. Real Democrats don't abandon the middle class.'"

Middle-class tax relief is as hard to miss as a Clintonian evocation. Then again, so is deficit reduction, at least for some Democrats.

The Kerry campaign will say that Governor Dean wants to balance the budget on the backs of working families and accuse him of austerity.

Dean responds by saying that most Americans would rather go back to paying the same taxes they did in the Clinton era if only they were relieved of part of the burden of paying for health care.

He gambles that Americans will set aside their revulsion toward the appearance of tax increases to trust that, as president, he'd be able to expand health coverage, reduce premiums, fund special education, and the like.

Dean told Iowa reporters that Kerry's tax cuts were too expensive and would crowd out spending for health care and other programs.

"The tit for tat over tax cuts reflects a larger philosophical battle bedeviling Democrats: how much tax cutting is too much. Most Democrats in Congress supported reductions in income tax rates for all but the wealthiest Americans as well as targeted cuts and credits for families, children and education," the Post 's Jim VandeHei reports. LINK "Bush's aggressive tax cut plans — three packages in three years and promises of more to come — have put Democrats on the spot. The sheer size of Bush's combined tax cuts — nearly $2 trillion over 10 years — leaves little room for the major health care reforms and other new domestic spending initiatives that the Democratic candidates are proposing. So every Democratic candidate has endorsed repealing some or all of the Bush cuts, many of which have not taken effect yet."

In a rebuttal to the prebuttal rebuttal, the Dean offered a few declarative sentences:

"This Democrat stands up against the president when he is wrong, even when the polls that day say it might be unpopular. This Democrat offers the American people the choice between reckless tax cuts for the benefit of a few Americans, or health care for every American, new jobs for the unemployed and a return to balanced budgets. This Democrat believes in asking the right questions before giving the president a blank check to go to war, instead of afterward. This Democrat believes that the American people deserve to know the truth all the time, and will stand up for the truth no matter what the political cost."

A Dean aide told ABC News they'd keep the focus on President Bush, and not the other candidates.

But This Note thinks This Battle is Joined.

For his part, Senator Graham issued a statement last night which asked both candidates to score their plans before promoting them.

"'I welcome Senator Kerry and Governor Dean into the debate about how best to grow jobs. However, instead of attacking each other, they should be providing real details on how they plan to balance the budget, create jobs, and provide middle-class tax cuts to the American people, as my plan does."

The Concord Monitor's Jennifer Skalka proves once again that she sees the big picture in small details with this passage of her must-read account: LINK "Tensions were high yesterday not just between the candidates but also between their staffs. Dorie Clark, New Hampshire communications director for the Dean campaign, showed up at Kerry's event. With a stack of press releases in her hands, she stood quietly in back near the press risers — quietly, that is, until Judy Reardon, a New Hampshire spokeswoman for Kerry, approached."

"In hushed tones and with a snarled lip, Reardon told Clark that she'd regret staking out the Kerry event and that it was too early in the primary process for campaign operatives to be turning up at events." (Note Note: "snarled lip"??!!!)

"In a slow, calm voice, Clark told Reardon that it was a public event. She said that Kerry's initial statement criticizing the Dean plan had hit the news wires and that it was her responsibility to respond. She also held out an olive branch."

"'I hope we can have a friendlier exchange of words in the future,' Clark said to Reardon. 'In the end, we're going to be on the same side. I hope we can have a cordial relationship.'"

The Nashua Telegraph 's Kevin Landrigan saw this metaphorical battle with his own eyes: LINK

"Kerry spokeswoman Judy Reardon pulled Clark aside and admonished her for trying to show up Kerry."

"'Is this what you are trying to do? I just want to let you know we can do that, too,' Reardon snapped at one point."

"Clark tossed back, 'Those are harsh words, Judy. I hope we can have a friendly discussion in the future. It is a public event here.'"

The Boston Herald's David Guarino writes, "It was a political free-fire zone on the presidential trail yesterday as Democrats John F. Kerry and Howard Dean exchanged fighting words heard from New Hampshire to Iowa." LINK And Kelley Benander gets in on the Jordan-Lehane-Gibbs bashing of Dr. Dean.

ABC 2004: The Invisible Primary:

The Kerry campaign might not be ready to pack up and move from Washington to Boston yet, but family of the Boston Globe 's Glen Johnson is making the trek in time to put the kids in New England schools.

Per one attendee, last night's going-away fete for the Glenster included the usual flacks, hacks, and men in flight suits, beer and barbeque, colleagues past and present, and groupies/admirers of Mr. Johnson.

Bold-face-named guests included Ms. Nedra Pickler; Jeff Zeleny; Doug Kiker; Deirdre Shesgreen; Mike Kranish; Stephanie Cutter; Michael Meehan; the Jordan-Jakeses; and Jim Manley and at some point, a bottle of scotch was opened.

The USA Today ed board does their best Wayne and Garth impersonation flashing back to when Governor Clinton became President Clinton. Then they write, "Fast-forward to today. A new class of Democratic contenders is taking aim at another President Bush fresh from a victorious war against Saddam. But they have missed Clinton's main message. Instead of offering bold, centrist solutions that appeal to middle-class concerns, most of the nine candidates vying for the party's nomination seem content to dust off the party's old-style religion." LINK Roger Simon has got to stop writing spot-on columns every single day … it's tiring out our poor monkeys.

"A presidential candidate is far better off putting things simply and starkly, even at the risk of over-simplifying, than to constantly try to explain the shades of gray that exist around any issue. Legislators live in a grayish world, however, and they try to avoid absolutes. (If you take an absolute position, you might alienate someone whose vote you might some day need.)" LINK

Dean gets this; it's tougher for candidates like Senator Lieberman.

Simon says that Lieberman bets that Democratic voters "[are] not as anti-war as some think … [and Lieberman] is confident that people can be won over to his positions."

But his nuance can make it tough for people to focus on what he actually thinks.

"And he may be right. If people can just figure out what his positions are."

New Hampshire:

John DiStaso of the Union Leader checks the Status of Howard Dean and the testy relationship he seems to have with some Vermont firefighters; Ed Gillespie is New Hampshire bound, while Tom Rath brags on his bonus delegates; Colin and Judy skirmishing; and the prospect of a Bush/Powell/Rice MLK trip to New Hampshire right before the primary that should have Democrats quaking. LINK

As always, skip John's column, and you might as well get out of the game.


The AP reports, "John Kerry's advisers are working on a contest to build support for his presidential campaign, and they are offering a day with the Democrat as the prize." LINK "Details are still being worked out, but the contest already is being promoted at his Web site, ."

"The promotion includes a photo of the Massachusetts senator at a campaign stop, his arm around a blackened silhouette. Text over the photo reads, 'This could be YOU!'"

"Kerry spokesman Robert Gibbs said the contest will be announced in the next few days. It will focus on grass-roots organizing and small dollar fund-raising, with the winner getting the chance to accompany Kerry on the campaign trail in Iowa or New Hampshire."

The Boston Globe 's Stephanie Ebbert reports that Senator Kennedy has backed away from a proposed amendment to prevent a wind farm near Cape Cod-- and the word "Kerry" does not appear in the story. LINK "Kennedy's decision to distance himself further from the latest measure followed days of frenzied lobbying from both sides of the contentious debate. Lobbyists and national environmental groups besieged Senate offices with calls and visits. Labor unions, some of Kennedy's strongest supporters, joined the fight against the draft amendment, eyeing the 600 to 1,000 jobs that Cape Wind says it can produce."

A Tuesday article in Slate focused on how Kerry supporters want their candidate to become more like Howard Dean. LINK

"As I'm leaving the event, I run into a Kerry campaign worker. He stops me and asks me about Dean and what he's like. He says he'd really like to hear him speak, but it's not kosher for staffers to go to other candidates' events. Maybe if he goes in plain clothes, he muses. Everyone talks about what a great speaker Dean is, he says, but how does he interact with people? I tell him I was impressed."

"The more I tell him about Dean, the more crestfallen he seems to get. Without mentioning Kerry, I tell him that Dean never appears to be trying to walk out of a room. He interjects: 'That's a real problem we have, because Kerry's a senator, so he needs to be back in Washington. Dean's basically unemployed, so he can spend all day hanging out with three people.' It's only a feeling I get, but I can't help wondering if he signed up with Kerry because he thought Kerry would win, and now he's questioning his decision. As I head out to catch my plane, I think that the girl on his right appears to be consoling him."


Governor Dean may liken himself to Teddy Roosevelt today in what his campaign bills as a substantive speech on environmental policy in San Francisco today. Dean is expected to support a requirement that 20 percent of electricity usage be derived from renewable sources; promise to reverse Bush Administration environmental decisions; promote "livable communties" by working to build up urban areas and downtowns … and more.

We expect to hear a mention or two of Lake Champlain … and a certain bike path.

The AP's Sneyd has more details: LINK , as does the San Francisco Chronicle. LINK

Perhaps Erica Derr is vying for a job writing press releases for Howard Dean. (Watch out, Garrett!) This Greensboro, N.C. resident — who Dean For America says is unaffiliated with the Dean campaign — took it upon herself to issue a written statement about how she donated her $400 tax credit refund to the former Vermont governor:

"With a rare opportunity to make a significant monetary contribution to the political candidate of her choice, single mother and full time employee Erica Derr has written a check to Dean for America for the full amount of her tax credit refund, $400.00."

"Ms. Derr says, 'Howard Dean shares my priorities for a safer, healthier, more honest America and that's why I'm sending President Bush's tax cut money to him.'"

The self-referential press release accompanied a letter from Derr addressed to President Bush:

"Thank you for this tax refund that I did not ask for. Since I had expected to pay my fair share of taxes in return for which I expected you and the Congress to work together to maintain funding for vital programs … I am now sending this money to the presidential candidate who will manage our budget in a more appropriate and secure fashion, Governor Howard Dean."

Beneath her signature, she lists as her title, "Patriotic American."

One self-identified Vermonter who doesn't like Dean wrote a letter to the Daily Iowan: "I would like the people of Iowa to see the true face of Howard Dean before his campaign workers put so much lipstick on the pig that he becomes unrecognizable. The people of Iowa should know that, thanks to Dean and his cronies in the Vermont Legislature, family farms in Vermont are going out of business at a rate never before seen in the state's history. Property taxes have risen to a point where people are being taxed out of their homes and off their land, and working people cannot afford even the most basic of services." LINK "Dean has used our tax dollars to fund a rail service that has no passengers, a bike path that is so over budget it cannot be completed, and an educational system that consistently produces high-school graduates who cannot make change for a dollar nor find the United States on a map of the world if it were the only country outlined in red."

"Albert Reil Morrisville, Vt., resident"

House of Labor:

The AP's Leigh Strope reports, "One of the nation's largest unions is forming a rival political organization to mobilize Democratic voters, especially minorities, in next year's election." LINK "Working America Alliance, founded by Gerald McEntee, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, is the product of a feud with Steve Rosenthal, former AFL-CIO political director who created the Partnership for America's Families."

More: "The groups will pool unions' substantial dollars that, before the new campaign finance law, would have been spent as unlimited soft-money donations to the Democratic Party to mobilize voters."

And more: "The labor groups join another Democratic nonprofit, Moving America Forward, formed by New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson to raise money to recruit Hispanics and American Indians."

"Meanwhile, the Teamsters union is considering its own political nonprofit that would support moderate Democrats and those who oppose free-trade policies."


Make it 8+ … Today, the Seafarers International Union of North America; American Maritime Officers and the Marine Engineers' Beneficial Association are all expected to Dick Gephardt for president.

The closing of the textile company Pillowtex Corp. is huge news in North Carolina, and for Richard Gephardt, it turned into a sparring ground on the issue of free trade, the Raleigh News & Observer reported. LINK


The controversy surrounding President Bush's decision not to release portions of the 9/11 report has lots of political implications for Graham, who co-chaired the congressional inquiry. We won't attempt to tell you what it all means. But here's a recap of the major coverage Graham has received in the last couple of days.

On Tuesday, Senator Bob Graham "called on the committee to ignore Bush's objections and push for declassification … ," the AP reports. LINK "Graham, a Democratic presidential candidate and the co-chairman of the congressional inquiry into the 9-11 attacks, said that if a majority of the committee approved the request to declassify the 28 pages, Bush would then have five days to tell the committee why he wants to keep the segment secret."

"The committee could then overrule Bush and send a resolution to the full Senate for a vote, Graham said."

On Tuesday evening, Senator Graham was featured in Kate Snow's World News Tonight piece on the 9/11 report.

Kate Snow: "Presidential candidate, Senator Bob Graham, says he doesn't buy the president's explanation today for keeping those pages secret."

Bob Graham: "I believe that the American people have a right to know who our true friends and allies are and who our enemies are in the war on terror. They won't know that until there is as full a disclosure as possible."

Senator Graham was also quoted on the CBS Evening News, saying: "I think there is an effort to protect a foreign government or governments from disclosure of their participation in the plot leading up to September the 11th."

On Wednesday, Senator Graham's reaction to President Bush's refusal to declassify were picked up in The Washington Post LINK, The Washington Times LINK, The Atlanta Journal Constitution LINK and the Associated Press LINK

The New York Times reported on the front page Wednesday that Senator Graham "refused to comment on whether (the classified material) was about Saudi Arabia." LINK But during his remarks on Tuesday evening at a DL21C reception in New York, The Note saw a less guarded Bob Graham on display. In between singing "Plant a Radish" LINK and "You've Got a Friend in Bob Graham," the Florida Democrat left little doubt as to the identity of the foreign government. He said he was "still unable to provide the name" of the "kingdom" before giving it away by saying that the "President met for two hours today with the foreign minister of that country."

In response to a question about tax policy, Graham engaged in what he called "a little name dropping" and Noted that Warren Buffet is "one of our supporters."


Questions abound for Senator Lieberman's New Hampshire campaign: (1) Will his "strong-at-home, strong-abroad" message resonate with the state's open primary voters? LINK (2) Will he do well enough in the Granite State to give his "Mr. February" strategy a chance to succeed? LINK (3) Will "Joe's Jobs Tour" connect with Average Joes? LINK All good questions. But the question we've been struggling with most here at The Note is: What is Lieberman's answer to Colin Van Ostern? LINK Well, now we know … it's Carl Van Note.

That's right. Carl Van NOTE is the new Salem foot soldier in the Live-Free-or-Die army of Copeland, Pappas and Buckley. LINK Now the question is: Does Jano have "what it takes" to brave a New England winter? LINK


Ryan Lizza was not impressed. Where's the slick, Clintonesque John Edwards we were all promised? "John Edwards--the guy with the pretty face and light resumé who was expected to compensate for his lack of policy acumen with a compelling biography and an uncanny ability to connect with voters--has become a wonk."

Edwards initially though he'd run on the "regular people" theme, using his background and that theme to connect simply. But "somewhere along the way, Edwards and his aides realized this wasn't going to be enough. 'Every campaign faces the temptation of running on biography and persona, but he's better off not running on it,' says a senior adviser. 'That makes his background a much more powerful tool, if it's not the only one in his arsenal.'"

So he turned into a Clintonian populist, in tone: "It's a populist critique of Bush as a crony capitalist coupled with a detailed and optimistic plan to level the playing field for those regular Americans Edwards started the campaign talking about. 'Edwards has put together an agenda,' argues an adviser, 'to go to the middle class and make the middle class richer, which is Bush's worst nightmare, since that's what he promised to do but hasn't. I hate to put labels on it, but it's a kind of 'positive populism' with echoes of Clinton in '92, but one he came to on his own.'"

Speaking of populism …

Edwards is four months late on paying property taxes on his $3.8 million Georgetown manse, the Washington Times 's Charles Hurt reports. The outstanding bill for the man who's worth between $12 million and $30 million: just over $11,000, with penalties and interest. LINK One neighbor reminds us, however, that Edwards doesn't live in the Georgetown house. He and his wife bought and remodeled it and local papers say it is now back on the market at nearly twice the price. He is renting in Northwest (5000 block of Tilden) from a family that went up to Harvard for the academic year … . no signs of him moving, and there are still lots of toys in the yard.

According to the Raleigh News & Observer, a contributor to John Edwards' political action committee is facing judicial corruption charges, the same fella who is playing in the Mississippi gubernatorial contest. LINK

Moseley Braun:

Slate has a short feature on Carol Moseley Braun's stances on national security and foreign policy. LINK


The AP reports on Willie Nelson's radio ads supporting the Ohio congressman. LINK You can listen to the ads here. LINK


Senator Biden gets the Kondracke treatment in Roll Call .

"Whether or not" Biden "runs for president — and I hope he does — he's got something to teach the other Democratic candidates about how to criticize President Bush."

"His approach was on display at the Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Tuesday when he blasted the Bush Administration for not telling the country what the Post -war reconstruction of Iraq would cost."

"'I voted to go into Iraq, and I'd vote to do it again,' Biden said in an impassioned closing statement at the hearing. That remark alone distinguishes him from" Senator Kerry and Congressman Gephardt, "presidential candidates now fudging on their previous support for the war."


Roll Call 's Ed Henry "was surprised to see the Rev. Al Sharpton … enjoying breakfast Wednesday at La Colline."

"The venerable Capitol Hill eatery, which has been in business for more than 21 years, is usually avoided by prominent Democrats because of a labor dispute that has sparked a daily, one-man picket during lunch hours for several years."

"'We certainly have no problem going to a French place,' Watkins said of a campaign that opposed the war in Iraq. 'But if we had known about the union problem, we would have avoided it. There was certainly no picket outside.'"

The AP's Nedra Pickler reports, "Al Sharpton said Wednesday he's tired of the notion that there are two tiers of candidates in the Democratic presidential race." LINK

"Sharpton questioned why Sens. John Edwards of North Carolina and Bob Graham of Florida are considered top-tier candidates and he is not, even though they are polling at about the same level."

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch's Todd Frankel reports that Sharpton "is expected to join a rally in St. Louis today that organizers promise will disrupt MetroLink's 10th anniversary celebration at Union Station." LINK

Politics of gay marriage:

Basically, folks are still trying to figure out what Bush meant … since there's already a federal law which defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman.

Is Bush hinting he wouldn't mind legislation on non-marriage issues? Ending federal workplace discrimination? Hate crimes? Expanded government benefits for domestic partners? Custody issues? Tax issues?

USA Today 's Lawrence McQuillan reports: "A senior White House official said the president meant that the administration was considering supporting a GOP proposal to amend the Constitution to limit marriage to a man and a woman." LINK Aside from the confusion, it's hard to find a terribly neutral story out there. Maybe Nick Lemann (or the Times ' new public editor) can answer this, but is it possible to write a relatively neutral story about the politics of gay marriage?

Neil Lewis's account in the New York Times ably conveys of the news of the day, just as it conveys, to our ears, something else … LINK We hate to say this, but we expecting a New York Times editorial on Bush and gays that wasn't nearly as sensible in tone as the one actually written. LINK Speaking of counterintuition, actor/playwright Harvey Fierstein uses the Times op-ed page to express his outrage what he sees as an AIDS-chic movement within the gay community. LINK The Boston Globe 's Anne Kornblut writes, "Bush did not condemn homosexuality as some conservatives have done in the past, although his comments suggested that he views it as immoral. Asked to describe his opinion on homosexuality, Bush borrowed a line from the New Testament." LINK

National security politics:

The New York Times 's Adam Nagourney and Phillip Shenon refresh their 9/11 politics browsers and find that while Republicans are going to be willing to subtly link President Bush's re-election chances with his 9/11 stewardship, Democrats remain nervous.

"The decision by [Homeland Security Secretary Tom] Ridge, former governor of Pennsylvania and a close friend of Mr. Bush, not to raise money or appear at presidential or Congressional campaign events was just the latest apparent sign of rising White House sensitivity to Democratic criticism that the president is writing some of the turmoil on the world stage into his re-election script." LINK

"In another such sign, Republican leaders who were interviewed used almost identical turns of phrase in maintaining that the decision to hold the Republican National Convention in New York for the first time was a testimony to the city's diversity. The reason, they said, was not that Madison Square Garden, the site of the gathering, is barely two miles from ground zero."

"Mr. Bush is hardly alone in having to deal with the issue. Advisers to the Democratic presidential candidates say he cannot be defeated unless their party succeeds in at least partly severing his identification with a strong national response to the attacks. Those candidates have begun trying to do so."

But …

"In this environment, the White House is showing imagination in finding ways to invoke the Sept. 11 attacks. In a briefing for Republican leaders, Mr. Bush's campaign manager, Ken Mehlman, cited the attacks as a main cause of economic weakness, which could threaten the president's re-election. (At his Rose Garden news conference this morning, Mr. Bush, too, pointed to the attacks as a weight on the economy.)"

"'These attacks,' Mr. Mehlman said, 'worsened the recession. Airlines were grounded for days. Millions canceled travel plans. New construction came to a halt, as builders feared lawsuits in the event of an attack. Financial markets were devastated. And the costs of cleanup ran into the billions.'"

The AP's Will Lester writes that President Bush "has sought in recent weeks to shift the primary rationale for the Iraq war from the gathering threat to the West he described before the war to stabilizing the Mideast and removing the vestiges of a tyrannical regime. The shift coincides with the failure so far to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq." LINK

Bush's presser: The Washington Post 's Dan Balz turns in a must-read on President Bush's Rose Garden session yesterday, reading between the smiles on Bush's game face to the pile of challenges that the administration still faces on multiple fronts, from foreign policy to the economy. LINK "His upbeat appraisal across a wide range of problems belied the challenges that have confronted his administration in the past month and the political toll they have begun to take on his presidency," Balz writes. "If confidence alone produced results, there might be less for him to worry about. If confidence alone produced results, there might be less for him to worry about."

The press conference, where Bush talked optimistically about economic growth and progress in Iraq, was designed to buy time, Balz Notes, and if Democratic presidential contenders are savvy enough to effectively capitalize on the administration's weaknesses, the small rays of optimism they're starting to see could turn out to be something.

"The energy with which Bush's political team has been attacking the Democrats as too far left to be trusted to run the country suggests they understand that the longer the problems in Iraq and at home fester, the more likely it is that Bush will face a genuine fight to win a second term."

We would add that the Bush that was on display was the version that make Democrats who don't like him seethe.

USA Today 's Judy Keen writes, "President Bush tried at his news conference Wednesday to put to rest many of the controversies that have dogged him all summer." LINK "Bush leaves town Saturday for a month of relaxation at his ranch near Crawford, Texas. The vacation will be interrupted by six fundraisers for his re-election campaign and visits to seven states to paint a positive picture of his economic and environmental records."

"Before his departure, he seemed determined to put his interpretation on the issues that have been snaring headlines and driving down his poll ratings, so much so that he endured one of his least favorite Washington traditions — a formal news conference."

Keen then runs through the questions an "adviser said the president wanted to confront [ … ] head-on." Please go read them.

Dick Stevenson led with Bush's Iraq extrapolations. LINK The Chicago Tribune's Michael Tackett writes, "President Bush signaled unmistakably Wednesday that he would wage his re-election campaign under the banner of security, vowing to aggressively defend the country against attack and to work with equal vigor to repair the economy." LINK

The Boston Herald's Noelle Straub also has a pair of stories from the press conference. LINK and LINK Knight Ridder's goes bold and yields a single article covering all topics from the presser. LINK USA Today offers some sound bites. LINK The Washington Post editorial board throws in a nice "we told you so." LINK The Washington Times gave big play to the gay marriage issue. LINK The Los Angeles Times broke the story in three for some reason, with Ed Chen's version (leading with the economy) getting on the front LINK , Maura Reynolds inside starting with national security credibility LINK , and an unbylined sidebar on the president's acknowledgement "for the first time" that the tax cuts contributed to the deficit. LINK (Is it really the first time, Mike Allen and Trent Duffy?)

The New York Daily News's Ken Bazinet leads with President Bush's statement accepting responsibility for the bogus intelligence on uranium from Niger. LINK And his cohort Helen Kennedy follows up with the president's comments on gay marriage. LINK Harwood and Cummings described the president as "confident, even feisty" in the Wall Street Journal .

The Washington Post 's Mike Allen and Dana Milbank focus on President Bush taking responsibility for those 16 words in his State of the Union address and, despite some great details about the mood of the Rose Garden session, all but bury Bush's answer to Mike's question about spending $170 million to win the presidential nomination for which he's uncontested. LINK

ABC 2004: Bush-Cheney re-elect:

Even with lingering criticism over his Administration's handling of Iraq — both intelligence and post-war organization — President Bush's support on Iraq remains high, according to a new Wall Street Journal /NBC poll. Sixty-six percent of Americans approve of the way Bush has handled the war on terrorism, and Republicans are cleaning up national security, though the view of Bush's foreign policy is a little dimmer — 55%, the Wall Street Journal 's John Harwood and Jeanne Cummings write.

The president's popularity has slid six points to 56% since May (President Clinton's was 47% in July 1995), but pollster Robert Teeter agrees with Matt Dowd that he's still well positioned for re-election — provided that the numbers have bottomed out and will head back up.

The president's margin over a Democratic opponent has slid from 20 points to just 9 since April, though against specific candidates — Dean, Kerry and Lieberman — he leads by 15 percentage points. Democrats lead the president on issues including the economy, education and health care — and break even on tax policy, even after those refund checks have been cut.

Anyone out there contemplating jumping into the contest reading this?

That poll PDF makes for interesting reading.

The Wall Street Journal 's Al Hunt calls George W. Bush more like Reagan or Clinton than his father in his ability to polarize voters. Those who love Bush really love him, and those who hate him really hate him.

"This polarization certainly predates the Bush presidency; American politics has been dominated by debates, often petty, over impeachment, recalls, filibusters, and incessant charges and counter charges of scandals, real or perceived," Hunt writes.

So if Howard Dean is the anti-Bush, what's the hope for a centrist in a race that Bill Carrick says "'will be more about mobilization than persuasion'"?

And we don't mean the convenience store on the ground floor of the building. The Washington Post 's Judy Sarasohn mentions the new lobby shops of Joe Allbaugh, who just opened his, and Jeff Forbes, who's joining a new one this fall. LINK The Note is not a Devenish clip service. But look at this headline: "In One Florida Town, Parents Getting Refund Checks Fulfill Bush's Hopes." LINK

Politics: First Ken Mehlman and Terry Nelson celebrated blogging; now, even more improbably, Tom Daschle plans to start blogging himself (a preview of the book, perhaps?). LINK When Governor Vilsack starts to blog, well, then the world as we know it will have changed forever and completely.

The AP's David Espo writes about how the GOP is targeting the Nevada and South Dakota senate races in an effort to unseat the Democratic leader and whip. LINK The AP previews the American Constitution Society's kickoff conference. LINK

Columnist Norah Vincent writes in the Los Angeles Times about Evan Bayh, the DLC, Ann Coulter, and America's love affair with the extreme. LINK

The economy:

"It might not rival the sold-out concert tours of the Three Tenors, but the "jobs and growth" bus tour of the three Cabinet secretaries certainly had its moments," writes the AP's Martin Crutsinger. LINK

Judicial confirmation battles:

The AP's Jesse Holland reports, "The next U.S. Appeals Court nominee up for a filibuster is Alabama Attorney General William Pryor. Senate Democrats expect to block President Bush's choice for the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta." LINK Senate Republicans fell short of quashing Democrats' filibuster of Appeals Court nominee Miguel Estrada yesterday, and more fireworks flew from the Michigan Senate delegation over four Bush nominees, the Washington Post 's Helen Dewar reports. LINK And Senator Max Baucus (D-Mont.) decided to pick a fight over the tax returns of a tax court nominee. LINK

Media: "The cable war between CNN and Fox News Channel opened a new front this week when Fox's Brit Hume took aim at the rival network for allegedly promoting" Senator Lieberman's "presidential campaign," Roll Call 's Ed Henry reports.

Who will the New York Times name Washington bureau chief by the day of the Iowa caucuses?