The Note

Another day, another set of big minds trying to figure out what the ascension of Howard Dean means to the Democratic field, and the party's general election chances.

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NEWS SUMMARY

While many other Democrats are still playing hide-and-seek with their second-quarter fundraising numbers, Ron Brownstein, Dan Balz, and countless others try to explain what happens next.

Both creating and reflecting the emerging CW (Yes, Deborah Orin, you said it yesterday.), the B-Boys now see the field magically cleaved into two sets of candidates.

Kerry, Gephardt, and Dean are now seen as either long-term stable (in the case of the first two) or still white-hot enough to be rising (in the case of Dean) — and all likely players for the nomination until (near) the end.

Lieberman, Edwards and Graham — Oh, the indignity! — now find themselves facing the prospect of having to do SOMETHING to be considered plausible nominees again.

Since fundraising mojo dominates the Invisible Primary though about December, the simplest way for those three to claw back in would be to have a monster money third-quarter, but does anyone think that is going to happen from a standing start?

Other things to try: major policy speeches (Yeah, right: been there, done that.); great ad campaigns; finding their stride on the stump; picking a running mate; town meetings or the like (Edwards is giving that a go.); or some major, major endorsements.

But as we say in Nantucket, Burlington, and inside Jack Oliver's head: it's really all about the money.

It now appears that behind Dean, the other candidates will be bunched up between around $3 million and $6 million for the second quarter.

Pushing upward, and living off of the Word of the Day for Wednesday July 2, 2003 (thaumaturgy \THAW-muh-tuhr-jee\, noun: "The performance of miracles or magic.") a Lieberman source tells The Note that the campaign is at "about $5 million and still counting."

The Los Angeles Times' Ron Brownstein, pushing off of the money to do a more-than-solid must-read about the macro state of the race, says:

"The midyear financial results trickling in this week are solidifying a sense among party insiders that Senator John F. Kerry of Massachusetts and former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean have moved into the strongest positions, with Rep. Richard A. Gephardt of Missouri hanging onto the edge of the top tier." LINK

Kerry's "fund-raising has been steady, with aides saying his report for the year's first half will show more than $11 million in cash on hand … He has assembled a highly regarded staff, and he continues to lead in polling in New Hampshire."

"But Kerry has not crystallized a message that has defined his candidacy as sharply as Gephardt's promise to provide universal health care, or Dean's pledge to represent 'the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party.'"

"His opponents believe Kerry has blurred his image by trying too hard to straddle the Democratic divide between liberals and centrists — especially on the war with Iraq."

Gephardt "has improved his position in the last six months, party analysts say. He continues to lead the polls in Iowa, which conducts its caucuses Jan. 19. His ties to organized labor should make him a strong contender in the potentially critical February primaries in Michigan and Wisconsin. And his call for repealing Bush's 2001 and 2003 tax cuts to finance a plan for universal health care has provided his candidacy a forward-looking rationale."

But, Brownstein points out, Gephardt's candidacy is still beset by electability questions and money issues.

And Dean has been the one contender to seem to touch a genuine chord with voters.

"Joe Trippi, Dean's campaign manager, said the enthusiasm the candidate has inspired virtually ensures he will survive to the race's final stages, running as 'the outsider' against a sole remaining rival — most likely Kerry or Gephardt — who emerges as party establishment's choice. Many neutral observers agree with that assessment."

"In such a scenario, Dean would face difficult decisions on how to reach out to centrists to expand his support without alienating the activist base that has rocketed him into contention."

"Edwards is the enigma in the race."

"He was the first quarter's top fund-raiser — garnering more than $7 million — and, depending on his second-quarter report, he may still rank first in total donations for the year. He also connects well with audiences on the campaign trail, honing a message in which he promises to confront Bush on behalf of the sort of working-families that he grew up among in North Carolina."

"But polls show that like a boat on a reef, he remains stuck, with minimal support in Iowa and New Hampshire. Poor showings in those states could quickly sink his prospects."

The Washington Post 's Dan Balz further magnifies the road ahead for the Dean campaign — and what it means to go from being "lightly regarded" as a "curiosity" to announcing his presence with authority and to making the turn from that first fascination into a long-term relationship with (an expanded pool of) voters. LINK "'He either has to rise up to the next level, or there will be an implosion,' said Anita Dunn, a top adviser to former senator Bill Bradley's 2000 presidential campaign told Balz. 'But I think there is potential for him to rise up to the next level, because he clearly has more talent than a lot of us gave him credit for.'"

But can that potential translate to long-lasting steam?

Gore 2000 adviser Ron Klain doubts it. Bill Bradley was on a fundraising streak — outperforming Gore — in the second quarter of 1999, and never claimed victory in any primary or caucus in 2000, Klain sagely points out to Balz.

Now Dean has to contend with not only turning supporters into nominating voters, but the perception in that pesky political press and elsewhere that he might be peaking too soon.

And does Dean threaten Kerry or Gephardt more? Both camps are playing hot potato with that one.

Gephardt adviser Steve Elmendorf predicts Dean spells trouble for Kerry in both Iowa and New Hampshire. "There's a greater likelihood of that happening now than there was two weeks ago," he said.

But Kerry campaign manager Jim Jordan figures Gephardt will be the one bumped off the island: "The race is turning into essentially a Kerry-Dean race."

The Hartford Courant's David Lightman calls Dean the star of the party and sizes up what two-way races would look like between Dean and each of the other top contenders. LINK

"In the Lieberman camp, for instance, strategists think that early next year, someone will emerge as the Democrats' liberal favorite — right now it's Dean — and someone will be the moderate choice. 'Once those two get picked, the moderate wins,' a campaign source for the Connecticut senator said."

"Does a strong Dean hurt Edwards, who has tried to position himself as the fresh-faced alternative to Bush? Does Dean create problems for Kerry, who has to win the first-in-the-nation New Hampshire primary? Do Washington insiders such as Gephardt, Graham and Lieberman stand a chance against an anti-establishment movement?"

"Kerry campaign manager Jim Jordan was unworried. 'His challenge,' Jordan said of Dean, 'is to expand his vote beyond the ultra far left of the party.'"

"He welcomed a Kerry-Dean showdown, as did other camps. Graham spokesman Jamal Simmons, for instance, said his boss was eager to compare his executive experience to Dean's — Graham was governor of Florida for eight years."

"The Edwards camp also said it could do well against Dean. 'If Dean wins Iowa and New Hampshire, a moderate would do well, because you could then have a moderate-liberal matchup,' an Edwards official said."

"Dean forces contend they are not at a disadvantage in a one-on-one scenario. Campaign manager Joe Trippi said the survivors 'are not about ideology.' They survive, he said, for a host of reasons, including personality, regional or ethnic appeal and other factors."

USA Today 's Jill Lawrence has "Mighty Joe" Trippi gloating that "The old game is gone. It's new politics time, baby," in her write-up of Dean's "bucks and buzz." LINK The Washington Times ' James G. Lakely quotes Uber-Democrat Donna Brazile saying "This is Dean's moment." LINK Meanwhile … ..

The Bush campaign's low-balling of its second-quarter number (outperforming their $27 to $30 million figure with over $34 million) was deftly done. (Yes, yes, they were still counting … )

Of course, this is one campaign that doesn't need to generate next-quarter momentum by showing big numbers, what with no nomination opposition and the checks out there waiting to be harvested.

The AP's Sharon Theimer was the dominating press on yesterday's conference call with Reynolds, Mehlman, and Oliver. LINK "There is great enthusiasm and broad support for the president on many levels, and finance is one of them," said Marc Racicot, Bush's campaign chair.

Bush Finance Chair Mercer Reynolds said that 95,000 separate donors had contributed.

During the past two weeks, President Bush attended seven fundraisers; First Lady Laura Bush went to three; and Vice President Cheney hosted four. Those events added about $21.7 million to the account.

Direct mail contributions totaled $4.5 million.

Internet numbers were NOT Deanlike — $700,000. (Dean raised $800,000 in a day).

We know the Dean campaign took some satisfaction in having outraised President Bush on the Internet by more than 4 to 1.

At this point in 1999, the Bush campaign had raised a record $37.2 million, but started sooner.

Campaign manager Ken Mehlman re-affirmed their intention to take federal matching funds for the general election.

Someday, of course, issues WILL matter, both in determining the Democratic nominee and in the general election.

While the White House continues to share our amazement that Democrats aren't talking in a more focused way about the economy, national security looms out there.

Sure: one day, the president could stride into the briefing room and announce the joint captures of Saddam Hussein, Osama bin Laden, and the anthrax culprit.

But, until and unless that happens, there is no doubt that the RIGHT Democrat can surely dream of making general election hay even on Mr. Bush's perceived strength.

The Dow Jones trio of Harwood, Robbins, and Barrionuevo* has a surprisingly downbeat story about how a possible Iraq quagmire could hurt President Bush politically.

The story (found nestled on A4 of your Wall Street Journal ) echoes Mr. Russert from Today today in saying that "strategists for Mr. Bush and Republican Party" believe that "the combination of casualties and difficulties in restoring stability in Iraq pose a potential problem that extends beyond the unresolved search for weapons of mass destruction."

Bob Graham and Howard Dean get to pound on the president's credibility, and Kerry pollster Mark Mellman is shockingly (and, some might say, with grand tone deafness) open about what the "focus groups" are showing about public attitudes on American spending in Iraq.

As for this very day, it's a huge one for Dean Meetups across the country. About 50,000 supporters are expected to participate. Deanies will be asked to "adopt an Iowan" for the purposes of political persuasion.

Meetup's Myles Weissleder says about 260 cities and towns will host the events, which begin at 7 ET.

Also today, Congressman Gephardt campaigns in Oklahoma. Senator Kerry continues his long march through New Hampshire. Congressman Kucinich campaigns in New Mexico. Senator Graham is in South Carolina. And Governor Dean flies from Iowa to New Hampshire.

President Bush has no scheduled public events.

In today's California Recall headlines:

--30-year-old weapons charges against Darrell Issa resurface in the San Francisco Chronicle today.

--Congressman Issa plans on greeting signature collectors who have gathered more than 5,000 pro recall signatures at the San Diego County Fair.

--Recall organizers claim 794,000 signatures have thus far been submitted to county elections officials and express optimism about exceeding their goal of 1.2 million by July 16th.

See our section below for full details.

Bush-Cheney re-elect:

Raleigh News & Observer's Rob Christensen warns Senator Edwards that Mrs. Bush is coming to town. LINK "First lady Laura Bush is expected to launch the president's re-election effort in North Carolina this month with a fund-raiser in Raleigh. The White House was not releasing details of the trip Tuesday. But the fund-raiser was being planned for a private West Raleigh residence in a couple of weeks."

Say it Loud: I'm a Fundraiser and I'm Proud: a Washington Post editorial today challenges the presidential campaigns — and the FEC — to give up the names of their major fundraisers as they disclose their cash hauls. Not naming the names, the Post argues, makes money disclosures all but meaningless. LINK We've read a lot of editorials about campaign finance before, but this one is as insane as they come.

The Boston Globe 's prickly Robert Kuttner posits a Rove/DeLay conspiracy for policy making. LINK

ABC 2004: The Invisible Primary:

That's Play-ah — With a Capital "P"

The Washington Post 's Dan Balz profiles DNC COO Josh "That's Mr. Eviction to You" Wachs. LINK "From my office, you look down here and just about see the White House," he says. "That guy" — and here he is referring to the occupant at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., President Bush — "needs to be evicted from there, and I'm the head of the eviction crew. That's how I describe it," Wachs told Balz.

Knicks fan Wachs, a veteran of campaigns from Clinton in '92 to races in Virginia, New Mexico, New York and South Carolina, says his mission is streamlining the DNC and maintaining its "maniacal" focus on beating President Bush next fall.

But, Balz notes, that the devil is in the details, getting those missions on track after the "demoralizing" blow of the 2002 midterms and McCain-Feingold campaign finance regulations that mean — still — that the Democrats are at a fundraising disadvantage.

Evidently taking a break from watching the movie "Breaking Away" and grabbing a bottle of what surely is not Evian from the mini-fridge in his office, Wachs said, "I now pay for my own water. [Otherwise] that's 75 cents that's not going to contact voters."

The DNC veteran, along with DNC chair Terry McAuliffe helped recruit strategist Teresa Vilmain, recently finished brokering the Democratic presidential debates and promises that at the end of the primary and caucus calendar to deliver "a well-tested nominee."

Someday, pretty much anyone of any stature and influence in Democratic politics will be a Jill Alper disciple, and that day isn't as far away as you might think.

Writing under a timely "LOS ANGELES, June 28" dateline, the New York Times ' Katherine Q. "Kit" Seelye turns John Podesta into the Lorax, speaking for both the trees AND the Democratic party in the effort to make environmental issues both more personal and more politically potent. LINK

We have long touted Podesta as a strong presidential candidate (Illinois base, Iowa experience, proven ability to reach out to the center, Washington resume, in touch with real people via the X Files), but the article inexplicably doesn't explore that angle.

Instead, with a picture of Dean and Lieberman, it says that all the presidential candidates are ready to put this issue out front, cast as both a quality of life matter and a sign in the party's view of the president's ties to corporate interests.

Messrs. Al From and Bruce Reed get six paragraphs on the Wall Street Journal op-ed page to tout their central message — the Democratic party can only win the White House back if their nominee is simultaneously reaching out to the center and maintaining ties to the party base.

Somehow, the words "Lieberman" and "Edwards" didn't make it into the piece.

Al and Tipper Gore make a stern cameo in an Associated Press story about Twisted Sister's upcoming New Jersey concerts. LINK KERRY

"Democratic Presidential hopeful John Kerry yesterday said he would repeal portions of the Bush tax cuts that he said would benefit the wealthy and criticized the president for not properly funding the AmeriCorps program," the Manchester Union Leader reports. LINK

"Kerry also insisted the administration must 'internationalize' the war against Iraq as quickly as possible in order to 'defuse the sense of occupation.' Kerry appeared before a crowd of more than 150 employees and invited guests at the corporate headquarters of Fisher Scientific, a manufacturer of scientific equipment."

The Seattle Post Intelligencer's Connelly spoke with Senator Kerry about the war and his critics:

"Kerry is taking shots from liberal supporters of Howard Dean, a suddenly formidable Democratic rival, for his Senate vote to authorize use of military force against Iraq." LINK "He's receiving Republican sniper fire from such GOP outposts as the popular Drudge Report Web site over what he once said as a leader of Vietnam Veterans Against the War."

"'It's a mark of flattery. The White House has made clear I'm the one they worry about,' said the lanky, athletic Kerry, hunched in a minivan late Sunday afternoon."

"I'm going to ask Americans to judge me by the fights I've picked,' added Kerry, whose fights to win and hold his Massachusetts Senate seat have pitted him against the toughest foes the Bay State has to offer."

Which sounds — correct us if we're wrong — like Kerry is saying simply: Bring it on.

And there's this:

"'He is impatient with Democratic oratory about the 'stolen' election. 'Stop crying in your teacups,' he told one audience. 'It isn't going to change. Get over it.'"

The Washington Times recycles a story that first appeared in The Washington Post regarding Teresa Heinz Kerry's ties to Enron's Ken Lay. LINK The Boston Globe 's Names column reports that the 7-month-old Nantucket Times, published by "longtime Kerry friend and fellow Nantucket summer resident" Bruce A. Percelay, has an upcoming (Friday) cover story with John Kerry (written by the NT's editor William Ferrall, accompanied by a "flattering" photo), who "gave a wide-ranging interview with the Nantucket Times on issues global (weapons of mass destruction) and local (the proposed wind farm on Nantucket Sound)." LINK Names claims that "Cover Guy Senator John Kerry never really blended in with the other summer residents of Nantucket. And once he announced he was running for president, Kerry and wife Teresa Heinz Kerry were even more conspicuous."

They also exclaim over the idea that conservative Republican/Percelay business partner Tom duPont wrote the author's Note, and quote Ferrall: "'As a magazine, we are politically neutral. Our only bias is toward Nantucketers.'"

The Boston Herald's Steve Marantz leaps on Kerry's apparent evasion of a question at a Rollinsford, New Hampshire event about Teresa Heinz Kerry as one of his potential political weaknesses (the headline: "Ah, I forgot: Kerry comes up silent to query about his wife"). LINK Marantz says Kerry failed to address the THK aspect of a question about his toughness and "'perceived weaknesses,'" (also included in the weakness category, his "innate 'decency' and 'lack of sense of humor and common touch'"); the Senator responded by citing his hard-won 1996 campaign and joking "'With respect to my sense of humor, I'm going to release a video, Spring Break: Kerry Goes Wild.'"

Kerry, a few hours later, told Marantz he "'just slipped on'" the spouse segment, clarified "'My wife has been fantastic — people are loving her … At all my events people want to meet Teresa. They respect her and like the fact she has opinions. She's a great campaign asset,'" and faulted "'newspaper stories' portraying her as a 'loose cannon.'"

Marantz got in a Dean fundraising question too, and received an "unconcerned" response from the Senator: "'We're right on target and we're raising what we set out to … I have more money in the bank than any of the other candidates and more than anybody in the history of Democratic presidential candidates (at this point of the campaign).'"

A consultant connected with the Kerry campaign was charged with contempt Tuesday after skipping jury duty without notifying the court. LINK Anu Rangappa was chosen as a juror on June 10, but missed opening arguments the next day, when she flew to Iowa for a Kerry campaign stop in Cedar Rapids.

Judge Erik P. Christian jailed her briefly before releasing her pending yesterday's hearing. D.C. courts have been cracking down on no-show jurors. Rangappa agreed to pay a $1,000 fine, perform 120 hours of community service and write a 25-page paper on the importance of jury service.

EDWARDS

Welcome, Tait Sye, to New Hampshire.

Sye will be Edwards's new deputy press secretary in the state.

A whip-smart early riser, he's a veteran of the Gore 2000 New Hampshire effort, the Florida Democratic Party, and elsewhere.

The Raleigh News & Observer reports that Edwards is expected to finish in the top two among Democratic fundraising totals, raking in $5 million in the second quarter to bring his total so far to more than $12 million. His sum is expected to land in the same neighborhood as John Kerry's. LINK Our section yesterday contributed by a Democrat who had seen what he could see by giving online contributions to all the Democratic candidates has created a small contretemps (as well as, we should say, much favorable commentary, including from the spouse of the writer!).

Our contributor claimed the Edwards campaign was the only one not to send an e-mail acknowledgement of the contribution.

The Edwards campaign couldn't rightly say why it was that this giver didn't get such an e-mail, but spokeslady Jennifer Palmieri assures us (and you) that such a missive is their policy (and cleverly gets her links on our real estate):

"Bobbie and Wallace Edwards didn't raise their eldest son to be an ingrate. Of course he thanks the generous folks that donate to his website. Here is a free sample of the thank you note that goes out to each and every person who donates online:"

"Thank you for your generous contribution to Edwards for President. We're glad that you took the time to visit the campaign's official Web site at www.johnedwards2004.com Your help and support are appreciated. [It then gives the billing info/receipt] then says: For the latest news about John Edwards, visit the campaign's official Web site at…. Thank you for your support. Paid for by Edwards for President, Inc. Contributions are not tax-deductible for income tax purposes."

Our online contributing Democrat was made aware of the controversy and decided to investigate further, and, after making another generous gift to the Senator, wrote:

"On Tuesday my contribution to the Edwards campaign was followed promptly by a courteous thank-you, which seemed especially nice, considering all the trouble I had caused. Had I inadvertently typed in my return email incorrectly on Monday? If so, my apologies!"

GEPHARDT

The Mobile Register's Bill Barrow reports that Congressman Gephardt "made a stop in Mobile this week to collect campaign cash at a $1,000-per-person luncheon at the downtown law firm of Gardner Middlebrooks Gibbons Kittrell & Olsen." LINK

"The Monday afternoon fund-raiser, drew about 15 people, according to those in attendance. It was the second fund-raising trip to Alabama this year for the veteran congressman … "

"Gephardt is expected to attend a fund-raiser today in Oklahoma City hosted by local attorney Mike Lawter," reports the Norman Transcript's Sean Murphy. LINK Congressman Gephardt will be interviewed on NHPR's "The Exchange" tomorrow morning at 9.

DEAN

This Blog post by DFA's Mathew Gross makes for interesting insider-y reading. LINK

The Caledonian-Record of St. Johnsbury, Vermont has endorsed Dr. Dean. LINK

Mike Glover explains Dean's appeal to his Iowa audience. LINK

Not because we're on a quest to prove Mickey Kaus's theory that the press tears down the idols it creates, we'll print some excerpts from a column by a conservative writer who isn't keen on Dean:

"On leaving office this year, Howard Dean sealed his gubernatorial papers for 10 years — almost twice as long as his two predecessors, but considerably less than the 20-year-lock he sought — determining himself, with his lawyers, what was covered by executive privilege." LINK "Well, at least he's up-front about things — or is he? Having supported Vermont's divisive civil union law, which confers the legal rights of husbands and wives onto homosexual couples — 'in many ways,' he said, 'the most important event in my political life" — he signed the controversial legislation behind closed doors. Why?"

"And speaking of controversial issues, is the Democratic Party ready to unite behind a leader who, as a med student, performed his OB-GYN rotation at a Planned Parenthood clinic? Vermont magazine reported on this in 1998, adding: 'While he has never performed an abortion himself, he is strongly pro-choice and certainly understands the medical procedures involved.' Which must rate as the medical equivalent of not inhaling."

"Dean's loudest claim to gubernatorial fame is to have provided "free" health care to some large swath of Vermont's 600,000 citizens while simultaneously balancing the state budget. Is this for real? As of 1998, Vermont had the third highest percentage of Medicaid recipients in the Union (while next-door New Hampshire ranked 50). This indicates that Vermont's state-provided health care comes, in large part, courtesy Washington, D.C. How can Dean take credit for state-provided health care when, in fact, the lion's share is funded by federal taxpayers in other states? And how does such a scheme work on the national level?"

"As governor, Dean raided special funds to even out budget shortfalls: Is that balancing the budget? And how can Dean blame President Bush's recent tax cuts for rising property taxes when, for the past decade-plus, he governed a state with one of the highest state and local tax burdens in the nation? Corporations have left Vermont; farm revenues are down; logging and manufacturing jobs have disappeared. Maybe the only sector to thrive in the Dean years is the public sector: why? Indeed, what exactly does the Vermont economy consist of minus federal funds and pork? How well does such a record bode for the national economy?"

Another new Dean innovation: LINK

The Boston Herald's "Net Life" writer Stephanie Schorow casts an offhand eye at the linked success of Dean and MoveOn.org. LINK Hey Mr. Kiker — we truly love you, but.. Monday , you wrote:

"Shari Yost, 33, the only woman among the top candidates' finance directors" LINK Now … either you don't consider Dean a top tier candidate … or you've never met the very lovely Stephanie Schriock, finance director for Dean. (She works hand-in-hand with Mr. Grossman.)

GRAHAM

The Norman Transcript's Sean Murphy reports that Senator Graham "will participate in an ongoing lecture series sponsored by the Oklahoma Democratic Party" on Monday. LINK

NEW HAMPSHIRE

The Union Leader looks at the candidates busy 4ths of July. LINK

NADER

Ralph Nader, on a potential candidacy, on Crossfire:

"I'm considering, I haven't decided yet … it will likely be for the Green Party."

"Around Labor Day I'm going to send a progressive agenda to the Republican, Democratic Parties, not the candidates, and see how they react. We've got serious problems in this country that are being ignored, we've got serious necessities."

The House Of Labor:

Wednesday, August 6 will mark a significant turning point in this cycle's Invisible Primary. That's when the AFL-CIO executive council will meet to see whether a critical mass of their membership supports a particular presidential candidate.

The AFL's endorsement is widely credited with helping Al Gore survive the ground game in Iowa and New Hampshire in 2000.

Inarguably, in an ideal world for them, most AFL-CIO unions would support Congressman Dick Gephardt, (D-AFl-CIO). The man is literally friends with almost every union chief. He speaks labor's language; he's been just about its staunchest supporter.

But this winter, the AFL-CIO resolved not to endorse a presidential candidate unless a supermajority of its member unions (weighted by the relative proportion of their members to the AFL-CIO total) agrees to do so. A nod needs the approval of the AFL-CIO executive board, too.

A few of the big unions — the SEIU and AFSCME — have signaled they'd rather wait. If a few others follow this lead, Congressman Gephardt might not get the AFL-CIO's nod in August.

He may well get it later — time, and the dynamics of this race, will tell.

Labor politics are infinitely complex, and sources close to everyone involved — the unions, the AFL, the campaigns — agree that no scenario is a done-deal.

We'll point out, as will Congressman Gephardt's campaign, that five unions have already ignored the AFL-CIO's "endorse as one" dictum and chose Gephardt separately.

(Our longtime readers do not need a rehash of the Gerald McEntee/Kerry campaign flirtation — the McEntee/Rosenthal money tussle — the dawning power of SEIU's Andy Stern … etc … )

On Tuesday, August 5, the AFL-CIO will host a presidential candidate's forum at the Navy Pier.

You can bet that the new worker's pay/comp rule reclassification being promulgated by the Department of Labor will be bugbear numero uno. (We'd bet health care will the biggest forward-looking issue subject to debate).

Here's an AP story: LINK The NEA's six-day annual conference kicked off in full New Orleans swing. LINK

Big Casino budget politics:

The AP's Alan Fram has some bad news. LINK "A liberal advocacy group and an investment bank are projecting federal deficits over the next decade exceeding a staggering $4 trillion."

More: "Two weeks ago, the investment banking firm Goldman Sachs used many of the same assumptions to project deficits over the same period totaling $4.5 trillion."

But … ."Conservatives and another Wall Street firm said such estimates are unreliable and probably overstated."

Gerald F. Seib of the Wall Street Journal pines for Ross Perot in his column about how all of Washington is deficit-tolerant, what with tax cuts and spending increases as far as the eye can see.

He makes no mention of the alternative minimum tax (Jerry: did you skip yesterday's paper and Note?), and seems to blame things more on the amorphous culture of Washington than on, say, President Bush.

Which member of the Democrat Senate caucus will hand Senator Kennedy Yale professor Jacob Hacker's New York Times op-ed piece warning about the "privatization" disaster he sees the current Medicare plans to be? LINK

Jonathan Kaplan has a grand time in The Hill sharing in vivid detail House Republicans' efforts to get the Medicare prescription drug bill passed last week. LINK

Fiscal crises In the states:

California and New Jersey have been grabbing the headlines, but a host of other states are finding themselves deep down that budget-crisis hole.

The New York Times ' John M. Broder makes the California situation the centerpiece of his national round-up of all the states in trouble, and the NGA's Ray Scheppach seems to have retired "perfect storm" for the time being, but stays with the water metaphor in talking richly about a "shark pen." LINK Concord Monitor's Lisa Wangsness looks at the New Hampshire budget fight: "The House narrowly failed to override Gov. Craig Benson's veto of the Legislature's 2004-05 state budget yesterday, leaving New Hampshire without a new two-year spending plan when the 2004 fiscal year began at midnight this morning." LINK "The government will not shut down today, however, because lawmakers passed a temporary budget that will keep the state running through Oct. 1. A new team of legislative negotiators will meet with Benson soon to begin working on a new compromise."

The Montgomery Advertiser's Mike Cason reports, "Gov. Bob Riley's finance director announced Tuesday that the governor would draw $180 million from a new Rainy Day Fund to close a deficit in the education budget for the budget year that ends Sept. 30." LINK "That move was expected since at least January. But some state agency heads were surprised to learn they were ineligible for Rainy Day Fund dollars and will have to cut their budgets immediately."

The politics of gay marriage:

Here's an exchange between Second Lady Lynne Cheney told Wolf Blitzer in a very recent interview:

"BLITZER: And the other big issue that came out, the gay rights decision, effectively saying that they can't be discriminated against. Homosexuals and lesbians in the bedroom. Is that something you've been thinking about? What did you make of that?"

"CHENEY: Well it seemed to me to be exactly the right decision. I've been a conservative for a pretty long time. And it's always seemed to me to be a stretch, the idea that somehow government has any business in bedrooms." LINK Now then:

The White House has said very little about the opinion, which struck down a Texas law banning gay sodomy. Spokesman Ari Fleischer did say that, as Governor of Texas, Mr. Bush supported the law.

We presume, based on several things, that Vice President Cheney agrees with his wife. (We will always remind you of how then private citizen Cheney out pro-gay'ed Senator Lieberman in the 2000 vice presidential debate,)

We wonder why there isn't more pressure on Ari and the president to say whether they agree with the Cheneys are not.

The New York Times ' Sheryl Gay Stolberg suggests that the president is hedging his bets on a related issue: whether to support a constitutional amendment defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman. LINK Yes — "'The president believes that marriage is an institution between a man and a woman,' Mr. Bush's spokesman, Ari Fleischer, told reporters today."

"But when Mr. Fleischer was pressed on whether the president supported a constitutional amendment that would define marriage as a union between a man and a woman, he did not take a firm stand, instead saying the issue was 'a question in the legal realm.'"

The point of Mr. Fleischer's demurrals may simply be to get the issue off the media's radar screens. While the Ken Connor crowd in Washington can beat their drums until their fingers turn blue, it's very doubtful that church-going conservatives across the country will hear about — or care to parse — the statements of a White House press secretary.

When in doubt, the White House will refer its base to the ''The president believes that marriage is an institution between a man and a woman' statement, which, one would think, is sufficient.

None of that makes it ok for the White House NOT to answer the question, though.

More:

"While gays claim victory with a Supreme Court decision knocking down a ban on sodomy, freshman Republican Rep. Marilyn Musgrave insists the real battle is over the right of homosexuals to marry," reports the AP's Robert Weller. LINK

California recall:

Has the San Francisco Chronicle now exhausted all the oppo on Congressman Issa?

Shortly after finishing his Army service in the early 1970's, Representative Darrell Issa was twice arrested on illegal weapons charges according Lance Williams and Robert Salladay of the San Francisco Chronicle. LINK

"On the issue of gun incidents, Issa in the past has answered questions when asked but never volunteered information. He has talked in general terms about a gun conviction, but court records reviewed by The Chronicle show that Issa was twice arrested in 1972 on weapons charges — once in Ohio, once in Michigan."

"Issa, speaking with reporters late Monday, implied that the issue of his gun conviction should be off limits in the campaign because it was personal and old. After the Michigan arrest, Issa was fined $100 and put on three months' probation, court records show. Issa did not mention the separate arrest in Ohio."

"'I remember plenty of the details, but I don't think 30-year-old misdemeanors are fair play here,' Issa said. 'Look, I graduated from college, but my grades are nobody's business 30 years later, and I think we need to start looking in those terms. If you are looking at 30-year-old misdemeanors, I think you are missing the point. It's the felonies of Gray Davis that are on trial here today. What the governor has done to California is a felony.'"

Perhaps Congressman Issa knows something we don't, but we thought nothing guarantees further scrutiny more than a "you're missing the point."

If California reporters so choose, they will have the opportunity to ask Mr. Issa more questions about his past at the San Diego County Fair where the Congressman will be greeting volunteers who have collected more than 5,000 signatures for the recall petition. He'll be at the San Diego County Republican Women Federated Exhibit Hall (Booth #4434) from 4:00 — 4:30 pm PDT.

Recall organizers claim they have submitted some 794,000 signatures to county elections officials as of yesterday and expect to be well past their goal of 1.2 million by July 16th.

According to the Los Angeles Times, California Republicans are going to court to "dismantle the tripling of the car tax ordered by the Davis administration and set to take effect in October." The timing is inopportune for Governor Davis, but that can be said for almost anything these days. LINK

"The lawsuit challenging the higher car registration fee ensures that Gov. Gray Davis will be forced to defend an unpopular tax increase throughout the summer, even as groups seeking to oust him from office gather signatures in support of a recall election. And the negotiations with state employees put the governor in the position of seeking concessions from unions that have been among his major supporters in past campaigns."

USA Today 's "Life" section profiles Arnold Schwarzenegger and carries a caption that asks: "Bodybuilder, action star … governor?" LINK "The Republican says he is routinely approached by party leaders about a possible run for governor of California, and he might be ready to take a shot at the state's highest office."

"'If the Republican Party in California needs me, and that becomes very clear, then I will do it,' he says over a breakfast of oatmeal and sliced banana.'"

"'The bottom line is, if I'm needed, I'm there.'"

Mark Rodeffer of National Journal reports on a new anti-recall ad campaign.

"The California Voter Project, a political group opposed to the recall of California Gov. Gray Davis (D), launched a scathing attack ad against recall backer Rep. Darrell Issa (R). The radio spot, which brings up allegations of car theft and gun possession in the workplace, suggests that Issa is a threat to children."

"The commercial ends with a warning for Californians: 'The next time you see Issa or one of his petitions in your neighborhood, lock your car, get your kids in the house, and go directly to .'"

"California Voter Project spokesman Philip Muller said the $10,000 ad buy began Tuesday in Sacramento on Rush Limbaugh's radio show, which airs on the KFBK-AM station. The spot will begin airing in San Francisco on conservative radio shows today and later in the week in Los Angeles and San Diego, Muller said. California Democratic political consultant Ken Smukler of Keystone Strategies produced the spot, which Muller said will come off the air July 4."

The New York Daily News' Rush and Molloy have Arnold Schwarzenegger planning to show T3 to troops in Iraq, but being discreet about the dicey situation there: "'I'm keeping my own feelings out of it … I'm going specifically to screen it for the thousands of soldiers who are responsible for safeguarding us … Anything else, you have to speak to the White House. … If there is a vacuum of leadership over there, or confusion, all of that is a whole other story.'" LINK A&E's Biography is running an Arnold profile tonight, and the New York Post 's Adam Buckman thinks it might be a tad too positive ("Arnold Schwarzenegger is aiming much too low if he plans on running for governor of California … After watching tonight's "Biography" on the Muscles from Austria (sorry, I can't say ' Brussels ' since Arnold isn't Belgian), I'm convinced he should settle for nothing less than sainthood.") . LINK Politics: The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee isn't leaving the presidential candidates to have all the fun of fundraising announcements. The DCCC took in $7 million in the second quarter and wiped out more than half its debt, ending with $6.3 million in cash on hand, The Washington Post 's Juliet Eilperin writes. LINK In an A1 story, USA Today 's William M. Welch and Susan Page Note that in the Senate in 2004 "10 of the 11 seats that analysts see as potentially competitive are in states Bush won in 2000." ." LINK "The outlook in the House for 2004 is less clear. But Republicans also start with a geographic edge. Of the 50 House races that were closest last year--those in which the winner received 55% of the vote or less--31 were in states Bush won; 19 were in states Democratic candidate Al Gore won."

USA Today 's coverage of Senator Thurmond's funeral Notes that only seven U.S. senators attended the funeral of their ex-colleague.

"One senator, Bob Graham, D-Fla., was in South Carolina but spent the day in meetings about his presidential campaign. Three other senators running for president, Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, John Kerry of Massachusetts and John Edwards of North Carolina, also were no-shows, as were five other Democratic candidates."

"(UVA Prof. Larry) Sabato said 'fear of retribution' may have kept some senators from attending Thurmond's funeral."

"Joe Erwin, South Carolina Democratic Party chairman, said Democratic presidential hopefuls wouldn't have suffered. 'I don't think it would have hurt any of them,' Erwin said. 'He changed with the Times . … I think people respect how far he came.'"

The Charleston Post and Courier's Schuyler Kropf and James Scott write, "Of the five eulogies delivered for former U.S. Senator Strom Thurmond, the most stirring came from a liberal Democrat who came to the Senate openly vowing to fight for civil rights." LINK The State's Valerie Bauerlein and Lee Bandy report that "it was U.S. Senator Joseph Biden, D-Del. — a self-described Northeast liberal who disagreed with Thurmond on almost every issue — who elicited the most laughs, the most muffled "wows" and the most tears." LINK Never underestimate the power of a ride in a presidential limo: LINK "House Speaker Johnnie Byrd, bracing for a series of special sessions on medical malpractice reform, will be returning to the Capitol this month rejuvenated after a pep talk from President Bush," the Tampa Tribune reports.

"'I was struck by how energetic he was,' Byrd, R-Plant City, said Tuesday of his 15-minute limousine ride a day earlier with the president through downtown Tampa."

Acrimony between two Democrats who want to succeed Senator Bob Graham: LINK

Cuomo-Kennedy:

The New York Daily News' George Rush, Fernanda Santos, and Joel Siegel announce that "Cuomolot is ending with a crash," and detail the "ugly" turn of events. LINK Fredric Dicker, Jeane MacIntosh, Brian Blomquist team up to confirm "[t]he announcement of the breakup of the marriage quickly turned ugly yesterday shortly after they released a statement agreed to by both sides." LINK Fredric Dicker, on his own, assesses the status of Andrew Cuomo's political career, taking into account this new development. LINK The Albany Times Union's Elizabeth Benjamin reports, "The end of a would-be political dynasty in Andrew Cuomo's possible divorce from Kerry Kennedy Cuomo is almost certain to be high-profile and potentially acrimonious, but won't likely damage his future prospects in New York, strategists said Tuesday." LINK

Benjamin writes, "Divorce, once viewed as taboo for public figures, has become, if not condoned by voters, accepted and perhaps even expected. In recent years, even the most bloody and public marital battles have failed to significantly tarnish the reputations of elected officials, said Joseph Mercurio, a political consultant for both Democrats and Republicans."

More: "Cuomo's main political concern should be repairing his relationship with Democrats who supported his run for governor last year and were disappointed when he left the race one week before the primary, strategists said."

Judicial confirmation battles:

The AP's tag-team of Jesse Holland and Jonathan Salant write, "Corporate lobbyists are pushing the Senate to confirm President Bush's judicial nominees at the same time the lobbyists' clients are arguing cases in courts where those nominees would serve." LINKBush Administration strategy/personality:

"President Bush opened a new drive for school vouchers Tuesday, reviving an old battle as he endorsed legislation that would give District of Columbia children private-school tuition grants," writes the AP's Scott Lindlaw. LINK Lindlaw Notes that "Bush has rarely spoken out for vouchers since Congress rejected his proposal two years ago to strip federal funds from the worst-performing schools and make the money available to parents for private education vouchers," and yesterday the president "gave an impassioned new call for such programs, which are beloved by conservatives and popular among many people in inner cities as an escape route from failing schools."

Also on the education front, "President Bush signed legislation Tuesday that will create clearinghouses to provide training and tips for schools on how to raise money to buy defibrillators," the AP reports. LINK The Denver Post's Steve Raabe reports, "America's long-term energy needs will be better met by government support for renewable energy than by tax breaks for fossil-fuel producers, Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham said Tuesday." LINK "Abraham said he supports increased federal tax incentives for renewable energy and energy-efficiency programs but not for traditional energy industries."

The Associated Press reports, "President Bush plans to appoint a top intelligence official as the executive director of his intelligence oversight council, the White House said Tuesday." LINK "Joan A. Dempsey, the deputy director of central intelligence for community management, will run the day-to-day operations of the president's Foreign Intelligence Advisery Board, an influential oversight panel of outside-the-government experts chaired by former national security adviser Brent Scowcroft."

"The Bush administration tried to build steam behind its stalled plan for reducing pollution from power plants Tuesday, but its proposal faces an uphill struggle in Congress from a competing bipartisan bill in the Senate," writes the AP's John Heilprin. LINK Meanwhile, "The Sierra Club launched a television ad Tuesday critical of the Bush administration's environmental policies, targeting some of the first issues ads of the 2004 presidential campaign in six swing states," reports the AP's Will Lester. LINK Lester writes, "The ads are airing on 26 stations in Florida, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin for nearly a week. The Sierra Club declined to release the amount of money spent on the spot, but a spokesman said they will cost in the 'hundreds of thousands of dollars.'"

The AP's Jennifer Loven reports, "First lady Laura Bush used a live Internet chat session Tuesday to preach the gospel of reading to children — and to let a couple of secrets out of the bag," including a fall trip to the United Kingdom and plans for the president's 57th birthday. LINK The AP's Scott Lindlaw reports, "The Bush administration is 'actively discussing' how to bring peace to Liberia amid international calls for the United States to lead a peacekeeping force there, the White House said Tuesday." LINK *Barrionuevo's first Note appearance!!!

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