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Could the presidential campaign landscape be radically altered in the next two weeks?

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Is leading The Note with a question such poor writing style that we should be ashamed?

In any case, between the second-quarter fundraising derby; the cattle calls; the Bush cash juggernaut; the Medicare battles and mandatory votes; the Howard Dean announcement (and anticipated Sunday show battering); and the hand-wringing over the size of the field — between all that, it's possible that something will in fact give.

While none of the Democrats seem to be aggressively trying to drive any rivals out of the race (what with all of them being so busy making sure they are able to stay buoyant themselves … ), there is a distinct feeling of political gravity in the air.

We forgive Jackie Calmes her beyond-hackneyed "SHOW ME THE MONEY" set up, because other than that, her Washington Wire item on the 2nd-quarter raising numbers is pure solid gold, taking public the expectations game heretofore confined to certain tables at Lauriol Plaza:

"June 30 reports loom as test of 2004 rivals' strength."

"Edwards, whose $7.4 million was tops for Democratic White House wannabes in March, 'will not hit our shock-and-awe number' for second-quarter, a spokeswoman says. Insiders say he will approach $5 million. Many expect Kerry to shine; manager Jim Jordan says onus is on Gephardt: 'After an embarrassing first quarter, he's the guy under pressure.'"

"'Rookie spin,' Gephardt's Erik Smith counters. 'Raise expectations for others when you're worried about meeting your own.' Newcomer Graham's report is awaited to gauge his Florida support. Lieberman 'hopes' to match his past $3 million, an aide says; outsiders saw that as subpart. Dean may hit $4 million, says manager Joe Trippi; rivals' rumor of $6 million is 'in-my-dreams … number.'"

Wow — Erik Smith calling Jordan a "rookie." The implications are staggering.

Meanwhile, down the page Ms. Calmes shifts from money to Medicare, staying, however, in the Invisible Primary netherworld:

"Medicare vote splits White House rivals from other Senate Democrats."

"Most Senate Democrats, led by liberal Kennedy, support a bipartisan Medicare bill creating a seniors' drug benefit, but those seeking their party's 2004 nomination balk under pressure from labor. Kerry and Graham voted no in Finance panel; both decline to say how they'll vote in Senate. 'I imagine he would be consistent,' a Graham aide says."

"Edwards objects that the measure 'didn't do a thing' to bring down drug costs, an aide says. Lieberman hasn't taken a position. Labor says the benefit won't go far enough; some want to deny Bush any credit for enactment."

"Liberal backers counter: Take the $400 billion benefit now — before Republicans cut taxes again."

More broadly, the AP's Will Lester has Democrats looking at a crowded field and worried about fundraising and message dilution.

He also offers his assessment of General Wesley Clark and Senator Joe Biden that is tough on both but harsher for Biden.

"The Democratic field for the presidential nomination is already crowded, and now Joe Biden and Wesley Clark are hinting they may become candidates Nos. 10 and 11, a prospect that leaves Republicans practically giddy with anticipation and a few Democrats wondering whether it's time to draw the line." LINK

"Some Democrats have started talking about requiring the candidates to meet a threshold of support reflected in public opinion polls to participate in debates and forums. It's a move unlikely to get past the discussion stage as it would likely alienate many in the party's base."

"In the meantime, Republicans are gleefully rubbing their hands."

"'It's an intramural battle on the Democratic side,' White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card told The Associated Press during a visit to New Hampshire earlier this week. 'They'll be playing A-ball, hoping to get up to Double A, then maybe getting up to Triple A before they get to the majors. I think we've got to let that process mature.'"

"Republican consultant Scott Reed said: 'Candidate forums will turn into reruns of 'Hee Haw.' They will become out-of-control events that diminish all of the candidates and lower everybody's expectations.'"

Meanwhile (Note the seamless transition … ), there are twin Bush-Cheney '04 fundraisers tonight. POTUS travels to Greensboro, Georgia.

Pool press only — continuing a practice that is now becoming all too routine.

ABC's Ann Compton reports that Bush's speech tonight will probably be a carbon copy of the one he delivered Wednesday evening.

And she expects few reporters to bother trying to gain access. Not only is the event designated for pool coverage only, the press charter down to Georgia is, by normal standards, expensive.

"A tiny airport. Bush going in on small plane — even the travel pool is on a separate charter — that's a White House first," Compton Notes.

The Bush campaign won't say how many people they expect tonight, nor how much money they want to take in.

FLOTUS is in Chattanooga, Tennessee for her own event. We wonder what coverage for that event will be (like).

Along with the Democratic state chairs hosting a serial procession of presidential would-bees today, Congressman Gephardt is in Missouri, and Senator Edwards is in Iowa.

Tomorrow, Governor Dean, Senator Edwards, Representative Gephardt, Senator Graham, Senator Kerry, Representative Kucinich and Reverend Sharpton will participate in the Jasper County, Iowa presidential candidate forum--several via videoconference.

On Sunday, Jesse Jackson's Rainbow/PUSH Coalition Democratic presidential candidate forum features all the candidates sans Senator Edwards.

The Des Moines Register previews the Jasper County hoo ha: LINK

The Minnesota papers go gaga over today's presidential candidate forum:

"DNC chair Terry McAuliffe says the forum gives candidates a chance to speak directly to the foot soldiers of the 2004 presidential contest." LINK

"'These are the people who are in charge of the party operations in their respective states. You have the people here who are talking to the, literally, the thousands of people that they deal with on a weekly basis in their states, who go out, who we count on to deliver the votes to the polls, to do the door-knocking, to make the phone calls, and do what we need to do. So, I think it's absolutely critical,' according to McAuliffe."

Finally, the Los Angeles Times' Ed Chen has exclusive details on a presidential injury:

"Hobbled by aching knees and an inflamed right calf, America's First Runner has been all but sidelined from his favorite exercise and says his woes serve up a good lesson to all sports-minded baby boomers." LINK

"'Listen to your body. I tried to run through the pain and it didn't work,' President Bush said in remarks relayed to the Los Angeles Times on Thursday by White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer."

"The president first complained to a reporter about his knees during a private party in Washington in late April, blaming it on age. Bush is 56."

"At The Times ' request, Bush on Thursday supplied new details of his injuries, during a day trip here to deliver a speech on the economy."

"Earlier Thursday, the president gave a public tip-off to what he called 'a runner's injury' on the tarmac at Andrews Air Force Base in suburban Maryland as he walked toward Air Force One, before traveling to Minnesota."

"Playfully, he abruptly clutched his left knee with both hands, then broke into a wide grin, leaving most observers puzzled."

"About 2 1/2 months ago, Bush, an avid runner for more than 15 years, noticed an aching right calf muscle after a hard run."

"It turned out to be a minor muscle tear, Fleischer said, and Bush reined in his running about that time."

There's a metaphor in there somewhere, but we'll leave it to the political poets to find it.

Bush-Cheney re-elect, the money:

The Wirey Jackie Calmes reports this in the Wall Street Journal : "Bush advisers try to stanch talk he'll beat an already jaw-dropping $20 million fund-raising goal for June. But besides the president's own events, others starring his wife and Cheney lift expectations further. 'These guys are rocking and rolling,' a Republican in the know says. Next week's Bush gala in New York alone could raise $5 million; financial-industry money-raisers include Lehman Brothers and Credit Suisse First Boston executives."

Mike Allen knows this, and now, so do you: it's at the Ritz Carlton Lodge, Reynolds Plantation, 100 Linger Longer Road, Greensboro, Georgia.

Ann Compton reminds us that the more interesting fundraisers are scheduled for next week and beyond — California and Florida — and in Texas, the weekend the legislature takes up redistricting again.

Following up on a story that appeared in Thursday's New York Times , the AP's Sara Kugler reports that some prominent New York Democrats are helping to fund the GOP's New York convention motivated by "pride in the Big Apple" and "potential tourism dollars." LINK

Bush-Cheney re-elect:

Elisabeth Bumiller saw the POTUS to MN event as more playing of defense on the economy, and maybe an attempt to squash the Democratic state chairs meeting. LINK

The Boston Globe 's Robert Schlesinger writes about the efforts of antiwar groups such as Win Without War and to target President Bush, with a full page ad in the New York Times dubbing him a "misleader" and addressing the controversy over the existence of WsMD. LINK states that 100,000 have signed up online in response to the ad, with $100,000 raised already, while former Maine congressman Tom Andrews of Win Without War says: '''This strikes a raw nerve to people involved in our coalition.'''

Other numbers include the 71,000 faxes to congresspeople arranged by Ben "I'm with Jerry" Cohen's, and the 73,000 emails sent to Bill Frist and Tom Daschle via Working Assets.

With the Washington Post ed board pounding on the president to use more muscle to get the AmeriCorps deal ironed out LINK , and given that whole says-one-thing-does-another deal, it might be a good day to ask Ari (or Scott) what concrete actions the POTUS will take to back up the words included in the White House statement following yesterdays' incremental congressional action:

"It is also the essential first step toward maximizing enrollment this year to benefit the nonprofit organizations that count on AmeriCorps members to offer help and hope to people in communities across the country."

The Bush-Cheney '04 mass e-mail of the day deals with the president's "focus" on creating jobs.

ABC 2004: The Invisible Primary:

USA Today 's Jim Drinkard updates the progress of Joe Carmichael's new 527, which we told you about a while ago:

"A group of powerful Democrats, including labor union chiefs and wealthy donors, is forming a political organization to raise money and improve the party's chances in the 2004 presidential election and other federal, state and local races." LINK

"The group, Grassroots Democrats, won't be formally launched until later in the summer, but it has rented offices, hired key staff and begun organizing to raise millions of dollars."

"The group plans to forgo the glitz of TV advertising. Instead, it will focus on shoe-leather politics: identifying voters friendly to Democrats, registering them to vote and getting them to the polls, said Joe Carmichael, who is stepping down as vice chairman of the Democratic National Committee to co-chair the new group."

"'We're going to raise money and provide state parties with expertise on strategy and ideas,' Carmichael said. 'We know there's a need out there.'"

"His co-chair is Morton Bahr, Communications Workers of America president. Also on the board is Gerald McEntee, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) president. Other board members from outside the labor movement will be announced in coming weeks, Carmichael said."

"The group is driven in part by the fear that Democrats will be swamped next year by an unprecedented Republican fundraising wave, led by President Bush's re-election campaign. Bush, his wife Laura and Vice President Cheney are holding 15 fundraising events this month, and the campaign is expected to raise upwards of $200 million by Election Day."


The Washington Post 's Lloyd Grove views the Gore-as-Turner story through the prism of the former Veep's recent meal with Jeff Zucker. LINK (And, yes, Mike Abramowitz, we DO plan to write about a former Crimson president every day. Your day will come.)


In the waxing days of then-Governor Bush's vice presidential selection process, Bush media strategist Mark McKinnon had a novel recommendation: Senator Joe Lieberman.

At a panel discussion after the SILVERDOCS screening of a documentary about Lieberman last night, McKinnon said that the Bush campaign figured the election was fundamentally about values.

And who better, McKinnon said, to represent values and trust than the Connecticut Senator?

So he and an unnamed colleague made the suggestion to Bush.

Mr. McKinnon did not say how Bush took the idea. (And the bone-headed moderator didn't ask him … )

Kathleen Hennessey of the Charleston Post and Courier writes on Hadassah Lieberman's second solo trip to the South Carolina, where she spoke on poverty in America. LINK


The campaign will announce today it's opening regional field offices in Nashua, Concord, and Keene.

Just asking … .

If next Monday is "Howard's day" and not "Judith Steinberg Dean's day," why the heck is Senator Leahy speaking, too?

Is it "Leahy's day?"

The Vermont Press Bureau's Tracy Schmaler reports that Howard Dean's "Vermont political allies joined forces Thursday to support the Democrat's bid for the presidency." LINK

Just because we can, here's another closed-press Dean fundraiser we learned about:

The man of the people will be feted at " The Historic Home of Erika Glazer" in Beverly Hills, CA on June 27. $1,000 gets a sponsor designation. Women for Dean are holding the event.

The State's Lee Bandy reports while Dean barely registers in South Carolina polls, he is gaining ground in the state.

"He is quietly making political inroads in South Carolina, obtaining valuable endorsements and signing up a cadre of volunteers who are enthused about being involved in Dean's insurgent campaign." LINK

"The former Vermont governor has spent more time in this state than any of his eight rivals for the Democratic nomination."

Bandy also takes Note of how Dean as a Jimmy Carteresque appeal.

"To be successful, a candidate must have persistence and persuasiveness. Dean has both. His campaign is reminiscent of the one run by another former governor, Jimmy Carter of Georgia. Carter's plain-talk approach helped win him the nomination and the presidency in 1976."

Ben and Jerry's will christen the Dean announcement Monday with a special sundae: Maple Powered Howard LINK


The AP has Senator John Kerry blasting President Bush on the economy and getting criticized by the RNC for his recent comments regarding WsMD's. The AP also Notes that Senator Kerry is emphasizing his payroll tax cut anew in the wake of Senator John Edwards' recent call for a package of middle-class tax cuts. LINK

"The economy will not recover if the estate tax is repealed and President George W. Bush's tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans go forward, Democratic presidential hopeful John Kerry said Thursday."

"'We have to have the courage to say no,' Kerry said at a Concord Chamber of Commerce lunch. 'It's a choice. This is a zero-sum game, and we deserve leaders who are going to have the courage to stand up and present real choices to Americans, not these fudgy ones that take us down a very wobbly road to a very dangerous place.'"

"Kerry's recent suggestion that Bush had been less than honest about Iraq drew criticism Thursday from Republicans."

"'He misled every one of us,' Kerry said Wednesday in arguing that Bush waged the war in Iraq based on questionable intelligence. "

"Ed Gillespie, the incoming chairman of the Republican National Committee, joined New Hampshire Republican Party Chairwoman Jayne Millerick in accusing Kerry of contradicting himself on Iraq to stay competitive with anti-war candidate Howard Dean."

"'There's no evidence the president misled the American people,' Gillespie said. 'Their rhetoric just heats up as they try to appeal to the liberal core.'"

As for the RNC and the NHRP and their attempts to tie down the Bay State's junior senator, battle veteran (and Kerry spokesman) Robert "Bobby" Gibbs told ABC News:

"John Kerry is running for President. If the White House or the re-election campaign of the actively fundraising President has a comment or a press release on this subject, we would be glad to take a look at it."

"If not, then we are not going to respond to a political party."

Part six of the Boston Globe 's series on John Kerry finds the "brash freshman" Senator embracing his position as a Massachusetts liberal in a Reagan world, and gaining a reputation as a go-getter and a grandstander. LINK Globester John Aloysius Farrell picks up the story in 1986, with Kerry appealing to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to launch an official probe into what would eventually be known as the Iran-contra scandal.

Using Oliver North to draw a parallel path, Farrell sums up Kerry's aggressive, prosecutorial, media-happy pursuit of the scandal. Farrell describes him running down leads in Nicaragua; becoming a "magnet" for leaked information; forming anomalous alliances; arousing the misgivings of his colleagues; interrogating Elliott Abrams; taking testimony from an alleged CIA operative who implicated then-Veep GHW Bush (who in turn, demanded Kerry "'show some evidence and stop leaking out information that is not true'"); and maintaining a sense of duty to his Vietnam experience and campaign promise.

As Edward Kennedy puts it, "'He is, by nature, an investigative figure … You can investigate and then legislate. He's investigated.'"

Farrell Notes Kerry's "unlikely alliance" with Jesse Helms, who had a particular distaste for drug traffickers; Kerry has courteous words for his former colleague: "'I spent time with Jesse … I talked to him. Talked his language. Jesse didn't believe the same things I did in many cases, but he was a gentleman. He was a man of his word.'"

We get a tasty little Biden-Helms exchange from the "then-secret session:"

Biden: "'Jesse? What do you think about this? … I know you are a contra supporter.'"

Helms: "'I will tell you what I do not support, and John Kerry and I have talked about this: anybody sending drugs into this country … I do not care whose side they are on.'"

Continuing on his forceful, prosecutorial path, Kerry helped launch the Manuel Noriega probe, and stepped on some D.C. Democratic toes by investigating the BCCI scandal, which brought down Democratic fixture Clark Clifford.

Farrell writes that some Senate colleagues became "icy," while Kerry aides recall the pleas from Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and Pamela Harriman to let up on Clifford. Of Clifford's involvement and disgrace, Kerry is quoted as "shocked . . .(and) surprised' but 'resigned that you had to go in and let the chips fall where they may.'"

Farrell also takes the time to Note that Kerry's personal life during this period was bleak; he was separated from his daughters, "broke," and forced to rely on the kindness of strangers, some of whom were developers and lobbyists, to his eventual detriment.

Divorced in 1988 (following a six-year separation) from the wealthy Julia Thorne, who had provided the bulk of the family assets, Kerry was saddled with campaign debts and child support obligations, made some bad real estate decisions (including, it turned out, a rather tainted investment), supplemented his income with speaking fees (a practice later banned by Congress in 1991), and chaired the DSCC with its cache of donors.

Teresa Heinz Kerry now calls this his "'gypsy period,'" as he went for months without a fixed address, but eventually settled in apartments in D.C. and Boston.

Farrell delves into the famed romantic life of the single senator, mentioning Judge Roanne Sragow (see part five) and Morgan Fairchild. LINK

When asked about these swinging days, Kerry has this sly rejoinder: "'If George Bush can run around and say 'When I was young and irresponsible, I was young and irresponsible … I can say when I was young and single, I was young and single.'"

Personal transgressions came into play during his 1990 reelection campaign. He was asked about drug use (and responded through a spokesman: "'About 20 years ago, I tried marijuana. I didn't like it. I have never used or tried any drug since'"; Note Note: at least he didn't say he didn't inhale.), and criticized for his interactions with wealthy donors and benefactors, including one with BCCI ties.

Nevertheless, Kerry won with 57% of the vote.

And part six ends with a look towards a second term in the Senate and a look back at the ever-present spirit of Vietnam: "'Vietnam is a lesson,' Kerry says. 'It is history to me. It can guide me, but it doesn't run me. You have to move on and I moved on long ago. But the lessons are valuable. I love the lessons.'"

The Boston Globe 's Robert Schlesinger reports on the EPA's appropriation of an air-pollution program in Massachusetts to the wrath of the state, "one of roughly a dozen states moving to have the Bush administration's revisions of the Clean Air Act overturned." LINK Schlesinger quotes from the angry letter sent by Senator Kerry to Christie Whitman: '''EPA's new rules, which among other things would allow companies to misrepresent today's pollution levels and take advantage of new loopholes in order to escape pollution controls, will increase air pollution and public health risks … The decision by the EPA cuts the legs out from under our state in its ability to manage air pollution and protect our citizens. To my knowledge, this is the first decision of its kind . . . and I find it appalling.'''

The New York Post 's Page Six, asserting "ketchup heiress" Teresa Heinz is "shaping up to be no help in his bid for the White House," picks up on a Boston Herald report (that slipped away from us) which asserted that Teresa Heinz Kerry's recent "bizarre speech to the Massachusetts Women's Political Caucus" was, according to an attendee, "'endless, pointless and confusing,'" "'far, far too technical,'" and mentioned Senator Kerry not at all. LINK Page Six says The Boston Herald described it as a "35-minute harangue about hormones and the big, bad pharmaceutical companies' conspiracy against women."

Just asking … .

Who's been feeding Drudge all this Kerry stuff?


The Washington Post 's Lloyd Grove reports that some Watergate residents had nothing nice to say about the "garish red-white-and-blue 'Graham for President' display in their tasteful lobby" heralding the candidate's fundraiser in the building ("'aesthetic terrorism'"! "'schlocky'"! ). LINK Disagreement: some election law experts say Senator Bob Graham can appear on the presidential and U.S. Senate ballots; the Florida elections director disagrees. LINK

And a potential challenger to Graham might take the matter to the courts. LINK


From Congressman Dennis Kucinich's last-minute fundraising solicitation: "Only a frontal challenge to this Administration's policies, coupled with a serious alternative program, can defeat George Bush in 2004. Half-way challenges, where Democrats concede to him on war and defense policy, will lead to disaster — like they did in November 2002."

"I'm waging a campaign that is a total challenge to this Administration's reckless policies at home and abroad. The only thing limiting our campaign is money."

"If you agree with me on the issues, take a leap of faith and make a donation. Get your friends to donate. Spread this email far and wide across the Internet."

Superdelegate Rep. Lynn Woolsey might help with the dollar sprint.


On this week's "Here's The Point," Elizabeth Edwards, wife of Senator John, candidly explains to Mark Halperin her view of the proper role of first ladies, her ambitions, her husband's, and why a first-term Senator from North Carolina thinks he can beat George Bush.

Check your local listings and ABC radio affiliates.

The Raleigh News & Observer's John Wagner gets around to writing up the Senator's financial disclosure form and Notes Mr. Edwards' paltry $7,500 book advance compared to his colleague from New York. So no one feels left out, Mr. Wagner also includes financial factoids about Senator Dole and the research triangle congressional delegation trio. LINK The Winston-Salem Journal's Kevin Begos covers much the same territory that Roll Call did yesterday about some '02 Bowles fundraisers helping Congressman Burr's campaign. LINK

"'There are a number of ways in which this (situation) hurts Bowles, or other Democrats. It really just ties their hands,' said Ted Arrington, a professor of political science at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. 'This is awkward for the Democrats.'"

"However, at this point, there is little that Bowles can do, other than wonder if Edwards is going to run for re-election. Though Edwards could technically run for both the White House and the Senate, most observers consider that highly unlikely."

Then Mr. Degos delivers a wallop of a sentence that made us shiver with incredulity.

"A Senate spokesman for Edwards referred questions about whether Edwards would run for Senate to the Edwards presidential campaign, which did not return calls for comment."


The AP's Sarah Freeman reports that "An attorney for presidential candidate Al Sharpton is demanding an apology from a Michigan lawmaker whose letter last month said the Democrat has 'a long-standing history of inciting bigotry and intolerance on a prominent stage.'" LINK

"Salon's" Jake Tapper looks at Sharpton's familiarity with litigation. LINK

"The move is an unusual one, to say the least, as it assures media coverage focusing on allegations that Sharpton has been anti-Semitic, anti-white, and in general a rabble-rouser, if only to parse which ones are correct, which are false, and which are in the eye of the beholder. While no credible political observers think Sharpton has a chance to win the Democratic presidential nomination, he does stand to be at least a minor force in the primaries, raising issues of importance to some African-American and liberal voters. The threatened lawsuit thus implies a certain acceptance that many voters already have negative perceptions of Sharpton and it's worth more to raise his controversial past so as to correct — or at least fuzz — the record than to avoid it altogether."


Retired General Wesley Clark, former NATO Supreme Commander and potential presidential candidate, addressed the executive board of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees at the group's Washington, DC headquarters in a closed meeting. Following the meeting, Clark answered questions from the press for about ten minutes.

Clark said he addressed the group, at their invitation, with his ideas on national security issues and also domestic issues such as health care, taxes, employment and housing.

When asked if he would declare his candidacy for the presidency, Clark said, "I'm not going to say that." Clark continued, "I don't want to talk about the process … .let's talk about ideas." Later on, Clark asserted that he didn't try to contrast himself against the Democratic candidates during the private meeting because he said, "I'm not a candidate."

At the end of the session with reporters, one asked him if he's not a candidate, then what were the reporters doing there, to which Clark responded, "I didn't ask for this."

AFSCME President Gerald McEntee asserted that it was the group, not Clark, who arranged the press availability. Clark quickly apologized to the reporter, hoping he didn't sound to flippant.He said at that point, "I hope I didn't abuse anybody's time here."

Aides quickly stepped in and assured him it was time to leave.

After the press availability, McEntee was asked what distinguished Clark from the Democratic candidates. He said, "The way he was able to discuss terrorism and Iraq."

McEntee also said AFSCME expects to have similar private meetings with the (other) Democratic candidates. "This is just a step in the process," he said.

Regarding civil liberties, Clark said, "I think the Patriot Act needs to be taken out and reviewed."


In Iowa, "Republican legislative leaders accused Gov. Tom Vilsack, a Democrat, of acting illegally Thursday in vetoing portions of an economic stimulus package, including a $310 million income tax cut, while approving the creation of a $503 million development fund." LINK

"'The Legislature has no choice, really, but to defend itself' by bringing a lawsuit, said House Speaker Christopher Rants of Sioux City."


In New Hampshire, Governor Craig Benson signed the state's first abortion parental notification law yesterday. LINK

MoveOn "primary":

Several campaigns have grumbled to us that next week's primary is a waste of their time and effort. Even the Dean campaign, which might be expected to do well in the "Internet primary," has some reservations. Campaign manager Joe Trippi told reporters yesterday that while a MoveOn win would be nice, it's doubtful Dean or any other candidate can cross the 50 percent threshold just yet.

But Dean for America does want a victory. MoveOn is just their type of deal. And the PAC money couldn't hurt later on.

To prevent that from happening, several other campaigns have asked their supporters to vote, hoping to gum up the works, so to speak, by preventing Dean from amassing a majority.

"Officials in Dick Gephardt's campaign said they were surprised when their supporters who registered got an e-mail encouraging them to vote for Dean. Gephardt's team considered pulling out of the primary but decided to stay in with reservations," the AP's Nedra Pickler reports. LINK

"'We are not going to change our participation at this point, but we are concerned that the process seems to be rigged,' said Erik Smith, a spokesman for the presidential campaign of the Missouri lawmaker. 'We think there is a legitimate role for MoveOn to organize grass-roots support for candidates, but we are worried that it appears they are playing favorites.'"

"[MoveOn founder Wes] Boyd said everyone registered on the site got the Dean e-mail Wednesday because he finished in the top three in a poll conducted by the campaign last month. The other top finishers also got to send a message — Massachusetts Senator John Kerry's was sent Thursday; Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich will send his Friday."

(We did get a Kerry e-mail this morning.)

But the Gephardt charge drew an angry response from the Dean campaign:

"To insinuate that the process is rigged is to purposely ignore the facts and rules provided to all of us. And it serves to undermine the voices of the 1.4 million members," Dean communications director Tricia Enright told ABC News.

More, from an e-mail message:

"Gephardt folks say they were surprised that an email went out from Dean (leading to their suspicion that the vote was rigged), but you'll see in the memo sent to each and every campaign that the rules and process were clearly spelled out. The fact that the Dean campaign was working hard for a moveon endorsement was certainly no secret (read Trippi on the blog for goodness sakes!). We understood early on the importance of this organization in terms of their ability to speak directly to the grassroots (it's obvious some others didn't) and it's no secret that Gov Dean believes that this campaign is about grassroots participation. Is the Gephardt camp suggesting that it would be legitimate for others to question their efforts to win over labor groups? Or further, to accuse those groups of rigging the vote of their membership????? Puhleeeze."

In response, an aide to Gephardt proposes that MoveOn send e-mails from every registered candidate, not just the top three contenders.

As we say in the ABC News universe, let's take a closer look:

MoveOn is both a 501(c)4 advocacy group and a PAC. The PAC raises money for "good candidates" their website recommends. MoveOn says it never sees the money because it is directly given to the campaigns they check. (Shades of EMILY's List and the like … .)

The "primary" runs from next Tuesday to the end of Wednesday — only 48 hours. Only those who have participated in previous elections or are current registered members of MoveOn before Tuesday are able to vote. Those eligible will most likely receive an e-mail Monday night with a link to vote.

If a candidate receives 50% of the vote, they get the PAC's endorsement. If no candidate receives a majority this time, MoveOn will hold another primary in a month or two.

The "winner" conceivably gets the financial support of the PAC, which can donate $5,000 to the campaign of its choice and run independent expenditures in support of the candidate, as well as provide a conduit for hard money donations.

As of December 31, 2002, the last time that MoveOn's PAC disclosed its financial health, it had a little more than $256,000. LINK

It can't use its (c)4 money — however much it has — to influence federal elections, and it somehow has to erect a firewall between how the (c)4 account spends money and the PAC's activities.

MoveOn's Wes Boyd told ABC News this week that the group employed four people.

The PAC's director is Zack Exley, who, as the AP Notes, has been a consultant to the Dean campaign on its web efforts.

Exley's influence over the MoveOn PAC — an entity legally capable of influencing federal elections — and his work for the Dean campaign — raised heckles from Dean's opponents.

A Dean campaign insider told ABC News that Exley has no influence, nor had any input, on their MoveOn strategy.

Pickler Notes: "Dean campaign manager Joe Trippi say Exley was hired because he admires's ability to organize so many activists over the web and wanted to learn about his ideas. Boyd said he would give Exley a leave if other campaigns also wanted to tap his expertise."

"Trippi said Dean's rivals know they aren't going to win the primary and are only asking their supporters to vote to keep Dean from getting a majority of the votes."

"'We're going to do everything we can, but I think it will be a minor miracle to get to 50 percent with all these candidates in here,' he said."

An e-mail to Exley sent this morning has not yet been answered.

Big Casino budget politics, Medicare:

The Senate keeps making the Medicare sausage, even as conservatives urge the president to shift right, amendments get offered, and Daschle carps. LINK and LINK

Big Casino budget politics, taxes:

Mike Allen of 15th Street sees the president pressing the Congress to act on the child tax credit from Minnesota. LINK

Meanwhile, seeking a new angle, the New York Times David Firestone rolls out a letter from some Protestant leaders calling on the president to step up the plate even more on the issue (We hope said Protestant leaders don't mind sports metaphors.). LINK

California recall:

The AP's Erica Werner reports that California Lt. Governor Cruz Bustamante "ended weeks of speculation Thursday by announcing he will not run for governor if a Republican-led campaign to recall fellow Democrat Gov. Gray Davis makes it to the ballot." LINK

"Earlier this week, two other leading California Democrats, Attorney General Bill Lockyer and state Treasurer Phil Angelides, said they had no intention of running."

(We were a little bit struck, however, by one line in the Bustamante statement with the word "intend" in it.)

The AP Notes, however, that "U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein, considered the strongest potential Democratic candidate, has not ruled out a run."

"Political analysts say that if the recall is on the ballot, Davis' chances of surviving will be better if there are no Democratic alternatives."

Robert Salladay with the San Francisco Chronicle reports on the questions about whether Representative Issa is violating campaign fundraising laws by funding the recall efforts.

"Issa and his supporters contend the FEC complaint, filed last month by Davis appointee Raquelle de la Rocha, is an attempt to intimidate donors to the Rescue California committee as their signature-gathering effort grows. So far, recall organizers believe they are on target to collect the required 900, 000 signatures to qualify it for the ballot. LINK

"Specifically, they call it absurd to accuse Issa of 'soliciting' money from a company he controls and deny Issa talked about specific contribution amounts with other donors to the Rescue California recall committee."

"Campaign finance experts say the law is clear on the relationship between corporate soft money and elections. The ban is complete, they said, to avoid situations in which corporate contributors try to curry favor with federal lawmakers by donating to causes that directly or indirectly support the politician at a state level."

'The bottom line is Congressman Issa is not supposed to be dealing in soft money in connection with an election, and therefore this appears to raise serious questions about whether he is complying,' said Fred Wertheimer, president of the nonprofit watchdog group Democracy 21."

"Another expert, attorney Adam Morse with the Brennan Center for Justice in New York, said that if Issa was controlling the Rescue Campaign committee, even indirectly, as Davis supporters contend, the committee would be bound by McCain-Feingold contribution limits."

The Democratic leader of the House and Californian, Nancy Pelosi, is speaking out against the effort to recall Governor Gray Davis according to Roll Call 's Nicole Duran.

"House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said the effort underway to recall her fellow Californian, Gov. Gray Davis (D), is being pushed by partisan Republicans. But she was unclear about what Democrats should do if Davis' opponents succeed in getting the recall measure on the statewide ballot."

"'Right now, I think Democrats should fight the recall, because it is about injecting instability into a state,' Pelosi said. 'If a Republican governor were there, I would give you the exact same answer. I think the Democrats must stick together,' she added."

"As to what Democrats should do if the recall makes the ballot, Pelosi said only: 'We would cross that bridge when we come to it.'"

"But she reiterated her support for Davis."

"'Let me be very clear in my support for Governor Davis and in opposition to this recall and with a complete encouragement of people keeping their names off the ballot.'"

"Earlier this week, two top statewide Democratic officeholders, Attorney General Bill Lockyer and State Treasurer Phil Angelides, said they would not run for governor if the petition effort forces a new election. Both are potential 2006 gubernatorial primary opponents."

The Clintons of Chappaqua:

In her apparent efforts to reference "Living History" each and every day, the New York Post 's Liz Smith quotes from a New York Magazine review and a reader's email. LINK The New York Daily News' Rush and Molloy mention "SATC" and Bill Clinton in the same item, citing the recent photo of Kim Cattrall chatting with the former president. LINK The Washington Post 's Lloyd Grove anticipates New York Magazine's report that the unusually trim Clintons are on the South Beach Diet. LINK

Lloyd got a comment from wag Jim Kennedy: "'I only comment on weighty matters.'"

The economy:

Paul Krugman thinks the bull market is a bubble market. LINK

Politics: The AP's Pete Yost reports: "A utility embroiled in a campaign fund-raising controversy made a $25,000 donation to an organization affiliated with Rep. Tom DeLay just before attending a two-day get-together at a Virginia resort with the House GOP leader." LINK

The Washington Times ' Steve Miller reports that the Democratic National Committee has hired two black appointees from Clinton's administration "in an effort to quell dissent that arose after a plan to fire 10 black DNC staffers was made public in late May." LINK "Alexis Herman, who served as President Clinton's labor secretary from 1997 to 2000, will serve as a peacemaker between the DNC and the Congressional Black Caucus after caucus members were rankled by the planned terminations, a CBC source said."

"In addition, Ben Johnson, who ran President Clinton's Initiative for One America program, has been named a vice chairman of the DNC."

The Chicago Sun-Times's John Barron attended the 40 year anniversary dinner/roast the paper threw for Robert Novak last night. LINK

National security politics: Discover the world: the New York Times front-page blarer that United States officials now believe that Saddam Hussein just might be alive sure got a lot of broadcast pickup for the last 1/2 of a news cycle. LINK

The AP's Ken Guggenheim reports: "The Senate Intelligence Committee held its first hearing Thursday on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, even as Democrats and Republicans remained divided about how to examine prewar intelligence on Saddam Hussein's weapons programs." LINK

USA Today 's Judy Keen reports that George W. Bush is unworried about claims that he exaggerated the threat of Iraqi WsMD "in part because he believes the search has barely begun, senior administration officials say." LINK Among the evidence cited by officials that the search is far from fully underway: "Only 157 of 578 'suspect sites' in Iraq have been inspected," and "Analysts have barely made a dent in 'tons and tons' of Iraqi documents."

Among the evidence that The Note is getting too long: Analysts have barely made a dent in tons and tons of pages of today's Note.

Ken Pollack has a New York Times op-ed piece urging people not to overreact to the fact that the WsMD haven't been found yet. LINK

Michael Kinsley in the Washington Post says exactly the same thing, and yet precisely the opposite (!) in his column in the Washington Post (and gets in jibes at George Will and the American people too along the way). LINK


And it's apparently a "No" from Dean Baquet of the Los Angeles Times, according to the New York Daily News' Paul Colford in a sizzling Hot Copy. LINK

Judicial nomination battles:

The formidable pairing of Nick Lewis and S.G. Stolberg produces as comprehensive a round-up of the pre-SCOTUS vacancy landscape as those of you who haven't been paying attention to this could ever hope to find — even if the DCCW continues to be, in the immortal words of Dana Carvey, "nah gonna happen." LINK

The AP's Jesse J. Holland reports that "The White House on Thursday reopened the door to possible consultations with Senate Democrats on a Supreme Court nomination if a vacancy occurs this summer, one day after President Bush's spokesman seemed to rule out the idea." LINK

The AP's Anne Gearan speculates that President Bush may be "relieved" if no justice resigns during the president's first term because of the "political imbroglio" that a "confirmation battle so close to his re-election campaign is likely to provoke." LINK

Bush Administration strategy/personality:

The AP reports: "Scott McClellan, the No. 2 spokesman at the White House and a longtime loyalist to President Bush, will succeed Ari Fleischer as White House press secretary, administration officials said." LINK

"The next press secretary dates back about a decade with Bush, whom he first met while working on campaigns for his mother, Carole Keeton Strayhorn."

The New York Daily News' Rush and Molloy describe the DeLay grandchild's perhaps inadvertent attack on President Bush at a White House barbecue. LINK Ask the New York Times ' Eric Licthblau what he does for a leaving and presumably he will answer, "I cover gays and the Justice Department."

His item today: "A Justice Department employee group said it would move its annual gay pride celebration to Capitol Hill because of what it considers the department's "second-class" treatment. The group, DOJ Pride, said the department refused to let it hold the event on the premises, then relented but said the group would be charged $1,035. DOJ Pride said other employee groups were not required to pay, so the event would be held today at the Russell Senate Office Building at the invitation of Senator Frank R. Lautenberg, Democrat of New Jersey." LINK

The Washington Post 's Lloyd Grove reports that Nantucket fan Laura Bush called into a local cable station to chat about the island's charm and interests. LINK