The Note: The State of Our Union Is . . . Confused



Notes, copied from a napkin, from yesterday's weekly Gang of 500 Lauriol Plaza brunch, on all the conventional wisdom (distilled):

Tuesday's elections: either party can "win"

Exit polls: THE NETWORKS AREN'T DOING THEM, but call [NAME REDACTED] -- he should have numbers

Virginia governor: the gutsy Washington Post is right ("turnout efforts could be especially critical")

New Jersey governor: stand right up now and let them shoot through you

California initiatives: the post-mortems are already written

El Presidente: floundering or recovering?

VPOTUS: "still has it" or "losing it"?

Rove: staying (Fred Barnes LINK), should stay (Bill Kristol LINK), or going (Mike Allen LINK)?

Scalito: from "right wing" to "just right" (of course, if he is good enough on abortion for the Washington Post ed board . . . .LINK)

Republican spending cuts: the hard stuff is still to come

Republican moves against the oil companies: anyone seen any, uhm, polling data on this?

West Wing live debate: Shales nails it LINK

Judy Miller: at bay or on the way?

There's one must-read piece today: the Washington Post's Dana Priest and Robin Wright take an A1 look at Vice President Cheney's mission to block more restrictive rules on the handling of terrorist suspects from taking effect. The piece paints Cheney as a near solitary voice in the cause against the likes of Secretary Rice, Acting Deputy Secretary England, Sen. McCain, and others who appear to believe America's image could benefit from some changes to the rules. LINK

It's a must read for all sorts of reasons, especially the blind quotes and the likely motivations of those quoted (not to mention their identities!!!).

President Bush lends Virginia Republican gubernatorial candidate Jerry Kilgore some 11th hour campaign help today at an 8:00 pm ET rally at the Richmond International Airport. The President will stop in Richmond on his way back from Panama where he meets with Panamanian President Martin Torrijos.

Thus, The Note decrees: Mr. Bush owns the outcome of this one (along with Gov. Mark Warner).

Lt. Gov. Tim Kaine will seek to counter the President's appearance on behalf of Kilgore by campaigning around the state today with Warner. The Democratic duo will attend rallies to "Keep Virginia Moving Forward with Tim Kaine" in Roanoke, Northern Virginia, Richmond, and Norfolk.

In addition to his 8:00 pm ET rally with President Bush in Richmond, Kilgore campaigns today in Fairfax, Norfolk, Roanoke, and Abingdon. Sen. George Allen (R-VA) will be on hand for two of those events.

RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman is in Virginia today to rally grassroots GOP supporters in Manassas, Ashburn, and Chantilly.

Polls continue to show the race super-close, but let's let the voters decide, shall we?

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) campaigns today for his four ballot measures -- Propositions 74 (public school teacher tenure), Proposition 75 (union dues for political purposes), Proposition 76 (state spending and school funding limits), and Proposition 77 (redistricting). He has campaign stops planned for Chico, Roseville, San Ramon, Fresno, Corona, Orange, and Del Mar.

Polls continue to show the Governor's measures behind, but let's let the voters decide, shall we?

New Jersey Republican gubernatorial candidate Doug Forrester campaigns in Iselin, New Brunswick, Westfield, Bordentown, Middletown, Toms River, and Hamilton. His schedule includes a 10:00 am ET press conference with New York Gov. George Pataki in Ridgewood.

Sen. Jon Corzine (D-NJ) campaigns in Newark, Wallington, Lyndhurst, East Rutherford, Cliffside Park, Passaic, Hackensack, Jersey City, Hoboken, Newark, Bordentown, and Trenton.

New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg begins his day riding the 7:30 am Staten Island ferry from St. George to White Hall and ends it on top of the Empire State Building at 11:00 pm ET.

Mayoral candidate Fernando Ferrer begins his day campaigning in Queens and ends in Brooklyn.

The Senate resumes consideration of the defense authorization bill at 2:00 pm ET.

Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid and Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) hold a press event on DOD authorization at 2:00 pm ET in the Mansfield Room.

The National Press Club hosts a 10:00 am ET forum on the Alito nomination. Participants include Ralph Neas, People for the American Way, Jay Jorgensen, former law clerk of Judge Alito, and Michael Seidman, professor of constitutional law at Georgetown University.

The Supreme Court hears oral arguments beginning at 10:00 am ET in Arbaugh v. Y&H Corp. and Dolan v. U.S. Postal Service.

The Center for Strategic and International Studies holds an address by Lt. Gen. David Petraeus, former commander of the Multinational Security Transition Command, Iraq, addressing "Iraq's Evolving Forces" at 10:30 am ET at the St. Regis Hotel.


The New York Times' Robin Toner reports that both parties will look to Tuesday's elections for signs of added meaning in the wake of Bush's declining popularity. LINK

The message here, as elsewhere: Democrats are more into nationalizing the races, while Republicans go the Tip route of "all politics is local."'s Mike Allen previews the stakes. LINK

2005: New Jersey:

Quinnipiac's election eve poll shows Sen. Corzine edging out Doug Forrester 52 percent to 45 percent among likely Garden State voters.

The New York Times' Richard Lezin Jones lands on the newspaper's front page with his write-up of the smiley Sunday that capped off New Jersey's "mean campaign." LINK

The Asbury Park Press looks at how the traditionally Republican leaning Monmouth County has become a battleground in the race for Governor this year. LINK

2005: Virginia:

Sen. Clinton's camp is closely watching the outcome of the Virginia gubernatorial race, claims the New York Daily News, out of concern that a Kaine win could make Gov. Mark Warner a more formidable opponent for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination. LINK

In the close Virginia gubernatorial contest, the Washington Post explores which voters are being most targeted by the campaigns. LINK

"Recent surveys show Kaine and Kilgore in a virtual dead heat. With traditional supporters accounted for, the Republican and Democratic campaigns are hoping to lure new voters. Republican operatives call them 'lazy voters'; Democrats have dubbed them 'federal voters.' Tomorrow, they will almost surely decide who becomes the next governor."

"Hundreds of thousands of Virginians line up at polling booths every four years to vote for president. And then they take four years off, ignoring city council, school board, legislative and governor's races."

"In 2004, 71 percent of the state's registered voters cast ballots for president, far more than the 46 percent who voted in the 2001 governor's race. Kilgore and Kaine have spent millions to find them -- and then pester and cajole them into showing up to vote."

The Richmond Times-Dispatch on one Kaine ally doing his best to tie Kilgore to President Bush. LINK

The Schwarzenegger Era:

The New York Times' John Broder has a humble Schwarzenegger with "dimming" re-election prospects being faced by "bald impertinence" such as the health car worker that told the Governor last week that characterizing Proposition 75 as being about "paycheck protection" was fraudulent "Rovian spin." LINK

California is experiencing a flurry of last-minute campaigning as supporters and opponents of the statewide propositions make one last serious push before Election Day. LINK

The San Francisco Chronicle on Warren Beatty hitting the streets to campaign against Schwarzenegger's agenda. LINK

Supporters of Prop 73, a California ballot measure that would require doctors to notify parents of minors seeking an abortion, may seem quiet, says the Los Angeles Times, but their support is quite loud and visible in the Golden State's churches. LINK

If voters pass any of the Schwarzenegger ballot issues tomorrow, it will be in spite of – not because of – the Governor's efforts, writes George Skelton in the Los Angeles Times. LINK

2005: New York City:

Nothing like election eve poll numbers to get you through your day. Quinnipiac University is out with a New York City mayoral election poll showing incumbent Michael Bloomberg trouncing Democrat Fernando Ferrer by 38 points (68 percent vs. 30 percent).

The New York Times's Rutenberg and Caldwell on Bloomberg and Ferrer at the finish line. LINK

Sen. Hillary Clinton joined Ferrer on the campaign trail yesterday. LINK

The final tally is nearly in, and the New York Daily News says Mayor Mike Bloomberg may end up spending about $75 million in his bid to hold off challenger Fernando Ferrer. LINK

The New York Post whips out its calculator and concludes each vote may cost Bloomberg more than $100. LINK

The New York Post hesitantly endorses Bloomberg. LINK

Despite a huge lead in the polls, Bloomberg tells the New York Daily News he's not overconfident. LINK

Fitzgerald investigation:

The Weekly Standard's Fred Barnes suggests Rove should and will stay, while Time's Mike Allen suggests otherwise: LINK

and LINK

Anne Marie Squeo of the Wall Street Journal writes of the likelihood journalists will have to take the witness stand at any potential Libby trial.

". . . the battleground now is likely to be how broadly reporters can be questioned beyond their previous testimony before the grand jury. In talking to Mr. Fitzgerald, the reporters were able to narrowly tailor the topics they would discuss related to the leak of the CIA agent's name and Mr. Libby."

"But legal experts say Mr. Libby's attorneys, like any attorney trying to impugn the testimony of a witness in a criminal trial, will likely try to blunt the prosecution by challenging the reporters on their other sources, their memories of events in question and their own reputations."

President Bush has ordered White House staff to attend mandatory briefings beginning next week on ethical behavior and the handling of classified material in the wake of Libby's indictment, the Washington Post's Diamond Jim VandeHei reports. LINK

Alito for Associate Justice:

The first two clips in this section will surely please the White House confirmation team, but we remain confused (as we were with John Roberts): why is the right accepting such moderate nominees??!!

The Washington Post editorial board writes of Alito's record on abortion as "more complicated than the caricatures would suggest." LINK

And Democrats are having a tough time pigeonholing Alito as a right-wing ideologue, reports the Los Angeles Times, because the nominee's opinions lack sharp edges, broad pronouncements, or even a unifying conservative theme. LINK

The Washington Post's Charles Babington reported on Saturday that in his private meetings with Senators, Alito is showing more of a willingness to discuss controversial issues facing the Supreme Court -- from privacy to spousal consent to public expressions of faith to private property rights -- than were either John Roberts or Harriet Miers. LINK

The Washington Post's Jo Becker looked at Alito's sensitivity to executive power in the context of the now-defunct independent counsel law and the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings Deficit Reduction Act. LINK

Bob Novak columnizes that contrary to what she is telling people, former NARAL head Kate Michelman would have been exempted from Pennsylvania's spousal notification law if she had been abandoned by her husband. LINK

The New York Times' Janny Scott depicts Alito as conservative by nature, not ideology. LINK

A 600-page briefing book compiled by the White House and intended for Republican Senators claims repeatedly that Alito's opinions are well within the mainstream of the law, the Associated Press reports after obtaining a copy of the guide. LINK

In the Sunday Boston Globe Nina Easton and Tasha Robertson on "Mr. Clean." LINK

Sen. Joe Biden's (D-DE) comments throwing cold water on the possibility of an Alito filibuster on "This Week" broke through the Sunday chatter. LINK

The Washington Post editorial board writes of Alito's record on abortion as "more complicated than the caricatures would suggest." LINK


The Washington Post's Cooperman takes a look at the potential for a Catholic majority on the Supreme Court. LINK

Charles Lane of the Washington Post writes up some previously underreported and rare comments Justice Kennedy made about America's foreign policy. LINK

Bush Administration and agenda:

Ron Brownstein examines historical precedents in his Los Angeles Times column to determine whether the President can climb out of his hole. While there is hope for the President if he can solidify his base, Iraq threatens to undermine everything else Bush does, Brownstein says. LINK

"And even amid signs of political progress in Iraq, the insurgents' unrelenting attacks are the events most influencing U.S. public opinion. Without much greater stability in Iraq, Bush won't find it easy to restore his own balance at home."

Led by Sen. Chuck Hagel on ABC's "This Week," two key Republican Senators urged the White House yesterday to reconsider opposing the proposed ban on torture of prisoners in U.S. custody. LINK

But the Washington Times points out two other key GOP Senators – Sen. Pat Roberts and Sen. Orrin Hatch – defended the White House on the torture issue yesterday. LINK

Newsweek's Klaidman and Isikoff cover Cheney ground in Newsweek with Juleanna Glover Weiss praising David Addington. LINK

In Newsweek, Howard Fineman captures President Bush's distaste for foreign travel and the Gang of 500 obsession with the Karl question. LINK

"Students of the Bush-Rove team sifted tea leaves as a city full of Republicans offered tidbits, speaking on background because of the sensitive situation. Rove went about his business, calling senators to lobby on the budget, conducting meetings on immigration policy, sketching out the long-term strategy for what aides hope will be a political revival meeting in January -- the State of the Union Message. Administration aides insist that there have been no discussions on Rove's departure. Fellow Republican strategists marveled at what one called Rove's 'survivability.' 'Mere mortals would be affected,' said a senior White House aide, 'but Karl isn't mortal.'"

The New York Times' Bumiller and Rohter on the "tough remarks" the President aimed at Chavez on Sunday, calling for Latin America to choose between an American-supported "vision of hope" and another that "seeks to roll back the democratic progress of the past two decades." LINK

In her White House letter, Bumiller zeroes in on "how removed" from his surroundings President Bush has seemed. LINK

Big Casino budget politics:

The New York Times ed board writes that the House leadership's package of budget cuts is "so over-the-top in its inequities and giveaways that the moderate Republican lawmaker," that "rara avis," is "actually rebelling." LINK

In Saturday Washington Post story looking at the ways in which some in the GOP are regretting the pork-stuffed highway bill, Shailaigh Murray reported that Congressman Tom DeLay (R-TX) conceded at Heritage on Thursday that "Our responsibility, that frankly we didn't perform very well, is to make sure those are legitimate earmarks for legitimate reasons." LINK

Conservatives in the House tell the Washington Times they can't pass their package of $53 billion in spending cuts unless the President begins to actively intervene – something they are urging Bush to do. LINK


The Washington Post's Grimaldi and Schmidt reported on Saturday that Congressman Bob Ney notified Congress on Friday that he had been subpoenaed by a federal grand jury examining the lobbying activities of Jack Abramoff. LINK

Roll Call's Bresnahan Notes that Ney's subpoena "marks the first time a Member of Congress has become formally enmeshed in the criminal probe of Abramoff."

The Washington Post's Susan Schmidt reported on Saturday that Steven Griles, the former deputy secretary of the Interior Department, had "numerous meetings, telephone calls and other contacts" with Abramoff concerning the lobbyist's tribal clients, according to e-mails released by congressional investigators. LINK


The Associated Press reported over the weekend that the Michigan Democratic Party reasserted its call to end what it sees as the Iowa and New Hampshire "monopoly" on the nomination process. LINK

2008: Democrats:

"The DNC's unusually early announcement of its 2008 convention dates took most Democratic Members by surprise, but it was quickly embraced. Members and aides suggested Democrats are smart to avoid having the convention too soon, and to stake their claim on a plum time period that forces the Republicans to consider a shorter time frame for their own," writes Roll Call's Billings.

Tom Beaumont gave some Sunday Des Moines Register play to Sen. Daschle in which the former Senator from South Dakota said Democrats must focus on appealing to the "soul of our country" in order to win national elections again. LINK

Note Daschle's stating that he is not preparing a 2008 presidential run.

On his east coast book tour, Gov. Bill Richardson warns Democrats not to take the Hispanic vote for granted. Richardson is in Washington, DC and New York over the next two days promoting his book, "Between Worlds: The Making of an American Life." LINK

While campaigning in the Granite State for Manchester Mayor Bob Baines, John Kerry gave an interview to the New Hampshire Sunday News in which he pledged his respect for New Hampshire's first-in-the-nation primary status. LINK

2008: Republicans:

When John McCain sat down with Katie Couric on NBC's "Today" show this morning, two perceptions about the Arizona Republican were reinforced -- one by McCain and one by Couric -- suggesting perhaps past will indeed be prologue for his potential 2008 presidential run.

Perception 1: The bipartisan approach: McCain reminded Couric that recent congressional approval ratings aren't reflective of just one party. "That disapproval isn't just confined to Republicans. . . I think we've got to sit down and work together," said McCain.

Perception 2: The straight talkin' media darling: When asked about his previous critical comments about Donald Rumsfeld, McCain said he was asked a direct question and gave a direct answer. ". . .which is so refreshing, by the way," replied Couric.

Two other things we learned from the interview:

1. McCain would not go as far as calling for Rove's departure from the White House, but he did say, "I think obviously we have to change the image to a degree, but I can't tell the President what he has to do in regards to his advisors."

2. McCain has begun polling book signing crowds about the "bridge to nowhere."

Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE) had this to say to "This Week's" George Stephanopoulos: "The President should be, in my opinion, reviewing and analyzing and putting some deep perspective into who's around him at the White House. And if I was the President, I think I'd want to enlarge and widen that group, and start making some serious review and inventory of what has happened in the last five years that's gotten him into so much trouble." LINK

In his Sunday column, Bob Novak wrote that many of McCain's New York contributors from his 2000 campaign were "reluctant" to attend a Nov. 7 fundraiser at the St. Regis Hotel. "The fact McCain will be 72 for the 2008 presidential campaign was cited to explain lack of enthusiasm, as was the senator's support for the Iraq war." LINK

McCain adviser John Weaver responded to the Novak column by saying that McCain's PAC will receive $1 million-plus in donations this week between the event in New York ($650k+) and DC ($350k+).

"Hardly a tepid response," said Weaver. "In fact, I want more tepid responses like these. . ."

"I know this would shock you, but of course Mr. Novak didn't bother to contact any McCain representative prior to writing his rumor or planted item. Just shocking, isn't it."

In Sunday's installment of "The Briefing: Behind the Headlines in Washington," the Boston Globe's Nina Easton had ACU's David Keene warning that if McCain failed to prevent a Democratic filibuster of Alito: ''he'd slam the door on conservative support for good, and McCain can ill-afford to do that." She also had McCainiac-turned-DLCer Mashall Wittmann saying that, in many ways, the conservative movement is coming to McCain. LINK


In a Sunday must-read, the Washington Post's Dan Balz, Shailagh Murray, and Peter Slevin reported that if the public mood "further" darkens over the Iraq war and the economy, GOP majorities in the House and Senate could be at risk. LINK

Jeanine Pirro's chances of winning New York's GOP nomination to take on Sen. Clinton may grow longer this week if opponent John Spencer receives the backing of the state's Conservative Party, as Frederic Dicker predicts in the New York Post. LINK

Politics of Iraq:

The New York Times' Eric Lichtblau leads his wrap of the Sunday shows with Intelligence Committee Chairman Pat Roberts telling "Face" that there is no evidence of pressure on Iraq data. LINK

The Washington Post's David Broder wrote on Sunday that a prominent Ohio Republican recently told him that President Bush is lucky he's not on the ballot this year and said that in the Buckeye State, it's the unresolved war in Iraq that is causing the President the most trouble. LINK

The IRS is trying to revoke the tax-exempt status of one of Southern California's largest churches after a guest sermon in October of 2004 slammed the Iraq war. The IRS believes the church was intervening in the election, while the church claims it is being targeted for its anti-war beliefs. LINK

The Army is being forced to offer a host of new incentives and benefits to keep its ROTC- and West Point-trained officers from leaving its ranks. LINK

The Washington Times says enlistment numbers are up and recruiting goals are largely being met, "a trend that bewilders and dismays those opposed to the war in Iraq." LINK

The Senate continues to hold up the nominations of numerous key deputies for Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, reports the Washington Times. LINK

Politics of Katrina:

Oren Dorell of USA Today writes that at least 27 members of Congress have diverted money from their reelection campaigns to Katrina relief along the Gulf Coast, with some giving as much as $30,000 for hurricane relief. LINK


On Sunday, Tom Beaumont of the Des Moines Register profiled the January 2006 Democratic caucuses for governor in must-read fashion. LINK

Leonard Boswell's first post-surgical public appearance scored Tom Beaumont's Des Moines Register lede in his Jefferson-Jackson dinner writeup on Sunday. LINK

New Hampshire:

Turnout in the Manchester, NH mayoral election is expected to be similar to what it was in 2001, reports the New Hampshire Union Leader. LINK


"After nearly a year of inaction and delay on a number of issues dear to the telecommunications industry, lobbyists and committee staffers are registering their dismay with how Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Chairman Ted Stevens (R-AK) is running the panel," writes Roll Call's Emily Pierce.

Ben Pershing of Roll Call takes a look at Rep. Zach Wamp's (R-TN) "quiet, non-campaign" for Majority Whip, should the position be open.

The New York Times' Michael Janofsky reports that some evangelical groups are joining environmentalists in pressuring Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) for tougher environmental laws. LINK

Sen. Lindsey Graham, who moonlights as a judge in the lower Air Force Court of Criminal Appeals, is receiving criticism for the "conflicting" aims of being a Senator and a military judge, reports USA Today. LINK

Roll Call reports, "The Federal Election Commission has announced an aggressive schedule to complete action on 15 pivotal regulations the agency must rewrite after losing an appeals court battle on how the agency interpreted the 2002 Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act." The Chairman and Vice-Chairman of the FEC intend to have the rule-making process completed by February.

Week Ahead:

Tuesday is Election Day. Marquee contests are taking place in California, Virginia, New Jersey, and New York City.

Beginning on Tuesday, a bipartisan group of six Senators plans to meet and launch "Phase Two" of its investigation into how the Bush Administration handled prewar intelligence, including whether the information was misrepresented in statements to the public. Also on Tuesday, the President meets with local officials from Louisiana at the White House. Democratic Senators will hold a press event on energy costs and the removal of tax incentives from the energy bill. And the Western Governors Association meets in Phoenix.

On Wednesday, President Bush makes a statement on South Asia earthquake relief efforts. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) delivers a "major policy address" at AEI on Operation Iraqi Freedom and the path to victory, Washington, DC. Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) delivers the keynote address to the National Medicaid Directors at the Marriott Crystal Gateway in Arlington, VA. He also is named by Governing Magazine as one of its Public Officials of the Year. Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid and others will hold a presser on the lack of response to a letter he sent the Bush Administration more than month ago asking four questions about Iraq. The Energy and Commerce Committee will hold a joint hearing looking into oil and heating prices.

On Thursday, Karl Rove addresses the Federalist Society's annual lawyers convention in Washington, DC. President Bush participates in the presentation of the 2005 National Medals of Arts and the National Humanities medals at the White House. He also meets with the President of Yemen.

On Friday, President Bush makes remarks on the War on Terror in Wilkes-Barre, PA.