The Note: Electoral Strategy

WASHINGTON, Dec. 12

NEWS SUMMARY

Focus on the holidays at your peril.

The White House might be dreaming of a boffo January, but there is a lot going on politically at this precise moment.

The Gang of 500 remains surprisingly congregated -- nearly at capacity.

So clip out our handy guide to everything and take it to your next festive lunch or raucous holiday party. You will be more informed than Howard Fineman, more insider than Mike Allen, and a bigger hit than Tammy Haddad. (Note: we kid about all three because we LOVE. . . . .)

What we really mean is: you'll be more informed than Joe Hagin, more insider than Eric Cantor, and a bigger hit than Mitch Bainwol LINK. (Note: we are kidding about only ONE of those.)

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President Bush and Iraq: At 11:15 this morning, POTUS on Iraq, Part III will likely get road-blocked cable TV coverage. Before then, read the Los Angeles Times from yesterday on the goals and stakes LINK

and the Washington Post on the Iraq election long-term strategy. . LINK

As for Brian Williams day of rolling interviews with Mr. Bush LINK, may we remind you, Brian, of the First Rule of Interviewing Presidents: don't ask anything for which the staff has prepared him.

So:

I know you don't read polls, Mr. President, but did anyone mention to you the new ABC News/Time survey of Iraqis? LINK

Has 2005 been the best year of your presidency? (If not, where would you rank it among the 5?)

Do you have any New Year's resolutions that involve Congress?

Are the stories about your snapping at aides true?

How would you rate America's reconstruction in Afghanistan -- has the nation kept its promises?

Democrats say every family worth eight million in assets should be exempt from inheritance or death taxes but that families with more than 8 million in assets should have to pay taxes. What's wrong with that position?

What is your definition of torture?

How much does a liter of Diet Coke cost?

Why has the national poverty rate gone up under your tenure after it decreased in the 1990s?

(Note to Brit: if Brian doesn't get these in time, feel free to use them in your Wednesday interview.)

The newsweeklies do POTUS: Like millions of Americans, you might be tempted to skip Time and Newsweek, dismissing them as irrelevant dinosaurs. That would be foolish. Check out the Bush pieces in each, for stunning reporting and analysis. LINK and LINK

Pirro?: It must be pretty hard to raise money when the entire Empire State politico-media establishment thinks the debate is: are you getting out of the Senate race against Hillary Clinton today, this week, or (for some reason) in January? Read all about the latest betting, including who might end up as the GOP nominee. LINK, LINK, LINK, and LINK

.

First-in-the-nation: Don't book your satellite time, fiber lines, Wayfarer rooms, 801 private tables, or winter 2008 vacations just yet. The candidates themselves, Ken Mehlman, and (perhaps most of all) Secretary of State Gardner LINK

, LINK, and LINK

Alito: Ron Brownstein meta-dares Democrats NOT to filibuster Alito over abortion LINK; Senators Snowe and Collins remain AWOL; Sen./Dr./Leader Frist stays in nuclear mode LINK, LINK, and LINK; and Ken Starr and Ronald Cass did a better job explaining Alito on voting rights than we have seen in their Boston Globe op-ed piece over the weekend. LINK

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