President Bush participates in a roundtable about the Medicare prescription drug benefit at 10:10 am ET in Springfield, VA.

ABC News' Karen Travers reports that the President does not plan to make formal remarks today. Rather, he will simply be talking with seniors about prescription drugs in a roundtable setting. He will impress upon them why it's important for seniors to enroll now. The prescription drug benefit will be available in three weeks, starting on January 1, 2006.

Which means: watch the President's eyes closely to see at which precise moment he gets bored with the topic and the format. The over/under among the White House senior staff is seven minutes.

It also means: it's never too early to game out the TV advertising campaigns for 2006 congressional candidates.

Mr.Bush's event has a policy purpose (to make more seniors aware of how to sign up for the right Medicare drug plan for them) and a political one (reap for the GOP the benefits of this lavish new entitlement, passed with Republican votes and signed into law by a conservative Republican president).

The White House is convinced that if sufficient numbers of seniors sign up for the program that the media will tout it as a success and millions of individual voters will look favorably on the Republican Party as their health care saviors.

So fast forward to next fall, and fill out today's Note quiz.

Which party's candidates are more likely to use each issue below in their 2006 campaign TV advertising:

Prescription drug benefit:

Republicans _______

Democrats ________

Iraq war:

Republicans _______

Democrats ________

President Bush:

Republicans _______

Democrats ________

Opposition control of Congress:

Republicans _______

Democrats ________

Supreme Court:

Republicans _______

Democrats ________

Deficit/government spending:

Republicans _______

Democrats ________


Republicans _______

Democrats ________


Republicans _______

Democrats ________


Republicans _______

Democrats ________

Fill out your answers and send them to us before midday, when the President hosts a luncheon for Congressman John Dingell (D-MI) to celebrate his 50 years in the House of Representatives.

The Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq holds the first of three days of parliamentary elections for Iraqi nationals residing in the US. The main voting centers are located in Chicago, San Diego, Nashville, Washington, and Detroit.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice delivers a speech on "Iraq and Democracy in the Middle East" at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, DC at 1:00 pm ET.

Lynne Cheney holds a 9:00 am ET discussion about the Iraqi elections with fourth- and fifth-grade students at W.W. Burrows Elementary School at the Marine Corps Base in Quantico, VA. She then delivers remarks to fifth-grade students about the Iraqi election at Fort Belvoir Elementary School in Fort Belvoir, VA.

A Ways and Means subcommittee on oversight holds a 3:00 pm ET hearing on Katrina in Longworth 1100.

ABC's Tom Shine reports that Gov. Haley Barbour (R-MS) will "camp out" on the Hill today until he gets the money he says Mississippi needs to rebuild after Hurricane Katrina. Lucky for him, Mississippi's own Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS), chairs the money committee on the Senate side and he has found a way to pay for the new money that won't make the Bush Administration very happy: by tapping unspent Iraq reconstruction money.

Dr./Leader/Sen. Bill Frist HOLDS a pen-and-pad only dugout on the Senate chamber floor at 10:45 am ET.

Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) holds a 7:00 pm ET fundraiser in the grand ballroom of the Hilton New York in New York City where she will be introduced by former President Clinton.

Former Gov. John Engler (R-MI) endorses Judge Samuel Alito on behalf of the National Association of Manufacturers at 12:00 pm ET at the National Press Club in Washington, DC.

Alito meets with Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) in Russell 213 at 3:30 pm ET.

Richard Trumka, the Secretary-Treasurer of the AFL-CIO, holds an 11:00 am ET conference call to launch labor's campaign to target members of Congress in ten states on issues of concern to working families. Those ten states are: Minnesota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida, Wisconsin, Colorado, Iowa, Missouri, Maryland, and Montana. The AFL-CIO will also release congressional report cards and a poll conducted by Guy Molyneaux, the vice president of Hart Research, saying that a majority of Americans say the nation is headed in the wrong direction. (See House of Labor for more.)

Wal-Mart Watch announces a statewide advocacy campaign in support of Maryland's Fair Share Health Care Act (Senate Bill 790 and House Bill 1284). The campaign -- which will include an aggressive public education drive coupled with field outreach to business leaders, activists and elected officials – is hoping to build enough support to override a veto from Gov. Bob Ehrlich (R-MD), which is expected in mid-January.

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff holds an 11:00 am ET press conference to announce the fiscal 2006 Urban Areas Security Initiative Grants at the Homeland Security Department in Washington, DC.

The Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee holds a hearing on the nominations of Deborah T. Tate and Michael J. Copps to be members of the Federal Communications Commission at 10:30 am ET in Dirksen 106.

The White House Conference on Aging continues at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel in Washington, DC.

The US Election Assistance Commission hold a public meeting to consider the adoption of the Volunteer Voting System Guidelines and to elect the chairman and vice chairman for 2006 at 10:00 am ET.

Happy birthday, Todd S. Purdum!!!!

You won't want to miss Nightline tonight. ABC's Chris Bury reports on how the potential cooperation of Abramoff allies Michael Scanlon and Adam Kidan may impact the federal investigation into allegations of influence trading involving the lobbyists and Rep. Bob Ney (R-OH).

DeLay's districting:

The Wall Street Journal's Cummings and Bravin on the politics of the Supreme Court's decision to review the Texas redistricting plan: "Any decision by the high court is unlikely to affect the midterm elections in Texas, since primaries there are scheduled to take place a week after the March 1 oral arguments on the case."

"In a surprise move, the high court said it would consider reining in the most extreme forms of partisan gerrymandering. The court previously has rejected such challenges, concluding it is impossible to separate partisan politics from the drawing of electoral districts," writes David Savage of the Los Angeles Times. LINK

Linda Greenhouse of the New York Times writes of the suggestive "lively debate" that likely occurred in conference among the Justices who took up the Texas cases six times before issuing yesterday's order to hear them. Greenhouse also explains why all eyes will be trained on Justice Kennedy in this case and the now-likely sharpened focus in the "one person, one vote" questions at Samuel Alito's confirmation hearings. LINK

The Washington Post's Jonathan Weisman has Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D), who saw his compact Austin and Travis County district dismantled in 2003, welcoming the Court's decision to hear the case. LINK

"'With all this talk of spreading democracy abroad, I'm hopeful there might be some spreading of democracy at home now,' he said."


Bloomberg's Litvan and Stohr connect the redistricting case to be decided by the Supreme Court to DeLay's money-laundering charges and writes the latest twist is a "new setback" for both the Republicans in the House and Tom DeLay. LINK

The Houston Chronicle covers prosecutor Ronnie Earles' efforts to stall DeLay's trial while he works on cases on appeal. LINK

Attorney Michael Fjetland has officially filed to run against DeLay in the 2006 GOP primary. DeLay has defeated Fjetland on three previous occasions. LINK

Politics of Iraq:

Apparently, some welcomes are not entirely peaceful. LINK

Asked by NBC's Brian Williams whether his series of speeches on Iraq represent a movement in position and an "acknowledgement that perhaps the mission has not gone as it was originally planned, that the US would be welcomed as liberators," President Bush said: "I think we are welcomed, but it was not a peaceful welcome. . ."

Rolling Stone's year-end issue, available on newsstands Friday December 16, names Rep. Jack Murtha (D-PA) as one of its rabble-rousing headline-makers of the year. Tim Dickinson of Rolling Stone interviewed Murtha for the issue in which he asked the congressman how things went wrong in Iraq.

Murtha's response: "Plans that the military and the State Department had in place – they ignored 'em. The military tells me that when they were planning the invasion, the administration wouldn't let one of the primary three-star generals in the room. It was only civilians. An awful lot of the military has real problems with this administration."

The Washington Post's E.J. Dionne outlines the spin factor in the Iraq War. "Here's a bet on the triumph of spin. Politicians, especially Democrats, will be discouraged from saying what they really believe about Iraq for fear of offending "swing voters." Slogans about "victory" and "defeatism" will be thrown around promiscuously." LINK

In a Washington Times op-ed, David Limbaugh writes that until Democrats have "the guts" to openly admit their moral opposition to the Iraq mission, they'll be reduced to "bogus arguments about terrorist recruitment, destructive obsessing over their mythical creations that Mr. Bush lied and tortures, or the unintelligible psychobabble of John Kerry calling for nonspecific, specific timetables and the setting of benchmarks." LINK

Bush agenda:

"President Bush's job approval rating, on a long slide since his re-election last year, rebounded from historic lows in a USA TODAY/CNN/Gallup Poll taken this weekend," ledes Susan Page in her write-up of the latest poll numbers from the Nation's Newspaper. LINK

More Page: "Bush's political situation seems to have stabilized after a perilous autumn."

Note the 10% jump in the President's approval rating among independents.


While holding a leaking ice pack to one knee, DCCC Chairman Rahm Emanuel declined to echo DNC Chairman Howard Dean's prediction that Democrats would re-take control of both house of Congress in 2006 in an interview with The Hill's Peter Savodnik. LINK

"My job here is to affect, not predict," said Emanuel.

The Associated Press has the latest Quinnipiac University poll numbers out of Pennsylvania suggesting perhaps that Sen. Santorum will not be appearing at the top of the steps of Air Force One, side-by-side with the President (as he did yesterday) all that often in 2006. LINK

In response to Bob Novak's weekend column, the Tampa Tribune reports Rep. Katherine Harris (R-FL) had this to say: "'I am in this campaign until Election Day next November,' said Harris, R-Longboat Key. 'Any rumors or speculation to the contrary are completely false.'" LINK

The Republican Main Street Partnership, which supports Republican moderates, has set aside $1.2 million to defend Sen. Lincoln Chafee (R-RI), who is facing a GOP primary challenge from the right."

"A federal grand jury on Monday indicted former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman and former HealthSouth Chairman Richard Scrushy on more charges in a political corruption case," reports the AP. LINK

"Siegelman called the latest grand jury action another attempt to destroy his Democratic campaign for governor."

Roll Call's Paul Kane reports that a coalition of labor leaders, progressive activists and top Congressional Democrats have reached a "final agreement" on transforming the nonprofit group that helped lead the fight against President Bush's Social Security overhaul into a "permanent, multimillion-dollar entity pushing a broader liberal agenda in the 2006 midterms."

Per the Boston Globe's Raphael Lewis, "Democratic candidate for governor Deval L. Patrick raised slightly more campaign money than Attorney General Thomas F. Reilly since July, as he struggles to offset Reilly's overwhelming money advantage for next year's campaign, state records show." LINK

2006: Pirro:

The powerful Cooper/Healy double byline in the New York Times on the consensus the New York Republican county chairs formed yesterday to urge Jeanine Pirro to drop her Senate bid. LINK

". . .Republican leaders said after the vote that their entreaty to Ms. Pirro was not open-ended: They wanted her to switch races by the end of the year, or else they would consider other possible candidates for attorney general."

The tabloid coverage is too muted to bother to link to, which tells you a lot about the state of things for Ms. Pirro.

The Schwarzenegger Era:

The Los Angeles Times' Weinstein and Nicholas offer up a news analysis looking at Gov. Schwarzenegger's detailed denial of clemency grounded in his belief that Stanley "Tookie" Williams had not been reformed. Weinstein and Nicholas conclude their analysis with a political lens writing, "[Kevin] Spillane and others stressed that a decision to grant clemency would have angered conservatives and that the decision to allow the execution would not have much downside for Schwarzenegger." LINK

The Washington Post Notes that no prisoner has been granted clemency in California since "Gov. Ronald Reagan commuted the death sentence of a mentally retarded man in 1967." LINK

Politics of national security:

The New York Times' Sanger and Schmitt on the President's confidence that a deal on the McCain amendment protecting against torture of detainees will be brokered. LINK

In a Washington Times op-ed, former Homeland Security chief Tom Ridge criticizes the House and Senate for eliminating funding for the next step in the reorganization of the Department of Homeland Security. LINK

The Wall Street Journal's editorial board sees some progress in the torture debate but writes: "We realize that our views on this subject won't carry the day, at least not until the U.S. suffers a more serious attack."

The politics of Katrina:

President Bush tells NBC News' Brian Williams that he is not a racist, reports the New York Times. LINK

Residents of one New Orleans community placed an ad in Roll Call pleading with Congress to help them rebuild. LINK

Mary Curtius of the Los Angeles Times writes up the emails Blanco staffers were sending which appear quite concerned with the Governor's image in the days following Katrina. LINK

Big Casino budget politics:

The Wall Street Journal's David Rogers reports that House-Senate negotiators reached a deal on a big domestic spending bill whose austerity led to an "embarrassing" Republican defeat last month. Note the details about the Speaker of the House and his targeting of Senate attempts to rename some buildings after their own.

Laura Litvan of Bloomberg News describes the two camps currently engaged in the spending and tax battle within the Republican Party -- the Jeff Flake camp and the Michael Castle camp. LINK

The US Department of the Treasury announced yesterday that the federal deficit was $83.06 billion in November, up 43% from a year earlier and a bit higher than an estimate by the CBO, the AP reports. LINK

The Washington Post's Dana Milbank Sktches Gale Norton, the Bush Administration's "gusher" for expanded oil drilling in the Arctic. LINK

In an op-ed in the Washington Post, Felix Rohatyn and Warren Rudman put new plan for spending on the table. LINK


The Boston Globe's Scott Lehigh proposes ways to change the nominating calendar that would make New Hampshire important, but not pivotal. LINK

2008: Republicans:

Sen. George Allen (R-VA) is prepared to reverse course (Note his state director's refusal to call it a flip-flop. . . .) and oppose an amendment making hate crimes against gay people a federal offense when it next goes before the Senate, despite his June 2004 in favor of such an amendment. Here's Peter Hardin of the Richmond Times-Dispatch with more: LINK

The Boston Globe's Scott Helman follows up on Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA) telling Chris Matthews that he supports the President's efforts to drill in the Artic for oil. LINK

House of Labor:

The AFL-CIO's "Who's on Our Side" campaign will include press conferences, ed board meetings, and conference calls with in-state opinion makers before the end of the month to announce the campaign locally and to release mid-term report cards.

The report cards will score the performance of the state congressional delegation in five categories: jobs and wages, retirement security, health care, tax fairness, and education.

The AFL-CIO will examine votes cast by members of Congress on trade, the minimum wage, community wage standards, child labor standards, union protections, pension protections, Medicaid, health care, consumer protections, "tax cuts for the wealthy," the estate tax, student loans, and funding for public education.

The second element of the campaign will be a major speech by John Sweeney in early 2006 challenging President Bush to address issues vital to working families in his State of the Union.

The third phase of the campaign will include local events, like worker roundtables, designed to inflame grassroots activism and put a face on larger policy issues.

The AFL-CIO has hired ten political operatives to assist with its campaign in Minnesota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida, Wisconsin, Colorado, Iowa, Missouri, Maryland, and Montana.


Fresh back from a Princeton conference sponsored by the James Madison program, Michael Barone writes in a Washington Times op-ed that conservatives are worried that they have allowed their movement to "converge too much with Mr. Bush and his Republican Party." LINK

Happy 50th, Congressman Dingell! LINK

George Will chronicles the life and times of Eugene McCarthy. LINK