The Note: Sprint to November



The tools of the political reporting trade are these: luck, begging, shoe leather, experience, good hair, persistence, being on Mike Allen's lists, judgment, and (most of all) leverage.

Webster's defines "leverage" as "positional advantage; power to act effectively." (OK, whom are we kidding? defines it that way.)

We bring this up because last night, when we called a Top Democratic Strategist and told her/him that we had gotten a hold of a Republican memo laying out the advice the President and Karl Rove are getting about how to ace their midterms again (Thanks, Jim Kelly.), he/she agreed to leak to us a comparable Democratic memo.

So, with no analysis necessary, on this Friday of polls galore, weak growth figures, and a POTUS TV interview -- and just days before the State of the Union rocks the political world in countless ways and just a week until the Super Bowl -- here are the two memos. They are virtual roadmaps to understanding the States of the Two Parties in this election year:


To: the Honorable Karl C. Rove

From: [name redacted]

Date: 1/25/2006

Re: Strong and Right

Seems pretty simple -- no metaphors required:

Faith, family, and freedom. Keep you safer. Lower taxes and less government. Reform, reform, reform. Some Democrats have a pre-9/11 mindset. Howard Dean, John Kerry, Michael Moore.


To: The Honorable Senator Schumer and The Honorable Congressman Emanuel

From: Sosnik, Lockhart, and Fabiani

Date: 1/25/06

Re: The State of the Party is . . . weak (and wrong)

As The Bus -- the heart and soul of the Steel City -- gets ready to rumble over the Seahawks (Note: two Blue State teams in the Super Bowl for the second year in a row!), the Democratic Party is in need of a playbook.

So we offer just such a playbook for you, the Democratic Party's "Buses" – for you, Sen. Schumer, in your capacity as chair of the DSCC, and Rep. Emanuel, for you in your role as chair of the DCCC.

But this playbook won't do you any good if the members of our party don't have the discipline to stick to it. (We've Noticed that in spite of your best efforts, discipline among the Democrats has proved elusive in recent weeks.)

Our playbook is fairly simple, but it's also hard -- hard like converting in the red zone (only we're talking about Red States). The playbook reads like this: For the 2006 cycle, we need to start by playing tough, hard-hitting defense that will force some turnovers -- and when that's done, we need to turn right around and score on offense.

What does that mean in English? Essentially, we, as Democrats, need to stop talking about nationalizing the election – and actually do it. Here's how:

- Keep Bush's approval rating inside of the low 40's: First, appreciate that Bush is the face and image of the Republican Party nationally. Then, realize that to have a shot at winning back seats in states and districts where there are significant built-in Republicans advantages, we need to push his numbers to the low 40's. (High 30's is preferable but harder to do.) Remember, if Bush gets close to 50 we will have a 2006 that will look an awful lot like 2002.

- Sack Bush's numbers by gang-tackling him where he is weakest -- his veracity/character/refusal to be straight with the American people: We don't win when we get into debates most suited for Fletcher School of Diplomacy seminars. But we do win when we hit Bush on not being honest -- on WMD, CIA agents, Katrina, and more. When we do that, we prevent him from crafting a clean message. For example: We were winning on Iraq when we went after Bush's lies about the situation on the ground -- but we lost our edge when we became bogged down with whether troops should leave; when they should leave; how they should leave; and whether we were winning or losing. The fact is, voters are receptive to the honesty message. On any issue, our message needs to be: "Bush is not being straight on ___________, just like he hasn't been straight with us on everything else."

- Recognize that Bush's strategic play since September of 2000 is very simple: keeping America safe: Bush has a simple game plan and we all know what it is. Virtually every day when he is not on vacation, he goes out and pounds the keeping-America-safe message like he is playing Whack-a-mole at the carnival. This is a strong message and we need to recognize that we cannot engage on issues like wire tapping, where we discuss the details of the Fourth Amendment, while he talks about doing all he can to keep America safe. We may win this debate in the salons of Harvard Law School or a booth in Café Deluxe, but we lose everywhere else -- especially in the exurbs the columnists and (apparently) our party have just discovered.

- Most importantly, stay on the offensive:

First, implement a relentless defensive blitz: The best offense is a tenacious defense. This means putting out news, doing events, staying on message about Bush's challenges on being straight. Every day there is an opportunity (like the recent Katrina memos), and we need to take advantage. Let's keep Bush off-balance, off-message and hitting the one button that we know drives down his votes.

Second, attack where Bush is weak on national security: Recognizing that Bush wants to play on national security doesn't mean following the 2002 playbook and rolling over -- it means undermining Bush on veracity and pivoting to Iran, North Korea, and OBL. As people who spend time in focus groups in Columbus, the Quad Cities, Albuquerque, and elsewhere, we know that the American people do not like the idea that the guy who took our people hostage in Iran now is arming himself with nuclear weapons. Swing voters don't like that the last member of the Axis of Evil, North Korea, will soon look to feed itself by hocking off a nuke to any Middle Eastern charity that cashes in some of its construction company stocks. And these swing voters don't understand why we're still looking for OBL. [And for those who want to discuss Iraq, here's the recipe: start by saying Bush hasn't been straight; follow that with a "we need to win for the men and women on the ground"; and end by Noting that it is impossible to win while Bush is still President because he lies. Pretty please -- let's not discuss probable cause or exit strategy ever again.]

Third, pound the ball on the ground by showing that it is Democrats who will stand up for the truth and move us forward: Let's stand for something that actually matters to people in a way that will brand the party as truly being the party of reform for the middle class. We need to appreciate that we are not in power and have no obligation to put out proposals that can be immediately implemented. Let's keep it simple and identify three truly BIG ideas that will communicate to voters that we actually want to do something to make their lives better. Here is a halftime snack of a pu-pu platter of ideas to choose from: let's have tax reform that eliminates taxes for those making $50,000 or less and reduce forms to one page (front and back); let's clean up Congress by putting in place actual term limits; let's immediately impose sanctions on Iran and keep all options on the table; let's have an energy plan that makes the U.S. independent from the Middle East in ten years; let's have a sin tax on the porn industry that pays for college for every kid in America that gets a B average; let's create a string of high tech universities and colleges to meet the challenges of the flat world; let's establish a national 401(k) (thanks, Gene).

Finally, let's show our commitment to the importance of faith in public life by praying for additional Republican incumbent retirements. Because without more of those, we will remain the minority party, no matter what happens.

This is the playbook. Now go follow it!


Having read and digested his party's strategy memo over a glass of orange juice, President Bush has a 9:30 am ET meeting with the Senate Republican Conference, an 11:10 am ET meeting with Saad Hariri, a Member of the Lebanese Parliament, and an interview with CBS' Bob Schieffer, which is slated to air on the Evening News and on Face the Nation.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) has filed for cloture to end debate on Samuel Alito's Supreme Court nomination. ABC News' Liz Marlantes reports that the cloture vote will be at 4:30 pm ET on Monday with a final vote coming at 11:00 am ET on Tuesday, with the slight catch that the two leaders could still "vitiate" -- or agree to a change in the schedule. Alito met with Sen. Kent Conrad at 9:00 am ET (D-ND) and he meets with Sen. Evan Bayh (D-IN) at 10:15 am ET.

NRCC Chairman Tom Reynolds (R-NY) holds a "pen and pad" briefing to discuss the midterm elections at 10:30 am ET at NRCC headquarters in Washington, DC.

Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) address the US Conference of Mayors at 9:30 am ET. Sen. Reid will criticize Republicans in Washington for cutting "17,000 personnel from the National Guard," not cooperating with the Katrina investigation, and for not adequately funding homeland security.

Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) is in the Pacific Northwest today. The former First Lady is the special guest at a 3:00 pm ET fundraiser for Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) in Seattle, WA. Sen. Clinton will raise money for her own re-election campaign in Portland, OR at 9:30 pm ET. She will be introduced at her fundraiser by Gov. Ted Kulongoski (D-OR). In addition to the money events, she joins Sen. Cantwell at "Seattle Biodiesel" to call for increased federal investment in alternative fuels to match the efforts already underway at the local level.

Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA) participates in the New Hampshire Republican State Committee's Issues and Answers Series on Education in Milford, NH at 6:30 pm ET.

Along with the governors of Wyoming, Texas and Wisconsin, Gov. Mike Huckabee (R-AR) is now in Pakistan, per the Arkansas Democrat Gazette. LINK

Paul Weyrich of the Free Congress Foundation, Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, former Gov. John Engler of the National Association of Manufacturers, and Frank Gaffney of the Center for Security Policy participate in the first annual Conservative State of the Union event at the Free Congress Foundation in Washington, DC at 1:00 pm ET.

The Progressive Policy Institute holds a 10:00 am ET forum on "Progressive Tax Reform" with Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-IL), Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, John Talisman, the former assistant secretary of the treasury for tax policy, and PPI's Will Marshall in Dirksen 226.

The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities holds an 11:00 am ET conference call briefing to discuss the budget forecast released yesterday by the Congressional Budget Office.

The grand jury handling the CIA leak investigation is scheduled to meet at 9:30 am ET at the US District Court in Washington, DC.

On Saturday in San Francisco, CA, Sen. Clinton participates in a "Conversation with Jane Pauley" sponsored by the local Bar Association. C-SPAN plans on airing the HRC/Pauley conversation on Feb. 4 at 8:00 pm ET.

RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman will deliver the keynote address to the Kansas Day Annual Dinner in Topeka, KS on Saturday night at the Capital Plaza Hotel.

Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) and Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE) will be among George Stephanopoulos' guests on "This Week" Sunday morning. They will look ahead to the President's State of the Union address, the Alito vote, and much more.

Da polls:

A new ABC News/Washington Post poll reports on the Abramoff scandal that Americans want disclosure, "the survey found that three in four--76 percent--of all Americans said Bush should disclose contacts between aides and Abramoff while 18 percent disagreed. Two in three Republicans joined with eight in 10 Democrats and political independents in favoring disclosure, according to the poll. LINK

The nut graph from the Nagourney/Elder New York Times write-up on their poll showing mixed support for the President's warrantless domestic wiretapping program: LINK

"The findings, and follow-up interviews with some participants, clearly suggest that Mr. Bush has an opportunity to make the dispute over the program play to his political advantage. He has been pointing to the threat of another terrorist attack to justify the eavesdropping program and is trying, for the third election in a row, to suggest that he and his party are more aggressive about protecting the nation than are Democrats."

Be sure to Note, too, the wrong track numbers and congressional approval ratings that will cause some Republican heartburn this morning, as their bloggers scramble to look for oversampling of Democrats and other methodological gambits.

Ron Brownstein's Bloomberg/Los Angeles Times poll write-up appears under the headline, "Bush's Ratings Sink, but Trust Remains." LINK

Brownstein goes on to Note Bush's record low (for a Los Angeles Times poll) 43 percent approval, but his continued -- if diminished -- strength on keeping the country safe.

"The contrasting findings frame what could be a crucial dynamic in this year's elections: Whether broad, though slightly eroded, confidence in Bush's handling of terrorism will outweigh persistent dissatisfaction over his performance on domestic concerns and the war in Iraq," writes Brownstein.

As for the congressional numbers, there are enough to go around for the inevitable Burton/Forti/Singer/Nick press releases hitting an inbox near you soon.

Blomberg's poll write-up. LINK

Susan Page of USA Today reports on a USA Today/CNN/Gallup poll taken last week and interviews across the country reveal that most Americans are skeptical that Mr. Bush has the best plan to address the issues closes to their hearts -- like health care and the corruption -- are divided on the war and pessimistic about the economy. LINK


Make sure to read the New York Times front page look at how investment banks on Wall Street may benefit from the health savings accounts program the President is expected to promote in his State of the Union address. We wonder if Democrats will fold some of the points made here into their talking points on Tuesday night and Wednesday. LINK

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa to the Los Angeles Times on his upcoming SOTU Spanish-language response: "My remarks depend, in part, on what the president has to say, but I think my focus will be more an alternative vision, as opposed to one that spends a lot of time criticizing the administration." LINK

Sheryl Gay Stolberg of the New York Times describes the Pelosi and Durbin Democratic pre-buttal offerings as "a sweeping agenda that was long on vision and short on specifics." LINK

The Wall Street Journal's Wirey John Harwood Notes that President Bush's ratings dropped after two of four earlier State of the Union addresses.

Samuel Alito for Associate Justice:

After CNN reported on Thursday that "Sen. John Kerry has decided to support a filibuster to block the nomination of Judge Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court," the RNC's communications shop issued the kind of blistering press release for which they were famous for in 2004. The Davos angle was more than some Republicans could even stand -- or resist.

Topped with a quote from RNC spokesgal Tracey Schmitt that somehow worked in the words "out of touch," "reckless," and "thoughtless" (not to mention the words "for" and "against"), all in short order, the RNC missive goes on to use quotes from former Kerry adviser Mike McCurry and another (unnamed) "frustrated Democratic strategist" expressing their displeasure with Kerry in the current issue of GQ. The RNC rounds out the attack on Kerry's flirtation with a filibuster by quoting Democratic Sens. Byrd, Johnson, Landrieu, Pryor, Salazar, Feinstein, and Nelson dismissing the appropriateness of filibustering Alito.

Speaking of a potential filibuster, the Wall Street Journal's Harwood says Democrats are bracing for North Dakota's Conrad and Dorgan to come out in support of Alito. Combined with Nelson of Nebraska, Johnson of South Dakota, and Byrd of West Virginia, "that would give Republicans 60 votes if their party stays unified."

"Democratic aides slammed the move as tone-deaf -- a key complaint against Kerry during his butchered presidential bid," writes Ian Bishop of the New York Post. LINK

"In addition to Kennedy and Kerry, supporters of a filibuster included Sens. Barbara Boxer of California, Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, Debbie Stabenow of Michigan and Paul S. Sarbanes of Maryland," reports Maura Reynolds of the Los Angeles Times. LINK

Will Sen. Lincoln Chafee (R-RI) break ranks with his party on Alito?

The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza on Chafee's "Hobson's choice": "A Chafee vote for Alito will make for considerable fodder for either" of Chafee's Democratic opponents "(Secretary of State Matt) Brown or (former state Attorney General) Sheldon Whitehouse. But a vote against Alito could give (Cranston Mayor Steve) Laffey," Chafee's Republican primary opponent, "the GOP nomination." LINK

Cillizza has Chafee campaign manager Ian Lang saying that "from a purely political standpoint," the Alito vote "is a lose-lose situation."

"Lang said Chafee will put aside political interests, however, and make a decision that is in the 'best interests of the country and the best interests of Rhode Island.'"

While appearing on the CBS "Early Show," Biden was asked about the possibility of an Alito filibuster and said: "No. I think that a filibuster is not likely to bear any fruit here."

Tim Russert dismissed the possibility of a filibuster while appearing on "Today," assuring Matt Lauer that the Republicans have the 60 votes they need to end debate.

Russert said filibuster supporters have only "about 35 votes."

"It's not going to happen," he declared. "Alito will be confirmed."

Under a "Bring It On" header, the Wall Street Journal ed board savors the thought of the Gentleman from Massachusetts pushing for an Alito filibuster. "Imagine the political gain for Republicans after a Supreme Court filibuster – with all of its 24/7 publicity – by blue-state liberals against a modest Italian-American with impeccable legal credentials and stainless ethics."

The Washington Post writes that top Senate Democrats call for the start of a filibuster against Judge Alito's confirmation and "Republicans have relished the idea of a Democratic-led filibuster, saying it helps them portray the minority party as obstructionist and beholden to left-leaning groups." LINK

The Boston Globe reports that for Sen. Kerry, this may be the most "bold" move since 2004, Kerry leads the filibuster movement which pressures many Democrats to choose. LINK

James Rowley of Blooberg News on potential filibuster developments. LINK

The economy:

"The economy grew at only a 1.1 percent annual rate in the fourth quarter of last year, the slowest pace in three years, amid belt-tightening by consumers facing spiraling energy costs," reports the Associated Press on the latest Commerce Department report on gross domestic product. LINK

"Even with the feeble showing from October through December, the economy registered respectable overall growth of 3.5 percent for all of 2005 - a year when business expansion was undermined by devastating Gulf Coast hurricanes."

RNC vs. Reid:

In its continued to effort to paint the Democratic Party as ineffective in keeping Americans safe from terrorism, the Republican National Committee will unveil a new web video targeting Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid later today. The only audio in the spot (other than Ken Mehlman's melodiously delivered 'paid for by the RNC' tag line) is Sen. Reid declaring in December, "We killed the PATRIOT Act."

The video includes lots of ominous sounding music and culminates by urging people to "Call Democrat Harry Reid. Tell him national security is more important than politics."

The video will also go up on television this weekend on national cable and Las Vegas, NV stations, but the RNC refuses to discuss the specifics of the buy.

Another RNC offensive being launched today also features Sen. Reid. The RNC research department will send around its inaugural "Democrats Ethics Breakdown" document in an attempt to make the ethics scandals swirling around Washington of late a bipartisan matter. Reid's photo is next to the header, "Abramoff Democrats," which focuses on the Abramoff-associated money Reid has received and refused to return.

The percentage chance that Ken Mehlman will apologize to Reid for this effort: ZERO.

It's also interesting to Note that Ted Kennedy's photo appears next to the "Democrat Scandals" header, despite that entire section being dedicated to Rep. Jefferson (D-LA). The RNC's Brian Jones informs The Note that this is "a document whose structure will not change including the headers for each section, so every time we highlight a Democrat Ethics Scandal it'll be Sen Kennedy's picture that will be there."

Dean's Democrats:

During his chat with Tim Russert, NBC's Matt Lauer conceded that after doing some research: "We found that technically speaking Howard Dean may be correct" with regards to his contention Thursday on "Today" that Democrats took "not one dime" from disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

While being more precise with his language than Katie Couric was yesterday, Lauer went back to citing research done by the Center for Responsive Politics that shows 34 percent of the money given by Abramoff's "associates and clients" went to Democrats.

Couric made the mistake Thursday of saying Abramoff and Abramoff clients.

Russert, aware of the potential wrath of bloggers (not to mention Karen Finney) walked the line carefully.

POTUS speaks:

"It is uncertain how far the Administration will go to cut off debate on the issue, even if there is a drive to give the White House authority to continue the practice," the Wall Street Journal's Christopher Cooper reports regarding secret surveillance of those in America.

At the press conference yesterday, the President distanced himself from the Abramoff scandal, said "no" to torture, and spoke further on the NSA spying program yesterday, the Washington Post reports. LINK

The Los Angeles Times' Wallsten and Gerstenzang lede their coverage of the "wide-ranging" press conference with the President's move to distance himself from disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff. LINK

The Washington Times on the President's presser. LINK

"Mr. Bush appeared relaxed in the briefing room, which his aides say he prefers for news conferences instead of the more formal East Room," writes Elisabeth Bumiller in her New York Times wrap of the presidential presser. LINK

The Abramoff affair:

In light of Noel Hillman's departure as chief prosecutor in the Abramoff investigation due to his nomination for a federal judgeship, some Democratic lawmakers continue to press the Administration for a special counsel to take over the investigation. The New York Times' Shenon and Bumiller have that story. LINK

In a press conference yesterday, President Bush refused to release photos of himself with convicted lobbyist Jack Ambramoff and fended off questions about Ambramoff's ties to the White House. The president said, "I don't know him." LINK

Michelle Mittelstadt of the Dallas Morning News writes that Bill Mateja, a Dallas attorney, replied to DeLay's statements that he is not under investigation with: "'It very well could be that evidence develops which would tend to incriminate Mr. DeLay, in which case his status would change'" LINK


The Houston Chronicle's Samantha Levine Notes that the two liberal organizations to put out anti-DeLay ads in the Houston area used non-profit branches to buy the air-time, allowing them to avoid disclosing who their donors are. LINK

Blunt v. Boehner v. Shadegg:

For the Wall Street Journal's front page, Brody Mullins reports that it is both "legal and commonplace" for lobbyists to raise large amounts of money for lawmakers. The practice, Mr. Mullins writes, includes both Democrats and Republicans, both Blunt and Boehner.

The Wall Street Journal's David Rogers reports that Majority Whip Roy Blunt (R-MO) is "widely seen as the frontrunner" but he "also has seemed insecure . . ."

"The latest episode surrounds a closed-door party meeting Wednesday, before the Feb. 2 leadership vote. Aides to Rep. Deborah Pryce (R., Ohio), who chairs the House Republican Conference, had discussed a proposed format that allowed each candidate to speak for two minutes, after which there would be 10 minutes for questions."

"A spokeswoman for Mr. Blunt said that he would 'be more than willing absolutely' to agree to a question-and-answer session 'if that's what Ms. Pryce decided.' But behind the scenes, Republicans said there was resistance from the Blunt camp, which felt caught by surprise by the suggested format. And in a letter announcing the meeting, Ms. Pryce doesn't mention questions, writing only that 'Any potential candidate will be given an opportunity to speak briefly to the Conference.'"

Rogers closes his piece with Rep. Ray LaHood (R-IL), a Boehner backer, predicting that Boehner will survive the first vote and then pick up enough of the Shadegg camp to prevail over Blunt.

Rep. Jim Kolbe (R-AZ) is pushing others in the House to support fellow Arizonan, Rep. John Shadegg (R-AZ) in the race for House majority leader, according to C.J. Karamargin of the Arizona Daily Star. LINK

"In a letter sent Thursday to every GOP House member, the Tucson lawmaker wrote that Shadegg, 'represents a clean break with the recent past and the genuine opportunity for real reform.'"

Stephen Dinan of the Washington Times reports that the House majority's whip race has become a clear indication of how conservative House Republicans have become. LINK

Follow the Leader(ship race):

Jessica Boulanger from the Blunt operation:

Admit it. After Thursday you'll forget all about our election and turn your (collective Gang of...) attention back to things like: the Senate, the Roberts Court, Wallace/Bartlett, and Hillary's fundraising.

And we'll survive.

But to thank you for your recent focus (and before our 15 minutes are up), we offer The Best in Blunt Awards:

Best bet (in keeping with the time-honored Congressional tradition): Blunt will win. We'll lay 2 tickets to Branson's Shoji Tabuchi Show on the line. Mr. Steel? Mr. Smith? (Just do us a favor and don't wager the following: Suntan lotion... a username for RedState... a date with Terry Holt).

Best talking the talk: Team Shadegg-ellic. Last time we checked, Mini-Mo wasn't anything to brag about. Yeeeah, baby!

Best walking the walk: Team Blunt. Never wavering from the basics (Members, Members, Members), never forgetting our audience (Members, Members, Members) and wracking up supporters (Members, Members and More Members!)

From Team Shadegg's Michael Steel:

What Team Blunt doesn't want Members to think about this weekend:

1) Are commitments made in a 2-way race binding in a 3-way race?

2) Congressional approval is lower than any time since 1994

3) If the bulk of the Florida delegation backs one candidate, and that candidate loses, is that good for Florida?

4) Ditto Texas

5) The cover of National Review

6) Why would anyone secretly commit to Blunt? He's the incumbent AND the frontrunner.

7) What does the media coverage look like on Feb. 3 if Blunt wins? What stories appear on Sunday, Feb. 5? What is the coverage like through November?

8) House Republicans don't get the credit they deserve on the economy, War on Terror, etc. Will that get better if Blunt is elected?

9) How happy will the base be?

10) Let's say it together: "SECRET BALLOT"

It's not over til Feb.2.

Kevin Smith from Congressman Boehner's office weighs in with this:

This race is going to come down to one thing: leadership.

Who has the leadership skills to unite Republicans? Who can provide the leadership necessary to renew our courage and confidence to tackle the big issues like entitlement spending? And who has the leadership qualities to communicate our united Republican message to the American people?

John Boehner.

John's the only candidate with a plan to help lead House Republicans in a new direction. He's the only candidate with a plan for lobbying and earmark reforms ... for institutional reform ... and budget reform.

John has talked with his colleagues about unifying behind a common vision. That's real leadership. Whether as a small business owner, a president of his homeowners' association, a state legislator, an upstart backbencher, or an effective committee chair, John Boehner has led with a vision. Now, he's ready to do the same as Majority Leader.

Terry Holt, Gray Beard:

Terry Holt, a longtime adviser to Congressman Boehner, is also a wizend veteran of the Washington wars. Since the world of Republican strategists operates on the same rules of "The Capital Gang," Holt is exercising a point of personal privilege and demanding space in today's Note.

Who are we to argue or resist?

Thus, Holt writes:

Having been randomly mentioned in The Note in the last several days, I thought I might pass along some advice to all the bright, young, hard-working press secretaries out there working so hard to help their bosses in the upcoming leadership elections.

Whether you are the very example of dignity or perhaps "vaguely repentant," please reflect on these lessons learned, sometimes the hard way, over 20 years in this dubious profession.

Press Secretary 101, the top ten things to know about being a good flack:

10. Stay on message, but make sure its good message.

9. Remember your boss: It's their ass, not yours, if you screw up (and then it really will be your ass).

8. Reading your name in the press is not necessarily a good thing for the boss. (Note to JB, write this one on your hand or something.)

7. Humor is good, but make sure It's funny. Ask Ron Bonjean.

6. The aroma of desperation is obvious to everyone, PULEEZE don't jump the shark, or the couch, your age or cultural frame of reference as the case may be.

5. When you have made your point, shut up. (In my book, there is a picture of Howard Dean next to this reference.)

4 There is no substitute for defeat in the shaping of good skills. Ask Mike Meehan.

3. Humility is crucial. Someone or some story comes along and crushes everyone, eventually.

2. Respect your opponent. They make your job worth doing. Besides, this is America, you're supposed to have an opponent.

1. Respect the majority. Believe me, its really hard electing enough people to get you your job back.

Good luck everybody and props to The Note for keeping it real.

Lobbying reform:

The Washington Post's Jonathan Weisman and Charles R. Babcock report on the possible corruption of "special interest funding," that seems to flood Congress. The Washington Post reports "these relationships have coincided with the rapid growth in the volume of home-state pork-barrel projects, commonly called earmarks, that have swelled appropriations bills in recent year." LINK

Big Casino budget politics:

"The latest Congressional Budget Office data also suggest President Bush is unlikely to be able to keep his promise to cut the federal deficit in half by the end of his term," reports the Associated Press. LINK

Republican Sens. John McCain and Tom Coburn sent a letter to their colleagues on Wednesday night announcing they will use Senate rules to force members to vote on the line-item projects members of Congress insert into spending bills to benefit their districts. LINK

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal's Jackie Calmes, Senate Budget Committee Chairman Judd Gregg says he will use his budget-writing post to press Congress to reduce the costs of entitlement programs. "But the political difficulty is illustrated by the fact that the House and Senate haven't finished a deficit-reduction bill left over from last year . . ."

The Fitzgerald investigation:

Scooter Libby's attorneys asked a federal judge "to compel prosecutors to turn over all information obtained from journalists and news organizations about former" CIA "operative Valerie Plame," the Wall Street Journal's Anne Marie Squeo reports.

The New York Times on the same. LINK

The Washington Post: LINK

Politics of Iran:

David Sanger and Elaine Sciolino of the New York Times on the President's support for the Russian proposal to fully control and implement an Iranian civilian nuclear fuel program: "Mr. Bush's explicit public endorsement puts all of the major powers on record supporting the proposal, even as most acknowledge that it is a significant concession to Iran and runs the risk that the country will drag out the negotiations while continuing to produce nuclear material. Yet officials say they believe it is the best face-saving strategy to pursue a negotiated settlement with Iran." LINK

In what may be the most interesting polling result of the day, the Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg News poll "found that 57% of Americans favor military intervention if Iran's Islamic government pursues a program that could enable it to build nuclear arms." LINK

The New York Sun's Josh Gerstein reminds readers that President Bush seems now to have come around to John Kerry's 2004 approach to Iran. LINK


The New York Daily News reports Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA) believes Sen. Hillary Clinton is the most likely Democrat to be her party's presidential nominee in 2008. LINK

2008: Democrats:

Hillary Clinton tapped into healthcare issues again during a visit at Marra's Pharmacy in Cohoes, NY, saying that "'We're a smart country. We're a rich country -- why do we want to waste billions and billions of dollars instead of providing health care to the people who need it?'," reports Elizabeth Benjamin of the Times Union. LINK

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports that in addition to bringing in some campaign cash for Sen. Cantwell, Sen. Clinton will also be raising money for her reelection campaign at a private residence in the Seattle area today. LINK

The Associated Press picks up on The Oregonian report from yesterday that Oregon veterans (including John Kerry's buddy Jim Rassmann) oppose Sen. Clinton's appearance in Portland today due to her support for the Iraq war and her "plan to take Oregon donations that are needed elsewhere." LINK

John Edwards spoke about raising the minimum wage, abuse of executive power, and his opposition to the Alito nomination in a speech yesterday at Mount Union College in Ohio, reports Sandra M. Klepach of the Akron Beacon Journal. LINK

Retired Gen. Wesley Clark made a visit to Houston, TX yesterday to endorse Bob Gammage, Democratic candidate for Governor, reports Kristen Mack of the Houston Chronicle. LINK

2008: Republicans:

Gov. Romney spoke to an exceptionally well-attended Christian Science Monitor luncheon Thursday. Here is what was on display:

--David Cook, a "tier-one moderator" if there ever was one, got the ball rolling by introducing Romney as an "inspiring riches to riches story."

--Against-type policy goals: While he was not entirely clear about how the Commonwealth of Massachusetts would capture the money needed to pay for his program, Romney's "private, market-based" approach to getting everyone in his state health insurance sounded like the type of against-type policy proposal that works with general election audiences (think Bush and education in 2000).

--Romney's rhetorical approach to Washington corruption scandals: "I don't have a problem with lobbying. I have a problem with people only hearing one side."

--A self-deprecating style: Gov. Romney made light of the way his father's bid for the GOP presidential nomination ended, saying: "He led in the polls until he got brainwashed."

--David Broder solidified his position as Dean Broder when Cook informed the reporters in the room that Broder was in attendance many years ago when another Gov. Romney was eying the GOP presidential nomination.

Gov. Romney discussed yesterday where he differs from the Bush Administration, specifically on decisions in the Iraq war and the Medicare prescription drug benefit. He also touched on '08 presidential aspirations, according to the Christian Science Monitor's Cook. LINK

"Romney downplayed the impact his Mormon faith would have on evangelical Republican voters: 'First of all the great majority of Americans and the great majority of the people in my own party ... frankly couldn't care less what someone's religion is.'"

The Washington Post has Romney peeling away from the Bush Administrations view of healthcare. LINK

The Boston Globe reports that Romney, "left little doubt that he is actively considering a national campaign," adding that Romney believes his Mormon religion, although dividing would help him when it comes reaching the Christian evangelical vote. LINK

The Boston Herald on Romney's remarks that Sen. Clinton will get the Democratic bid in 2008. LINK

The Globe links to a transcript of Gov. Romney's remarks: LINK

Scott Helmann of the Boston Globe reports that Trent Wisecup will become a full-time strategist for Romney who is about to lose Michael Murphy, "in part because Murphy has also been a top adviser to Sen. John McCain" and "has said he would remain neutral if both seek the presidency in 2008." LINK

Deb Orin dedicates her New York Post column to Rudy Giuliani's recent speech to a Christian evangelical group in Orlando, FL. Be sure to read Republican pollster Jim McLaughlin's kicker quote. LINK

In Switzerland, McCain expressed his concern with torture and US adherence to treaties, reports the AP in the Aftenposten. LINK

The New York Post picks up the Arizona Republic's reporting that Sen. McCain and his wife have slashed the sale price of their Arizona home by $500,000 to $3.75 million. LINK


The Wall Street Journal's Harwood has House Democrats saying that the 2006 outcome "remains in doubt" in "as manyu as 50 districts." NRCC's Carl Forti says: "Maybe 30 at most." Stu Rothenberg puts the number "in play" at 42. Three-fourths of those seats are currently held by GOPers.

Harwood also reports that ImpeachPAC, a group backing Democrats committed to forcing Bush from office, raised $47,000 in its first two months.

The Los Angeles Times' Brownstein looks at a potential protest candidacy emerging for Sen. Lieberman in a Democratic primary this year. LINK

The New York Times on Ed Cox (again) deciding not to seek the GOP nomination against Sen. Hillary Clinton: LINK

Pat Healy of the New York Times demonstrates why New York political reporters are going to have so much fun covering the Democratic primary for Attorney General this year. LINK

Errol Louis of the New York Daily News gives us his thumbs-down opinion on the newly-formed Spitzer-Paterson team. LINK

Note to Spitzer: Errol's last line in the article reads: "Full disclosure: My wife is an aide to Spitzer."

The Plain Dealer on Rep. Bob Ney (R-OH) running for re-election and proclaiming that "fiction will soon be separated from fact. My name will be cleared," writes Sabrina Eaton. LINK

The Enquirer and the Columbus Dispatch on the same: LINK


The New York Times' Kirkpatrick looks at Democratic efforts in Georgia and Alabama to shed the secular image often associated with their national brethren by proposing Bible classes in public schools. LINK