The Note: The Note

WASHINGTON, Jan. 31

NEWS SUMMARY

President and Mrs. Bush are scheduled to depart the White House at approximately 8:35 pm ET to make their way to the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue. Shortly after 9:01 pm ET, the President will be announced and enter the House Chamber. Per White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan, the speech has been running about 36 minutes in length without applause. (ABC's Karen Travers reminds us that last year's speech ran 53 minutes with applause.)

Somewhere between two and five minutes after President Bush departs the House Chamber, Gov. Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Mayor Antonia Villaraigosa (D-Los Angeles) will deliver their live Democratic responses in English and Spanish, respectively. Gov. Kaine will deliver his address from the Executive Mansion in Richmond, VA. Mayor Villaraigosa will offer his live rebuttal from the mayor's residence in Los Angeles, CA.

ABC will carry President Bush's State of the Union Address live. Coverage will begin at 9:00 pm ET and will also include the Democratic response.

Elizabeth Vargas, Charles Gibson, and Diane Sawyer will anchor ABC's coverage -- Vargas will anchor from ABC News' studio overlooking the White House, Gibson will anchor from Capitol Hill, and Sawyer will anchor from ABC News Headquarters in New York. They will be joined by Chief Washington Correspondent and "This Week" anchor George Stephanopoulos, Senior White House Correspondent Martha Raddatz, and Medical Editor Dr. Timothy Johnson. Jake Tapper will monitor national reaction to the speech, including "The People's Response," a digital conversation with Americans on their views of the State of the Union, sponsored by ABCNEWS.com and AOL.com. News commentators George Will, Fareed Zakaria, and Mellody Hobson will also contribute to ABC's live coverage.

Gov. Kaine will join Democratic Leaders Sen. Harry Reid and Rep. Nancy Pelosi at a 2:00 pm ET photo opportunity at the Capitol before heading back to Virginia later in the day.

At 3:00 pm ET, Leaders Reid and Pelosi are scheduled to hold a pen and pad briefing with reporters.

Democratic and Republican state parties as well as interest groups across the ideological spectrum plan to use the State of the Union to galvanize their supporters with SOTU house/watch parties across the country.

The President will begin his post-SOTU road show in Nashville, TN tomorrow. Mr. Bush will be in Maplewood, MN on Thursday and Albuquerque, NM and Dallas, TX on Friday.

The Senate reconvened at 9:45 am ET. The time leading up to the 11:00 am ET vote on Samuel Alito's nomination to the Supreme Court will likely be taken up with some final thoughts on the nomination from Sens. Frist, Reid, Specter, and Leahy.

Republican Senators are scheduled to take to the press gallery following the vote at approximately 11:30 am ET. Democratic Senators will follow suit shortly thereafter.

Both party conferences will hold their weekly policy luncheons at 12:30 pm ET with stakeouts to follow.

As of this writing, there have been no announced plans for a likely Alito swearing-in ceremony nor no official word on whether or not Justice Alito will be in attendance for the President's speech this evening.

At 3:00 pm ET, Sen. Warner (R-VA) meets with Technical Sergeant Jamie Dana, handler of military working dog, "Rex."

Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan presides over his final board meeting today. Greenspan's likely successor, Ben Bernanke, is expected to be confirmed by the US Senate today as well.

Year-end FEC filings for 2005 are due today.

Former Speaker Newt Gingrich, columnist George Will, and former Sen. Phil Gramm address the "Conservative Members Retreat" in Baltimore, MD.

At 10:30 am ET, Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-IL) and Democratic congressional candidate Lois Murphy unveil the DCCC's "Rubber Stamp Website" in Bryn Mawr, PA.

Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA) is in New York City for Republican Governors Association finance meetings.

We extend our thoughts and prayers to the family and loved ones of Coretta Scott King. LINK

SOTU: political analysis:

Matthew Dowd's polling memo sent RNC members indicates:

1. The Bush White House is always trying to play the expectations game.

2. Whatever has gone on in the past, this speech, and the rollout of the President's policies, will be critical in determining whether he can turn his political fortunes around, achieve some of his big goals, and, perhaps, keep control of Congress.

ABC News' Polling Director Gary Langer also offers these two contextual points.

1. "Partisans watch these things; rather than torturing themselves, people who don't like the guy can just turn to another of their 100 channels. When we polled on the SOTU in 2003, we found that the president's approval rating among speech watchers was 70 percent, versus 47 percent among those who didn't watch. As we put it at the time: 'Simply put, people who don't like a particular president are considerably less apt to tune him in.'"

2. "These speeches tend to be composed of poll-tested applause lines, so the people who watch are already predisposed to like what they hear."

"We haven't done immediate post-SOTU reax polls in years (pre-war 2003 was an exception) because, given 1 and 2 above, they are so dreadfully predictable."

Dow Jones/General Electric:

Writing for the newspaper's new "Politics & Economics" page, the Wall Street Journal's John Harwood writes that the public's focus going into the State of the Union is making health care more accessible and more affordable and reducing the number of troops in Iraq.

"Two-thirds say it is time to reduce troop levels in Iraq, while just 28% support maintaining existing troop levels."

On the 2006 front: "By 47% to 38%, Americans say they prefer a Congress controlled by Democrats rather than Republicans to emerge from November balloting. A 58% majority wants Democrats in Congress to 'provide a balance to make sure that President Bush and the Republicans' don't go too far.'"

46% say it is time to give a new candidate a chance to serve in Congress, rather than the current representative. But Republicans can take comfort in the fact that "that predilection for change isn't as pronounced as it was in January 1994, 10 months before the Republicans swept away Democratic House and Senate majorities."

SOTU:

Counselor to the President Dan Bartlett appeared on morning television, commenting on topics the President will discuss in tonight's State of the Union address. In response to a question on troop levels in Iraq, Bartlett said the American people, "want troops to come home, but they don't want them to come back without victory." Bartlett also commented on the Medicare prescription drug benefit, saying that, although there are problems with the program, the vast majority of America's seniors are better off under the plan and receiving the prescription drugs they need at lower prices.

Bartlett also said that "this will be a leadership speech," with an optimistic tone, and that the President will talk at length about the war in Iraq and the challenges that we face there.

In a Wall Street Journal op-ed, Fred Barnes sees the President "going incremental," ditching the ownership society in favor of more modest measures.

"President Bush will renew a call for the development of alternative fuel for automobiles and promote the construction of new nuclear power plants in his State of the Union address on Tuesday night, White House officials said Monday," reports the New York Times. LINK

The Washington Times' Bill Sammon writes that President Bush's call for both Hamas and Iran to disarm its weapons yesterday foreshadows his speech tonight. LINK

The New York Daily News' Jordan Lite writes Bush's body language will say it all tonight. LINK

George F. Will mocks Sen. Barack Obama's (D-IL) "Garbage Collection Theory of History," Rep. Nancy Pelosi's (D-CA) pledge to guarantee affordable access to broadband within five years, and the President's flight from sobriety on everything from the Middle East to the Medicare prescription drug benefit. LINK

The Washington Post ed board urges the President not to crow about the economy given the "alarming trade deficit" and the "wage problem." LINK

Gov. Kaine is expected to talk about his work as a Jesuit missionary in Honduras during his SOTU response this evening, per the Boston Globe's Rick Klein who takes a look at the Democratic response in the context of the party's overall desire to regain its footing with American Catholics. LINK

Stephanie Simon of the Los Angeles Times looks at the evolving politics of evangelicals through the lens of tonight's SOTU watch parties. LINK

Michael Hardy of the Richmond Times-Dispatch reports that Gov. Kaine's 10-15 minute response to the State of the Union address will emphasize bipartisanship and will mention issues such as energy, immigration, health care, education, homeland security, and national defense. LINK

The New York Daily News reports that 9/11 widow, Monica Gabrielle, will be Sen. Clinton's SOTU guest tonight. LINK

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) released a new web video today highlighting what it claims is the gap between what President Bush said about the Medicare prescription drug program in last year's State of the Union and its implementation this year. LINK

Samuel Alito for Associate Justice:

The Washington Post's Charles Babington has Sen. Kennedy roaring but Sen. Frist getting "the last word." LINK

"'The sword of the filibuster has been sheathed,' (Frist) told his colleagues moments before the roll call began."

The New York Times' Kirkpatrick also Notes Sen. Frist's pleasure in how the Alito nomination/confirmation process has played out. LINK

The Boston Globe's Charlie Savage writes that Sens. Kennedy and Kerry's filibuster effort "succeeded only in splitting the Democratic caucus." LINK

Deborah Orin bemoans John Kerry's filibustering ways in a New York Post op-ed . LINK

With four Democrats who have endorsed Alito and only one Republican that opposed his nomination, the U.S. Senate will confirm Judge Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court, writes James Rowley of Bloomberg News. LINK

Note that all five of the Democratic senators thought to be considering presidential runs in 2008 -- Evan Bayh of Indiana, Joe Biden of Delaware, Hillary Clinton of New York, Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, and John Kerry of Massachusetts -- voted to block the Alito vote from moving forward yesterday by voting against cloture.

Big Casino budget politics:

The Bush Administration is considering asking Congress for a minimum of $2 billion later this year for Iraqi reconstruction, which is in addition to the $24 million already approved, per the Washington Times. LINK

Per the Los Angeles Times, the wide-ranging spending-cut bill scheduled for a final House vote on Wednesday includes provisions toughening welfare regulations, including work requirements on two-parent welfare families that experts say is "almost impossible to meet." LINK

The Washington Times' Stephen Dinan writes that with spending as one of the top issues for House Republicans this election year, the President should expect pressure from conservatives to tightly monitor spending, including more cutbacks in this year's budget. LINK

The Washington Post's E.J. Dionne Notes that Rep. Rob Simmons (R-CT) is backing away from supporting the "cut-the-poor, help-the-big-interests federal budget" that he voted for last year but that still needs final ratification. LINK

Blunt v. Boehner v. Shadegg:

RSC members pledged to push for an overhaul of ethics and lobbying rules. But more importantly, they want the GOP to renew its commitment to fiscal restraint and small government, the Los Angeles Times reports. LINK

The Hill's O'Connor reports on the Majority Leader hopefuls' appearances at the conservative retreat and Rep. Blunt's continued "front-runner" status. LINK

The New York Times on the Majority Leader candidates wooing the cool "clique" at the conservative retreat: LINK

Stephen Dinan of the Washington Times writes that the contest for Majority Leader, to be decided this Thursday, has become a "real race," with no candidate a sure thing. LINK

The AP on the race, the maneuvers, and the candidates' connections to Rep. DeLay. LINK

Bloomberg News' Laura Litvan reports on the challenges that the new House Majority Leader will face and names Blunt as the front-runner in the Leadership race, with 95 public commitments LINK

Lobbying reform:

House Republicans plan this week to propose a bill, partly drafted by Rules Committee Chairman David Dreier (R-CA), to limit the amount of money that tribal casinos can give to politicians, reports USA Today's Jim Drinkard. LINK

Per the Washington Post's Jeffrey Birnbaum, the DSCC and the Senate Republican Conference are dropping regular meetings with lobbyists. LINK

Per the Wall Street Journal's Rogers and Mullins, House GOPers are weighting limits on the money that flows to 527 groups. Melding the lobbying and 527 issues could make it harder to win Democratic support in the House. But it could give Republicans "greater leverage in persuading their members to accept new restrictions on travel and entertainment perks now arranged by lobbyists."

And be sure to Note the Sensenbrenner/Team Blunt narrative.

Politics of surveillance:

Carol Leonnig's Washington Post write-up of Sen. Feingold's letter to Gonzales suggests that she agrees that Gonzales misled the committee a year ago. LINK

Boston Globe columnist Peter Canellos wisely looks at the terms of the debate swirling around the NSA warrantless wiretapping program and writes of the President's insistence to define that debate as one about values. LINK

"By framing the issue in terms of values -- by answering 'why' instead of 'what," ''when,' or 'how'-- Bush chokes off any serious discussion of policy choices and tradeoffs. He leaves his critics arguing on an entirely different plane, which is both infuriating to them and confusing to voters."

Bush Administration:

Bush taps Edward Lazear, a Stanford University business professor, to become chairman of the President's Council of Economic Advisers. LINK

Iowa:

Rob Hotakainen of the Sacramento Bee chronicles the early visits of 2008 hopefuls to Iowa and the kind words they have for the Hawkeye State. LINK

New Hampshire:

Robert Danderson, Republican mayor of Berlin, New Hampshire, has declared he will challenge Rep. Charlie Bass (R-NH) for the state's District 2 congressional seat, reports the Union Leader's Lorna Colquhoun. LINK

2008:

Roll Call's Paul Kane writes up the PAC and campaign committee filings of several 2008 presidential hopefuls with a keen eye toward Sen. Frist's disbursements.

2008: Republicans:

Republicans in Michigan and Washington State are looking to "bar non-Republicans from voting in their primaries in 2008, which would make it even more difficult for" Sen. McCain to win the nomination should he run in two years, Peter Savodnik of The Hill reports. LINK

On morning network television, Sen. Bill Frist (R-TN) placed the danger posed by Iran at an "8" on a scale of one to ten with ten representing the greatest threat.

On Friday, C-SPAN will air Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist's (R-TN) remarks to the Rockingham County Republican Committee's Lincoln-Reagan dinner in Hampstead, NH live at 7:45 pm ET.

2008: Democrats:

Gov. Tom Vilsack (D-IA) warned fellow Democrats against voicing opposition to President Bush's wiretapping program unless they can demonstrate the program jeopardizes Americans' civil liberties, according to the Des Moines Register's Thomas Beaumont. LINK

"If the president broke the law, that's unacceptable. But I think it's debatable whether he did," said Vilsack.

Dean's Democrats:

February will mark the end of Josh Earnest's well-regarded tenure as spokesguy for the DNC. Earnest is heading south to the Sunshine State to become gubernatorial candidate Jim Davis' communications director. DNC communications director Karen Finney says, "We're going to really miss Josh, he's a very talented, hard working guy, and the Davis campaign is very lucky to have him joining their team. . . Governor Dean and all of us are grateful to Josh for his leadership and his contribution to the team, and we wish him all the best. "

2006:

Amy Fagan and Charles Hurt of the Washington Times write that conservative leaders warn Sen. Chafee that his Alito vote may cost him in his primary campaign and Republican chances of keeping the Rhode Island Senate seat. LINK

The Wall Street Journal's ed board writes that Chafee's efforts to oppose the Alito filibuster (while voting against Alito) "may not prove sufficient to win over Republican primary voters."

Former Democratic House Speaker Jim Wright says that Democrats can't depend on recent scandals plaguing the GOP to carry them through next November's elections, they need to offer a solid alternative vision, reports Karen Brooks of the Dallas Morning News. LINK

Eliot Spitzer stood with Leecia Eve at her withdrawal announcement from the Lieutenant Governor's race in light of his selecting David Paterson as his running mate. The New York Post has more. LINK

To Mayor Menino's delight, Marie St. Fleur, the "first Haitian-American to have been elected to the Massachusetts Legislature," will join Tom Reilly as his running mate in his gubernatorial campaign, reports Frank Phillips of the Boston Globe. LINK

Boston Globe columnist Brian McGrory describes Tom Reilly's running mate selection as a "politically clumsy process, filled with bad leaks, broken promises, and hurt feelings." LINK

State Sen. Peter Welch (D-VT), the Democrat hoping to succeed Rep. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) as Vermont's at-large member of the House of Representatives, will be "live blogging" in response to the President's State of the Union address at about 10:00 pm ET.

The blogging will be hosted by Democracy for America, the organization founded by Howard Dean following his 2004 presidential bid. www.blogforamerica.com Politics:

The Washington Post's Charles Lane places Justice Kennedy at the center of the Supreme Court's debate over Texas redistricting. LINK

The Court will hear oral arguments on March 1.

The Hill reports on the Congressional Club's "blunt" way of asking for $50,000. LINK

Would you like to see Ken Mehlman make the case for re-electing George W. Bush in April of 2004? How about Madeleine Albright talking about foreign policy ten years earlier?

Whatever your preference Harvard's Institute of Politics is making video footage of all of these IOP events available on the Institute's Web site. LINK

In total, the Kennedy School is making video footage of nearly 30 years of public addresses and panel discussions available on-line.

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