The Note: Issues and Answers

WASHINGTON, Mar. 6

Most every day this week, anticipated political events will add data points to the hoopla-draped quest to divine the answers to two related questions: will President Bush's poll numbers rebound, and will his party keep control of Congress after the all-important 2006 midterm elections?

Today, we see if California Republican Congressman and the PCotPWaM Committee Bill Thomas retires, which he will make clear at a 12:30 pm ET news conference in Bakersfield, CA . (Will there ultimately be so many House Republican retirements that the party has trouble holding the majority?)

Tuesday, voters in a Houston-area primary determine if Tom DeLay wins the Republican nomination outright, or faces a run-off. (Will the DeLay-Abramoff scandals be an albatross for the GOP this year?)

Wednesday, the President makes another trip to the Gulf region to inspect Katrina damage and recovery. (Will Republican ability to reach out to African-American voters and the President's image of competence be repaired before November?)

Thursday, a cattle call of potential Republican presidential candidates begin speaking in Memphis to the regional party faithful -- and big-footed political reporters -- followed by a straw poll. (Will the White House be able to delay the starting gun on 2008, and how much will these would-bees run against the Bush-Cheney record?)

(And in a related must-read as sweeping as it is inconclusive, Adam Nagourney of the New York Times chatted with several Democratic House candidates around the country and reports the party still finds itself in a strategic search for a fine tuned message in 2006. LINK)

While he waits on pins and needles for a new ABC News/Washington Post poll due out on abcnews.com at 5 pm ET today, President Bush participates in a swearing-in ceremony for the Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors Edward Lazear at 10:00 am ET followed by a meeting with the "Academic Competitiveness Council" at 10:35 am ET.

AP and Reuters report President Bush is expected to use his first event to make some remarks about his proposed line-item veto legislation he is sending to Capitol Hill today. LINK

As the always ahead-of-the-curve Mark Z. Barabak hints in the Los Angeles Times, you are likely to hear more dissonance between the 2008 Republican presidential hopefuls and the Bush Administration on federal spending -- during that Southern Republican Leadership Conference in Memphis at the end of the week -- than perhaps on any other topic. So, not a bad idea for President Bush to kick off the week with yet another call for line-item veto power.

Vice President Cheney does double fundraisers in the Sunshine State today. He will help raise funds in Boca Raton, FL for Rep. Clay Shaw (R-FL) this afternoon and for the Collier County Republican Party later this evening in Naples, FL. We'll be listening carefully for his take on the Medicare prescription drug benefit in this senior-laden state.

Sens. Reid (D-NV), Conrad (D-ND), and Lieberman (D-CT) talk up Democratic budget priorities at a 2:00 pm ET press conference.

The Supreme Court will issue orders and anywhere from one to four decision today at 10:00 am ET.

The American Israeli Public Affairs Committee annual policy conference is underway in Washington, DC. Former Sen. John Edwards (D-NC) and Majority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) are featured speakers this morning. RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman addresses the group at lunch. The AIPAC gala banquet takes place this evening with featured speakers Sen. Evan Bayh (D-IN) and Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME). Vice President Cheney addresses the group tomorrow at 10:00 am ET. The full AIPAC agenda can be found here: LINK

Just in time for the conference, the Washington Post's Tom Edsall writes that the post-9/11 drive by Republicans to attract Jewish voters seems to have stalled. LINK

At the National Press Club at 10:00 am ET, The George Washington University's Institute for Politics, Democracy & the Internet (IPDI), and the Campaign Finance Institute (CFI) hold a press briefing to release a new report, "Small Donors and Online Giving: A Study of Donors to the 2004 Presidential Campaigns." In his must-read preview, the Washington Post's Tom Edsall writes that on-line contributors are "more reflective of the middle class," have a "higher percentage of women," and are "far more wiling to contribute without being directly solicited." LINK

Sen. Clinton (D-NY) addressed supporters this morning at a "Black & Latina Women for Hillary" breakfast in New York, NY.

Gov. Romney (R-MA) is expected to make a personnel announcement in Boston, MA at 11:00 am ET.

Check out our look at the rest of the week ahead below.

The politics of Iraq:

ABC's Jon Cohen reports in a min-preview of the full set of data coming later today, "The latest ABC News/Washington Post poll shows broad public concern about civil war in Iraq and a sharp spike in public doubt that the United States is making progress there, both in terms of restoring civil order and establishing a democratic Iraqi government."

"The changes have not had much impact on views on how long U.S. forces should remain in Iraq. But they completely reverse gains in public optimism about Iraq that immediately followed the parliamentary elections there in December."

"Given the current unrest, 80 percent of Americans think it's likely that Shiite-Sunni conflict will lead to civil war in Iraq. And a record 56 percent think the United States is not making significant progress in restoring civil order there -- up 19 points from its level shortly after the December election."

The meta back and forth Sunday chatter between Gen. Peter Pace and Rep. John Murtha (D-PA) as captured by the Associated Press: LINK

The Wall Street Journal's Jeanne Cummings reports that some Democratic activists are pushing the idea that Bush should be impeached because of statements in the run-up to the Iraq war. But party leaders are keeping their distance.

ImpeachPAC's Web site salutes the Wall Street Journal for breaking the corporate media "taboo" on ImpeachPAC, while criticizing the Journal's story for allegedly ignoring the main distinction between the impeachments of Clinton and Bush: "only a rightwing minority of 26% wanted to impeach Clinton, while a mainstream majority of 52%-53% wants to impeach Bush. And the polls on Bush's impeachment were taken before the Dubai deal and the Katrina tapes, which have pushed Bush's disapproval ratings up to 60%."

Politics of immigration:

Rev. Samuel Rodriguez Jr. thinks the Republican Party may be letting an opportunity pass it by if it opposes undocumented immigrants having a path toward citizenship. Rodriguez claims many hispanics are against abortion and gay marriage and could help win future elections for the GOP, reports the Boston Globe's Charlie Savage, but their support is in jeopardy depending on the party's immigration outcome. LINK

Weekend must-reads:

For those of you who were too busy with your stylists, publicists, and agents this weekend, we have placed all three of your weekend must-reads in this handy section for you.

1. Keying off of Elizabeth Vargas' recent interview with President Bush, the Los Angeles Times' Ron Brownstein asked on Sunday whether the President has kept up with the changing conflict in Iraq. LINK

In his column, Brownstein writes that the movement towards civil war in Iraq is making the "fundamental assumptions" about the war from the left and the right "obsolete."

"The growing role of sectarian animosity in fueling Iraq's violence threatens Bush's calculation that strengthening the Iraqi defense capability is the key to restoring order and bringing home American troops. . . At the same time, the war's changing nature undermines the argument from many on the left that the U.S. presence is primarily fueling the violence. That seems increasingly untenable at a point when U.S. troops look like the only thing preventing Iraqis from tearing each other apart."

He concludes by writing that Bush "now faces a paradox. As Iraq pulls apart, its need grows for American troops to serve as buffers and brokers. But as the sectarian violence rises, so will the pressure inside the US to withdraw."

2. Alan Abramowitz, a political science professor at Emory University, wrote in Sunday's Washington Post Outlook section that "the predecessor whom Bush had begun to resemble isn't, as many liberal Democrats seem to believe, Richard Nixon. It's Jimmy Carter. Carter's political demise began when the American people, including many Democrats, started to perceive him as in over his head in the Oval Office. That's what may be happening now to Bush."

If you're looking for evidence that House Democrats are stepping up the competence line of attack, check out Rep. Rahm Emanuel's (D-IL) speech last week in which he said: "Forget the compassionate conservative we were promised in 2000. At this point, I would settle for a competent conservative.'' LINK

3. On Sunday, the Houston Chronicle's ed board urged GOP primary voters to "reject DeLayism and all its unseemly trappings once and for all." LINK

"Thoughtful Republicans in District 22" were urged to support Tom Campbell, an attorney and former National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration general counsel, who "bills himself as a clean Tom DeLay."

Last cycle, DeLay ran unopposed in the Republican primary. But the Houston Chronicle endorsed Richard Morrison, DeLay's Democratic challenger, in the general.

Port politics:

The Associated Press picks up on Sen. Collins and Rep. Hunter's "This Week" comments on the Dubai ports deal. Their predictions: Hunter says the deal won't go forward in the end, Collins says it is too soon to tell. LINK

The Wall Street Journal's Greg Hitt picks up on the chief executive of Dubai Ports World vowing on CNN's "Late Edition" to move ahead with the company's acquisition of terminal operations in five U.S. ports despite resistance in Congress.

Politics of Katrina:

In advance of President Bush's Wednesday trip to New Orleans, Bob Novak samples Republican fears about Katrina fallout. LINK

Politics of domestic surveillance:

USA Today's John Diamond reports that even those highly critical of the Bush Administration's warrantless surveillance program are not calling for its termination. LINK

"At issue for many Republicans and Democrats isn't the program itself, but how little the White House told Congress about it and how much it expands presidential power."

Lobbying reform:

While lawmakers are pushing legislation that would require lobbyists to disclose more financial information on the Internet, "the Senate remains in the Dark Ages when it comes to disclosing its own campaign-finance data," writes USA Today's Jim Drinkard. LINK

DeLay:

Favored in Tuesday's primary, Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX) continues intense efforts to raise money and gain back support in Texas-22, reports Samantha Levine of the Houston Chronicle. LINK

Todd Gillman of the Dallas Morning News writes of DeLay's plans to watch the results of tomorrow's primary with lobbyists in Washington instead of supporters in Texas. LINK

Most every national paper has previewed this race in the last 72 hours. We recommend Google News if you hunger for more cookie cutter coverage.

2006:

The Los Angeles Times reported on Saturday that speculation is "widespread" that Rep. Bill Thomas (R-CA) may leave Congress because, under House rules setting term limits for committee chairmen, this year is the last he can serve as the powerful chair of the powerful Ways and Means Committee. GOP leaders, who are trying to keep retirements to a minimum, are expected to put "heavy pressure" on Thomas to remain in Congress. LINK

On Sunday, Robin Toner kicked off the New York Times' occasional series looking at the critical Senate races across the country this year starting with the Santorum vs. Casey race in Pennsylvania. (Be sure to Note the nightly Santorum campaign phone calls!) LINK

New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin asked black leaders in Houston on Saturday to help evacuees vote in person or by absentee ballot in the April 22 primary, report Rodriguez and Minaya of the Houston Chronicle. LINK

The Washington Post's Peter Whoriskey Notes that some analysts "expect the best-funded" mayoral "campaigns will even run television ads in markets such as Houston, Atlanta and Baton Rouge, LA." LINK

Most every national paper has previewed this race in the last 72 hours. We recommend Google News if you hunger for more cookie cutter coverage.

In the Republican primary of one of the nation's most heated congressional races, Brian Kennedy (R-IA) and Bill Dix (R-IA) are trying to present themselves as the best candidate at kicking illegal immigrants out of the country, wrote Jane Norman in the Sunday Des Moines Register. LINK

The Chicago Tribune offered its GOP primary endorsement to Ron Gidwitz on Sunday. From the editorial: "This primary is about plans and positions, but it's also about nominating a candidate who will break eggs and make omelets. That's Gidwitz." LINK

The New York Daily News reports that Rep. Katherine Harris's (R-FL) attempts to run for Sen. Bill Nelson's (D-LA) seat may be fumbling. LINK

New Hampshire:

The AP takes a not-so favorable look at how the Medicare prescription drug program is playing in the Granite State. LINK

The Union Leader editorial board seems to have found a tax cut about which it's not overjoyed. LINK

2008:

Deb Orin of the New York Post grudgingly reports that a new New York presidential poll of sorts has Hillary Clinton "beating" Rudy Giuliani and "clobbering" Gov. Pataki in 2008.

2008: Republicans:

Lee Bandy of The State looked on Saturday at Dr./Sen./Leader Bill Frist's (R-TN) visit to South Carolina and claimed that First "doesn't sound like a candidate," seeing that he "came and went almost unnoticed." LINK

The Left (in this case, New York Magazine's John Heilemann) is still trying to fathom George Allen. LINK

Howard Fineman writes in Newsweek of Rudy Giuliani's calculus in making a run for the White House which does not include a stop in Memphis for the Southern Republican Leadership Conference this upcoming weekend. Fineman reports Team McCain expects (hopes) Giuliani, in the end, won't make the run. LINK

2008: Democrats:

George F. Will does not seem to feel about John Edwards the way, perhaps, David Brooks does. Normally, these early quadrennial "Afternoons with George" pieces produce -- even for Democrats -- a favorable column. But Edwards' alleged failure to identify the name "James Q. Wilson" earns the Will death sentence. LINK

The Charlotte Observer's Tim Funk writes up Edwards' Sunday talk show appearance. LINK

"Edwards. . . weighed in on the Dubai Ports World issue: He said no foreign companies -- Arab or otherwise -- should manage terminals at U.S. ports," writes Funk.

In a Saturday editorial calling on the nation's leaders to address the "growing rich-poor gap," the Des Moines Register invoked Edwards's talk of two Americas. LINK

In a story that predicts that the US will soon have a debate over U.S. defense contracts going to foreign-owned companies, Time Magazine's Joe Klein Notes that Democrats, including Sen. Clinton, are moving left on trade issues. The former First Lady "opposed the Dubai Ports deal and voted against the Central American-Dominican Republic Free Trade Act in the 2000s." LINK

In a story that means almost nothing, the New York Post Notes that Hillary Clinton's fundraising efforts are weaker in the middle of the country than elsewhere. "Clinton has just one campaign donor each in Idaho, South Dakota and North Dakota, and two in Montana she has banked $1,000 apiece from her Idaho and South Dakota loyalists, while the lone North Dakotan chipped in $250. The two Montanans ponied up a total of $750." LINK

Sen. Clinton's Cheney shooting joke from the weekend gets New York Daily News pickup: LINK

The AP reports on Democratic Senator John Kerry's speech in Northern Ireland yesterday where he said that to "win the war on terror," we must end the "empire of oil." The Bush Administration's forced democracy in Iraq and Afghanistan, Kerry contended, risked looking like a failed crusade. LINK

In "The Art of Testifying," the New Yorker's Janet Malcolm writes that Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE) may be correct in calling for the abolition of Supreme Court confirmation hearings on the ground that "when they are over we know no more about the nominee's judicial philosophy than we did before they started."

Malcolm writes, however, that the hearings can yield "a portrait of the nominee" that may be as telling as any articulation of his judicial philosophy. She also writes that Sen. Biden "also left out what may be the most compelling reason of all for the continued life of confirmation hearings: the intimate glimpse they give us of eighteen of our legislators."

2012: Democrats:

For the "glowing profile" file (which, as you might imagine, must be broken down into weekly sub-sections) in Sen. Obama's office:

Obama is described as a face of, 'reform and change,' by Democrats, 'a guy I like and would like to see do well,' by former law school classmate Ken Mehlman, and 'an unlikely African-American hero,' by Kathy Kiely of USA Today. LINK

According to Seth Borenstein of the Philadelphia Inquirer, Obama attempted to kill two birds with one stone last week in a proposal to the "Big Three" U.S. auto makers: "Washington would pay some of Detroit's multibillion-dollar health costs in exchange for Detroit making cars that get higher gasoline mileage." LINK

"Car industry lobbyists were caught off-guard by Obama's proposal, and said they needed time to think about it."

The Schwarzenegger Era:

Gov. Schwarzenegger predicted yesterday that both he and the Democratic-controlled Legislature can reach a compromise by Friday's deadline to get his infrastructure bond measures on the June ballot, writes San Francisco Chronicle's Carol Marinucci. LINK

The week ahead:

Tomorrow, the primary season of 2006 kicks off in the Lone Star State with Rep. Tom DeLay's reelection campaign in the spotlight. President Bush heads to Crawford, TX to vote after meeting with the Russian Foreign Minister. (The Dallas Morning News reports the trip to Crawford is due to a White House slip-up in requesting an absentee ballot on time. LINK)

Also on Tuesday, Gov. Jeb Bush (R-FL) delivers Florida's "State of the State" address in Tallahassee, FL, Ret. Gen. Wesley Clark (D-AR) attends a Washington, DC fundraiser for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Attorney General Mike Beebe (D-AR), and Former vice presidential nominees John Edwards and Jack Kemp discuss United States policy toward Russia at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, NY.

(Here is the Miami Herald's preview to Gov. Bush's speech: LINK)

House Majority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) and Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) will be the honorees at the National Council of La Raza's 2006 Capital Awards in Washington, DC tomorrow evening.

On Wednesday, President Bush travels to the Gulf Coast for his tenth visit since Hurricane Katrina made landfall. Chief Justice John Roberts delvers "The Reagan Lecture" at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, CA on Wednesday. And Sen. George Allen (R-VA) celebrates his 54th birthday on Wednesday with a Washington, DC fundraiser.

The Southern Republican Leadership Conference gets underway on Thursday with speeches by 2008 Republican hopefuls scheduled to be delivered on Friday and Saturday. Govs. Romney and Huckabee, Sens. Frist, Allen, McCain, and Brownback are all scheduled to attend and address the gathering.

President Bush heads to Ralph Reed's home state to make remarks at the Georgia Republican Party's President's Day dinner in Atlanta, GA on Thursday.

On Friday, the President makes remarks at the National Newspaper Association Government Affairs Conference in Washington, DC.

Gov. Tom Vilsack (D-IA) heads to India with a 25-member Iowa delegation on Friday.