The Note: You Can't Get Elected. . .


"More than two years out, most Americans have favorable views of the two most talked about potential 2008 presidential candidates, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) and Sen. John McCain (R-AZ). But their support profiles are vastly different: Clinton, much stronger in her base; McCain, far more appealing beyond his," write Dalia Sussman and Drew Allen of the ABC News polling unit. LINK

At first glance, Clinton appears unstoppable for her party's nomination, but would have a relatively tough time winning a general election. McCain is in the opposite position -- equally unstoppable in a general election, but with a relatively tough road to the GOP nomination. (Note to Karen Tumulty: don't sue us. We thought of this before you, even if we didn't bother to write it up first.)

Within their parties, Clinton and McCain are the most potent fundraisers by far among potential 2008 candidates, as always a huge advantage. And both have been involved in national campaigns before -- also a huge advantage that few of the other candidates in either party has.

Don't believe those people who say Clinton can't win a general election, or those who say McCain can't be the Republican nominee. Neither of those things is remotely true. Clinton (like any Democrat) would simply have to win all the states John Kerry won in 2004 and then either Florida or Ohio -- totally possible, especially if McCain is not the nominee of the Republicans. And McCain has made even more strides making new friends and defusing old GOP enemies than has been reported.

We have been surprised at how aggressive so far the other potential Democratic candidates have been in taking the necessary early steps (especially travel to key states and meetings with interest groups). Despite the occasional buzz about some of them, however, Clinton at this time remains far ahead by every conventional measurement.

Getting a true sense of how voters would feel about "Clinton fatigue" and having a woman presidential candidate on Election Day 2008 is impossible now, and will likely remain so for a long time -- perhaps forever. You can ask John Harwood's dentist (or his producer), your spouse, the gal next to you on the subway for their opinions -- heck, ask everybody you know -- but you still won't be able to figure these things out.

Many Democrats, including some close to all the leading presidential candidates, believe that a healthy, steady McCain -- if nominated by his party -- would be unbeatable, no matter who the Democrats picked. With those caveats about McCain, that seems like a sensible view to us.

There is, of course, a lot of time to go (HURRY UP, MR. CALENDAR!). And either Clinton or McCain -- or both -- might not run. But make no mistake: in what would seem at first glance to be a wide-open race for the White House in 2008, we have two seriously strong frontrunners.

More Sussman/Allen: "Fifty-two percent in this ABC News/Washington Post poll have a favorable opinion of Clinton, compared with 59 percent for McCain. McCain's popularity is at once broader across partisan lines and less divisive in terms of intensity of sentiment. Yet the flipside is that he's considerably weaker among Republicans than Clinton is among Democrats."

"Overall 46 percent view Clinton unfavorably, compared with 29 percent for McCain (more have no opinion of McCain). More ominously for Clinton, 33 percent have a "strongly" unfavorable impression of her, compared with just 11 percent for McCain."

"These views present challenges for both candidates. Clinton has 16 points more favorability within her own party than McCain has within his; that makes a primary campaign look easier for her. But McCain has more cross-party appeal, he edges out Clinton in favorable ratings among independents by six points and his 'strongly' unfavorable ratings among independents are a third of Clinton's. All those would help in a general election campaign -- if he got there."

Meanwhile: Primary season begins! And what an appropriate way to get this party started right.

Lone Star State polls opened at 8:00 am ET this morning and will close at 8:00 pm ET. There are no media exit polls, so we will await the raw vote count to come in over the AP wire this evening.

ABC News' Teddy Davis provides a DeLay primer helpful to any television reporter who is tethered to a live truck in Sugarland, TX today. LINK

Tom DeLay will be monitoring the returns in Washington, DC this evening. (See below for more on that.)

Tom Campbell, DeLay's strongest Republican primary challenger, will spend election night at Razzoo's Cajun Café at the Fountains Shopping Center in Stafford, TX.

The Texan President will make remarks at 10:45 am ET at a White House event celebrating Women's History Month. At 12:35 pm ET, President Bush meets with the Russian Foreign Minister and then heads with Mrs. Bush to Crawford, TX to vote in the primary at 6:10 pm ET.

Apparently, a mix-up by the White House staff's handling of the absentee ballot application process forced the trip to Texas for the President and First Lady to do their civic duty.

Vice President Cheney delivers 10:00 am ET remarks to AIPAC. An Administration official tells ABC's Karen Travers "the Vice President will comment on the United States' strong relationship with Israel and how the two countries stand together in the war on terror."

"Cheney will offer his personal reflections on Ariel Sharon and his leadership and will talk about how the Bush Administration stands with the international community against Iran's nuclear weapons ambitions," adds Travers.

ABC's Zach Wolf reports the Senate Intelligence Committee votes today at 2:30 pm ET, in a closed session, on whether it'll investigate President Bush's warrantless domestic wiretapping program. The vote was initially set for February 16 but was postponed allowing Republican leaders in the Senate to work to convince wary Republicans on the committee (Hagel, Snowe, DeWine) that a vote for an investigation is unnecessary. It is unclear which way the vote will turn out and it could come down to a single vote.

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Duncan Hunter (R-CA) holds a news conference at 3:00 pm ET to discuss the Dubai ports deal. Hunter, along with Rep. Jim Saxton (R-NJ), is expected to introduce a bill that would block the proposed deal.

House Majority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) holds his weekly pen and pad briefing at 12:30 pm ET.

Democratic Sens. Ted Kennedy, Tom Harkin, Barbara Boxer, and Debbie Stabenow, Reps. Chris Van Hollen and Xavier Becerra will join the Emergency Campaign for America's Priorities (ECAP) rally protesting the Bush Administration's budget cuts to education and health care programs at 11:30 am ET.

The Senate Appropriations Committee began a hearing at 9:30 am ET on the FY07 supplemental budget for additional resources for the Gulf Coast region. Governors from the region (Bob Riley of Alabama, Kathleen Blanco of Louisiana, Haley Barbour of Mississippi, and Rick Perry of Texas) are scheduled to testify at the hearing.

At 12:50 pm ET, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and other Democratic Members who went on a recent CODEL with her to Darfur will discuss their findings with UN Secretary General Kofi Annan at the United Nations and then address the media.

Gov. Jeb Bush (R-FL) delivers his State of the State address at 11:00 am ET in Tallahassee, FL. 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.

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

Dean's Democrats:

The Washington Post, having established over the weekend that the Democrats' congressional leaders are being "privately" critical of Howard Dean's stewardship of the DNC, moves on today to "break" more news of other donkey discord.

In your one absolute must-read of the day, the Post's Shailagh Murray and Charles Babington have Gov. Tom Vilsack (D-IA) unsuccessfully trying to get Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) and Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) to narrow down their core ideas to just two or three. They also have Rep. Jim Cooper (D-TN) saying that he hears from people "I'd really like to vote for you guys, but I can't stand the folks I see on TV." What's more, there's an effort afoot to drop the word "together" from the Democrats' "Together, America Can Do Better" slogan because it don't flow right to some ears. And finally, three of the party's potential '08ers -- Feingold, Kerry, and Clinton -- are described as also distracting from the Democrats' core message. LINK

The RNC Research department is happily at the ready to hit your inbox with its "Dem Agenda: Disagree and Delay" document that relies heavily on today's story and many stories like it that have appeared over the last couple of months. The RNC will also, once again, paint the Democrats as "the party of no."

Bloomberg's Roger Simon takes a must-read look at the political landscape and wonders if the conventional wisdom that Democrats need an alternative positive programmatic message contrasting with Republicans is all that necessary. LINK

Walking across similar ground, E.J. Dionne says the Democrats can continue being the party of "no." They just have to let voters know (get it!?) what they are saying "no" about. LINK

The mustachioed Simon separately writes that Service Union President Andrew Stern's disappointment with Democrats will cause his organization to actively begin recruiting their own candidates, even if that means crossing party lines. LINK

The politics of Iraq:

In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Amb. Zalmay Khalilzad said that the 2003 toppling of Saddam Hussein's regime had opened a "Pandora's box" in Iraq of volatile ethnic and sectarian tensions that could engulf the region in all-out war if America pulled out of the country too soon. LINK

Khalilzad added that "potential is there" for sectarian violence to become full-blown civil war and that although they have now pulled back from that prospect another incident could push things over the edge.

According to the latest Washington Post-ABC News, an "overwhelming majority" of Americans believe that fighting between Sunni and Shiite Muslims in Iraq will "lead to civil war, and half say the United States should begin withdrawing its forces from that violence-torn country." LINK

The New York Post reports that Cindy Sheehan found herself once again in police custody. LINK

Bush agenda:

The Los Angeles Times has Georgetown Law Prof. Mark Tushnet saying the President's line-item veto proposal "might work" while Walter Dellinger, who as acting solicitor general argued on behalf of the Clinton Administration in favor of the measure the court struck down, was "more certain": "This is unquestionably constitutional," he said. "It is possible to construct a constitutionally defensible provision under which Congress would be required to cast a recorded vote on particular items." LINK

More from the Los Angeles Times: "Democratic leaders in the House and the Senate objected to the plan, but it probably will benefit from the momentum building to rein in 'earmarks' -- the practice of inserting into legislation specific spending measures that benefit only individual projects or communities."

Michael Fletcher's write-up Notes that Sen. Kerry introduced his own version of the line-item veto yesterday which his offices said "appears to be no different from Bush's proposal." LINK

The Washington Times' Stephen Dinan Notes the Frist-McCain alliance in sponsoring the legislation. LINK

The Wall Street Journal reports on John Snow's letter to Congress urging passage of new national debt ceiling legislation.

Big Casino budget politics:

Per Roll Call's Emily Pierce: "In what may be more of a face-saving effort than any real attempt to reduce the deficit this year, both the House and Senate Budget panels are looking at including less than $10 billion in savings or mandatory spending cuts in their versions of the budget resolution this year."

The New York Times' Carl Hulse curtain raises the Republican Study Committee's Wednesday release of an "austere alternative spending plan that would pare more than $650 billion over five years, balance the budget, and drastically shrink three cabinet agencies." LINK

"Under the proposal, expected to be introduced by Representative Mike Pence, Republican of Indiana, and Representative Jeb Hensarling, Republican of Texas, military spending would continue to rise, administration tax cuts would be protected and Social Security would be spared. But many other programs and foreign aid would be greatly scaled back."

Port politics:

The Washington Post fronts a story by Paul Blustein on how the proposed ports deal with Dubai is just part of a flood of oil wealth that is "spilling ashore" in the US. LINK

Politics of abortion:

Gov. Rounds (R-SD) predicts that the near-ban abortion law he signed yesterday will probably not take effect July 1 due to lower court action. USA Today's Jill Lawrence points out that an anonymous donor wrote a $1 million check to help with legal costs in the ensuing court battles. LINK

Republicans are divided over the South Dakota abortion ruling, writes Lawrence. LINK

Stephanie Simon of the Los Angeles Times writes that the new law has "both sides wondering if they've moved too fast." LINK

The Chicago Tribune editorial board points out how Gov. Rounds may have actually damaged the anti-abortion cause: "As conservatives, Roberts and Alito have stressed that they will not lightly overturn venerable precedents. Forced to confront the issue so early in their tenure, the court could end up reaffirming Roe by an even bigger margin than before--effectively settling the question for another 30 years." LINK

The Abramoff affair:

Per the AP, a federal judge refused Monday to allow a "lengthy delay in the sentencing of lobbyist Jack Abramoff, even though lawyers for both sides said the move could jeopardize a federal corruption investigation involving Congress and the Bush administration." LINK

Lobbying reform:

Public and internal documents obtained by USA Today uncover 100 trips politicians took on BellSouth's corporate jet, paid for by Congress, over the last four years. Both Sens. McCain and Lieberman plan to offer an amendment that curbs this cut-rate travel service. LINK

"Top travelers with the regional telephone company include House Speaker Dennis Hastert of Illinois, House Majority Whip Roy Blunt of Missouri, Sen. Trent Lott, R-Miss., and Democratic Sens. Tom Daschle of South Dakota and John Breaux of Louisiana, both now retired."

Sans former Sen. John Edwards (D-NC) -- who ranked first on PoliticalMoneyLine's top 10 most traveled list with a reimbursement amount of $313,749 -- the rest, including House Majority Whip Roy Blunt and Senate Majority Bill Frist, prove to be all Republicans, reports USA Today. LINK

The Hill reports that new language in the lobbying reform bill could compel Democrats to vote against it. LINK

"Democrats have staked their campaign-year political message on cleaning up corruption in Washington, but they are so opposed to restricting 527 activity that many of them would vote against a bill that includes language affecting the groups."

And Note the reporting that 527-reform is a high priority for Chairman Mehlman.


The long-anticipated anti-DeLay documentary, "The Big Buy: How Tom DeLay Stole Congress," is set for release today in Sugar Land, TX at 2:00 pm ET.

The New York Times' David Halbfinger reports that an important aspect of the release plan is "to organize hundreds, if not thousands, of house parties in May and June at which the movie will be shown." LINK

Halbfinger has DeLay's lawyer, Dick DeGuerin, calling the movie, an early version of which he had seen, a "hatchet job."

The Note predicts that the DCCC will take most glee in the July 25, 2003 C-SPAN 2 footage included in the film in which Jack Abramoff praises Tom DeLay as the former House majority leader looks on.

JACK ABRAMOFF: "Never before has an individual who has been steadfast to our principles risen as high as Tom DeLay. Thank God Tom DeLay is the Majority Leader in the House."

AUDIENCE: "Hear, hear!"

JACK ABRAMOFF: "Tom DeLay is who all of us want to be when we grow up."

AUDIENCE: "Hear, hear!"

"The DeLay camp exudes confidence even though most polls indicate the congressman's negatives are the highest in his political history and he actually trails his Democratic challenger, Nick Lampson," writes Washington Times' Hugh Aynesworth. LINK

The Associated Press Notes that DeLay's Washington fundraiser tonight that will raise money for his re-election campaign is being hosted by lobbyists Bill Paxon and Susan Molinari. LINK

Leading with "DeLay's faithful growing less so," Lianne Hart of the Los Angeles Times points out that "DeLay has launched an unusually aggressive primary campaign, block-walking the district and holding meet-and-greets that have focused on his conservative base," even if "the $175,000 [Tom] Campbell (R-TX) has raised can't compete with DeLay's multimillion-dollar war chest." LINK

Chairman Thomas retires:

Despite the public bluster that greets each Republican retirement, a House Democratic leadership aide told ABC News that the House Republicans that they really would like to retire are Rep. Jim Leach (R-IA) (filing deadline March 17), Rep. Nancy Johnson (R-CT) (filing deadline May 16), and Rep. Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY) (filing deadline July 13).

Rep. Boehlert is widely considered to be the most likely retirement of these three. Boehlert spokesman Sam Marcio wouldn't characterize his boss's thinking but he told The Note to expect a decision by mid-to-late March.

House Democrats are going to be disappointed to know that Rep. Johnson is not going to retire.

Brian Schubert, Rep. Johnson's press secretary, tells The Note: "She's running. She's definitely running."

House Democrats will also be disappointed to know that Rep. Leach's spokesman Gregory Wierzynski says that his boss is also running for re-election. The New York Times' Robin Toner writes "whatever the national outlook, political strategists expect Mr. Thomas's district to remain Republican . . ." LINK

On the Ways and Means front, Rep. E. Clay Shaw Jr. (R-FL) is identified as "next in line by virtue of seniority, while Rep. Jim McCrery (R-LA) is identified as "a leading candidate. Rep. Nancy L. Johnson (R-CT), "who ranks between them, indicated Monday that she would defer to Mr. Shaw, but that 'if it becomes an open race,' she would jump in."

The Washington Post's Jonathan Weisman handles Thomas' legacy as Ways and Means Chairman. LINK

In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Grover Norquist explained Thomas' decision to leave office at the same time he gives up his chairmanship thusly: "Having been duke, you don't go be peasant again," Norquist said. LINK


The Hill reignites speculation that he will join the Bush Administration, possibly as Secretary of the Treasury. LINK


K.T. McFarland, Republican challenger to Sen. Hillary Clinton, appeared on ABC's "Good Morning America" today to discuss why she's challenging the heavily-favored former First Lady. When asked whether she thought Clinton was "angry and brittle," McFarland said, "it isn't about who's angry or who's brittle. . . I gave up saying bad things about people for Lent." (We'll check back in after Easter.)

McFarland also criticized the polarization of American politics and touted her experience with the Nixon, Ford, and Reagan Administrations.

The New York Post's Fred Dicker exclusively reports the existence of a McFarland strategy memo written for a potential congressional candidacy in which she declares herself pro-choice, pro-gay rights, and pro-stem cell research, which causes Conservative Party Chairman Mike Long some concern (to say the least). LINK

The New York Daily News welcomes K.T. McFarland to the race. LINK

Sen. Rick Santorum's (R-PA) campaign has created, a Web site that portrays Democratic Senate candidate Bob Casey as an Old West-style outlaw who's labeled as "Wanted." According the site, Casey is missing from his position as State Treasurer, but can be found in three venues: hiding from debates, smearing his opponent, or playing hookie. The site quotes various newspaper articles to support each claim. LINK

The Hill on the gimmicky new website. LINK

Sen. Elizabeth Dole (R-NRSC) gave an hour-long interview to The Hill, in which she, unsurprisingly, says Republicans will maintain a strong majority in November. LINK

The New York Post's Earle writes up Rep. Tom Reynolds' (R-NRCC) private jet-setting ways. LINK

Per the Boston Globe, "Rep. Martin T. Meehan (D-MA) is days away from becoming the only House member in the nation with a campaign war chest that tops $5 million, with an eye on a possible run for the Senate." LINK

Tom Suozzi says he won't switch parties to run as the GOP's New York gubernatorial candidate in November, the New York Post reports. LINK

The New York Daily News reports that Team Suozzi accused rival Eliot Spitzer of trying to sabotage his campaign by spreading rumors that he considered party swapping. LINK


Like a moth to the light, the New York Post's Deborah Orin writes up the new Quinnipiac University poll numbers on how Americans feel toward potential 2008 contenders and other political folk. Rudy Giuliani leaves people all warm and fuzzy, reports Orin. LINK

The New York Daily News on the Q-rating Q-poll: LINK

The Boston Globe's Peter Cannellos Notes that on the Internet both Newt Gingrich and Al Gore are popular names for 2008, and if they ran, "a Gore-Gingrich match up could far outstrip the actual race in passion and candor, and might even give 'American Idol' a run for its money." LINK

2008: Republicans:

In his visit yesterday to the Iowa Christian Alliance, Gov. Mike Huckabee (R-AR) engaged in "the political equivalent of preaching to the choir," lamenting for the long-gone days of "father knows best," writes Ken Fuson of the Des Moines Register. LINK

Per Fuson, "Among the most-discussed GOP candidates, Huckabee is expected to compete with Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS) for the affections of Iowa's social conservatives, a group that has proven to be a potent political force in the state party's first-in-the-nation caucuses."

The New York Times' Robert Pear reports that the Bush Administration is "poised" to approve an "innovative" Arkansas health insurance program. LINK

"The employer-based program is novel in two ways. The benefit package is extremely limited, much more austere than Medicaid's. In addition, if an employer wants to participate, it must guarantee that all its employees, regardless of income or other factors, will be covered."

Gov. Pataki appeared overjoyed to be leaving the hospital and heading for home. LINK

The Boston Herald reports that Gov. Mitt Romney has "recast" the Bay State Judicial Nominating Commission with "big business ties." LINK

Striking a different Note, the Boston Globe reports that Gov. Romney is replacing members in an effort to seek out greater diversity in nominees. LINK

2008: Democrats:

Sen. Clinton embraced the "angry" label bestowed upon her by RNC Chair Ken Mehlman in a speech to black and Hispanic women at a Manhattan campaign event yesterday, reports Newsday's Glenn Thrush. LINK

Clinton called Mehlman's comments a "badge of honor," and said, "There are lots of things that we should be angry and outraged about these days."

The New York Daily News on the same: LINK

Maureen Groppe of the Indianapolis Star writes that in his AIPAC speech last night, Sen. Evan Bayh (D-IN) echoed President Bush's sentiments and said that Hamas, "should not receive a penny of support from the United States until it recognizes Israel's right to exist and renounces terror." LINK

Tim Dickinson muses on that Sen. Bayh's tough talk on Iran may be the path to Democratic victory in 2008. LINK

The Schwarzenegger Era:

Per the Los Angeles Times, the California Chamber of Commerce, "perhaps Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's closest political ally, may split with the governor over his commitment to drastically cut greenhouse-gas emissions." LINK

In a news analysis, the Los Angeles Times' Jennifer Warren writes that the recent resignation of California's corrections chief "raises doubts" about Gov. Schwarzenegger's "commitment to overhaul the system." LINK


Per USA Today's Joan Biskupic, "the U.S. government can withhold funds from universities that protest the Pentagon's ban on gay men and lesbians by denying military recruiters access to campuses and students, the Supreme Court ruled Monday." LINK

The decision was unanimous and authored by Chief Justice John Roberts. Justice Greenhouse on yesterday's ruling: LINK

The Los Angeles Times: LINK

The Washington Post: LINK