The Note: Unite to Victory

WASHINGTON, Mar. 9

The Note wishes to move on to faith-based debates, Axis of Evil updates, David Rogers professional ties to Judd Gregg, the connotations of the word "fancy," Howard Fineman's sneakiness, Jon Corzine's generosity, America's historic debate over how to balance civil liberties with national security, the 2008 nominating calendars, and lame Sopranos jokes.

But we can't, because (apparently) no one is listening to us about the port deal and how it will come out.

Another news cycle of "veto showdown" rhetoric -- not surprising, given the House vote and the political media's obsession with process stories -- and another news cycle of Republican members of Congress of all shapes and sizes reporting back that, yes, their constituents would rather make Russian the official language of the United States than let Dubai Ports World have this deal.

Things have gotten so silly that there is now speculation that the White House is doing this on purpose, to allow Republicans to create space between themselves and the President.

It is a mortal lock. Mark it down and give us Krauthammer Credit when it happens: a few more futile rounds of trying to come up with a deal that will save face, satisfy "legitimate" security concerns, and set things right, and then the company will withdraw the deal. The President will, Scott McClellan will tell us all, have not backed down.

Until then, mark us down as impatient.

A couple of explicit port security items are on the schedule today, beyond the hallway banter: At 10:00 am ET the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Subcommittee holds a hearing on foreign operations of U.S. port facilities. Assistant Department of Homeland Security Secretary Stewart Baker and Gary Brown of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union will be in attendance. At 1:00 pm ET, Reps. Bennie Thompson (D-MS) and John Barrow (D-GA) hold a news conference on port security legislation.

The cloture vote on the lobbying reform bill aimed at scuttling Sen. Schumer's surprise amendment is likely to occur tomorrow. Might a vote for cloture be considered a vote against port security? ABC's Zach Wolf reports, "Frist's people say the Democrats need to 'put their money where their mouth is on lobbying reform. They've been talking about this for over a year and now we need to vote up or down.'"

And we bet ports comes up at this one too: DCCC Chairman Rahm Emanuel and DSCC Chairman Chuck Schumer hold a 11:45 am ET press conference to discuss the "lack of oversight as a result of the rubber stamp Republican congress."

On the other hand, President Bush will likely do nothing but please his fellow Republicans today. He talks up faith-based initiatives at 11:25 am ET, signs the Patriot Act renewal into law at 2:40 pm ET, and then heads down to Atlanta, GA to dish out some partisan red meat at a Georgia Republican Party fundraising dinner.

His schedule serves as an important reminder that if you are a Republican with your name on a ballot this year (or if you'd like to have it on THE ballot in 2008) the distancing game is a tricky one.

The Washington Times provides some background for those of you covering the President's faith-based initiatives remarks. LINK

ABC's Luis Martinez reports: "Gen. Abizaid joins Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, Joint Chiefs Chairman Pace, and Secretary of State Rice on Capitol Hill as they all testify together before the Senate Appropriations Committee. Ostensibly they'll testify about the new Iraq supplemental, but will likely receive a host of questions on the ongoing violence in Iraq. Later in the day, Abizaid, Pace, and Rumsfeld will brief House and Senate members in separate closed sessions. Rice will have broken off by then to appear at a separate House hearing on the State Department budget."

On the eve of the two-year anniversary of the Madrid train bombing, Sens. Clinton (D-NY), Biden (D-DE), Carper (D-DE), and Menendez (D-NJ) discuss ways to prevent a Madrid-style attack from happening in America at 11:00 am ET.

Speaker Hastert holds a 12:30 pm ET photo opportunity with the President of Peru. The Southern Republican Leadership Conference gets underway this afternoon in Memphis, TN. The speaking program does not begin until tomorrow afternoon. See more on that below.

House Majority Leader John Boehner holds his inaugural weekly on-camera press briefing at 4:00 pm ET. (Those of us in the electronic media thank you, Mr. Madden.)

Minority Leader Pelosi holds her weekly on-camera briefing at 10:45 am ET.

George W. Bush and the GOP:

The New York Times' Carl Hulse offers a handful of theories in a ho-hum-looks-like-a-must-read analysis of why Republicans in Congress are in rebellion against the White House on the party's "signature issue of national security." LINK

Four key possibilities offered by Hulse:

a) Republicans feel they've gotten little from the White House: "[T]he White House has asked a lot of them over the years, but has responded with dismissive and occasionally arrogant treatment — a style crystallized in Mr. Bush's quick threat, with little or no consultation, to veto any effort to hold up the port deal legislatively."

b) It's all just a show: "Intramural fights in politics often have an element of calculation if not orchestration, and the White House's political shop is no doubt aware that allowing Congressional Republicans to put some distance between themselves and Mr. Bush in an election year could serve the party's long-term interest."

c) Republicans saw yesterday's Mark Mellman memo on national security: "'With huge majorities opposing the president's proposal to sell control of U.S. ports to Dubai and the failure of the president's Iraq policy, Republicans' once-yawning advantage on security issues has been largely neutralized,' said the pollster, Mark Mellman."

d) The intra-GOP conflicts were always simmering below the surface: "The rifts reflect different strains of ideology within the party, many of which have been tamped down until now by Mr. Bush's ability to hold Republicans together, a degree of clout that seems to be ebbing."

The "Today" show's "close-up" segment was dedicated this morning to "Republican revolt."

NBC's Kelly O'Donnell reported on President Bush's "waning influence" with his Republican brethren on Capitol Hill. Joe Scarborough then chatted with Matt Lauer offering some very Rahmian sounding talking points including a reference to his former House GOP colleagues as a "rubber stamp." Scarborough also claimed that the Republicans with whom he has been speaking, believe they can lose control of the House in November.

Andrea Stone of USA Today writes up another bad day for the White House, managing to squeeze the House vote on the ports deal, the Republican rebellion over Medicare cuts, and Sen. Grassley's (R-IA) anti-health care savings account stance into this one bite-sized story. LINK

"Treading water in the ocean. That's how one lawmaker describes what Republicans, nervous about the November elections, are doing with President Bush's budget proposals this year," reports Andrew Taylor of the AP. LINK

Port politics:

The White House is pleading for time. ABC's Ann Compton offers up these three talking points from a White House aide:

"--The Administration is about to start a 45-day rigorous investigation of this transaction. We're actively soliciting the views of Members of Congress, as well as state and local officials who are affected by the transaction, about what questions they want us to pursue during the course of the investigation."

"--We would be concerned about attempts to address this issue in pending supplementals that could slow down passage of legislation required to equip our troops with what they need to win in Iraq and the global war on terror, and provide critical funds to rebuild the Gulf Coast and help those affected by last year's hurricanes."

"--Open lines of communication - eager to work with Congress." The New York Daily News' duo of Kenneth Bazinet and Michael McAuliff report that the White House is still hoping -- in spite of his public comments to the contrary -- that House Speaker Dennis Hastert will prevent the ports ban from coming up for a vote. But if the bill is presented to the Bush, unnamed "White House officials" tell the Daily News the President won't "blink." LINK

"One aide even suggested Team Bush would put the blame on House Republicans if Bush has to uncap his veto pen. 'They will slow down funding for our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan and for the Gulf states hit by Katrina,' the official said."

"Nonetheless, Bush aides worked the phones, seeking meetings with House leaders in hopes of finding a face-saving compromise, other sources said."

Bloomberg's Jeff Bliss reports that Senate Armed Services Chairman John Warner (R-VA) is planning a "last-ditch legislative effort" to rescue the Dubai deal while noting that there are "clear signs," including from Sen. Frist's Bob Stevenson, that the rescue attempt will face long and perhaps insurmountable odds in a Congress increasingly hostile to the ports deal." LINK

For those of you with an interest in all things Hawkeye, be sure to Note Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA) telling CNN that he would vote to block the deal because "I had 16 town meetings a week ago in my state, and very definitely, this is not a popular thing in grassroots Iowa."

Dan Bartlett refused to discuss an/the exit strategy with Bloomberg, because he has good Texas manners.

In a port story that is solid gold, the Washington Post's Jonathan Weisman has GOPers objecting to the White House's handling of an issue that has "proved to be a gift for Democrats." LINK

Keying off of a Democracy Corps poll, Weisman writes that the issue may prove to be a political windfall for Democrats because "about 70 percent of Americans oppose the port deal" and "that opposition does not change if they are told port managers do not control security at the ports."

Weisman has the NRCC's Carl Forti saying that for Republicans – even those reluctant to cross the President – the only viable response to the Rep. Harold Ford (D-TN) ad in which the Tennessee Senate candidate says the US shouldn't outsource its national security to anyone is "I agree."

Weisman also has Rep. Deborah Pryce (R-OH), the chair of the House Republican Conference, saying on CNBC: "Every day, we get hundreds and hundreds of phone calls, e-mails, letters objecting to this. And you just can't buck that when there's that much public [sentiment] and objection to it. Whether it's right or wrong, this is sort of a lose-lose now."

And make sure you don't miss those priceless Davis and Lott quotes either! The Wall Street Journal's Hitt and Jaffe describe yesterday's port vote as a "bold rebuke" of President Bush and suggest that the President may face "two unattractive options: "using a veto to try to keep Congress from killing the transaction -- and provoking a showdown with significant parts of his own party -- or accepting a face-saving compromise that would be a retreat from his free-trade, pro-business principles."

The New York Times on the House Appropriations Committee ports vote: LINK

Sen. Charles Schumer's (D-NY) last-minute amendment to a lobbying-reform bill to ban Dubai Ports World from operating American ports triggered Republican anger as some described the move as "completely inappropriate," write Patrick O'Connor and Jonathan Allen of The Hill. LINK

Per Roxana Tiron of The Hill, Dubai is "threatening retaliation against American strategic and commercial interests" if the port deal does not go through -- a threat that puts Boeing and House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) in very delicate positions. LINK

Jane Norman of the Des Moines Register gives us the Iowa thermometer: "If the Iowa congressional delegation is any sign of sentiment in Congress as a whole, there's little future for a Bush administration proposed deal that would allow a Dubai company the control of six major U.S. ports." LINK

According to Roll Call's Morton Kondracke, "pure political fear" is causing House Republicans to abandon the White House in its fight to preserve the Dubai ports deal.

Sharyl Attkisson of CBS's Early Show describes the ports showdown thusly: "the Congress' message to president Bush is loud and clear: 'Capitulate, or we will legislate.'"

Politics of domestic surveillance:

The Washington Post's Dan Eggen and Walter Pincus report that a former senior national security lawyer at the Justice Department was highly critical of the Bush Administration's statutory justifications for the surveillance program, according to a legal analysis and e-mails sent to current Justice officials released yesterday. But David S. Kris refrains from passing final judgment on the government's constitutional argument, saying that more facts are needed. LINK

The New York Times' folo on Tuesday's Intelligence Committee compromise on domestic spying focuses on how the agreement gives "legislative sanction," for the first time, to warrantless wiretapping. It also Notes that the compromise left some questions unanswered, including whether the new oversight subcommittee will investigate the last four years of the program. LINK

Note Senator Rockefeller's decidedly different tone from Wednesday (as compared to Tuesday).

Yesterday's Justice Department report on the FBI's significant violations of its own wiretapping procedures was quickly characterized by Democrats as "yet another vindication for those of us who have raised concerns about the administration's policies in the war on terror." LINK

Big Casino budget politics:

The Wall Street Journal's David Rogers reports that Senate Republicans have moved to trim President Bush's defense and foreign-aid requests while making it harder to combat operations overseas by using emergency funds outside the regular budget process.

Bush agenda:

Robert Novak wonders if the warmly optimistic President Bush will ever resign himself to the cold reality of bipartisanship in (today's) Washington (that he helped to create). LINK

Bush Administration:

While Noting that there is widespread agreement that DHS Sec. Michael Chertoff's reputation was harmed by the federal response to Hurricane Katrina, the New York Times' Eric Lipton surveys Capitol Hill and finds most lawmakers do not want Chertoff replaced. LINK

GOP agenda:

The Washington Post's David Broder takes an unforgiving look at the "chaos" -- and accomplishments -- of the Republican era in Congress through the lens of retiring Ways and Means Chairman Bill Thomas (R-CA). LINK

Majority Leader Boehner:

The Campaign for a Cleaner Congress says House Majority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) has taken more golf outings, lobbyist-funded trips, and fund-raising excursions than he has trips to his congressional district over the past six years.

The congressional watchdog group says Boehner went back to the district 149 times between January 1999 and September 2005, compared with 180 trips outside his district, including trips to Rome; Boca Raton, FL; Edinburgh, Scotland; and Pebble Beach, CA.

"That he is tanned and well-traveled is not news," Mike Casey, the group's director, told The Note, "to the extent that he is traveled on someone else's dime and that someone always wants something from him at the public's expense, I think, is news."

Boehner spokesman Don Seymour tells the Journal News of Ohio that the report is "patently misleading" and that the group "cherry-picked" information by counting only air travel and not all of Boehner's trips back to his district. LINK

Lobbying reform:

Per the New York Times, yesterday's approval of a ban on meals and gifts by the Senate "suggests that, with the November elections looming, lawmakers are intensely concerned with demonstrating they are committed to changing the way Washington does business." LINK

Senate spouses rejoice! Sen. Trent Lott tells USA Today that the new ban on lobbyist-sponsored lunches means he'll now be dining with the missus. LINK

The Washington Post: LINK

Aside from McCain and Feingold-sponsored amendments that would oblige lawmakers to pay more for the use of corporate jets and that would set up an independent ethics arbiter, Bloomberg's Jonathan Salant reports that the amendments to be presented to Senators this week include one to prohibit privately funded trips except those financed by charitable groups with no ties to lobbyists and another that would restrict lobbyists' fund-raising activities. LINK

Elana Schor of The Hill writes that Rep. Christopher Shays (R-CT) and Rep. Heather Wilson (R-NM), "two of the House's most vulnerable Republican incumbents," are teaming up to (futiley?) push for a nonpartisan Office of Public Integrity to oversee House ethics. LINK

Dean's Democrats:

The New York Post folo on yesterday's Washington Post/Harold Ickes/Democratic database story is headlined, "$OROS TO BUILD HILL A 'BASE.'" LINK

Politics of abortion:

The Des Moines Register's editorial board responds to the South Dakota ban arguing that "banning abortion will put women's lives at risk" and pointing out that "you can't turn back the clock to a time when abortion was illegal," for cyberspace is now "the contemporary back alley." LINK

The Wall Street Journal's Deborah Solomon looks at what states are doing on the abortion front: "In Ohio, legislation has been introduced to ban all abortions without any exceptions. In Michigan, efforts are under way to get an abortion-ban ballot initiative before voters in November. In Missouri, the Senate is considering a ban on all abortions except to save the mother's life. Mississippi's House passed an abortion ban with exceptions for rape, incest and the mother's life, and the measure is likely to pass the Senate."

The Abramoff affair:

Simply put: Go get yourself a copy of Vanity Fair.

Politics of Katrina:

The New York Times' Robert Pear focuses his wrap of the President's visit to the Gulf Coast on how "Bush allied himself with Louisiana over his home state" in the tug of war between Texas and Louisiana over who should get the $4.2 billion in housing assistance. LINK

The Washington Post's Fletcher and Hsu report that President Bush "bluntly accused Congress on Wednesday of underfunding" repairs in New Orleans and "called for speedy action to make good on federal commitments. LINK

The President "attacked" a congressional decision last year to redirect $1.5 billion from his request to repair the region's flood-protection system to projects in other hurricane-ravaged states.

2006: New Orleans:

In New Orleans The Times Picayune reports that mayoral candidates launched their "robo call" campaigns this week. Mayor Ray Nagin told voters that New Orleans had reached a "turning point in recovery," while his challenger City Councilwoman Peggy Wilson (R) urged voters to make the city "colorblind, not color bound." LINK

The Times Picayune also reports New Orleans Mayoral candidate Kimberly Williamson Butler may not be able to make it to an endorsement event tonight as sources say she is still serving a three-day jail sentence. LINK

2006:

Coming into his first election year as Senate Minority Leader, Harry Reid (D-NV) is trying to step out of his "behind-the-scenes comfort zone" into a position as, "the more moderate party leader," writes Roll Call's Erin Billings.

Providing fodder for the Casey campaign, the Washington Post's Birnbaum and Babington report that Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) has continued to meet with many of the same lobbyists "at the same time and on the same day of the week" after saying in January that he would end his regular meetings with lobbyists. LINK

The Hill's editorial board appears to pity Rep. Katherine Harris (R-FL), who lacks GOP support, has low poll numbers, and presents disappointing fundraising figures, concluding that: "the handwriting is on the wall on this race: She lacks the necessary funds and political momentum to defeat Nelson, a capable senator who does not have glaring vulnerabilities." LINK

The Palm Beach Post reports Pittsburgh Steelers-owning Florida attorney Tom Rooney is poised to challenge Rep. Harris for the GOP nomination after speaking with unnamed "extremely influential Republicans." LINK

The AP reports that Lt Gov. Kerry Healey (R-MA) has chosen former state Rep. Reel Hillman as her 2006 running mate in her bid for governor. LINK

DeLay:

Rep. Tom DeLay was reveling in an "easy primary victory" yesterday, releasing a statement to the media headlined, "DeLay Delivers an Old Fashioned Texas Whoopin'." LINK

According to Roll Call's David Drucker, both Republicans and Democrats say that other than the big money coming to Democratic candidate Nick Lampson, Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX) may be his own worst enemy.

Lampson's campaign manager Mike Malaise says that Lampson has $1.6 million on hand, and "many supporters will soon start 'pounding the pavement,'" seeing that "many Democratic volunteers had been preoccupied with Democratic primaries in recent months and that now they could focus their energy on defeating [DeLay]," writes Peter Savodnik of The Hill. LINK

2008:

In Roll Call, Stu Rothenberg asserts that, "long shots no longer win presidential nominations."

"The GOP will nominate Sens. John McCain (R-AZ) or George Allen (R-VA) or Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA). The Democrats will nominate Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) or Evan Bayh ((D-IN), former Gov. Mark Warner (D-VA) or former Sen. John Edwards (D-NC). That's it."

SRLC:

The host of this year's Southern Republican Leadership Conference, Tennessee Republican Party Chairman Bob Davis, Jr. tells ABC News that although the activists attending the event still trust Bush deeply, he doesn't "think it is necessarily a rah-rah time to circle the wagons." LINK

"Everybody's got to be their own man or woman. You can't be something you're not and you can't ride on somebody else's coattails. I just think you have to be your own person and worry about your vision for the future and where you want to take the country," Davis advised.

Bonna de la Cruz of the Tennessean previews the Southern Republican Leadership Conference and has Sen. Bill Frist (R-TN) downplaying the significance of this Saturday's straw poll. LINK

"Frist recognized that there could be high expectations for him to poll well because the vote is in his home state. Results will be 'spun' by people with different agendas, he said."

"If he doesn't win, people will say he didn't meet expectations, the senator said. 'And if you do well, people will say, "Well, of course, he did. It's over in Memphis, Tenn.,' Frist said."

Perhaps a hint of what is to come in his speech in Memphis on Saturday? Sen. Frist sent an email to his VOLPAC supporters yesterday saying, ". . . in the past few months, we've learned that a few officials have failed to uphold the laws they swore to protect. They've not only abused their position, they've undermined the trust between the people and their elected government."

"Americans are angry -- they're outraged. And they should be. With seemingly little hesitation -- nor shame -- these individuals broke the law. And they will be punished."

"The road to restoring faith and confidence in Congress will require change and action, commitment and vigilance. And we need to start down that road NOW."

"More to follow in the days ahead." In his preview of SRLC, the Commercial Appeal's Oliver Staley focuses on Gov. Mike Huckabee (R-AR), Noting that the "fitness convert" who claims he's had a beer could do surprisingly well in Saturday's straw poll. LINK

Aaron Sadler of the Arkansas News Bureau looks at "what could be a make-or-break event for the 2008 hopefuls." LINK

Here are some things to do in Memphis when not looking for the next GOP presidential candidate:

Eat the best BBQ: LINK

Visit Graceland: LINK

Take a journey to Mud Island: LINK

Check out the National Civil Rights Museum: LINK

The temperature is expected to be in the low 70s and some scattered storms are predicted, so pack the umbrella.

2008: Republicans:

The New York Post's Deb Orin speculates on a McCain-Giuliani '08 ticket. LINK

While addressing a gathering of around 2000 Irish Americans at the Holliday Inn on the Hill yesterday, Sen. McCain opened his speech stating that "this kind of reception is enough to make a guy want to run for President in 2008."

Carl P. Leubsdorf of the Dallas Morning News analyzes Sen. McCain's strengths and weaknesses and predicts that "Bush clones" Sen. George Allen (R-VA) and Sen. Bill Frist (R-TN) will have trouble getting the nomination. LINK

The Boston Herald Notes that Gov. Mitt Romney continues to pass on many female judicial candidates. LINK

Sen. Sam Brownback's (R-KS) push to let the District of Columbia experiment with a flat tax gets written up for the Washington Post's Metro section. LINK

At his weekly news conference, Mayor Anthony Williams (D) said of the idea, "I'm open to it."

2008: Democrats:

In his phenomenal must-read New York Times Magazine cover story on Mark Warner, Matt Bai also spends considerable time describing the contours of a modern Democratic nomination contest including the all-important bundlers, the institutional (but, perhaps, weakening) firewall built to protect establishment candidates, and the influence of the Netroots.

"Warner may have glimpsed a piece of his future when he attended a dinner of wealthy Democrats last summer at the Bay Area home of Mark Buell and his wife, Susie Tompkins Buell, well-connected contributors and close friends of the Clintons. Warner made some introductory comments about 'the Virginia story,' but the first several questions were not about taxes or schools or health care, but about gay marriage (which he's against), the death penalty (which he's for) and abortion (he's in favor of parental notification but vetoed a bill banning all late-term abortions). Warner thought his liberal guests would be interested in his policies to improve Virginia schools and raise the standard of living in rural areas; instead, it seemed to him, they thought that they understood poverty and race in an intellectual way that he, as a red-state governor, could not. Like a lot of politicians, Warner can be snappish when he feels he isn't being heard, and the dialogue quickly grew testy."

"At the end of the evening, according to people who were there, as some of the guests walked Warner to his car, one woman vowed to educate him on abortion rights. That was all he could take. 'This is why America hates Democrats,' a frustrated Warner blurted out before driving away."

Bai also refers to Warner's January interview on "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" as "somewhat calamitous."

Bai concludes, "The problem with Warner's theory of the race -- that he can run, like Carter and Clinton, as a centrist, electable Southern governor -- is that neither Carter nor Clinton had the misfortune of having to unseat a de facto nominee. They ran as outsiders pounding at the door of the party apparatus, but the weary party more or less invited them in. That won't happen in 2008."

Make sure you read it all when the Magazine hits your doorstep this weekend. The DNC's Rules and Bylaws Committee meets in Washington on Saturday to discuss changes to the presidential primary calendar, including the possibility of caucuses in between Iowa and New Hampshire, reports John DiStaso of the Union Leader. Key decisions will likely be put off until later in the year. LINK

At the American Prospect online, Greg Sargent writes up his source's account of a Mark Penn polling presentation to top New York financial supporters of Sen. Clinton about her national standing. Sen. Clinton and Patti Solis Doyle were both in attendance. LINK

Why, you may ask, is Mark Penn discussing the Senator's national poll numbers with big money folks gathered to raise funds for her reelection campaign in New York? (Okay, honestly, you probably aren't asking that because you are not likely to have been born yesterday.)

Here's Clinton spokeswoman Ann Lewis with her take: "'The purpose was to arm our finance people with answers to questions they are likely to get,' Lewis says. 'One set of questions we want them to be able to answer is, Why are all these attacks from Republicans coming? The answer is that she is increasingly seen as the leader of the Democratic Party nationally. . .'"

Sen. Clinton yesterday wrote a letter to her constituents that criticized the immigration bill before the House and opened "the door to the idea of letting some illegal immigrants earn legal status in the United States," reports the New York Times' Hernandez. LINK

In describing the letter, the New York Daily News writes that Clinton "tapped her angry side once more." LINK

New Hampshire:

A Granite State source tells The Note that Gen. Wesley Clark (D-AR) and state Rep. Claudia Chase plan to host a brunch in support of New Hampshire House Democrats in Greenfield, NH on Sunday March 19.

And Sen. Evan Bayh (D-IN) is scheduled to help raise money for Betsi DeVries state senate candidacy in Manchester, NH on Sunday March 26.

Iowa:

The Des Moines Register reports on the upcoming visits to Iowa from Sen. John McCain and former VP candidate John Edwards. LINK

The Schwarzenegger Era:

The Los Angeles Times reports that Gov. Schwarzenegger is nearing a deal with Democratic lawmakers to pass his massive infrastructure package. The compromise will likely involve $20 billion less in borrowing than Schwarzenegger's original $68 billion proposal. LINK

Wondering what might have prompted Gov. Schwarzenegger to change his mind so quickly, Mark Martin of the San Francisco Chronicle provides an interesting side-by-side comparison of the governor's take on pensions now and a year ago. LINK

2009:

It's probably a bit too late to work into a song for the Inner Circle on Saturday, but Quinnipiac University is out with a poll today looking at the 2009 Democratic primary for mayor in New York City.

From Quinnipiac's release: "U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner is the choice of 23 percent of Democrats, followed by Police Commissioner Ray Kelly with 13 percent, Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum with 12 percent, City Comptroller William Thompson with 10 percent, and Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrion with 8 percent. Another 34 percent are undecided."

Casting and counting:

In a filing this week, the DOJ asked a Federal District Court to give New York State just 10 days to come up with a plan to bring its election system into compliance with the federal Help America Vote Act, the New York Times reports. LINK