WASHINGTON, Mar. 21
President Bush bumps Vice President Cheney's speech as the Administration's marquee event today by holding a press conference at 10:00 am ET in the White House press briefing room.
With Mr. Bush not expected to make news with a brief opening statement -- perhaps about Iraq and, sources say, likely to quote the lyrics of Buddy Holly's "Everyday" -- it will be up to Terry Hunt of the Associated Press to set the tone and substance with a lead-off question that follows the simple rule: don't ask ANY questions the President has been asked before or for which he will have been prepped. We are certain Mr. Hunt, as he always does, will set the right example.
Mr. Cheney delivers remarks on Iraq and the GWOT at 12:35 pm ET at Scott Air Force Base in Illinois. The Vice President is toting media on his plane today -- unusual that -- but it appears he might be overshadowed by the boss.
(At 11:10 am ET, President Bush meets with the President of Liberia in the Oval Office. Later this afternoon, President and Mrs. Bush meet with leaders of non-governmental organizations doing work in Iraq and Afghanistan.)
It's also primary day in the Land of Lincoln. Polls opened at 7:00 am ET and are scheduled to close at 8:00 pm ET. County-by-county election results can be found here: LINK. There are no network exit polls.
Elsewhere today, Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE) keynotes the Merrimack County Republican Lincoln Day dinner in Concord, NH.
RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman is in Cincinnati, Dayton, and Columbus, OH today for fundraising events and meetings with supporters and activists.
Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) joins Republican Senate candidate and former Safeco Insurance executive Mike McGavick for a Washington State Republican Party fundraiser in Seattle, WA.
Gen. Wesley Clark (D-AR) attends an Ohio Democratic Party fundraiser in Cincinnati, OH. And former Sen. John Edwards (D-NC) speaks at Vanderbilt University's "Impact Symposium" in Nashville, TN.
If Democratic candidate Tammy Duckworth wins her primary in the sixth congressional district, she will become the second Iraq war veteran to clinch his or her party's congressional nomination in 2006. Van Taylor, a Texas Republican running against Rep. Chet Edwards (D-TX), won the GOP's congressional nomination earlier this month.
Of the seven Democratic Iraq war veterans running for the House in 2006, Democrats see Duckworth, who lost both of her legs in Iraq, as their best chance to send an Iraq vet to Congress. But make no mistake: Duckworth faces an uphill climb: Illinois' sixth congressional district has been represented by Rep. Henry Hyde, a Republican stalwart, for more than 30 years, and it voted for President Bush in 2004 by six points. If Duckworth beats former House candidate Christine Cegelis today, she will face Peter Roskam, the Republican state senator for whom Vice President Cheney raised money last week.
In Illinois' eighth congressional district, free-spending investment banker David McSweeney and lawyer Kathy Salvi are vying for the chance to take on first-term Rep. Melissa Bean (D-IL). GOP strategists privately concede that Rep. Bean's moderate voting record will not be easy to attack in November. But as a Democrat who represents a district which President Bush carried by 12 points in 2004, Rep. Bean will be one of the GOP's top targets in 2006. The non-partisan Cook Political Report rates this contest as one of the 12 most competitive House races in 2006.
In the gubernatorial contest, five Republicans are running for the nomination to take on incumbent Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D-IL). Former Illinois GOP Chairwoman and current state treasurer, Judy Baar Topinka is the frontrunner. Topinka recently referred to her primary opponents as "morons" and later apologized for doing so. Blagojevich has a Democratic opponent who poses no threat to the governor winning the nomination.
Lynn Sweet of the Chicago Sun-Times reports RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman will attempt to heal post-primary wounds and rally the troops for November in a Chicago-area visit planned for Friday. Sweet also highlights the top races today. LINK
Rick Pearson of the Chicago Tribune writes up the candidates' final preparations for today's primary. LINK
The five Republican candidates in the Illinois gubernatorial primary have made the disgraced ex-Gov. George H. Ryan an issue, a strategy which might "backfire," according to the Los Angeles Times' P.J. Huffstutter. LINK
The New York Post's Deborah Orin profiles the "darling" of the Democrats: Tammy Duckworth. LINK
Politics of Iraq:
The Washington Post's Jim VandeHei writes that pollsters and some congressional GOPers are saying that the Bush Administration's "sunny-side-up" appraisals of Iraq may be complicating the task of sustaining support for a long-term military commitment in Iraq. LINK
(In an interview that will complicate Sarah Feinberg's job, Rep. Heather Wilson (R-NM), a top DCCC target, says the Vice President was wrong about the insurgency being in its last throes; Rep. Wilson also tells the Washington Post that she sent word to the White House recently to level with the American people about the challenges).
The Washington Post's Peter Baker rebuts President Bush's pushback against the media on the Iraq war by writing that "even the success stories" in Iraq "see to come with asterisks." LINK
"Over all, Mr. Bush's speech was a positive message that conceded some of the setbacks on the ground, a formulation meant to portray the president as not living in a fantasy world about the three-year-long war," writes Elisabeth Bumiller of the New York Times. LINK
Washington Times' Stephen Dinan Notes the President's position on troop withdrawal from yesterday's speech, where he declared that troops will leave from "a position of strength, not weakness." LINK
USA Today's David Jackson on Bush facing tough questions yesterday. LINK
The Los Angeles Times' James Gerstenzang reports that the City Club of Cleveland responded to the President's speech on Monday with "only occasional displays of enthusiasm, interrupting his speech with applause for the first time nearly 28 minutes after he began speaking." LINK
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke addressed the Economic Club of New York and intimated that global financial conditions will increasingly inform the setting of interest rates, reports the New York Times' Eduardo Porter. (Note, too, the tea leaves on an interest rate hike in the offing.) LINK
Keying off of a report being released today, the Los Angeles Times' Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar reports that many low-income California seniors now have access to "a narrower range of drugs than when the state covered their medications." LINK
In his piece panning the "strikingly thin" Homeland Security chief with the "high-pitched voice, point ears and droopy eyelids," the Washington Post's Dana Milbank Notes that Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE) won "vigorous applause" for demanding the ouster of Chertoff while speaking to the firefighters on Monday. LINK
Ruth Marcus writes in the Washington Post that manliness is the root of the Bush Administration's problems. LINK
The Washington Post's Federal Page looks at HUD Secretary Alphonso Jackson's work mentoring a student at Howard University. LINK
Feingold's call for censure:
Move of offense or defense? You make the call. The Republican National Committee is launching a 60-second radio ad in Madison and Milwaukee today pushing back on Sen. Feingold's censure resolution.
From the RNC ad: "Now Feingold and other Democrats want to censure the President. Publicly reprimanding President Bush for pursuing suspected members of al Qaeda."
"Some Democrats are even calling for President Bush's impeachment." "Is this how Democrats plan to win the War on Terror?" "Call Russ Feingold and ask him why he's more interested in censuring the President than protecting our freedom."
The New York Post's John Podhoretz keys off of Ryan Lizza's and Rick Hertzberg's recent musings to call Democrats cowards for not supporting Sen. Feingold's resolution. LINK
Politics of national security:
Bloomberg News reports a Dubai owned company has delayed its purchase of a military equipment manufacturer, which supplies the United States, to make sure any American security concerns are addressed. LINK
House of Labor:
The New York Times' Steven Greenhouse looks at the Republican Party's push to court more labor voters as evidenced by RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman's and Sen. Chuck Hagel's (R-NE) appearances before the IAFF yesterday. Greenhouse Notes, however, that DNC Chairman Howard Dean seemed to be the crowd's favorite speaker of the day. LINK
"Change to Win," the association of unions that disassociated themselves from the AFL-CIO, is holding its first organizing convention at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, NV this week. The purpose of this week's convention is to form trans-industry local campaign teams comprised of local leaders, political directors, and labor organizers from all seven of "Change to Win's" affiliated unions.
In a sign that the labor side of the Democratic coalition is beginning to adopt language first promulgated by the party's centrists, "Change to Win" is organizing its push for better wages, education, health care, and retirement security under a "make work pay" umbrella.
John Edwards was the only potential presidential candidate to speak to the 2,000 activists meeting in Las Vegas. But he did so, according to "Change to Win" spokesgal Carole Florman, not as an '08er but as someone who has been out working with the hotel workers on their "hotel workers rising" campaign.
"I'm sure there would be quite a few people here who would be excited about his running again," said Florman. "But he is not here in that capacity."
In his Tuesday remarks to the "Change to Win" convention, SEIU's Andy Stern is expected to discuss his union's efforts to ensure that workers -- and not just "giant corporations and CEOs" -- benefit from globalization.
To illustrate his call for a global strategy, Stern will share the stage with Tony Woodley of the Transport and General Workers Union to discuss the transatlantic partnership their two unions have forged to hold two private bus companies accountable to their employees and consumers.
According to the transatlantic "Driving Up Standards" campaign, the UK-based FirstGroup and National Express "preach 'corporate social responsibility' in the United Kingdom, while actively campaigning against union organization in the United States. Many employees of First Student -- FirstGroup's US subsidiary -- are paid sub-standard wages and most are not provided affordable health care coverage." LINK
"Change to Win" plans to launch the "Make Work Pay!" on the week of April 24 with actions targeting industries in more than 35 cities.
Politics of immigration:
Per Bloomberg News, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff amps up border security and said that starting in May, the United States will house families caught illegally border crossing and will add more pressure to countries to accept the illegal aliens' return. LINK
The Boston Globe's Rick Klein offers a workpersonlike "politics of immigration" overview in anticipation of its resurgence after the congressional recess. LINK
In Montana, rumors are flying that struggling Sen. Conrad Burns (R-MT) may drop out of the race before Thursday's filing deadline to give the GOP a better chance at winning the seat, reports Charles Johnson of the Helena Independent Record. LINK
In response to the rumors, Burns' confident campaign spokesman Jason Klindt said, "Conrad Burns is definitely running, and he's going to win."
The NRSC announced this morning it raised $5.5 million in February bringing Sen. Dole's organization's fundraising total for 2006 to $9.8 million. The NRSC has $14.5 million cash on hand.
The Washington Post's Peter Slevin writes that the crop of (mostly Democratic) Iraq war veterans running for Congress in 2006 are "reaping some of the benefits of growing antiwar sentiment" but are "struggling to raise their profiles and prove they can talk about more than the war." LINK
Jim Stratton of the Orlando Sentinel writes up Katherine Harris' scheduled appearance on ABC News' Nightline Noting that "It is the second time in two weeks Harris has scheduled a spot on a national news program, as she tries to salvage a campaign that, at times, has seemed ready to collapse." LINK
David Kirkpatrick of the New York Times writes that Pennsylvania appears to be the testing ground for conservative groups -- who are training pastors to help turn out the vote in November -- to assess the IRS' vow to more closely investigate politics at the pulpit. LINK
Whether or not Tom Kean, Jr. -- in an effort to avoid being photographed with Dick Cheney -- deliberately delayed his arrival at a Newark fundraiser for his campaign headlined by the Vice President will be debated up and down the Garden State Parkway today. (Team Kean blames the voting schedule in Trenton and the traffic en route.) The New York Times' David Chen includes Kean's route from Trenton to Newark and Cheney's joke about the matter in his excellent story. LINK
The New York Post writes it up too. LINK
As first reported by National Journal's Marc Ambinder, President Bush will be fundraising for Rep. Jim Nussle's (R-IA) gubernatorial campaign on April 11, writes Jane Norman of the Des Moines Register. LINK
Yesterday, gubernatorial candidate Mike Blouin (D-IA) picked up the Iowa steelworkers union's endorsement, and his primary rival Chet Culver (D-IA) received the backing of the United Auto Workers, write Thomas Beaumont and Tony Leis of the Des Moines register. LINK
A Quinnipiac University poll released yesterday shows Sen. Clinton losing the Garden State's 15 electoral votes to either John McCain or Rudy Giuliani, writes Deborah Orin of the New York Post. LINK
San Francisco Chronicle's Mark Martin points out that Sen. McCain's fundraising for Gov. Schwarzenegger and the Republican Party yesterday is now under tight scrutiny by the Democratic Party and campaign finance experts, who question whether or not the Senator violated his own campaign-finance law. LINK
The Columbia Spectator's editorial board tries to tame down "angry" and "outraged" voices against McCain's upcoming speech to the Columbia University, arguing that "McCain's speech will be an excellent opportunity for students to gain exposure to one of the most influential individuals in America and perhaps to hear an articulate expression of views that conflict with their own." LINK
Sen. George Allen's (R-VA) paycheck proposal, where members of congress will not get paid if they miss the deadline for passing a federal budget, was not well-received among his colleagues, writes Washington Times' Christina Bellantoni. LINK
Tyler Whitley and Jeffrey Kelley of the Richmond Times-Dispatch trailed Sen. Allen in the Richmond area yesterday where Allen "defended congressional spending earmarks," "defended President Bush's domestic-surveillance program," and "was scornful of the status of estate taxes." LINK
"Hagel's appearance on a cold, clear night attracted C-Span cameras and a Hagel for President T-shirt worn by Wayne Smith, a musician who drove up from Bethlehem, Pa., to express his support," writes Don Walton of the Lincoln Journal Star. LINK
And Note this: "State Sen. Bob Odell of Lempster, an old Hagel friend, accompanied him to Monday night's event and will travel with him today."
The New York Daily News has a Ken Bazinet story saying that Sen. Clinton (the family member on the ballot this year) and her advisors will get the final say on former President Clinton's public activities and remarks. LINK
"The former President agreed to give his wife a veto to avoid his habit of making controversial headlines that could hurt her chances of returning to the White House, multiple sources told the Daily News. . . Hillary Clinton's handlers are keeping a close rein on the former President's schedule to try to prevent another embarrassing screw-up like their competing roles in the Dubai ports deal."
(Note to Bazinet: getting Ms. Lewis and Mr. Carson to confirm all this on the record must have been sort of annoying.) (Note to Carson: We'd like the town hall meeting schedule as soon as you've got it, please.) Remember the poll that came out not too long ago that suggested 51 percent of registered voters would never support Sen. Clinton for president?
Well, Clinton pollster Mark Penn doesn't address that poll directly in his Washington Post op-ed.
But he does include a reference to a similar poll about former President Bill Clinton conducted in 1995. LINK
"When asked, Americans have a characteristic swagger and express that they definitely will or will not vote for candidates and parties. In 1995, 65 percent of voters said they would never vote for Bill Clinton. One year later they reelected him in a landslide."
More Penn: "While it's become conventional wisdom to say that voters' minds are firmly made up, and that certain candidates can or cannot win, it's just not true. The growing bloc of swing voters takes a hard look at candidates much later in the process, and they adjust and shift as they gather information. They may seem like wallflowers in the political process right now, but they are the ones a successful campaign eventually needs to cross the finish line."
When Gov. Bill Richardson (D-NM) appeared on "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" on August 21, 2005, he was asked about Sen. Russ Feingold's (D-WI) call for setting Dec. 31, 2006 as a "target date" for the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq. The New Mexico governor said he understood his potential rival's frustration but he didn't "believe you have to have a set timetable because … that allows the terrorists to know when you're leaving."
Since then, Gov. Richardson has had a change of heart.
In November of 2005, Gov. Richardson said in a statement carried by the Associated Press: "It is now time for the military commanders to design a phased, definitive withdrawal plan." LINK
Gov. Richardson is now going one step further.
After speaking to the International Association of Fire Fighters on Monday, Gov. Richardson told ABC News that the US should be out of Iraq in early 2007 because he thinks the training of the Iraqi military and Iraqi police will be done by then.
Gov. Richardson also said on Monday that the US needs to put Iraqi leaders in a room and lead them to a political solution right now. He also said that he wants to shift America's "strategic posture" away from our "obsession" with Iraq to the Taliban in Afghanistan, Iran, North Korea, and homeland security.
RNC spokesgal Tracey Schmitt responded to Gov. Richardson's repositioning by telling ABC News: "It's the latest example of a Democrat more consumed with their own political aspirations than America's national security."
The New York Daily News runs the AP's write-up of former Vice President Gore's remarks (again) that he does not plan to run for President in 2008, though he hasn't completely ruled out a future in elected office. LINK
Nonetheless: The American Prospect looks at Gore's status in the magazine's cover story.
"Five years ago, Al Gore was the much-mocked pol who blew a gimme with his stiff demeanor and know-it-all style. Today? C'mon, admit it: You like him again," writes Ezra Klein of the American Prospect. LINK
Klein lays out this scenario for how Gore could get the nomination: "Hillary Clinton continues rolling forward, amassing establishment support and locking down the large donors. Anti-Hillary voters prove unable to coalesce around a single champion, so Clinton is able to suck up all the oxygen but, as with most faits accomplis, attracts little genuine enthusiasm. At the same time, her hawkishness and ostentatious moderation sparks widespread disillusionment among the online activist community. Inevitably, the liberal wing of the party begins calling for a Bigfoot of its own to enter the primary, and the obvious prospect is Gore. DraftGore.com, which already exists, amplifies the drumbeat, collecting pledges and holding events. The press corps, sensing a Godzilla vs. King Kong battle, begins covering the events. As Marty Peretz, publisher of The New Republic and a longtime friend of Gore, says, 'if he were to find that there was some groundswell for him, I think it would be hard to resist.'"
The Spartanburg Herald-Journal has a look at Sen. Biden's trip to the Palmetto State yesterday and includes the Delawarean's assessment that the 2008 nomination process will be all about South Carolina. LINK
"'South Carolina will be the ballgame,' Biden said. 'I think you'll see a couple of people or maybe three come out of New Hampshire, and they have to be able to prove they can appeal to voters in a Southern state.'"
Tim Higgins and Jonathan Roos of the Des Moines Register write that Gov. Vilsack's (D-IA) signature on Monday on the Touchplay ban could bring about lawsuits from the many companies who invested in the machines. LINK
Sen. Edwards will be touring Iowa next month, Notes the Cedar Rapids Gazette. LINK
The Schwarzenegger Era:
"Money in, favors out, that's what Arnold's all about!" is what labor protestors were yelling while Gov. Schwarzenegger and Sen. McCain were inside the Beverly Hilton raising $2.5 million on Monday, reports the Los Angeles Times. LINK
California's prisons are uneasily preparing to desegregate their cells over the next two years, reports the Wall Street Journal's Miriam Jordan.
The appearance of possible bias may require two judges to be removed from hearing appeals in the case against Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX), reports the Houston Chronicle's R.G. Ratcliffe. LINK
The Clintons of Chappaqua:
"The seven-year, $70 million Whitewater investigation that toppled an Arkansas governor and dogged Bill Clinton for most of his presidency officially drew to a close Monday when the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the last remaining appeal," the AP reports. LINK
Sally Stroup is headed back to Capitol Hill after a four-year stint at the Department of Education, reports the New York Times. LINK
While all the clips about Mayor Villaraigosa's trip to New York look pretty good for Michael Bloomberg, it is Liz Smith's reason number 8 in her top ten things she likes about the mayor that will cause Diana Taylor to smile today. LINK