The Note: Decisions to Be Made


In case you were wondering, here is the Gang of 500 CW (solid through 11 am ET on 4/19/2006): Portman is good with the Hill but not enough; McClellan, Snow, a prominent Cabinet member TBA, and (eventually) Rumsfeld are all goners; when Republicans return from the congressional recess, they are going to be freaked out; Rahm still doesn't have enough seats in play; Russert hit the Duke story out of the park on Imus; and it's all about facts on the ground.

Speaking of which: Having just returned from Iraq and Afghanistan, Govs. Bush (R-FL), Daniels (R-IN), Vilsack (D-IA), and Manchin (D-WV) met and breakfasted with President Bush this morning to brief him on their trip. Gov. Vilsack also intended on using his face time with the President to ask for federal assistance for the tornado affected regions of Eastern Iowa. The governors were expected to stand with the President in the Rose Garden for his post-meeting remarks on the GWOT at approximately 9:05 am ET.

President Bush travels to Tuskegee, AL today to tour the Tuskegee Center for Advanced Materials and deliver remarks at 12:55 pm ET on his competitiveness initiative for the second time in as many days.

Vice President Cheney attends and makes remarks at the 2005 Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award ceremony at 3:00 pm ET in Washington, DC. From the NIST Web site: "The Baldrige Award is given by the President of the United States to businesses -- manufacturing and service, small and large -- and to education and health care organizations that apply and are judged to be outstanding in seven areas: leadership; strategic planning; customer and market focus; measurement, analysis, and knowledge management; human resource focus; process management; and results." LINK

(The White House announced this morning that President Bush has asked Vice President Cheney to travel to Lithuania, Kazakhstan, and Croatia at the beginning of May to "advance the President's Freedom Agenda.")

The grand jury investigating the CIA leak is scheduled to meet at 9:30 am ET. Secretary of State Rice delivers remarks on Iraq to the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations at 1:15 pm ET.

The World Congress holds its World Health Care Congress event in Washington, DC featuring a 2:30 pm ET conversation between Secretary John Snow and the Wall Street Journal's Gerald Seib on the impact of health care costs to the American economy.

Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Rep. Pete Stark (D-CA) are expected to join the Campaign for America's Future on a news conference call with reporters at noon ET to launch a national campaign to extend the deadline to enroll in Medicare's prescription drug plan.

Leader of the immigrant rights movement hold a press briefing in Washington, DC at 1:30 pm ET. "The briefing will clarify several issues swirling among the media including the origin of the movement, organizations involved in the coordination of various events and next steps," according to the press release.

Dr./Sen./Leader Frist (R-TN) is in the Sunshine State today. Sen. Frist is scheduled to meet with Sen. Martinez about immigration reform in Orlando and then travel to Tampa later in the day.

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) holds a town hall meeting at 10:30 am ET in Tempe, AZ. At 9:00 pm ET in Sun Lakes, AZ, Sen. McCain holds his second town hall meeting of the day. (The first is an official event on his Senate schedule, the second is a Straight Talk America PAC event.)

Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA) attends a closed press fundraiser for the Michigan House Republican Fund in Novi, MI at 6:00 pm ET.

At 10:00 am ET, Gov. Pataki is expected to make a "major environmental announcement" with Donald Trump in Jefferson Valley, NY.

In some international 2008 travel news, Sens. John McCain and John Edwards (D-NC) are each expected to address the German Marshall Fund's "Brussels Forum." The topic for the forum is "Transatlantic Challenges in a Global Era." McCain is expected to speak on Friday April 28 and Edwards is slated to deliver his remarks on Sunday April 30. LINK

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-CA) holds a 5:30 pm ET press conference in Sacramento, CA. Senate candidate Tom Kean Jr. (R-NJ) visits with small business owners to discuss the effects of Gov. Corzine's proposed tax increases at 11:00 am ET in Bloomfield, NJ.

Senate candidates Bob Casey, Jr., Alan Sandals, and Chuck Pennacchio square off in a Democratic primary debate at Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster, PA at 7:00 pm ET. LINK

Bolten's free hand:

The Washington Post's Diamond Jim VandeHei reports that even as he suggested that additional "high-level staff changes are coming, a defiant Bush said he will not be bullied into firing trusted advisers such as Rumsfeld." LINK

"White House officials, who guard internal discussions over staff changes like state secrets, said the next round of resignations and appointments could come as early as next week. Among those said to be contemplating leaving, Republican officials believe, are Treasury Secretary John W. Snow, White House spokesman Scott McClellan and several mid-level officials."

VandeHei has Ari Fleischer saying that staff changes are by and large "a Washington game" while adding that "you have to play that game if you are going to win."

The New York Times' Jim Rutenberg and Edmund Andrews folo CNN's reporting yesterday that Fox's Tony Snow may be in the mix to replace Scott McClellan, saying that two sources confirm Snow has spoken with White House officials about the job. LINK

The Washington Times Notes Jim Towey's photographic evidence that his departure from the Office of Faith Based and Community Initiatives is not part of a White House "shake-up." Says Towey: "The reality is, this has been in the works for months." LINK

Rumsfeld rumblings:

Per the New York Daily News' Thomas DeFrank, in "moments of quiet candor, Bush has vented to confidants that much of the advice he got from Rumsfeld about how Iraq would play out after the 2003 invasion was wrong." LINK

Adds DeFrank: "Presidential friends say that if after a decent interval Rumsfeld expressed a willingness to retire to his New Mexico ranch and Eastern Shore estate, Bush would smother him in heartfelt accolades, award him another Presidential Medal of Freedom and breathe a titanic sigh of relief."

"The first question at yesterday's Pentagon briefing, of course, was about the torrent of criticism from retired generals," reports ABC's Jonathan Karl.

"Rumsfeld's answer was 1,174 words long, but included only one glancing reference to Iraq. Essentially, Rumsfeld chalked up the criticism to his efforts to transform the military from a 20th century force into a 21st century force," adds Karl. (The New York Times' Maureen Dowd writes that Rumsfeld "flailed and floundered" in his response. LINK)

And Karl offers this account from the meeting with retired generals: "Donald Rumsfeld met with a group of 14 retired military officers for 45 minutes this afternoon in what one participant called 'a love fest.'"

"'They were falling over themselves to give encouragement and say nice things,' the participant said. 'If the secretary felt any stress going into the meeting, it was relieved by the choruses of 'you are brilliant, you are doing the right thing' coming from these guys.'"

The New York Times has mixed reaction from the Hill to the pro-Rumsfeld offensive by the Administration. LINK

On the one hand, an anonymous "Senate Republican aide" tells Timesman David Cloud that "despite expressions of support for Mr. Rumsfeld by some Republican senators, many other members expressed deep concern privately."

But that same aide said "he knew of no organized effort among Senate Republicans to make their concerns public or to take them to the White House," and the Times Notes that Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) issued a release yesterday "taking on Mr. Rumsfeld's critics point by point."

The Washington Times give significant play to Sec. Rumsfeld's comments at yesterday's presser and Bush's warm and fuzzy remarks about "Don." LINK

New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman writes that at "a minimum, a change must be made at the Pentagon." LINK

"I look at the Bush national security officials much the way I look at drunken drivers. I just want to take away their foreign policy driver's licenses for the next three years. Sorry, boys and girls, you have to stay home now -- or take a taxi. Dial 1-800-NATO-CHARGE-A-RIDE. You will not be driving alone. Not with my car."

The Los Angeles Times' Peter Spiegel suggests the defense of Rumsfeld's tenure that focuses on his "transformation" of the military misses the point: "none of the retired generals who have called for Rumsfeld's resignation have mentioned the administration's military transformation agenda. Five of the generals have either commanded forces in Iraq or been directly involved in formulating military plans for dealing with Iraq, and all have cited Rumsfeld's management of the war as the reason for calling on him to step down." LINK


The Wall Street Journal's McKinnon and Hitt couldn't resist the Veepstakes angle, writing that Portman is "thought to have higher political ambitions, which could mean returning to Ohio to run for office, according to Republicans. He could also become an attractive vice-presidential candidate in 2008, given his appeal in that crucial swing state."

The Wall Street Journal's ed board is bullish on Portman and not-so-bullish on Schwab whom the newspaper describes as having a "mixed" record on trade.

The Washington Times' Stephan Dinan cites Rob Portman's mix of "the fresh and the familiar" as the reason Bush chose him to head up the OMB. LINK

Portman's shift to OMB likely signals the Doha trade talks are dead, the Los Angeles Times' Joel Havemann writes, with the Bush Administration focusing now on budget issues over trade. LINK

"Portman's good relationships could face a strain in his new position, with restive Republicans pushing for reform of the administration's budgetary policy and a more concerted effort to rein in runaway federal spending," writes Elana Schor in The Hill. LINK


The Wall Street Journal's Greg Ip reports that the release of minutes from last month's meeting of the Federal Reserve gave "the strongest signal yet that an expected rate increase by the Fed at its next meeting May 10 may be the last for some time."

Politics of immigration:

The DNC is expected to launch its meta-response (the DNC claims it planned to run these ads prior to the RNC ad released on Monday) Spanish language radio ad on immigration today. The ad will be heard in Albuquerque and Las Cruces, NM, Las Vegas, NV, and Phoenix and Tucson, AZ. It will also run nationally on Univision radio. The next phase of the campaign will include print ads next week in both Spanish and English and the radio ad will likely play in additional markets.

DNC spokesman Mark Paustenbach says, "Our ads will set the record straight about the Democratic Party's fight for comprehensive immigration reform, whereas the RNC's ads are a distortion of the Republican Party's extreme record on immigration."

Neither the script nor the audio for the ad was available at press time.

The Minuteman Project announced plans for a national caravan set to depart Los Angeles, CA, on May 3 and end in Washington, D.C. on May 12. The caravan will include a stop in President Bush's hometown of Crawford, TX, on May 6, "to highlight the President's lack of leadership in this important aspect of homeland security," reads the group's press release.

The Fitzgerald investigation:

Lawyers for NBC News, the New York Times, and Time Inc. accused Scooter Libby yesterday of threatening the integrity of their news gathering operations by seeking access to a wide range of documents in the CIA leak case, the Washington Post reports. LINK

The New York Times covers it too: LINK

The Wall Street Journal's Squeo and Ellison have free-speech advocates saying that the Libby and Jack Anderson cases "represent an assault on reporters' unpublished work."

Big Casino budget politics:

The Washington Post writes up the battle to save a portion of the Clinton-era AmeriCorps program from the Bush Administration's budget chopping block. LINK

GOP agenda:

Because "House Republicans have bickered over the details of high-profile bills in recent months," Republican leaders created six issue-based working groups to "address the major themes of this election cycle" and to coordinate the GOP House movements, writes Patrick O'Connor of the Hill. LINK

2008: Republicans:

West Virginia Republicans have agreed to move their presidential primary from May to February in the hopes that it will put their state "in play" in the 2008 nomination process, writes Christina Bellantoni of the Washington Times. The plan for a January 2008 Internet-based election for delegates to the February 2008 convention would no doubt complicate GOTV operations for the Republican hopefuls who choose to compete there. LINK

The AP reports on Ralph Reed's campaign announcing an upcoming fundraiser featuring Rudy Giuliani. LINK

Giuliani spokeswoman Sunny Mindel says Giuliani has known Reed for years and that he is his Giuliani's candidate of choice in the Georgia lieutenant governor's race. Mindel also said that this isn't the first fundraiser that Giuliani has done for Reed. He also headlined a closed June 2005 fundraiser for Reed's campaign.

When asked about the Abramoff-related taint surrounding Ralph Reed and how that factored into Giuliani's decision to headline the event, Mindel told ABC News, "He's doing a fundraiser. And he's comfortable doing the fundraiser."

The New York Times reports the unusual pairing of Giuliani campaigning for Sen. Rick Santorum yesterday was made less awkward by the fact that "the two largely shied away from hot-button cultural issues" on which they disagree. LINK

While campaigning for Santorum, the New York Post reports Giuliani took "a few swipes" at Sen. Hillary Clinton. LINK

"The State Ethics Commission has tightened its rules on political activity by public officials, barring them from writing stump speeches, answering campaign questions, or holding news conferences on political topics inside the State House or other state office buildings," reports the Boston Globe. LINK

More: "The Democratic party and state Representative James J. Marzilli Jr., an Arlington Democrat, accused Romney of violating the conflict law when he appeared outside his State House office in July 2004, flanked by the state flag and several aides, and criticized John Kerry's choice of John Edwards as his running mate."

2008: Democrats:

Sen. Hillary Clinton is set to accept the endorsement of the Uniformed Firefighters Association and the Uniformed Fire Officers Association in Brooklyn today. The New York Daily News Notes the dual significance of the move: "the endorsements underscore her support among those affected most by the terrorist attacks"; and are "especially significant because it shows that a union that supported President Bush for reelection also backs Clinton." LINK

"Mayor Bloomberg's gal pal, Diana Taylor, was a surprise guest yesterday at a chic Manhattan fund- raiser for former Virginia Gov. Mark Warner," writes the New York Post's Tom Topousis of the "21" gathering. LINK

Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) launched an Internet ad from the Progressive Patriots Fund last evening while in Texas called "W." The ad focuses on the President's warrantless domestic wiretapping program and intimates that President Bush is acting more like "King George."">LINK

From the folks at Feingold's Progressive Patriots Fund: "The 'W' ad was created by the Milwaukee agency Eichenbaum/Associates. Feingold has used Steve Eichenbaum's agency for all of his television ads since he first ran for the U.S. Senate in 1992. 'W' was directed by Milwaukee native Peter Bonerz. Mr. Bonerz has a distinguished career in both acting and directing. He played Dr. Jerry Robinson on 'The Bob Newhart Show' and directed such television shows as 'Murphy Brown' and 'Friends.'

New Hampshire:

Does this help Mitt Romney's and John Kerry's presidential aspirations? "Aldermen voted last night to rename the city's airport Manchester-Boston Regional Airport," reports the New Hampshire Union Leader. LINK

2006: New Orleans:

"Rev. Jesse Jackson launched a get-out-the-vote campaign" yesterday arguing that "the shame of this state and country will be broadcast loud and clear if evacuees spread across the nation aren't included in the voting process," writes Trymaine Lee of the Times-Picayune. LINK

Brian Thevenot and Gordon Russell of the Times Picayune write on the next-to-last televised mayoral debate, where things started to really heat up. LINK

Adam Nossiter writes in the New York Times of the elephant in the room in the mayoral election: whether to rebuild all New Orleans neighborhoods equally. So far, Nossiter writes, "that question has become conspicuous by its absence." LINK

2006: landscape:

Alexander Bolton and Jeffrey Young of The Hill take a look at the recent FEC filings and conclude that challengers raised more money than the incumbents in competitive races, which is perhaps "a sign of the gathering strength of an anti-incumbent wind that doesn't necessarily distinguish between Republicans and Democrats." LINK

2006: Senate:

Based on his record of opposing expanded drilling in the Arctic and standing up for cleaner air, the Sierra Club announces its endorsement of Republican Sen. Lincoln Chafee (RI) in Warwick, RI at 9:45 am ET.

"Lincoln Chafee has been an environmental champion regardless of party affiliation," said Sierra Club spokesguy David Willett. "He's been there for the environment so we are going to be there for him."

The Sierra Club will be encouraging its volunteers in the Ocean State to volunteer for Chafee. The endorsement is for both the primary and general elections.

Per the Washington Post's Rein, Democrat Harris Miller kicked off his Senate campaign in Virginia yesterday by saying, "George Allen has spent a lot of time in New Hampshire, Iowa and South Carolina recently . . . As far as I can tell, that has done nothing to ease gridlock for commuters here in Northern Virginia, nothing to provide health care for a single family in Tidewater, nothing to provide good jobs for those who have lost jobs in Southside or southwest Virginia." LINK

Jim Stratton of the Orlando Sentinel takes a look at the Rasmussen poll that shows "Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) with a commanding 30-point lead over challenger Rep. Katherine Harris (R-FL)." LINK

2006: Gubernatorial:

The Los Angeles Times' Peter Nichols officially Notes the Steve Westly bandwagon with this line in today's paper: "At one time the underdog, Westly is now perceived by political analysts to have a good shot at not just knocking off [Phil] Angelides, who has less campaign money and more prominent Democratic endorsements, but also at mounting a strong campaign against the governor." LINK

Democratic gubernatorial hopefuls Westly and Angelides are talking circles around one another when it comes to California's budget, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. LINK

Gov. Ehrlich (R-MD) is launching a petition drive in an effort to allow voters to overturn the state's early voting procedures passed into law last year. LINK

Quinnipiac University's latest Florida gubernatorial poll numbers show tight contest in all but one of the likely general election match-up scenarios. More importantly, the poll indicates that all four candidates still have quite a bit of work to do introducing themselves to the Florida electorate -- especially so for the Democrats. (And how about that Gov. Bush number? Do you think his brother expressed approval rating envy at breakfast this morning?)

Here are the horserace numbers for you:

Attorney General Charlie Crist (R-FL) gets 37 percent of the vote when matched up against Rep. Jim Davis (D-FL) who gets 39 percent.

CFO Tom Gallagher (R-FL) and Rep. Jim Davis each garner the support of 38 percent of those polled in their match-up.

Against, State Sen. Rod Smith (D-FL), AG Crist receives 39 percent versus Smith's 37 percent. The only pairing to show a little distance between the candidates (but still slightly hovering with in the margin of error) is CFO Gallagher's 41 percent versus State Sen. Smith's 35 percent.

Also from the Quinnipiac release: "In a Democratic primary, Davis leads State Sen. Rod Smith 27 -- 17 percent with 50 percent undecided. Among Republicans, Crist leads Gallagher 34 -- 30 percent, with 33 percent undecided."

Despite her 2002 decision alongside Gov. Romney to forgo her salary in the spirit of volunteerism, the Boston Herald reports that Massachusetts Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey says if she's elected as the next governor she'll take the paycheck. Governor hopeful/millionaire Chris Gabrieli is expected to do the job for free if elected. LINK

Next month, Mark Holman, former chief of staff to Gov. Ridge, will leave his post as a DC lobbyist to become a full-time senior adviser to the Swann campaign whose fundraising efforts are described as lagging reports James O'Toole of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. LINK

2006: House:

The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza dusts off his copy of "The Prince" and writes about the NRCC's Machiavellian tactics in Ohio's sixth congressional district. LINK

Eating Cillizza's dust, Josephine Hearn of The Hill reports the NRCC was quick to catch on Rep. Alan Mollohan's (D-WV) finance troubles by sponsoring "automated calls to registered voters in four congressional districts" calling for his resignation. LINK

Per Hearn: "The calls took place in the districts of Reps. Melissa Bean (D-IL) and Chet Edwards (D-TX) -- both top Republican targets -- and Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-IL), chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. They were also placed in Mollohan's district."


Gary Fineout of the Miami Herald takes a look at the clash between Democrats and Republicans in Florida over campaign finances. LINK


"The official police report on Rep. Cynthia McKinney's clash with a Capitol Hill police officer three weeks ago says the DeKalb County congresswoman struck the officer 'in his chest with [a] closed fist,'" reports the Atlanta Journal Constitution's Kemper. LINK

Political potpourri:

The Washington Post's Al Kamen reports that Larry Klayman is suing Judicial Watch, the organization he founded and chaired, for "threatening the media" so it would "no longer refer to" him as the organization's former founder and chairman, which would result in the media's no longer calling on him "to comment on political and legal affairs." LINK

Some in Washington choose to forget or deny that Austin, Texas -- home of Matthew Dowd, Harry Whittington, Rick Perry, and Las Manitas Avenue Café -- is the center of the universe. But they forget at their peril. We can't decide which is the clearest evidence on display this week of this manifest fact: Texas Monthly's rollicking 8,500 eye-opening opus on Tom DeLay (sneak preview for Note readers here LINK), Evan Smith's we-can't-believe-it-either 40th birthday (It's Thursday. LINK), or U of T's David Oshinsky's smashing Pulitzer win for his classic book on the search for a cure for polio LINK. (Congratulations, David -- we would have e-mailed, but being 801st seemed weak. LINK)

The New Hampshire Union Leader catches Sen. John Sununu's (R-NH) rising star. LINK

Howie Kurtz's must-read work on A. Brit Hume. LINK