The Note: Leader Hastert?

WASHINGTON, July 24

While the important Middle East story is certain to dominate another week of news coverage, by next Monday, The Note estimates that Election Day will be one week closer.

That means that those who lose sight of what matters (Will George W. Bush be able to salvage the last two years of his presidency by helping to keep his party in control of Congress?) will have no one to blame but themselves.

The Democrats have plenty of their own problems, but here are the latest signs that "GOP" stands for "Got Oversized Problems" in 2006:

1. THE POLLS: As media polls start to come out over the next 90 days showing publicly what Republicans have known privately for months (that many of their candidates are currently in deep doo doo), bad things can happen. (See the Ohio data below.)

First, the Old Media will become even more excited about the "Republicans lose the House -- and maybe the Senate (!)" narrative than it/they already is/are. Second, donors, who are already giving in shocking numbers to the out-of-power party, will start to give even more to Democrats (and less to Republicans). Third, liberals will be energized and conservatives depressed. Fourth, real-life human beings (a/k/a "voters") will start to hear the "Democrats will win" storyline and that can become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

2. THE COATTAILS: In a lot of the states with key House battleground races, top-of-the-ticket statewide contests at this point appear to hold the possibility of major Democratic routs. We are talking Northeast and Midwest here: Pennsylvania, New York, New Hampshire, and maybe even (despite the hand wringing in the press) Connecticut. And maybe even Florida (Senate, not governor).

3. THE MONEY: Given Big Labor, Democratic Party fundraising, and those liberal millionaire/billionaire types, where/when/who are the conservative 527 white knights going to emerge? They ARE going to emerge, right?

4. THE BUSTED FOG MACHINE: Republican plans to shatter the glass jaws of Democratic non-incumbent candidates using the lower-taxes-keep-you-safer fog machine just might not work in this fall's environment.

5. THE CALENDAR: The October Surprise sweepstakes still holds a lot of peril for the President's party, including political scandal legal action in Ohio, more possible Abramoff-related indictments, Woodward's book, Iraq, gas prices, prescription drugs, and a few others we are not at liberty to reveal here.

6. MR. SCHUMER AND MR. EMANUEL: These cats are not fooling around.

7. IMMIGRATION: It is still hard to envision a plausible outcome that will help the Republicans in November. Do-no-harm seems their best bet, and even that looks tough.

8. NOT STEMMING THE TIDE: Josh Bolten's weak stem cell perf on "Meet" yesterday has convinced Democrats, now more than ever, that they can make the President's veto an issue in 2006, at least in the Northeast.

9. AFRICAN AMERICAN AND HISPANIC TURNOUT POSSIBILITIES: There are indications in some key races that Democrats might have figured out this puzzle enough to actually make a difference this fall.

10. THE POST PRISM: In a front-page introduction to the Washington Post's on-going look at eight factors on which the midterm elections will hinge, the Washington Post's Dan Balz writes: "No one can predict whether 2006 will be one of those seismic years in which control of Congress switches parties. But small shifts could have large consequences. If Democrats in the House gain 15 seats -- a number that analysts in both parties say is within reach -- Republicans will relinquish power there for the first time since 1994. In the Senate, Democrats need to gain six seats to take control -- a more remote prospect, but by most estimates a plausible one." LINK

The eight questions being followed by the Washington Post are: (1) how big a problem is President Bush for the GOP, (2) will pocketbook concerns move votes, (3) can Democrats compete in the South, (4) will the corruption issue go national, (5) will the immigration issue save Republicans, (6) will the Iraq war come home in November, (7) can Republicans win in the Northeast, and (8) will ballot issues drive voters to the polls?

As for today: Just as he did when he was a Yale law student, Bill Clinton delivers much-needed support to Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-CT) this afternoon. The former President campaigns for the embattled Democratic hawk at 4:00 pm ET in Waterbury, CT. This morning, Sen. Lieberman will make campaign stops in Norwalk, CT and Stamford, CT with Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA).

Sen. Lieberman's opponent, Ned Lamont, also looks to channel memories of the 1990s with an 11:30 am ET campaign stop in New Haven, CT, with Carl S. Feen, the Finance chair of Lieberman's first Senate campaign and a Clinton appointee. In the afternoon, Lamont visits a senior care center in Hartford, CT, and later, attends a fundraiser dinner in Waterbury, CT.

The Democratic Leadership Council prepares for a 2008 presidential blitz in Denver, CO today as Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY), Sen. Evan Bayh (D-IN), Gov. Tom Vilsack (D-IA), and Gov. Bill Richardson (D-NM) address the centrist Democratic group. LINK

Look to see if Sen. Clinton's remarks contain at least the seeds of a 2008 agenda.

President Bush begins his day with a naturalization ceremony at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. At 2:25 pm ET, the President signs the Freedom to Display the American Flag Act, giving Americans the right to fly the flag outside their condos, co-op rules notwithstanding. At 5:35 pm ET, President Bush joins RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman for a closed-press fundraiser at Evermay in Washington, DC. Eighty attendees are expected to bring in $1 million for the RNC.

Vice President Dick Cheney heads to Arkansas and Alabama to speak at two gubernatorial fundraisers: contender Asa Hutchinson in Arkansas, and incumbent Gov. Bob Riley.

At 10:00 am ET, Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) holds a press conference in Milwaukee, WI to announce that he will introduce the State Based Health Care Reform Act later in the week. The State-Based Health Care Reform Act would authorize pilot projects to help two to three states achieve health care coverage for all their citizens.

Rather than dictating how states will achieve universal coverage, the bill provides them with the flexibility to choose their own way of covering all their citizens, provided they meet specified minimum requirements. Sen. Feingold's bill is aimed at breaking the political stalemate in Congress that is preventing meaningful health care coverage from being enacted. Over the next six months, Sen. Feingold plans to announce a series of proposals addressing some of the domestic issues that have been raised at Wisconsin Listening Sessions.

Back here in Washington, Gov. Tim Kaine (D-VA) joins education experts at the New America Foundation for a discussion on "Closing the Achievement Gap: Expanding Access to Quality Early Education in Grades PK-3."

ABCNews.com has the transcript of an interview that Jake Tapper conducted with liberal blogger Markos Moulitsas for Nightline. LINK

Sen. Lieberman's primary politics:

Former President Bill Clinton will exhort Connecticut voters to "redirect their anger over the war in Iraq away from Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman and toward Connecticut's three congressional Republicans" when he campaigns for DLC colleague Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-CT) today. At a campaign event Saturday, Sen. Lieberman emphasized President Clinton's concern about the "implications of this campaign for the national Democratic Party, for our chance to take back control of Congress this fall, which we dearly want to do, and for our chance to begin a movement to take back the White House in 2008." Meanwhile, the Lamont campaign wondered aloud: given their famous clash over Monica Lewinsky, might not a Clinton-Lieberman appearance remind voters "how destructive Joe can be to other Democrats"? The Hartford Courant's Mark Pazniokas reports: LINK

Though he labeled Sen. Lieberman "idiotic" on the Iraq War, Don Imus reiterated his support for the embattled Senator on his morning show, calling Sen. Lieberman's primary opponent, Ned Lamont, an "Ichabod crane, pencil-necked phony" and Noting that Lamont quit his country club so that it would not be come a campaign issue.

Following church on Sunday, Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CT) downplayed Lamont's recently cancelled membership at a "too white and too rich" Greenwich country club, the Hartford Courant reports. LINK

The Washington Times previews former President Clinton's campaigning in Connecticut today for his "politically centrist soul mate" Sen. Lieberman. LINK

"Mr. Lamont will counter the Clinton visit on Monday by announcing the endorsement of Feen, a former Lieberman campaign official and a Clinton appointee who lives in New Haven," reports the New York Times' Medina. LINK

Long-time Lieberman admirer Joe Klein of Time writes: "Joe Lieberman is, without question, one of the finest men I've known in public life. I could never imagine myself voting against him. But he was profoundly wrong about the most important issue of the past five years . . ." LINK

The New York Post editorial board endorses Joe Lieberman in his primary. LINK

Meryl Gordon includes Rebecca Lieberman's decision to postpone her wedding -- initially scheduled for two days prior to the primary -- in her New York Magazine look at the Lieberman/Lamont race. LINK

DLC in Denver:

Our super-sly stringer on the ground in Denver, CO tells us:

-- This 10th annual DLC "National Conversation" is the largest one ever. Over 375 Democratic elected officials from 42 states are participating.

-- Andrew Romanoff -- Speaker of the House in Colorado and, some say, a DLC rising star -- was seen having breakfast Sunday morning with Klein.

-- In a last minute change of plans, all 19 breakout sessions were open to the press. Originally, only three were slated to be open to reporters. The change was due to a last-minute realization that the DLC had to abide by a sunshine law. No, this is not a reference to any press rules imposed by DLC spokeswoman Tammy Sun, but is an actual pre-existing law whereby any meeting in Colorado at which at least 2 Colorado elected officials are present discussing policy matters, must be open to the media.

-- DLC Chairman Gov. Tom Vilsack bowled last night at "Lucky Strike" and reportedly got at least one strike.

The Associated Press curtain-raises the DLC's "American Dream Initiative" -- headed up by Sen. Clinton and expected to be unveiled today in her 12:15 pm ET speech. LINK

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"Mrs. Clinton's portfolio at the DLC seems designed to keep her out of the thorniest issues dividing the party, such as the war in Iraq, and to allow her to sidestep issues such as foreign trade, where the council's permissive stance is out of sync with most Democratic lawmakers," writes Josh Gerstein of the New York Sun. LINK

Arriving early at the DLC's annual convention in Denver on Sunday, presidential hopefuls Gov. Vilsak and Sen. Bayh "wooed" roughly 400 state delegates without the presence of DLC star, Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY). The Des Moines Register's Thomas Beaumont reports that Vilsack will speak today to the conference and focus on "toughening" the image of Democrats. "If people don't first trust us with their lives, they are not going to trust us with anything else," Bayh told Beaumont. LINK

Former Gov. Mark Warner (D-VA) missed the DLC' meeting due to a long-planned family vacation in Spain.

Ohio:

The Columbus Dispatch released its first poll yesterday, indicating strong Democratic leads in the Ohio gubernatorial and Senate races. The poll shows that Rep. Ted Strickland (D-OH) has achieved a 20-point lead ahead of Repubican challenger Rep. J. Kenneth Blackwell, and Democrat Sherrod Brown leads Sen. Mike DeWine (R-OH) by eight points in his efforts to unseat the two-term Senator. LINK

More detailed results from the Columbus Dispatch poll, conducted July 11 - 20. LINK

Bush Administration agenda:

Time's Mike Allen reports that "one presidential adviser wants Bush to beef up his counsel's office for the tangle of investigations that a Democrat-controlled House might pursue." LINK

The American Bar Association seems to believe that President Bush is overstepping his constitutional authority by claiming he can disregard certain provisions of legislation in his signing statements that accompany his signature on a bill.

More from the New York Times LINK, Associated Press LINK, Chicago Tribune LINK, and Washington Post LINK

"The Bush administration is quietly remaking the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, filling the permanent ranks with lawyers who have strong conservative credentials but little experience in civil rights, according to job application materials obtained by the Globe," reported Charlie Savage of the Boston Globe on Sunday. LINK

New York Times columnist Paul Krugman keys off President Bush's recent visit to the NAACP convention to explore why African-Americans are distrustful of the Republican Party. LINK

Newsweek's cover package by Richard Wolffe after he got exclusive "behind-the-scenes" access to President Bush on his trip to German and Russia: LINK

DNC 2008 nomination calendar:

After years of discussion, the DNC's Rules and By Laws Committee voted Saturday to shake up its 2008 presidential calendar. The voting will still begin in Iowa. But if the recommendations of this DNC panel are followed, the Democrats will next compete in a Nevada caucus before moving on to the New Hampshire primary. The DNC's Rules and By Laws Committee also voted Saturday to make the South Carolina primary the first contest after New Hampshire.

In a Saturday contribution to "The World Newser," ABC News' Teddy Davis had former Clinton White House deputy chief of staff Harold Ickes saying of Sen. Clinton's 2008 plans: "If she runs, she may decide to go into South Carolina. But what I'm saying is the odds are against it." LINK

"Ickes' comments were seen by most observers not as a signal that Sen. Clinton would not compete in South Carolina but rather as an early effort on the part of a Clinton ally to lower expectations."

The New York Times' Adam "Double Duty" Nagourney on the calendar changes: LINK

(Note Secretary of State Gardner's scolding the New York Times for calling him at home for reaction, while John DiStaso and Susan Milligan just got quotes!) The Union Leader's DiStaso had Gardner saying that the addition of a Nevada caucus three days before the New Hampshire primary "diminishes the value of the primary and dishonors our tradition." He said the move "is creating an unpredictable situation" because it may also prompt other states to move up their primaries and caucuses. "We've been on this tightrope before and we're not going to back off.'" LINK

In today's Union Leader, DiStaso writes under a, "With no debate, Democrats 'trample' primary" header. LINK

Gov. Vilsack and Sen. Bayh said they would support inserting Nevada between Iowa and New Hampshire, "should the party adopt the schedule next month," reports the Des Moines Register's Tom Beaumont. LINK

The Washington Post's Cillizza and Goldfarb: LINK

Los Angeles Times: LINK

The AP's Will Lester: LINK

The Boston Globe's Susan Milligan: LINK

The Las Vegas Review-Journal's Maria Hegstad: LINK

The Las Vegas Sun's J. Patrick Coolican on Sen. Reid's role. LINK

South Carolina's The State: LINK

2008:

Keying off a Charlie Rose interview, the New York Sun's Nicholoass Wapshott looks at Rupert Murdoch saying an endorsement of Sen. Clinton is "unlikely," that Sen. McCain "would make a fine president," and that New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg "would be a very good chief executive of the country." LINK

The Boston Herald reports that Gov. Romney and Sen. Kerry will both be in Iowa this coming weekend. LINK

2008: Republicans:

The Frist family is leading the way in a proposed $31.6 billion buyout of for-profit hospital operator HCA. (For you eagle-eyed '08 watchers, Note that Bain Capital is reported to be one of the investors here as well.) The New York Times has the story. LINK

In an ode to Newt, National Review editor Rich Lowry writes, "after six years of Bush, many conservatives are ready for a no-holds-barred, limited-government brainiac again." That man? Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich. And while Lowry admits that the road to Gingrich's re-ascendance is full of obstacles, including potential runs by Sen. George Allen (R-VA) and Gov. Mitt Romeny (R-MA), Lowry believes that an anti-McCain conservative like Gingrich could do well in Iowa and gain important momentum: "But the first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses are a conservative bastion. In 2000, even unserious candidates Alan Keyes and Gray Bauer combined for 23 percent of the vote." LINK

Reuters ran a Sunday story looking at Rudy Giuliani as the "wild card" of the 2008 race for the White House. LINK

Alongside a photo of Giuliani in drag, National Review asks on its cover: "But Will it Play in Peoria?" LINK

In his New York Post column, Ryan Sager declares Giuliani the front-runner for the 2008 Republican nomination. But Sager also seems to not know what a push poll is, so factor that in. LINK

"Law KOs Mitt's Pike board party," reports the Boston Herald's Kimberly Atkins. LINK

The Wall Street Journal's ed board Notes that "the most embarrassing emails" involving Ralph Reed were turned up by a Senate probe of Indian gaming led by Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) whom Mr. Reed had helped to defeat in the rough and decisive South Carolina GOP presidential primary of 2000.

The Concord Monitor's Daniel Barrack reports that New Hampshire's social conservatives remain skeptical of Sen. McCain's beliefs on key issues, which will open McCain up to "strict scrutiny" if he "decides to run" (come on!) in 2008. LINK

2008: Democrats:

At a campaign stop yesterday, Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) tied the Israeli-Lebanese conflict to his belief that the U.S. is embroiled in an unending Iraq war: "The fact is that the situation [in Iraq] is spinning out of control, and we have too many of our troops, and that's why Syria and Iran and others think they can get away with this." He called for more progress in Iraq, Noting that "anybody who thinks were getting close to a solution in Iraq is believing the nonsense from the administration." Alex Hummel of the Oshkosh Northwestern reports: LINK

In his first major appearance since announcing that he is exploring a presidential run, Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT) portrayed himself to Florida Democrats as an "experienced, ever-optimistic senator who has a time-tested ability to bring people together." LINK

The Hartford Courant's David Lightman has Dave Drew, a Democratic county chairman in Florida, saying, "Dodd has to get an image people will remember, because right now, other than the people who follow politics closely, nobody even knows his face." Gov. Richardson and Gen. Wesley Clark also spoke to Florida Democrats this weekend. More from the Washington Times: LINK

The Hartford Courant's Lightman Notes that Richardson, who pushed an eight-point plan for Iraq including "setting a firm date for withdrawal," had Latinos "beaming" at the prospect of a Hispanic running for president. LINK

Watergate icon John Dean says Sen. Kerry should have sued the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth during his 2004 campaign, the Boston Herald reports. LINK

Ian Bishop of the New York Post explores Sen. Clinton's second-quarter expenditures and appears most fascinated with the money she shelled out for camera-ready hair and make-up. LINK

Jon Alter expressed DEEEP skepticism about Sen. Clinton's 2008 prospects on Imus this morning.

2006: House:

After Ralph Reed's Abramoff-related defeat in Georgia last week, Michael Isikoff of Newsweek looks at some House races where corruption may play as an issue. LINK

Roll Call's Ben Pershing reports that Republicans will spend the month of August in workshops, on border tours, and, simply, working. "We've asked our people to go to work in August," Hastert said in a telephone interview Friday.

In addition, Pershing writes, Republicans will "receive their traditional recess kits along with a new reference tool -- a series of pocket cards on various issues bound into a booklet for lawmakers to consult during events and press interviews."

Steve Cohen (D), a white state Senator who's a leading contender to succeed Rep. Harold Ford Jr. (D-TN), told his hometown paper, the Memphis Commercial Appeal, that he would seek to join the CBC if he's elected to Congress, reports Roll Call's Steve Kornacki.

The Union Leader's Russ Choma reports that Rep. John Murtha (D-PA) -- who firmly downplayed any ideas that he has presidential aspirations -- brought his anti-war message to a large crowd of Democratic supporters in New Hampshire over the weekend. LINK

2006: Senate:

On Sunday, the New York Times' Nagourney and Zernike reported on Elizabeth Dole's less-than-stellar performance as NRSC Chairman thus far this cycle. LINK

In the Sunday Metro section, the Washington Post's Tim Craig does not give either Sen. George Allen (R-VA) or challenger Jim Webb the advantage coming out of their first debate, although Webb stumbled at one point on a local Virginia issue. LINK

The game plan for Allen was a focus on his own "Virginia Values," compared to Webb's "Hollywood Values," while Webb countered with attacks on Allen's close ties to President Bush.

Dr./Leader/Sen. Frist advised the three Republican Senate candidates hoping to succeed him to "restrain criticism of each other" in the days before the primary, adding ""I encourage all three to come together in a unified way to support the winner" in what promises to be a competitive fight against Rep. Harold Ford Jr. (D-TN). The Jackson Sun's Wendy Isom reports: LINK

2006: Governor:

As part of his look at the Ohio gubernatorial contest, Salon's Walter Shapiro sat down for a well-timed interview with Ken Blackwell on the same day the Columbus Dispatch reported its poll results showing Blackwell trailing Strickland by 20 points. LINK

The Columbus Dispatch Notes that religion and personal faith will prove to be a pivotal issue in Ohio's gubernatorial race, as Republican J. Kenneth Blackwell and Democratic Rep. Ted Strickland take sides on religious teachings in schools, homosexuality, and the role of religion in campaigns. LINK

After the state's confusion during the 2004 presidential election, the Ohio gubernatorial race may prove to be just as chaotic with the installment of a new statewide law requiring voters to present identification at the polls and the replacement of punch card ballots with electronic voting machines, reports the Cincinnati Enquirer. LINK

The race also gets big New Yorker play this week.

Per the Associated Press, President Bush will travel to Pennsylvania on Aug. 16 to headline a fundraising event for Lynn Swann, his "hand-picked" gubernatorial candidate. LINK

Columnist George Will details the extent to which the deck is stacked against Swann in his race to unseat veteran politician Gov. Ed Rendell (D-PA), Noting Pennsylvanian's aversion to social conservatism, the predicted demise of firebrand Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA), Gov. Rendell's political acuity, and the relatively good economic news out of Harrisburg. LINK

New Hampshire:

The Union Leader's John Whiston reports on New Hampshire's new rules on charity gambling, but avoids what goes on in the basement of Manchester taverns!! LINK

Middle East politics:

Bloomberg's Heidi Przybyla Notes Sen. Ted Kennedy's (D-MA) quck finger-wagging at the President, calling his handling of the violence between Israel and Hezbollah "a disaster" on Bloomberg television this weekend. LINK

Stem cell politics:

Bob Novak looks at the ways in which President Bush failed to mitigate the political impact of his stem-cell veto by not getting an alternative approach through Congress. LINK

Politics:

The publication date isn't until September, but those who aren't in the Gang of 500 subgroup that have the galleys of "Applebee's America," can get a feel and taste of the upcoming Doug Sosnik/Matthew Dowd/Ron Fournier super-opus on their just-launch website. LINK

Given it's subtitle ("How Successful Political, Business, and Religious Leaders Connect with the New American Community"), the CEO titan blurbs won't surprise you, and/but neither will the one from John McCain.

ABC News' Jake Tapper marvels at how un-PC School House Rock was. LINK

Media:

In his "Media Notes" column, the Washington Post's Howard Kurtz credits liberal bloggers for the New York Times retracting its faulty story about a speech in Arkansas by Sen. Clinton last week. LINK

Kornblut's piece, which oddly, has lost its correction: LINK

The Los Angeles Times examines the relationship between its competitor, the New York Times, and the Bush Administration. LINK

Week ahead:

On Tuesday, Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Maliki meets with President Bush at the White House, and the pair are scheduled to have joint-press availability. In the afternoon, Sens. Ted Kennedy (D-MA) and Lincoln Chaffee (R-R.I.) address the Senate Finance Committee about children's health care. Sen. Dick Lugar (R-IN) and Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN) discuss "the need for federal media shield legislation" at 1:00 pm ET. Oklahoma holds its primary elections. Meanwhile, the Senate votes on the "Child Custody Protection Act" (S. 403), a bill that would make it a federal offense to take a minor girl across state lines for an abortion, if this evades a law requiring parental notification or consent in the minor's home state. To close the day, former President Bill Clinton returns to New York to headline a fundraiser for Sen. Clinton's re-election campaign.

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Maliki addresses a special joint session of Congress at 11 am ET, and then lunches with President Bush at the White House before heading back to the Middle East. President Bush attends a 5:35 pm ET fundraiser for Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) in Charleston, WV. Former Minority Leader Sen. Tom Daschle speaks to young Democrats in New York City, at the DL21C Conference. The House Education and Workforce Committee holds a hearing on the potential effect of the McCain-Kennedy immigration reform bill. Co-authors of the Minuteman Project Jim Gilchrist and Dr. Jerome Corsi take their battle from the Mexican border to Ground Zero to demand secure borders. The National Urban League's annual convention begins in Atlanta, GA.

On Thursday, President Bush signs the Voting Rights Act Reauthorization into law in a big signing ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House. The President also meets with the President of Romania and the National Association of Manufacturers. The House Judiciary Committee and International Relations Committee hold hearings on the McCain-Kennedy bill.

On Friday, British Prime Minister Tony Blair refuels in Washington on his way to the West Coast for lunch with President Bush at the White House (all microphones will be turned off). Bush and Blair will turn the microphones back on for a joint press conference before the Prime Minister leaves. Former Gov. Christine Todd Whitman (R-NJ) heads to New Hampshire for a two-day visit.

As detailed by the Boston Herald, Gov. Romney and Sen. Kerry will be in Iowa this weekend -- so will Dr./Leader/Sen. Frist.