WASHINGTON, Sep. 7
On the first Thursday of every year, The Note gets up five minutes early and spends the extra time looking in the mirror and repeating over and over again, "The news is to be covered and analyzed; The Note is not to influence the outcome of the election."
Not that there is any indication that The Note impacts the Beltway convention wisdom (or, not quite the same things, Tammy Haddad's brain or Norm Ornstein's dining room banter). But one can't be too careful.
So it is only after substantial consideration that we say: with just about two months to go before Election Day, what this all boils down to for the two major parties is which one is able to control the five weekday news cycles in such a way as to frame the debate on the Sunday morning shows. Whichever party wins more of the nine remaining skirmishes will control the House of Representatives come January, and, thus, win the big bag of marbles.
It can be dangerous, with 2/5 of the present week left, to declare a winner, but current evidence suggests Democrats were edging ahead in the earlier part of the week, but that the President's moves yesterday could end up putting a "W" in the GOP column by the time George and the Rest bid you good morning on Sunday.
1. The President's detainee gambit -- tactically boffo enough to bring the Los Angeles Times Ron Brownstein off of book leave for only the second time (Be the first to name the other story that did that and win a prize: e-mail the answer to email@example.com) -- is given universal praise by the Gang of 500 for ensuring the fall debate will be more about who can keep America safer from terrorists, and, thus, for putting the Democrats on the defensive. LINK
2. Buried in David Roger's Wall Street Journal Hilly wrap-up is this vital verbiage: "Mr. Bush met later with House and Senate leaders on the fall agenda, including a set of security-related bills he wants in relation to the war against terror. And mindful of the failure thus far to reach agreement on immigration overhaul, the administration signaled a greater openness to using emergency funds to appease voters worried about border security." (Was there a borders-only-until-the-lame-duck-session deal struck yesterday?)
3. Dean Broder of the Washington Post shames the Fourth Estate into apologizing to Karl Rove for being mean to him. LINK
4. The first canary dies, as a BushRoveMehlman friendly "independent" group (re)emerges from the shadows to begin what will be an onslaught backed by tens of millions of dollars for national security (and, then, more under the radar, social issues) messaging to voters to rev up a base that does not want Charles Rangel to chair Ways and Means.
From the creators of "Ashley's Story" (LINK), comes a new round of political advertising this midterm election year.
The conservative organization "Progress for America" is slated to have a 1:00 pm ET press conference to announce a TV ad buy, Internet campaign, and other grassroots activity reminding Americans about "the reason for the War on Terror." This comes in the wake of President Bush making major speeches on the topic this week. It should be Noted that PFA has recruited the father of Flight 93's Todd Beamer, David Beamer, as its spokesman for this announcement. The ad -- the full script has not yet been released -- is entitled, "They Want To Kill Us."
The ad is expected to address the War on Terror, 9/11, the USS Cole, and the first World Trade Center bombing among other things and is expected to start in one state today on broadcast television plus national cable, Internet, and quite a bit of direct mail. Expect the ad to run for a week to ten days before PFA starts rotating in the next spot. Note to broadcast network executive producers: just TRY to resist using this as an element tonight. Note to cable producers: you are going to use it, no matter what we write.
Perhaps Howard Dean or some twenty-seven-year-old from MoveOn or Rangel himself will lead a Thursday/Friday Democratic comeback, but, for now, give September 4-8 to the GOP.
And, just to make sure, the President delivers Chapter IV ("The Empire Strikes Back -- Again") in his series of national security speeches at 10:20 am ET in Atlanta, GA. Later in the day, President Bush, emphasizing only a slightly different thematic, attends a fundraiser for Max Burns' congressional campaign.
Be sure to tune into "World News with Charles Gibson" for an exclusive interview with President Bush and a behind-the-scenes look at the President's day. Check your local listings.
ABC News' Jessica Yellin reports that the POTUS speech is expected to be "a progress report -- where the US has made advances in the Global War on Terror since 9/11. In the speech, the President is expected to "walk through the 9/11 attacks" and explain the gaps in national security that existed in the lead up to the attacks. The President will also likely describe how the institutional reforms he's put in place helped close those gaps -- such as the Patriot Act and the terrorist watch list."
"Says one aide: 'The speech will demonstrate how these institutional reforms have helped make our nation safe -- but as the President has said, we are not yet safe.'"
Today's opposition pushback, Part I: Democratic Senators Reid, Durbin, Stabenow, Schumer, Levin, Clinton, Reed, Rockefeller, and Menendez announce new security legislation at 10:45 am ET in the LBJ Room in the US Capitol and to discuss the overall state of homeland security.
Across the Rotunda, Part II: Leader Pelosi holds her first post-summer recess on camera weekly briefing also at 10:45 am ET.
Part III: Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE) takes to the National Press Club in Washington, DC at 1:00 pm ET to decry the President's foreign policy.
Democrats will pivot to a domestic issue at 11:15 am ET when Leaders Reid and Pelosi kickoff the "Golden Promise" campaign to "protect Social Security and stop privatization."
At 10:00 am ET, Sen. Clinton (D-NY) joins Rep. Vito Fossella (R-NY), Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), and other New York-area Members of Congress at a meeting with HHS Secretary Leavitt to discuss the federal response to the health impacts of 9/11.
First Lady Laura Bush is campaigning for Rep. Thelma Drake (R-VA) in Norfolk, VA at this hour.
Gov. Mitt Romney (R-RGA) campaigns with gubernatorial candidate Ken Blackwell (R-OH) at the Hamilton County Republican Party headquarters in Cincinnati, OH at 3:00 pm ET. While in town, Romney also plans to attend a 6:00 pm ET fundraiser for Hamilton County Commissioner Phil Heimlich.
Gov. Mark Warner (D-VA) campaigns with gubernatorial candidate Phil Angelides (D-CA) at a town hall meeting in Los Angeles, CA at 4:45 pm ET.
Sen. Mike DeWine (R-OH) holds a 11:00 am ET news conference on a Transportation bill in Russell Park on Capitol Hill.
John Bolton's nomination for Ambassador to the United Nations is before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee at 9:30 am ET.
ABC News' Cynthia McFadden previewed tonight's Nightline exclusive interview with Sen. Hillary Clinton this morning on "Good Morning America" in which Clinton continued her critique of the Bush Administration for operating in an "evidence free zone."
Sen. Clinton went on to say that "you don't get do-overs in life" when referring to her Iraq war vote. She said that she has to take responsibility for it and learn from it and go forward. She repeated that she regrets "very much the way the President used the authority he was given."
McFadden said that Clinton provided no timetable for making a decision about a potential presidential run.
Be sure to tune into Nightline tonight (11:35 pm ET - check your local listings), to catch McFadden's complete "Day in the Life" with Sen. Clinton.
If you are a Senate staffer (or Senator) and find yourself constantly wondering what to do at 1:35 pm ET. We have the solution. Tune into channel 27 in your office to catch ABC News Now's hit show, "Politics Live," for all the best political news and analysis of the day. You won't want to miss it.
The politics of suspected terrorist prisoners:
"With a series of forceful speeches on terrorism and a dramatic announcement that he has sent top-tier terrorism suspects to the Guantanamo Bay prison, President Bush this week has demonstrated anew the power of even a weakened commander in chief to set the terms of national debate," write the Washington Post's Michael Abramowitz and Charles Babington in a front-page analysis. LINK
Susan Page of USA Today reports that President Bush is helping GOP elections in 2006, by being able to "change the subject," from criticism on the war towards national security. LINK
The Washington Post reports that President Bush's anti-terror push produced political gains with Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) who, after having said he was considering bringing the bill drafted by Sens. Warner, Graham, and McCain to the floor next week, "shifted ground yesterday and said he will instead soon bring the administration's version to the floor." LINK
The New York Times' Sheryl Gay Stolberg writes up the President's speech and Notes, "By moving the high-profile suspects to Guantánamo just two months before the midterm elections, the administration is putting intense pressure on lawmakers to act before adjourning to campaign. If Democrats try to thwart legislation to try senior members of Al Qaeda, they will risk being labeled weak on national security, a label they can ill afford in an election that may turn on the question of which party is better suited to keep Americans safe." LINK
In his news analysis, Timesman David Sanger writes the key is that playing to the war on terror, ". . . may also force members of Mr. Bush's party -- many of whom have been creating as much strategic distance from the president as possible -- to nationalize the midterm elections, making them a referendum on Mr. Bush and his tactics." LINK
The Wall Street Journal's Jess Bravin writes: ". . . Mr. Bush and Republican Party leaders are betting that by forcing Congress to vote on anti-terror policies this month during its brief pre-election session, they can turn voters against Democrats who may oppose the Bush proposals."
While appearing on NBC's "Today," Tim Russert predicted that Democrats will look to three Republicans -- Sens. McCain, Graham, and Warner -- to slow down his version of new counterterrorism laws that would allow for military trials of suspected terrorists. Asked about the strategy of going after Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Russert thought it was a smart one given that two Republican Senate candidates -- Steve Laffey in Rhode Island and Tom Kean in New Jersey -- have called for Rumsfeld to resign. He also Noted the way in which House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi worked to keep the focus on Rumsfeld yesterday by saying that the last time she saw the Secretary of Defense, he was shaking hands with Saddam Hussein.
ABC News' Jake Tapper cites our man on the Hill, Z. Byron Wolf, in his political blog to clarify the Senate debate on whether Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld is in fact, "Bill Buckner, Mike Torrez, and Harry Frazee rolled into one." LINK
The prospect of a Democratic majority in the House will not likely cause Republicans to accelerate the passage of non-security spending bills before leaving for the campaign trail this year, reports Roll Call.
RNC launches "America Weakly":
After a Labor Day weekend full of political stories largely focused on storm clouds gathering over GOP heads this election cycle and chock full of predictions of a Speaker Pelosi and a Democratic House, the Republican National Committee is pushing back with a (clever) fictitious tabloid "newspaper" called "America Weakly" painting a picture of just what that scenario would look like (at least to Republicans).
The satirical publication featuring front-page photos of Democratic bogeymen/women Hillary Clinton, Ted Kennedy, and Howard Dean along side a headline that reads, "Dems In, Taxes Up, Patriot Act Out" will be distributed this morning along with an Internet video promoting the new Web page at www.americaweakly.com. The RNC is also sending multiple copies of the mock paper to all state parties, talk radio, conservative allies, and select media. And Ken Mehlman sends out an email to the RNC email distribution list promoting it. For you Beltway insiders, copies are being distributed at the two Metro stations that service the Hill, Captiol South and Union Station.
Note, too, "Impeachment Czar" John Conyers.
This rollout is clearly geared to stoking the Republican base a bit and perhaps getting some free media pickup. We expect at least one additional future Web video continuing on this theme.
"With control of the House within reach for the first time in more than a decade, Democratic lobbyists say they're feeling unusually intense pressure from House Democratic leaders to open their wallets and help their party close the deal," writes Tony Newmyer of Roll Call.
Sept. 13 is being dubbed "March to the Majority" day by House Democrats who will host their top challenger candidates on Capitol Hill next week to help increase the size of their campaign coffers, reports Roll Call.
Politics of Iraq:
"A long-awaited Senate analysis comparing the Bush administration's public statements about the threat posed by Saddam Hussein with the evidence senior officials reviewed in private remains mired in partisan recrimination and will not be released before the November elections," the Washington Post's Jonathan Weisman reports. LINK
On ABC's "Good Morning America," Claire Shipman said that if the election were held today, a scenario can be imagined where the Democrats are able to cobble together the 15 seats needed to gain a majority in the House, but that the Democrats would fall somewhat short of the 6 net-gain seats needed for control of the Senate. Shipman went on to caution that a lot can happen in the next 62 days.
The AP reports that President Bush may be loosing a solid base of Southern women voters. LINK
Morton Kondracke of Roll Call writes that by 8:00 pm ET on Election Day there should be a clear indication of whether or not Democrats win back the House because polls close early in Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey with a total of sixteen competitive seats.
The Wall Street Journal's Sarah Lueck writes that the internecine war between moderate Steve Huffman and conservative Randy Graf in Arizona's eighth congressional district represents "a battle between the two disparate views Republicans hold on immigration, and the outcome will signal to party leaders which policies work politically." She also Notes that the DCCC is spending $190,000 on a television ad criticizing Huffman on immigration -- a sign that Democrats, like Republican leaders, view the moderate as a tougher opponent."
The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza reports that a new independent political organization chaired by Joe Andrew and Don Fowler is sponsoring ads that hit Reps. Deborah Pryce (R-OH) and Rep. James Walsh (R-NY) on corruption and the war in Iraq, respectively. Ads in two additional districts are expected to launch shortly. LINK
The Hill's Bolton writes up embattled incumbent Rep. Curt Weldon's (R-PA) plan to allow military commanders the decision making authority to begin sending troops home from Iraq. LINK
The Philadelphia Inquirer reports on congressional candidate Joe Sestak's (D-PA) chiding of Weldon for his vote for tax breaks for the wealthy. LINK
Jim Snyder of The Hill writes that Republicans may have a rare opportunity to defeat incumbent Rep. Leonard Boswell (D-IA) in Iowa's 3rd District. LINK
Bloomberg's Judy Mathewson reports that Republicans and Democrats will be watching Sen. Lincoln Chafee (R-RI) as the Senate Foreign Relations Committee votes today on John Bolton's nomination to continue as UN ambassador. LINK
"A Chafee vote against Bolton, 57, would probably mean a 9-9 committee split on the panel, which has 10 Republicans and eight Democrats. It may also signal that Republicans don't have the 60 votes needed in the full Senate to overcome an effort by Democrats to block his nomination."
The Boston Phoenix takes a look at the Chafee/Laffey race too. LINK
John Mulligan of the Providence Journal clarifies the Senate candidates positions on the war citing Sheldon Whitehouse's (D-RI) decision to back away from a withdrawal deadline and Sen. Chafee as the only member of his party to oppose the invasion of Iraq. LINK
The Projo's Katherine Gregg and Scott Mayerowitz on the increased negativity in the campaign heading into primary day. LINK
Bloomberg News has Webb adviser Mudcat Saunders tellingly saying: "If we could match George Allen dollar for dollar, we'd beat him like a tied-up billy goat.'' LINK
In a front-page story on the Maryland Senate race, the Washington Post's Matthew Mosk calls into question claims of independence on the part of Rep. Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Lt. Gov. Michael Steele (R-MD) by looking at PAC donations they have received. LINK
Bob Novak chides Bob Casey for not specifying what spending he would cut during his Sunday debate with Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA). LINK
The Associated Press reports that Pennsylvania's AFL-CIO president apologized for referring to Adolf Hitler when critiquing Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA). LINK
Sen. Durbin tells David Lightman of the Hartford Courant that Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-CT) received a (seated) "warm ovation" from his colleagues at the Democratic caucus meeting yesterday. LINK
Mark "Not on the Front Page" Leibovich of the New York Times reports on Sen. Joe "Elvis" Lieberman's (D-CT) return to Capitol Hill and the well-wishing that ensued, complete with a Lightman quote. LINK
And this: a hug from Sen. Susan Collins was undoubtedly the highlight, "'I'm hoping that doesn't come back to haunt him,' Ms. Collins said, a reference to the hug and possible kiss that Mr. Lieberman received from President Bush after last year's State of the Union address."
The Washington Post's (non-Durbin like) Dana Milbank recaps the cold reception that Sen. Lieberman received from Senate Democrats yesterday. Milbank also has Lamont saying at yesterday's Monitor breakfast that he would not vote for Lieberman to replace Rumsfeld as Secretary of Defense, "That would be what we call in my world a lateral move." LINK
Aaron Blake writes in the Hill that Ned Lamont stressed his ability to work with lawmakers of both parties during his visit to Washington. Lamont also thanked the liberal blogs for their role in his victory, calling them, "the girl that I took to the dance". LINK
The New York Daily News' Michael McAuliff reports on the increasing chumminess between Sen. Clinton and Lamont. LINK
The New York Times' Medina does the Lieberman as SecDef rumor thing. LINK
On the heels of the ten year anniversary of President Clinton signing welfare reform into law, gubernatorial candidate Lynn Swann (R-PA) goes up with his second television ad of the campaign today on the topic. The ad, "Ideas that Work," will begin airing in the Western markets in the state and work its way East. In the ad, Swann says that Pennsylvania is "dead last" in moving people from welfare to work under Gov. Rendell (D-PA).
Here's the script:
"This campaign for Governor is really a contest between those who say we can't do better and those of us who say we must. Take welfare reform. Under Governor Ridge, Pennsylvania was a national leader in helping people move from welfare to work. And Now we're dead last. It's so bad, we're spending $2.5 billion more a year on welfare, while most states are spending far less. There is dignity in work and I'll make Welfare to Work actually work. And you'll pay less in taxes."
In response to Democrats' accusations that he is softening his position on abortion, gubernatorial candidate Jim Nussle (R-IA) says plainly that he would sign a bill outlawing abortion for victims of rape and incest. Nussle only supports abortion when the mother's life is in danger. If elected, Nussle says that he would like to move slowly toward a total ban on abortion in the state of Iowa. LINK
The New York Times' Abby Goodnough reports that Democrats are hoping to make some significant gains in the swing state of Florida with a socially moderate Republican for governor on the ballot which may keep the key social conservative base at home. LINK
And/but, the Associated Press reports on Attorney General Charlie Crist's (R-FL) advantages in the Florida gubernatorial race. LINK
Molly Ball reports in the Las Vegas Review-Journal that Nevada Democrats claim that Republican gubernatorial nominee, Jim Gibbons silenced a miner's complaints in a whistle-blowing incident regarding a contaminated former mine site. LINK
New York Governor candidate Eliot Spitzer "appeared at times yesterday. . . was taking a victory lap," reports Celeste Katz of the New York Daily News. LINK
Gubernatorial candidate Kinky Friedman (I-TX) proposed a border security plan during a campaign appearance yesterday. Friedman also made inflammatory remarks about the Hurricane Katrina evacuees now living in Houston, saying that they are "crackheads and thugs." Later, Friedman's campaign retracted the statement. LINK
The Schwarzenegger Era:
Gov. Schwarzenegger (R-CA) tries to patch things up with the GOP in California after a mixed voting record and criticism of cooperating with Democratic bills, reports the Los Angeles Times' Jordan Rau. LINK
As with every Thursday, John DiStaso's must-read Granite Status column in the New Hampshire Union Leader is your one-stop shop. Upcoming visits from Kerry and Dodd and key staffers for Romney and Pataki are just a few of the nuggets you will enjoy today. LINK
Here's some fun for you all. Try to find the Economic Freedom Fund in some FEC disclosure forms to find out who is doing this polling in Iowa: LINK
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA) writes in a Wall Street Journal op-ed: "President Bush today finds himself in precisely the same dilemma Lincoln faced 144 years ago. With American survival at stake, he also must choose. His strategies are not wrong, but they are failing."
Gingrich urges his former congressional colleagues to "immediately pass the legislation sent by the president yesterday to meet the requirements of the Supreme Court's Hamdan decision." More broadly, he calls on Congress to "pass an act that recognizes that we are entering World War III and serves notice that the U.S. will use all its resources to defeat our enemies -- not accommodate, understand or negotiate with them, but defeat them."
Glenn Blain of the Journal News Notes that Rudy Giuliani continues to ride the wave of Sept. 11 and remain one of the nation's most popular political figures. LINK
Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA) stands by his decision not to provide state protection to the former President of Iran when he comes to speak at Harvard this weekend. LINK
A Wall Street Journal editorial on two of the three Democratic candidates for governor in Massachusetts backing tax cuts includes Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA) saying that the state's $1 billion revenue surplus more than justifies a tax cut.
The Las Vegas Review-Journal's Ball writes that former Gov. Mark Warner (D-VA) was the first Democratic presidential hopeful to visit Nevada since it became an early caucus location in 2008. Gov. Bill Richardson (D-NM) and former Sen. John Edwards (D-NC) are planning trips there next week. LINK
"Democratic Sen. Joe Biden, a White House hopeful, criticized the Bush administration's foreign policy and national security strategy as 'a dangerous combination of ideology and incompetence,'" writes the AP's Liz Sidoti in her curtain-raiser of Biden's speech set to be delivered today. LINK
The Boston Globe Notes Sen. John Kerry's (D-MA) (backward-looking) reaction to yesterday's news on the terror suspects in which he said the Department of Defense's rewritten manual was a policy shift "that follows the sad legacy of five years during which this administration abused our Constitution, violated our laws, and most importantly failed to make America safe.'"LINK
The New York Post's Geoff Earle reports that Sen. Hilary Clinton's (D-NY) coffers have reached 45 million dollars. LINK
Gov. Bill Richardson (D-NM) is traveling to Sudan today on a humanitarian mission to try to free the jailed Tribune journalist Paul Salopek. Salopek was on assignment with National Geographic when he was arrested in August and charged for espionage. Richardson counts the Sudanese ambassador to the U.S., Khidir Haroun Ahmed, as a long-time friend. LINK
Gov. Tom Vilsack (D-IA), chairman of the Democratic Leadership Council and potential Democratic presidential candidate spearheaded federal legislation that will allow workers to sign up for unions without a formal election, as Noted by the Des Moines Register's Norman. LINK
"This is the beginning, I believe, of a debate. . . about how we enlarge, expand and perhaps create a new social compact between America and its workers. . . a debate and discussion that's long overdue," Vilsack says per Radio Iowa's report. LINK
The Clinton Administration vs. Disney:
The New York Times on the brouhaha over ABC's entertainment division's plans to run a 9/11 miniseries which Clinton Administration officials including Madeline Albright and Bruce Lindsey believe represent inaccuracies and have asked for the movie to be edited or cancelled. LINK
George Ryan sentencing:
The Washington Post: LINK