The Note: Political S.A.T.

NEWS SUMMARY

To the question "What will dominate cable and broadcast TV today?" the answer is: the massive loss of American life in the helicopter crash in Iraq and the President's morning press conference.

There are other -- more obviously political -- questions out there, too, however. Some are short-term and some longer.

To wit:

Short-term questions:

1. What will Sunday's elections look like on TV in America and around the world? How will "success" be measured? Can the White House "manage" it?

2. Is the aftermath of Saturday's DNC meeting in Gotham City -- the final audition for the national chair candidates -- more likely to cement Howard Dean's hold on a win or create (finally) an obvious Dean alternative candidate?

3. Will Friday's GOP congressional "retreat" (no retreat, however, no surrender there) produce more comity or comedy on White House-Hill Social Security reform efforts?

4. What will Democratic Senators who want to be president do on the Rice and Gonzales votes?

Longer-term questions:

1. Who will be the '06 Republican nominees against Hillary Clinton and Eliot Spitzer?

2. (There are other important long-term questions, but since most everything else derives from (1) above, that's all your getting from us today . . . )

ABC News' Martha Raddatz reports that 31 U.S. Marines have died in a helicopter crash near the Syrian border in Iraq. The military blames bad weather at the moment.

The President participates in a health care discussion in Bethesda, Maryland at 11:50 am ET and then returns to the White House for 2:00 pm ET meeting with members of the Congressional Black Caucus. To come to the stakeout or not come to the stakeout -- that is the question.

The President also chats Social Security with GOP members of the House Ways and Means Committee today.

Scott McClellan gaggles at 9:45 am ET and briefs at 12:45 pm ET.

The Senate's in session at 9:30 am ET to finish debate on Secretary-designee Rice's nomination and then vote. A vote on Secretary-designee Gonzales is expected later today by the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The House is in session at 10:00 am ET.

Vice President Cheney has a full day ahead of him in Poland, including an Auschwitz commemoration and a meeting with dignitaries including new president Viktor Yushchenko of Ukraine.

Social Security:

The Washington Times' Brian DuBose picked up the CBO's warning that Medicare and Medicaid will hurt the budget more over the long term than Social Security. LINK

Democrats will probably add the CBO's comments to their arsenal, but they may have stumbled onto a gold mine when Bill Thomas took to Nebraska Avenue last weekend.

Even if the Dems are deliberately misinterpreting what Bill Thomas was trying to say, the White House needs to come up with an effective way to rebut them, and quick!

It's doubtful that Democrats actually believe the White House coordinated or cleared Rep. Thomas' comments, but in a legislative session with a certain number of days and a political arena that has barely enough oxygen to contemplate changing the structure of Social Security, focusing on race and gender or whatever seems to us a day won by opponents of personal/private accounts and a day lost by the White House.

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