The Note: Return of the Empire

As long as you're charting moves to the center . . . notice that Obama and McCain joined together in denouncing the high court's ruling banning the death penalty for child rape. "I have said repeatedly I think the death penalty should be applied in very narrow circumstances, for the most egregious of crimes," Obama said, per The Washington Post's Shailagh Murray. "I think that the rape of a small child, 6 or 8 years old, is a heinous crime."

Karl Rove (again) sets down the GOP markers on Obama, this time on the "arrogance" charge, keying off the most misguided seal this side of Antarctica: "This was an attempt by Sen. Obama to make himself appear more presidential," Rove writes in his Wall Street Journal column. "But most people saw in the seal something else -- chutzpah -- and he's stopped using it. Such arrogance -- even self-centeredness -- have featured often in the Obama campaign."

And Obama doesn't need the seal to look presidential: "Formal podium (minus the faux-presidential seal he test drove last week), gleaming American flags, reporters seated in tidy rows marked off by velvet ropes," Time's David Von Drehle writes from Obama's Chicago press conference. "The only thing missing was Helen Thomas ending things with the ritual 'Thank you, Mr. President.' "

Big White House news Thursday morning: "President Bush said Thursday he will lift key trade sanctions against North Korea and remove it from the U.S. terrorism blacklist, a remarkable turnaround in policy toward the communist regime that Bush once branded as part of an 'axis of evil,' " AP's Deb Riechmann reports.

Obama's Map:

Obama campaign manager David Plouffe's warning to Team McCain: Nothing is safe.

"Putting his best spin on the electoral map, Obama campaign manager David Plouffe said Tuesday that Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., will be overwhelmed by the sheer number of places where the presumptive Democratic nominee is prepared to compete," ABC's John Berman and James Gerber report.

Said Plouffe: "We have a lot of different combinations to get to 270. And our strategic imperative is, as deep into October as possible, to keep those scenarios alive." The New York Daily News' Michael McAuliff and Ken Bazinet: "Barack Obama's campaign chief said Wednesday the campaign isn't putting its chips on a handful of battleground states this fall, and will press its offensive wherever there is an opportunity to turn a red state blue."

New term alert: "Persuasion army."

"[Plouffe] said the campaign will spend the next four months attempting to register historic levels of new voters, boosting turnout and translating Obama enthusiasm into a Democratic 'persuasion army' to convince swing-state voters in their neighborhoods not to vote for Mr. McCain," Christina Bellantoni writes in the Washington Times.

McCain's Mark-Up:

The single biggest threat to McCain's candidacy to emerge this week? A poll.

Not just any poll -- a Bloomberg/Los Angeles Times survey that was the second inside a week to give Obama a lead in the neighborhood of 15 points.

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