The Note: And the Benny Goes to . . .

WASHINGTON, March 11 --

NEWS SUMMARY

Today, the Presidential road show stops at the Cannon Center in Memphis, TN at 10:25 am ET for a Social Security event. Then, they fly to Shreveport, LA for another one at 3:05 pm ET.

Hecklers will be warded off; Democratic bracketing will be done; the old will be reassured and the young will be incentified; reporters will look for fresh leads; Sunday show researchers will realize that they can't think of anything new to say to characterize the status of the debate; Republicans MOCs will say they want/need more information; and much powder will be kept dry.

Vice President Cheney is reportedly doing an interview with Fox News White House correspondent Carl Cameron today, and we betcha Carl will ask a Q or two about Social Security. It'll reportedly air on Brit Hume's show at 6:00 pm ET. Sounds like a pre-taper to us, and we look forward to the excerpts (and the cutaways!!).

Sure, there's the trade deficit too, and those comments from the Japanese PM that has some of us freaking out about the dollar, but The Note's healthy obsession with Social Security continues unabated today, and for good reason.

With the battle in full swing, it's time again for our bi-monthly Benny Awards, given in various categories for excellence related to America's national debate over retirement security.

The latest nominees were announced last week at a festive Oval Room lunch hosted by Art Linkletter, and, without further ado, here are the first March winners:

Best (and fastest) learners in the woodshed (tie): Sen./Leader/Dr. Frist, Sen. Grassley, Rep. McCrery.

Best bad slogan sure to have no effect whatsoever on the debate: The Democrats' cheesy "Fix It, Don't Nix It."

Best hope of the pro-reform strategists: To somehow make this fight about the Democratic Party as do-nothing tax raisers.

Best unwitting ally of pro-reform strategists in the above regard: Sen. Lindsey Graham.

Best state for Republicans to find a Democratic Senator most likely to embrace a compromise on Social Security and who is open to personal accounts that won't increase the deficit or reduce benefits: Nebraska.

Best behind-the-scenes strategist working to actually get the President something to sign: Rep. Roy Blunt.

Best examples of outlying rhetorical points (or "Best Freudian slips") (tie): The President's calling his plan for accounts "add-ons" one week ago today, and Vice President Cheney's acknowledgement that personal accounts will cost "trillions of dollars."

Best grasstops lobbying campaign: AFL-CIO efforts to chip away at the Alliance for Worker Retirement Security.

Best Democratic consultants in the eyes of Republican strategists: Jim Carville and Stan Greenberg.

Best alternative proposal received with surprising praise by conservatives: Sen. Chuck Hagel's.

Best approximation of Grover Norquist's worst nightmare: High level of public support for lifting payroll tax caps.

Best Harry Reid investment: Frank Luntz.

Best media enabler: Wolf Blitzer (interviewing Hagel).

Best chance of ulcers before 2006: Rep. Rob Simmons.

Best evasion of leadership on Social Security: House Republicans, kicking it over to the Senate.

Best attempt to pin the lame duck pin on Bush prematurely: Congressional Democrats and the MSM.

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