The Note: Blessed Is He Who Expects Nothing . . .



Fascinating sideshows: the trajectory of the Bolton nomination; Bob Kerrey as . . . Bob Kerrey; and early season baseball standings.

The real deals to watch: why are Republican leaders on the Hill looking for compromises on the ethics committee standoff (in the House) and the filibuster situation (in the Senate)?; what is Chairman Grassley up to on Social Security?; and what are gas prices (and the stock market?) doing to the President's poll standing?

The cardinal electors will proceed into the papal conclave session at approximately 10:30 am ET today.

President Bush visits the South Carolina Statehouse at 12:10 pm ET today to talk about Social Security and possibly tap House Speaker David Wilkins as ambassador to Canada. The House chamber is expected to include up to 169 state legislators, two U.S. Senators, the governor, and a gallery that seats 194 people. Legendary Lee Bandy offers a preview of the day in the state's biggest paper: LINK

The President is greeted in Columbia today by a State editorial that asks him to be full, fair, and honest about Social Security. And nicer to the state's senior Senator. LINK

The United States Senate and House are both in session. The Senate at two meets to consider the Iraq/Afghanistan supplemental appropriations bill. The U.S. Supreme Court meets for orders and arguments. (Decisions are expected tomorrow.)

The focus for some this week will be on preps for the fight over filibuster reform. Democrats will do an event a day on it, and a GOP Senate leadership aide tells us that this week will see "more heat than light."

Frist continues to work on his alternative to the nuclear/constitutional option and hopes to present it to Sen. Harry Reid within the next 14 days.

Republicans continue to pressure, cajole, nudge, the two Senators from Maine, Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, Sen. John Warner of Virginia, Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, maybe Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Sen. John Sununu of New Hampshire and Sen. Judd Gregg of New Hampshire. (In case ya missed it, Sen. Richard Lugar of Indiana said yesterday he was not inclined to vote against the leadership; see: LINK )

The conventional wisdom in Washington is that Bob Novak's assurances that Frist has the votes isn't quite on the mark, but might be closer to the truth than Democrats want to believe.

In case WE missed any of the above Senators coming out one way of the other, please let us know!

There's also the little matter of the nomination of John Bolton to be the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, with a vote still currently slated for tomorrow, as news stories come too fast to keep up with out of the woodwork, and the focus falls on Sens. Chafee (R-Blue) and Hagel (R-Red).

And those looking for a DeLay shoe to drop today will have to be creative. Note that David Rogers of the Wall Street Journal says that the Speaker is looking for a solution.

No Child Left Behind critic Dr. Betty Sternberg meets with Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings in Washington. LINK

Republican National Committee chair Ken Mehlman has finance events in Georgia and Louisiana. DNC Chairman Howard Dean is in Naples, FL to meet with Collier County Democrats.

A private commission to study election reform headed by former President Jimmy Carter and former Secretary of State James Baker meets in Washington today for the first of two public hearings. Other members include: former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, former House Minority Leader Bob Michel, former Reps. Lee Hamilton and Susan Molinari. Our favorite election expert, Doug Chapin, is the research director. A final report is due in September.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich headlines a New Hampshire Republican State Committee fundraiser in Bedford, NH.

The National Rifle Association's 76-member board of directors is scheduled to elect Susan Froman, currently the NRA's first vice president, its new president.

The AFL-CIO's building trades kick off their annual convention in Washington. Among the speakers today: Sens. Harry Reid and Joe Biden. DNC Chairman Howard Dean speaks on Wednesday.

The Radio Television News Directors Association convention begins in Las Vegas, NV. New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson speaks there on Wednesday.

And tonight, former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani hosts a fundraiser for South Carolina Attorney General Henry McMaster on Hilton Head Island. We wonder what the status of that tsunami money is . . .

On Tuesday, President delivers remarks at the dedication of the Abraham Lincoln President Library in Springfield, IL. The RNC's Mehlman is in Florida for a finance event and a "conversation with the community"; he'll deliver remarks to Miami-area Hispanic and Catholic leaders.

On Wednesday, President Bush will sign the bankruptcy bill (S. 256) in the EEOB. Stanford University and the Economist co-sponsor a conference on legislation values, with Sen. Joe Lieberman as a speaker.

The President will celebrate Earth Day on Friday in Tennessee by participating in a service event and making remarks in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, in Townsend, TN. Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove speaks at the 21st Annual John M. Ashbrook Memorial Dinner at Ashland University in Ohio.

Also Thursday, EMILY's List, which announces today that Ellen Moran will be its new executive director, begins its Majority Conference in Washington, D.C. And the FEC holds an open meeting.

President Bush is at the ranch in Crawford from Friday evening until Tuesday. (He meets with Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia in Monday April 25.) Also Friday, the Republican National Lawyers Convention meets in Washington, DC, Sen. Joseph Biden keynotes the South Carolina Democratic Party's Jefferson-Jackson dinner in Columbia; Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez is the special guest at the Republican Party of New Mexico's Annual Lincoln Day dinner in Albuquerque. Social conservative activists gather in Atlanta, GA for the annual Restore America rally.

A well-placed source says that, as early as today, CNN will announce that John "the King of Pebble Beach" King, will be leaving the helm of the cable net's White House unit to become an "Ubercorrespondent" for the network, a roaming linebacker who can run to whatever hot spot he's needed. As has been reported elsewhere, King doesn't like his slimmed-down butt in an anchor chair for too long. That means that the CNN White House Unit on-air line-up of Suzanne Malveaux, Dana Bash, and Elaine Quijano will become what some media historians see as the first all-women White House correspondent team in the history of television.

The economy:

USA Today's Judy Keen leads the paper with some gloomy news that the price of gas isn't likely to come down any time soon. In his speech on Wednesday at the U.S.-Hispanic Chambers of Commerce legislative conference, President Bush will focus on the energy bill that he says would've prevented these prices, Keen writes, pushing the measure including ANWR drilling that Congress is set to debate again this week. LINK

Foreign markets aren't giving investors hope, so it's this week's batch of important earnings reports that will signal whether the U.S economy is in for a rough patch that folks out there will feel. LINK

The Fed, the New York Times article says, appears "to have been caught flat-footed."

A trio of Wall Street Journal economics reporters write, "High oil prices, a widening U.S. trade deficit and the Federal Reserve's new concern over inflation have all chipped away at the calm mood in the financial markets. Over the weekend, finance ministers of the Group of Seven major industrial economies, meeting in Washington, expressed concern about oil prices and noted that the global economy's 'expansion is less balanced than before.' They also warned of the 'potential for a sharper-than-expected rise in long-term interest rates' and currency volatility.

Paul Krugman senses stagflation. LINK

Leader DeLay:

Check out this blind quote from Karen Tumulty's very good, news-filled article in Time:

"The President's team is increasingly frustrated by the majority leader's inability to mount a defense more persuasive than blaming his problems on a liberal conspiracy. DeLay, says a senior Administration official, 'is handling this like an idiot.'" LINK

"House Speaker Dennis Hastert faces pressure within Republican ranks to end the impasse with Democrats over ethics-rules changes pushed through on a partisan vote in January," reports David Rogers in the Wall Street Journal.

"Mr. Hastert so far shows no willingness to reverse himself but compromises are being discussed. Privately, Republicans say the rules are a greater political worry for the party than the more publicized ethics questions about Majority Leader Tom DeLay. As a practical matter, Mr. DeLay's problems will persist until the impasse is resolved, since Democrats are blocking the Ethics Committee from giving the Texas Republican a hearing and a chance to clear himself."

On "This Week with George Stephanopoulos," Sen. Trent Lott urged the White House to give DeLay full and unfettered support. LINK

On Sunday, the Boston Globe's Rick Klein looked at the DeLay controversy as a case study in how playing the political game for power -- particularly hardball -- can bring with it both opportunity for trouble and the risk that the opposition party will pounce on your pitfalls. LINK

The New York Times' David Kirkpatrick and Philip Shenon report that Ralph Reed's ties to Jack Abramoff are already a part of his lieutenant governor race in Georgia. The article doesn't break any new ground aside from a negative Pat Roberston appraisal, despite its prominent front-page placement, but it's a good recapitulation of one of the charges against Abramoff as well as Reed's professional history. That makes it a must read. LINK

Carefully balancing himself on the political/ethical tightrope, Republican Congressman Jim Leach sided with Democrats in a House measure passed on Thursday that could prove detrimental to Leader Tom DeLay, relays Thomas Beaumont in today's Des Moines Register. Although unavailable for comment this time around, it should be Noted that he held a similar opinion years ago regarding another Republican House Majority Leader. . . . LINK

"Leach, who represents the 2nd Congressional District, was one of two House Republicans to vote against the Iraq war resolution in 2002. Last week, Leach was the only House Republican to vote against repealing the estate tax."

"In 1997, as House Banking Committee chairman, Leach became the first member of GOP leadership and only the second House Republican to call for Gingrich to step down as speaker after a committee found he had violated ethics rules."

"'The speaker of the House of Representatives is the leader of the greatest legislative body in the world and second to the vice president in line of succession to the presidency,' Leach said, according to press reports at the time. 'The occupant of this position must be free of any shadow concerning allegiance to the law or to the truth.'"

USA Today's editorial board argues for a public hearing of the allegations against DeLay. LINK

The Los Angeles Times' Scott Gold on Sunday wrapped DeLay's speech to the NRA in Houston Saturday, where he focused on the Second Amendment and not directly on his ethics troubles. LINK

DeLay's fundraising continues unabated, AP reported Sunday. His PAC brought in more than $438,000 in the first quarter. LINK

Carl Hulse of the New York Times provides a nice review of the rules changes currently bottling up the House Ethics Committee. LINK

"At the center of the rules fight are three basic changes: one to allow the dismissal of a complaint if a majority of the panel cannot agree on how to proceed after 45 days, another to allow lawyers to represent multiple participants in any inquiry and a third to allow lawmakers a chance to respond if they are to be named in committee reports."

Make sure to read the lede of the article carefully.

The New York Times Christine Hauser strangely manages to miss Bob Dole's call for DeLay to explain himself in her roundup of the Sunday shows. LINK

Luckily, the New York Daily News' James Gordon Meeks was watching closely. LINK

On Sunday, the Washington Post's Tom Edsall traced the evolution of the Heritage Foundation's stance on Malaysia from sharply critical of the former prime minister's autocratic government to sponsoring trips and briefing members of Congress on the ways the country was "standing up for democracy," coinciding with a consulting firm that counts among its senior staff Linda Feulner, the wife of Heritage president Edwin Feulner, and Ken Sheffer, the former head of the nonprofit's Asia office who's still on the payroll. There's also the possibility that the think tank is treading close to a line threatening its status as a nonprofit. Note that Jack Abramoff's firm was also compensated by Malaysia around the same time. LINK

Filibuster showdown:

Bob Novak's Saturday weekend said -- Frist has the votes . . . LINK

USA Today's Jill Lawrence wraps Democrats' comments about Sen/Leader/Dr. Frist on the Sunday talk shows for his scheduled participation in the Family Research Council's program, during which they used plenty of buzz words like "extreme," "radical," "over the line," and "un-American" -- the last by Sen. Schumer describing the event, not Frist. LINK

Newsweek's Howard Fineman examines the exceptionally fine line Frist is trying to draw on the filibuster fight -- participating in the FRC's program, but looking to talk only about the up-or-down vote and not faith; guiding his party through the process and trying to make the contacts and form the alliances he'll need for a presidential bid; and trying to get a leg up on his potential competitors (Fineman insists on including Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour in the list. . . ) for the GOP nomination in 2008. Meanwhile, Frist is trying to broker a compromise with Sen. John McCain threatening to upstage him, and Sen. Trent Lott pushing the hard line. LINK

Democrats are revving up their efforts to tie Sen. Frist's push to change Senate rules to his presidential ambitions, writes Roll Call's Chris Cillizza, previewing the DSCC e-mail to go out this week, accusing Frist of knuckling under to conservative pressure in exchange for support for his White House bid.

Roll Call's Paul Kane looks at the seven Republican Senators who are publicly undecided on whether to support changing the Senate rules -- and the heat they're feeling because of it. High in their minds: avoiding the nuclear/constitutional fallout.

Newsweek's Debra Rosenberg takes a closer look at how the age-old pastime of criticizing judges has evolved into a battle over "activists." LINK

In a Washington Post op-ed on Sunday, Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) made the case for President Bush's judicial nominees, and called Democrats' stalling tactics and threats over judicial nominees and the filibuster a violation of constitutional principles and an example of tyranny of the minority. LINK

Wade Henderson and Stephen Moore argued against changing the filibuster rules -- for different reasons -- on Sunday's Washington Post op-ed page. Among those reasons: former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole long view that the party in the majority today could be the party in the minority in the future. LINK

On Sunday, the Los Angeles Times' David Savage took a good 30,000-foot look at the federal courts, including the Supreme Court -- now largely controlled by Republican-appointed judges, Noting that the stripe of Republican-appointed judge is more important than the fact that they he or she was appointed by a Republican. LINK

Social Security:

"After spending nearly four months campaigning to restructure Social Security, President Bush is headed toward what many Republicans consider a make-or-break moment in the effort to transform the 70-year-old retirement program: a showdown with the Senate Finance Committee," the Washington Post's Jim VandeHei wrote on Sunday in a must-read that was likely lost for some of you in the warm weather. LINK

"Bush is confident that he has convinced Americans that Social Security faces long-term fiscal problems, even if they remain skeptical of his plan for personal investment accounts. Now, aides say, he wants the Finance Committee, which has jurisdiction over the issue, to take the lead role in crafting a new Social Security program."

"Finance Chairman Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) said the White House has privately assured him that the president will assist by offering his preferences on some of the most politically sensitive issues, such as whether to raise taxes or cut benefits to fix the system -- as well as what form the accounts would take. Grassley will hold the first Senate hearing on the Bush plan later this month, and his staff has started coordinating its efforts with the White House."

"But Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), who has been lobbying the White House to detail a solvency plan, said, 'It will be up to the president, not Senator Grassley, to generate momentum by being specific.'"

"There are many ways to fix Social Security, and White House aides are signaling they like the idea of reducing benefits, but not for the working poor; tightening eligibility restrictions; and, preferably, not significantly raising the cap on taxes, according to several Republicans who have discussed the issue with them. Al Hubbard, Bush's chief economist, and other White House policy advisers have come up with a list and are awaiting more details from Grassley and other key congressional Republicans on the blend of changes they prefer, a senior White House official said."

"The emerging Bush-Senate Republican strategy is to entice Democrats into the debate by first focusing on shoring up the system and then selling the private accounts as the smartest way to ease the pain of benefit cuts. All of this relies on Grassley's ability -- and willingness -- to push ahead on an issue some Republicans would rather avoid."

The Washington Post's Jonathan Weisman examines how President Bush's private accounts plan for Social Security is -- or isn't -- playing with the working poor, who his Administration insists has the most to gain from overhauling the system and taking ownership of their retirement. Some are too occupied with getting from day to day, Weisman writes, to be interested in shepherding these accounts, and last month's Washington Post/ABC News poll shows that support for private accounts increases with income level. LINK

An amazing story on Social Security was buried in Saturday's Los Angeles Times, in which Peter G. Gosselin and Ed Chen used the President's touting of the Ohio state employees retirement system to look at -- huh!! -- the system's rate of return and found it ain't that great. Imagine if this ran on a weekday New York Times front page. LINK

Newsweek's Jane Bryant Quinn isn't impressed by the double cut that the private accounts idea would bring to the Social Security system, writing that the payoff in increased earnings with private accounts wouldn't cover both and would end up costing retirees more than they'd gain. LINK

Cato President Ed Crane is a smart guy, but we're not sure whether he intended for this paragraph in his "memo" to Karl Rove to be amusing:

"You want to get people excited about personal accounts? Tell them about the 1960 Supreme Court case, Flemming v. Nestor, which explicitly says Americans have no ownership rights to the money they pay into Social Security. It is, the Court ruled, a social program of Congress with absolutely no contractual obligations. What you get back at retirement is entirely up to the 535 members of Congress. Where's the dignity in that?"

If the best advice he can give to Mr. Rove about how to better sell Social Security hinges on an interpretation of a Supreme Court case from 1960, well . . .

Though an explicitly self-proclaimed FORMER candidate, Steve Forbes echoed the thoughts of many an Iowan (and many an American) over the weekend when he called for the President to clarify his Social Security guidelines, while tenaciously championing his own flat-tax plan. LINK

Writes the Wall Street Journal editorial board, in a scathing editorial: "AARP's not-so-hidden big-government agenda is to ensure those promises are kept largely by raising taxes, though the organization has in the past been willing to go along with benefit cuts such as raising the retirement age."

We consider this editorial a must-read for a variety of reasons we refuse to reveal here.

Bush agenda:

An April Iowa poll show that those in the heartland state of Iowa may not (HEART) President Bush as readily as they once did, according to weekend statistical reviews from Jonathan Roos and Jane Norman in Sunday's Des Moines Register. Mirroring the rest of the country, the poll numerically displayed citizens' distrust of the President's capacity to govern. The usual topics were covered: including job efficacy, Social Security, and Iraq, evoking recently familiar responses: such as disappointment, confusion, agitation (respectively). LINK

"Bush's current 42 percent approval mark among Iowans is the lowest of his presidency and half of what his approval rating was in 2001 in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks."

"That's a reversal of opinion from two years ago, when a May 2003 Iowa Poll showed a 55 percent majority of Iowans thought the nation was on the right path, while 37 percent said it was on the wrong track."

" 'The country is directionless,' said Goetz, 63, a political independent. 'I don't think the country is going the right way.' "

"He cited high gasoline prices, inaction on illegal immigration, proposed changes in Social Security that many people dislike, and continuing casualties in Iraq."

The Washington Post's Robin Wright and Al Kamen (we LOVE that byline!) look at the Bush Administration's newly hatched effort at the State Department to reach out to the Islamic world. Or soon to be hatched: Karen Hughes, appointed last month to craft the strategy, is expected to start as late as the fall, and Dina Powell, her second in command, is expected to start in the next two or three months. Neither woman, who must be approved by the Senate, has had her paperwork sent through yet. In addition, Wright and Kamen write, the program to reach out to Muslims contains no Muslim staff. LINK

Hats off to the Administration press operation for dropping the Education Department's IG report on Armstrong Williams late on a Friday afternoon. LINK

The mysterious Mr. Dunn will at some point have to face the media, won't he?

In Saturday's Union Leader, John DiStaso summed up a recent confirmation of one of President Bush's HUD nominees after Sen. John Sununu quelled temporary disruptions. LINK

The Wall Street Journal's Michael Phillips fronts a page-one look at the Millennium Challenge funds that President Bush prioritized.

The New York Times' Brent Staples urges the civil rights establishment to do whatever it can to make No Child Left Behind a success. LINK

Elisabeth Bumiller on the centrality of baseball to the leadership development of President Bush -- and gets Roland Betts on the record!!! LINK

The Wall Street Journal's Chris Cooper has a great look at the subtle marketing of (unintentional) presidential endorsements, like for, say, a Trek bicycle.


On CNN's "Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer" (known internally to as CLEWWB), Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska said that he plans to vote tomorrow in favor of John Bolton's nomination to the United Nations ambassadorship unless something new comes up.

We're not sure if the Washington Post's Dafna Linzer scoop qualifies: she reports on new allegations from John Bolton's former colleagues that he kept information vital to the U.S. relationship with Iran from then-Secretary of State Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice, and getting the information directly to Powell's deputy, Richard Armitage. Note Sen. Hagel's comments yesterday on CNN. LINK

"'If there's nothing more that comes out, I will vote for Bolton,' Hagel told CNN's 'Late Edition.' But Hagel also said that he was 'troubled with more and more allegations, revelations, coming about his style, his method of operation,' including charges that Bolton had intimidated a member of Hagel's staff who had worked briefly under Bolton at the State Department's Nonproliferation Bureau."

The Los Angeles Times' Richard Serrano sees Hagel's comments as more of a hint of his opposition to Bolton, and reports that Sen. Chafee will decide today how he'll vote after looking at the allegations against him. LINK

AP takes the same view of Hagel's remarks. LINK

Ron Brownstein of the Los Angeles Times sees Chafee's public concern over Bolton as a larger emblem that "[t]his is a miserable moment for centrist senators." Where moderates have traditionally reached across party lines to build consensus, Brownstein writes, they're now being caught in the middle as the polarization of political debate is pulling each side further apart. And because they often represent states that have voted with the opposite party in the presidential election, they face a doubly hard prospect of maintaining their stances while still trying to appeal to their party's activists. LINK

On Sunday, the Los Angeles Times' Sonni Efron and Richard Serrano looked at the latest allegations of bullying lodged against U.N. ambassador nominee John Bolton -- released by Sen. Joe Biden, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee's ranking Democrat. LINK


As the New York Times reported Sunday, former Nebraska Sen. Bob Kerrey is considering entering the Democratic field to try to beat Mike Bloomberg to become the mayor of New York City this fall.

It'd be a great story if Kerrey runs, but the betting in the political circles we touched this weekend is that in the end, the often mercurial current president of the New School won't make the race.

The Bloomberg campaign -- delighted with the relative weak group of four Democrats already in the race -- won't shed a tear if Kerrey stays out. Political reporters, on the other hand, would rejoice if he gets in, because Kerrey is so very fun to cover.

What to make of it all?

The Omaha World-Herald says it's used to the former Senator's musings. LINK

Hank Sheinkopf, quoted in a New York Post article, tells everyone to calm down. "He has no money, no staff, no name recognition outside of a small group of people who live in Manhattan,' Sheinkopf said. 'The last time we elected a mayor from Nebraska was before my memory,' he added." LINK

The Daily News' Lisa Colangelo cutely calls Kerrey a "could-be carpetbagger." LINK

"Aides to several candidates said privately that they were torn between concern about Mr. Kerrey's intentions and a desire not to be seen attacking a major figure in the national party. The candidates' campaign organizations issued carefully crafted responses, but some campaign members were already whispering about potential liabilities for a Kerrey candidacy, like his admission four years ago that a unit he led in the Vietnam War had killed unarmed civilians," per the New York Times. LINK

"The sharpest response to Mr. Kerrey came from the Bloomberg camp, which did not hesitate to highlight what it viewed as his erratic attitude toward the mayor's race in recent weeks. Mr. Bloomberg was in Germany on Olympics business and not available for comment, but his aides said he was mystified by Mr. Kerrey's actions, and they provided new details of how Mr. Kerrey's support for the mayor unexpectedly curdled in the last few days."

"The aides, who spoke on the condition that they not be identified so as to avoid a public fight with Mr. Kerrey, said the former senator from Nebraska did not hesitate to accept Mr. Bloomberg's personal request about two weeks ago that he become chairman of Democrats for Bloomberg. That followed a meeting with William T. Cunningham, the mayor's communications director, and Robert B. Tierney, the city's Landmarks Preservation Commission chairman, where, the aides said, Mr. Kerrey spoke highly of the mayor and indicated that he would be willing to assist the re-election campaign."

Hum: "[Bloomberg chief strategist Kevin] Sheekey also said he believed an article in the new issue of Time magazine naming Mr. Bloomberg one of the nation's five best mayors - citing his stewardship of the city budget and economy - would squelch much of Mr. Kerrey's criticism."

The New York Times David Herszenhorn assess the state of New York City schools; math scores up slightly (but part of a trend that preceded Bloomberg?), school safety improvements are questionable, bureaucracy remains bureaucracy, and attendance hasn't gotten better. LINK

"At some of the signature stops that Mr. Bloomberg made to highlight his ambitious plans for the schools, a picture emerges of two years of extraordinary upheaval. To some degree, the mayor's travels reflect his willingness to tackle the most difficult problems in the most troubled schools. And, of course, there are schools across the city where principals expressed optimism. At the same time, the mayor's inability so far to achieve clear-cut success, even where he had personally shone a spotlight, helps explain why many New Yorkers fail to see any change and why some say things are actually worse."

The Los Angeles Times' Jessica Garrison and Patrick McGreevey wrap Sunday's bitter debate between incumbent mayor James Hahn and challenger Antonio Villaraigosa, the third in the runoff campaign, which devolved into accusations and criticisms over investigations of Hahn's administration. The final debate will take place Saturday morning. LINK

Howard Dean speaks:

DNC Chairman Howard Dean's comments on Terri Schiavo, abortion and Tom DeLay obscured what was newsworthy: his rolling out more details about how the party plans to build organizations in all 50 states. LINK and LINK

Writes Beth Fouhy: "One part bulldog, one part philosopher king, the former presidential candidate and new Democratic Party chairman demonstrated in a speech to California Democrats Saturday that he still has the power to mesmerize party activists. But his trip was also marked by the kind of intemperate and controversial moments that remind people why he remains such a political lightning rod." LINK

On Friday at a gay rights group breakfast,. Dean dangled an outline of his party's strategy for 2006 and 2008: Terri Schiavo, the Los Angeles Times' Michael Finnegan reported Saturday. "'We're going to use Terri Schiavo later on,'" Dean said. LINK

"'This is going to be an issue in 2006, and it's going to be an issue in 2008 . . . because we're going to have an ad with a picture of Tom DeLay saying, "Do you want this guy to decide whether you die or not? Or is that going to be up to your loved ones?"'" Dean said.

"The former presidential candidate said he had purposely avoided emphasizing the Schiavo case in recent weeks because Democrats needed 'message discipline.' In this case, he said, that means sticking to the fight against Bush's push to allow private investment accounts for Social Security benefits."

Spokesgal Karen Finney gets to explain to the AP Dean's "use" comment.

2008 Republicans:

Creating a clip that fits right into the McCain-for-president platform, two reporters at The Wall Street Journal take stock of Sen. John McCain's tenure as chair of the Airland subcommittee of the Armed Services committee.

"Sticking with the tactics that worked for him before -- including using internal Pentagon data and relying on the news media -- Sen. McCain is defying the low-key, collegial dealings with defense companies that for decades have been hallmarks of the committee's leadership in both parties. During a hearing this month he ridiculed the Pentagon's acquisition system, saying that 'determining the actual cost of an aircraft' remains 'one of the great imponderables in history.' A few minutes later, he threatened to subpoena cost data on the C-130J cargo plane 'if Lockheed Martin continues to stonewall us.'"

"Such verbal bomb-throwing used to be considered anathema by veteran members of the committee, who typically focused on working out disputes to keep big-ticket projects moving. As the son and grandson of admirals, a U.S. Naval Academy graduate himself and a decorated Vietnam War veteran, Sen. McCain carries none of the political baggage of liberal Democrats who previously criticized the cozy arrangements among contractors, Pentagon officials and those in the Senate controlling the purse strings."

"The McCain offensive takes on added importance because the senator is widely considered a leading contender for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination. Aside from the prominence that brings to his efforts, his challenges to contractors help him burnish his reputation as a fighter of government waste."

The Washington Post's Mark Leibovich gives Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) the Style section profile treatment, from religious family man to staunch conservative dismissive of his "whiny" critics who he says see him as "an accidental senator." He's also, Leibovich Notes, the highest-ranking Republican to say publicly that Leader DeLay should explain his actions, the point man on the Bush Social Security plan in the Senate, and focused on bringing religion into political institution. LINK

"Obscured by Santorum's unfiltered talk are his political skills. He is, by all accounts, as pure a political strategist as there is in the Senate. 'He is extremely sharp, extremely bright and he understands the nuances of politics intimately,' says senior White House adviser and Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove. This includes an encyclopedic grasp of Pennsylvania politics. Santorum was deeply involved in the Bush-Cheney campaign in Pennsylvania. He participated in conference calls, recruited staff, reviewed volunteer numbers and talked regularly to Rove."

Roll Call's Chris Cillizza tracks the travels and fundraising of Republican '08 hopefuls Frist, McCain, Hagel, Brownback, and Allen.

Sen. Hagel heads to New Hampshire for tours of Saint Anselm College, Plymouth State University, Franklin Pierce College and New England College May 2-4. LINK

As Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney begins his 2006 re-election campaign and eyes a possible 2008 Presidential bid, he must also look for a new spokesperson. Shawn Feddeman, who now holds the post is leaving to try out the private sector and Republican aides say a top contender for the spot could be former 2004 Bush campaign spokeswoman Julie Teer. LINK

In the Saturday Globe, Frank Phillips wrote up Romney's criticism of Deval Patrick's tax stance, and provides his upteenth view of where Romney stands vis-a-vis '06 and '08: "Many strategists have speculated that he will not seek a second term, choosing instead to run for the 2008 GOP nomination for president. . . Romney has said he plans to run for governor again, but aides have indicated that he will make a final decision by early fall." LINK

Nina Easton of the Boston Globe explores Sen. Bill Frist's very tough balancing act and gets a scholar of Congress to compare him unfavorably to Lyndon Johnson. Writes Dick Morris in the New York Post: "Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist may have just killed his hopes to be the Republican nominee for president in 2008 -- by coming out against a proposal to bar illegal immigrants from getting drivers licenses." LINK

As we said above, Newt Gingrich is in New Hampshire this week as talk of a presidential bid swirl about. LINK

Sen. Brownback's speech in Manch Saturday got primo coverage from the Kansas City Star. LINK

2008 Democrats:

A huge crowd greeted Sen. John Kerry in Austin, TX for a Medicaid event Saturday. Spokesman David Wade says an e-mail to Kerry's list was all that was necessary to turn out his fans LINK

Roll Call's Mark Preston takes an interesting look at Democrats' outreach efforts to religious media.

It was a beautiful day yesterday, but instead of heading over to Georgetown to see it in person, we ended up taking the virtual tour of the Georgetown manse that the John Edwardses have put on the market in preparation for their de-camp to North Carolina. Did we mention the words "spectacular," "tasteful," and "casually elegant"? Not to mention how, no matter how down-to-earth and comfy the playroom is or how much we'd have loved to see the kinds of bedrooms we only fantasized about as kids, we wouldn't have been able to dress properly for an up-close inspection. And what if we broke something? LINK

Take a look, and if you buy it, mention where you saw the listing!!!

The Des Moines Register's Jonathan Roos lays out Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack's dilemma over whether to reward such motorists and raise the speed limit from 65 to 70 miles per hour on rural interstate roads or to heed the age-old advice of safety first. Unfortunately for Vilsack, this is a fine example of not being able to please everyone all the time; the population is close to evenly split on the subject. LINK

In New York, Sen. Hillary Clinton focuses on her re-election campaign in 2006, but Republicans are expecting her to run for President in 2008 and they are worried their party lacks a big-name challenger to take her on, reports Marc Humbert of the AP. Schwarzenegger:

The Los Angeles Times' Michael Finnegan on Sunday described the raucus California Democratic Party convention the night before, where Democrats including those shooting for the gubernatorial nod and other statewide offices had dinner along with a big side of slamming Gov. Schwarzenegger and his agenda. LINK

"Photographs of the swimsuit-clad governor -- looking more plump than muscular -- made the rounds, with one version superimposed on a Krispy Kreme doughnut shop."

"A DVD shown on the convention floor included snippets from a cartoon depicting Schwarzenegger as a voracious eater of fruit from a 'special interest' money tree. Among the fruit he gobbles are 'Car Dealers' and 'Wall Street.' In the same spirit, the party's website features a doctored photo of Schwarzenegger, his nose stretched like Pinocchio's, saying: 'Broken Promises: How many lies has Arnold told?'"

On Friday, we mistakenly referred to California Controller Steve Westly as a possible Republican gubernatorial nominee. Of course we meant a possible Democratic gubernatorial nominee. We regret the error.


The Los Angeles Times' Mark Barabak looks at Democrats' growing interest in new electoral territory in the West -- New Mexico, Nevada, Colorado, and Arizona, and incrementally inch up the support that already exists with some serious PR among particular populations (read: rural Latinos) to try to change the image of the natitonal party in the region. LINK

Congratulations to Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI) and Julia Hart, who got married on Sunday in West Point, NY. LINK

Taking a momentary break from the fights over Social Security and judicial nominations, the Center for American Progress turns tonight to issues of racism and prejudice with a screening of "Crash," written and directed by Paul Haggis, the screenwriter of "Million Dollar Baby." Tonight's screening at the Regal Cinemas Gallery Place is accompanied by a panel discussion featuring Reps. Artur Davis (D-AL) and Hilda Solis (D-CA), as well as Haggis and stars Brendan Fraser and Michael Pena. Note query: what makes for better reading: the Norcross tapes? Or the Jennings transcripts? LINK

Acela plans limited service today. LINK

The U.S. Department of Labor is stepping up scrutiny and enforcement of labor union finances, the New York Times' Steven Greenhouse reports. LINK