The Note: The Last Time a New York Times Poll Write-up Was Positive for Republicans Was . . .

"Still, Mr. Bush continued to have majority support for his handling of the war on terrorism -- 52 percent -- one of his strengths throughout his 2004 re-election campaign."

"The sharpest drop in Congressional approval in recent months occurred among Republicans. In February, 54 percent of Republicans said they approved of the way Congress was doing its job; in the most recent poll, that had dropped to 40 percent. Some analysts suggest that Congress is paying the price for months of intense partisan struggle over judicial nominations and the decision to intervene in the right-to-die case of Terri Schiavo."

The President's tax reform panel got a two month extension because tax reform is a high priority for the White House and Administration officials didn't want it lost in the CAFTA/Social Security/energy bill/spending bills shuffle, reports Edmund Andrews gracefully in the New York Times. LINK

The Bush agenda:

The Minnepolis Star-Tribune previews the presidential visit today. The paper Notes that there are approximately 675,000 Medicare recipients who qualify for the drug plan. LINK

The St. Paul Pioneer Press says locals have spent more than 500 hours in preparation, but only a few hundred will get to see Bush speak. John and Agnes Jurek, of Brooklyn Park, MN will be special guests. LINK

"On the eve of Iran's presidential election, President Bush yesterday denounced Tehran's theocracy for manipulating the vote by eliminating candidates and ignoring the "basic requirements" of democracy. Whatever the election's outcome, power will continue to be held by "an unelected few" who are out of step with political changes sweeping the rest of the region, Bush said in a statement released by the White House," write the Washington Post's Robin Wright and Michael Fletcher, who also include the criticism of the election from Elizabeth Cheney of the State Department's democracy program and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who said that at the moment, the Administration isn't looking to overthrow Iran's ruling clerics. LINK

With the United States under heavy international pressure to double aid to poor countries, one of President Bush's signature foreign aid initiatives is facing severe cuts in its proposed budget, intense criticism from African leaders and the departure of its director after only a year in the job," the New York Times' Celia Dugger reports. LINK

"In effect, the Millennium Challenge Account is an experiment to test the idea that past aid has often failed because it went to corrupt, ineffective governments, while grants to nations with relatively honest governments, low trade barriers and soundly managed economies will create economic growth and reduce poverty, said Todd Moss of the Center for Global Development in Washington. The assumption was that success would be built on large grants that would make the United States the biggest, or one of the biggest, donors in a country. In Madagascar, which signed the first compact, the $108 million project makes the United States only the fifth largest donor, though Mr. Applegarth said a second, bigger grant lay ahead."

Energy bill:

Carl Hulse of 43rd Street sums up the day: "Heading toward a collision with the House and White House, the Senate sought Thursday to put an environmentally friendly stamp on its energy legislation as lawmakers and President Bush struggle to agree on an elusive national power policy." LINK

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