The Note: Mature and Incurably Green

ByABC News
October 20, 2006, 9:37 AM

— -- WASHINGTON, Oct. 19

[The Note begins today with a series of sentences that simultaneously will infuriate both conservatives and liberals, and explain the current state of the midterm elections.]

Despite the fact that many of the Democrats' House and Senate candidates are quite liberal (read: "too liberal for the people they hope to represent") and/or have things in their backgrounds that would normally be ample fodder for disqualification by the Bush-Cheney-Rove-Mehlman machine, fewer than five Democratic candidates in the whole country in contested races are even close to being successfully branded (so far) as too liberal and too kooky.

The Old Media -- giddy with excitement over the prospect of the Bush-Cheney-Rove-Mehlman machine losing, filled with guilt over complicity in an Iraq war it wants ended, flush with anticipation over two years of anti-Bush leaks from a gavel-wielding Henry Waxman, and substantially more interested in revelations about congressional pages than in trying to tell voters the truth about whether or not the economy is strong and getting stronger -- can barely contain itself on its secret morning conference calls with Howard Dean and George Soros, during which it was agreed just this morning that, yes, we can keep the meta-narrative ("The Democrats are going to beat Bush and run Congress!!") going for another 19 days, without interruption.

Although conservatives think the New York Times/CBS poll is always biased against them, that the Los Angeles Times and Gallup is almost always biased against them, and that the ABC News/Washington Post poll is occasionally biased against them, the Right pretty much has agreed over the years that the Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll is rock solid. Today, that's a problem.

To be a cockeyed optimist in the Republican Party today means to believe that:

-- Today's polls are a mere snapshot, and there is plenty of time for things to change.

-- Republicans will keep control of the House by four seats and the Senate by one or two, leaving virtually no working majority on anything.

-- There will be an intervening national security event that will focus the minds of independents and rally the base.

-- Not only will increasing numbers of Democratic candidates be disqualified as liberal and kooky in the coming days -- via television advertising and more targeted forms of voter contact -- but the votes and quotes of Nancy Pelosi and various committee-chairs-in-waiting (and the ethics of Harry Reid) will totally change the current dynamics, once again focusing the minds of independents and rallying the base.

-- The Democrats have nothing to match the 72-Hour task force that has turned out conservatives in amazing numbers in the last two national elections.

-- Democrats have no idea how to close a deal.

--That in the end, Republican voters will act based on their feelings about their individual members of Congress and not about the national party -- ironically, a referendum rather than a choice, which is the opposite of the Rove-Mehlman mantra that won in 2002 and 2004.

But then there is that Wall Street Journal/NBC set of digits. In a story that's chock-full of must-read quotations from Republican pollster Bill McInturff, the Wall Street Journal's Jackie Calmes and John Harwood report that according to their poll President Bush and his party are in "worse shape than Democrats were in the October before they lost control of Capitol Hill a dozen years ago." LINK

"For months, the Republican pollster has espoused 'McInturff's Thesis: If there's a decisive election, it's because the other party becomes a credible alternative.' Until now, he has argued, voters' doubts about Democrats were standing in the way of the party making significant gains. But yesterday, the Republican pollster agreed with Mr. Hart that voters now see Democrats as at least 'a marginally acceptable alternative.'"

Looking at poll results that show half of independents wanting Democrats to take charge, while only a quarter of them back Republicans, McInturff said: "It's very unusual to see a majority of independents pick one political party."

And then there's his kicker quote on how voters view the situation in Iraq.

"By 40% to 31%, a plurality of voters now see the situation in Iraq as a civil war among Iraqis, rather than a war between American troops and foreign terrorists there. Significantly, Mr. McInturff said, that assessment is shared by those who voted for Mr. Bush in 2004 and those who supported Democratic Sen. Jon Kerry for president -- groups that agree on little else."

"If Americans continue to see U.S. troops caught in the middle of a civil war, Mr. McInturff said, 'that will ratchet up the pressure to terminate our deployment in Iraq.'"

President Bush, who does not govern by the polls (although he sometimes campaigns based on them) is out politicking for two embattled GOP candidates today. First, he campaigns for Rep. Don Sherwood (R-PA) at 2:00 pm ET at Keystone College in La Plume, PA. Despite hailing from a district that went for President Bush in 2004 by 20 points, Sherwood is in an extremely competitive race with Democrat Chris Carney as a result of an extramarital affair and an allegation that he had choked his former mistress.

At 5:40 pm ET, Mr. Bush campaigns with Sen. George Allen (R-VA) at the Science Museum of Virginia in Richmond, VA. Allen is neck and neck with challenger Democrat Jim Webb after a pretty rough summer on the stump for the incumbent.

Continuing the thematic, the House Majority Leader Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) and former House Clerk Jeff Trandahl testify before the House ethics committee in Washington, DC. Trandahl arrived at 9:04 am ET to begin his testimony, reports ABC News' Z. Byron Wolf.

Former President Bill Clinton speaks at a rally at 3:15 pm ET for Rep. Ben Cardin (D-MD) and gubernatorial candidate Martin O'Malley (D-MD) in Baltimore, MD.

Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) attends the 61st Annual Alfred E. Smith Dinner at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York, NY at 7:20 pm ET.

DNC Chairman Howard Dean speaks at 3:30 pm ET at the Minnesota DFL College Forum at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis.

RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman attends a Montgomery County Republican Committee Dinner at 7:30 pm ET in Eagleville, PA.

Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack (D-IA) heads to Valley Glen, CA to discuss education policy and reform with California gubernatorial candidate Phil Angelides (D-IL) at 1:00 pm ET at the Los Angeles Valley College.

Sen. Evan Bayh (D-IN) and Nevada gubernatorial candidate Dina Titus (D-NV) discuss senior citizen issues at 4:00 pm ET in Las Vegas, NV.

Newt Gingrich speaks at 8:45 pm ET at the Lean Sigma Healthcare Transformation Summit in Tempe, AZ.

George interviews George:
Be sure to check out George Stephanopoulos' newsy and fascinating exclusive interview with President Bush here: LINK

On "Good Morning America," ABC News' George Stephanopoulos said President Bush displayed "a mixture of conciliation and threat" with regard to North Korea.

As for the President's outlook on the electoral landscape, Stephanopoulos described the President's perspective as a bit of "forced optimism."

The Washington Post: LINK

Politics of Iraq:
Adam Nagourney and Jim Rutenberg turn in a must-read story in the New York Times looking at how Democrats are embracing the unpopular Iraq war as an election issue and how Republicans have stepped away from the Rove strategy of turning a weakness into a strength by wrapping themselves around the President's Iraq strategy. LINK

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-DSCC) plans to hold a 1:00 pm ET press conference call pegged to this story. See the Schumer quotes for a sense of what the call will sound like.

"One-Day Iraq Toll Is Highest for U.S. In Many Months," blares the front page of the Washington Post. LINK

"'Dramatic change of direction' coming for Iraq: 'Plan Bs' include partition, overthrow of government," blares the front page Washington Times story by Sharon Behn. LINK

2006: landscape:
The Hotline's Chuck Todd wisely explains why this election cycle is similar to 1994 and why it is not. LINK

The Los Angeles Times' Janet Hook explores how the 2006 campaign battlefield is expanding and all on Republican turf. Hook Notes that the AFL-CIO is directing some of its $40 million GOTV effort to Tennessee and Virginia, with the Senate, perhaps, more in play than previously thought. LINK

Under a "Conservative voters likely to stay home" headline on the front page of the Washington Times, Ralph Z. Hallow has conservative campaign consultant Rick Shaftan saying: "'The Republican leadership spent $1 million on helping Chafee, and then it wonders why conservatives don't think they're wanted in this party,' Mr. Shaftan said. 'They think the leadership wants them to come out every year, shine your shoes, then go sit in the back of the bus, take their Bibles and read them and shut up.'" LINK