updated 9/19/2003 1:35:31 AM ET 2003-09-19T05:35:31

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      House Speaker John Boehner became animated Tuesday over the proposed Keystone Pipeline, castigating the Obama administration for not having approved the project yet.

    2. Budget deficits shrinking but set to grow after 2015
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    4. Obama faces Syria standstill
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Sept. 19, 2003 / 9:30 AM ET

From Elizabeth Wilner, Mark Murray and Huma Zaidi

Per one of DC’s finer radio stations, its National Talk Like a Pirate Day, so ahoy. But with Isabel passing, the city isn’t exactly under water. Yet the government remains shut down. (Insert New Yorkers’ jibes here.)

More importantly, we’re four months out from the Iowa caucuses, and six days out from the September 25 CNBC/Wall Street Journal Democratic presidential debate at Pace University in New York, featuring all 10 candidates. Weather permitting (and looks like it will), the Clark campaign intends to send a letter of acceptance to the Democratic National Committee today, the AP says. Wonderful.

Today, Clark gives an address — his longest to date as a candidate — on “The American Leadership Role In a Changing World” at the University of Iowa in Iowa City at 5:00 pm. He’ll hold a 10:30 am meet-and-greet at the Hamburg Inn, and one-on-one media avails before and after the speech. Reporters may ask him about his assertion yesterday that he would have voted for the Iraq resolution (see below).

In the recall today, our ongoing watch of Democratic allegations of a GOP power grab sees the stars align: none other than Al Gore hits the trail with Davis in Los Angeles, at the African American Voter Registration, Education, and Participation Project on W. Jefferson at 1:00 pm ET, while the 9th Circuit is expected to post its decision on an en banc hearing of the three-judge panel’s decision. Gore also campaigns and fundraises with Davis in San Francisco. The Los Angeles Times today says Davis has yet to win over African-Americans.

On Saturday, Davis campaigns with Edwards, the fourth Democratic presidential candidate to stump with him. Edwards embed Dugald McConnell says Edwards and Davis will appear in San Francisco to criticize the Bush administration’s handling of the economy, as well as the recall. Edwards spokesperson Jennifer Palmieri says “he thinks the recall is a bad idea. The voters of California already said what they wanted in 2002.”

Schwarzenegger has no public events scheduled. McClintock rallies in Ontario, CA at 5:30 pm ET. And Bustamante has a presser to call for community college fee rollbacks at Los Angeles City College at 2:00 pm ET and a 9:00 pm ET reception with San Diego Democrats.

Dick Grasso’s resignation is giving the populist-talking Edwards campaign a new peg to play up corporate reform; his is the only campaign focusing on Grasso’s exit. And per McConnell, in his latest ad in New Hampshire, Edwards says: “Money and lobbyists run our government, and they own this White House... I’ve never taken a dime from PACs or Washington lobbyists, and I never will.” Incidentally, Edwards changed his scheduled to be in North Carolina today

Iraq is to the economy...The Los Angeles Times reports Hill on GOP insistence that Iraq help pay for reconstruction. “Republican qualms arise from worries about the growing federal budget deficit, frustration with allies for not contributing more and the political fallout from spending billions on Iraq’s infrastructure at a time when the GOP is trying to restrain spending at home.”

“Congress is not likely to scuttle the funding request, which is part of the $87-billion package Bush wants approved... But the concerns of GOP congressmen reflect an underlying political reality as the president and his party head into the election year: Bush’s foreign policy, once his trump card with voters, is no longer seen as an unalloyed benefit to him and fellow Republicans as the costs and casualties in Iraq mount.”

CaliforniaThe Wall Street Journal looks at the Bush v. Gore overtones from a less emotional angle: “California’s recall fight suggests a new development as the 2004 presidential election nears: The prospect of lawsuits against cities, counties or states that may be out of step with the changes. The plaintiffs’ ammunition: The U.S. Supreme Court’s same Bush v. Gore ruling that gave rise to the movement itself.” The story notes how cash-strapped states are having to take “bigger roles than ever to assure some uniformity,” but “an economic downturn and post-Sept. 11, 2001, homeland-security costs have drained budgets, leaving election officials once again in a losing fight for funds against police, schools and hospitals. Many states put plans on hold, to await federal aid.”

The Los Angeles Times plays up stalled election reform efforts around the country — including with the federal commission created by Bush when he signed the election reform act. The commission, “which was supposed to be up and running seven months ago, has yet to see a single member nominated by Bush, much less confirmed by the Senate.”

“The parties sent the names of their candidates to the president only recently. White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan said that Bush intended to nominate all four members soon.”

Schwarzenegger’s top Democratic and Republican challengers teamed up yesterday to protest the California Broadcasters Association’s decision to make its September 24 debate questions available a week in advance, and jointly push for a boycott of the debate. Per the Los Angeles Times, “McClintock and Bustamante plan to send a letter today... saying they will not participate unless the format is altered, their campaigns said.”

“At the same time, Indian tribes stepped up TV advertising and direct-mail campaigns in support of both Bustamante and McClintock, moves that also have the effect of targeting Schwarzenegger.” The Morongo Band of Mission Indians go up with a TV ad for McClintock in the Los Angeles market today.

Schwarzenegger’s once-presumed-to-be-short campaign, including its current free-spending ways and its staff, may suffer some cutbacks and personnel departures if the recall is postponed. - LA Times

The Los Angeles Times also reports money’s coming in for Davis, while the recall drive is struggling.

After campaigning with Edwards on Saturday, Davis has an official event on Monday with Washington state Gov. Gary Locke, the country’s only Asian-American governor, and campaigns with Lieberman (presidential #5) on Tuesday.

2004 notes (R)The Washington Post revisits Bush’s arguably politically motivated, now politically complicated steel tariffs: “Eighteen months later, key administration officials have concluded that Bush’s order has turned into a debacle. Some economists say the tariffs may have cost more jobs than they saved, by driving up costs for automakers and other steel users. Politically, the strategy failed to produce union endorsements and appears to have hurt Bush with workers in Michigan and Tennessee — also states at the heart of his 2004 strategy.”

The story is pegged to today’s scheduled release of the US International Trade Commission’s mid-session report, which “will examine not only the tariffs’ effects on the steel industry but also on the hard-pressed manufacturers that shape steel into products.”

“White House officials said Bush will not make a decision until he has digested the ITC reports. But his top economic advisers have united to recommend that the tariffs be lifted or substantially rolled back this fall, and several administration officials said it is likely he will go along. The retreat would roil the political and economic landscape of the Rust Belt, where both parties expect the presidential election to be won and lost.”

“It also could produce a tidal wave of negative publicity in West Virginia, a traditionally Democratic state that Bush won by 6 percentage points, and Pennsylvania, which Bush lost by 5 percentage points and had targeted as one of his most promising possible pickups for 2004.”

“Republican lawmakers from steel states said Bush is considering compromises that would increase the number of exclusions from the tariffs, easing prices for steel buyers. Administration officials are careful to say they see both sides of the argument.”

“Political divisions over the tariffs remain fierce... But among Bush’s economic team, opposition to the tariffs has hardened substantially. Administration officials said Commerce Secretary Donald L. Evans, one of Bush’s closest friends, thinks the tariffs should be lifted as a way of showing that the administration has heard the pain of manufacturers, who account for 2.5 million of the more than 2.7 million jobs lost during Bush’s presidency.”

ClarkHundreds of Clark supporters are expected to converge on Iowa City today, though the state Democratic chairman said that as of yesterday, he had yet to hear from Clark or his campaign. “Iowa Clark activists are expecting supporters to come to Iowa City from across Iowa, as well as Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Montana, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska and Wisconsin.” - Des Moines Register

Clark embed Marisa Buchanan describes the campaign as a physical work in progress: they need some more space, and are hunting for properties for their national HQ in Little Rock. Every possible inch of workspace in Clark’s current offices is being used, along with an RV. Volunteers stopped by all day yesterday. Clark emerged from his office infrequently. He left for Florida with the campaign troops still introducing themselves to one another and figuring out roles and responsibilities.

Buchanan also says Cher called yesterday asking what she could do to help Clark.

The Los Angeles Times recounts the highlights of a long interview Clark gave reporters yesterday while traveling: he would have voted for the Iraq resolution; the Clintons were “encouraging” during his decision-making on a bid; “don’t ask, don’t tell” should be reevaluated; and he advocates universal health care. He “supports a waiting period for gun purchases and sees no reason for assault weapons outside of the military, but he grew up in a house full of guns and believes in the 2nd Amendment.” And, he “confessed that he has watched none of the Democratic debates nor read a newspaper this week.”

On the Iraq resolution, “Clark himself said yesterday that he believed his position was closer to Kerry, Edwards, and Gephardt than to Dean, a former governor of Vermont,” the Boston Globe says. “Clark’s comment seemed to catch his rivals by surprise, especially since his entry into the race was viewed as a challenge to Kerry, who is no longer the only veteran in the race, and to Dean, whose antiwar stance helped him rise in the polls.”

Kerry’s manager told the Globe that either “‘Clark’s previous position on the war has been badly misrepresented by the press, or this is a serious reinvention of his own position.’”

And, “Clark said he considered himself a Republican after the Vietnam War, but he didn’t remember whether he voted in 1972. ‘I hope I voted then,’ he said, ‘and I would have voted for Nixon.’ He voted for Ronald Reagan in 1980, and for Bill Clinton in the 1992 and 1996 elections.”

The New York Times: “Asked today about some of that speculation, including whether he might be a stalking horse for Senator Clinton and might wind up as her vice presidential candidate, either next year or in 2008, General Clark said he had heard the talk but dismissed it. He also said he had no interest in being vice president.”

The AP recounts signs of the Clintons’ hand in Clark’s campaign: “By action and association, Clinton has had a major impact on Clark’s first bid for elective office, causing some Democrats to wonder whether the former president’s pledge of impartiality may be giving way to his loyalty toward a fellow Arkansan.”

“There is no proof that Clinton is pulling the strings in Clark’s campaign - indeed, most Democrats say they doubt the former president would be so bold. But some party activists, particularly those lodged in rival campaigns, point to circumstantial evidence suggesting that the impressive list of political heavyweights rallying behind Clark may be a reflection of Clinton’s endearment - if not endorsement.”

“Others say the support is coincidental, a result of so many Clinton allies vowing to remain neutral in this year’s election only to get the itch late in the cycle.”

“Another theory: Clark’s is the last hope for establishment Democrats who fear the other contenders have stalled while the current front-runner, Howard Dean, would be defeated by President Bush.”

The Wall Street Journal: “Bush adviser Matthew Dowd concedes Clark’s Southern roots could help Democrats beyond Republicans’ Dixie. In West and Midwest, it would signal ‘that the nominee is more moderate or conservative,’ he says.”

Walter Shapiro on Clark’s announcement: “no speech is more emblematic of a candidate than his formal announcement. So Wednesday afternoon in Little Rock, retired general Wesley Clark ended a year of suspense about his political intentions by delivering a clich-filled 11-minute oration that brought to mind the Peggy Lee ballad, Is That All There Is?”

“The problem was not the lack of specific policy proposals in the Clark speech. Those can come later. Rather, what was lacking was a clearly expressed rationale for his unorthodox candidacy.” Shapiro favorably contrasts Edwards’ (overshadowed) announcement speech with Clark’s.

The Washington Times reports Clark has been “embraced” by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, though the Human Rights Campaign remains a little iffy.

More 2004 notes (D)Edwards embed McConnell reports Edwards changed his schedule and returns to North Carolina today to get a briefing on the hurricane damage and visit an emergency center. Yesterday, he asked President Bush to declare parts of North Carolina a federal disaster area. Many Edwards campaign staffers left the office early yesterday, McConnell says, but not before talking about collecting donations for hurricane victims, or maybe even driving down to the coast after the storm to see if they could help.

McConnell notes that Edwards is booked for Face the Nation on Sunday, and that since his panned performance on Meet the Press in May 2002, he has done Face twice, and This Week twice, but not Meet the Press again.

Gephardt embed Priya David notes Gephardt’s (Isabel-overshadowed) attacks on rivals Graham, Kerry and Lieberman for voting for NAFTA before a group of South Carolina businesspeople in DC yesterday, as well as his new radio ad in the state attacking Dean as a “strong supporter” of NAFTA.

Dean embed Felix Schein notes Dean’s rally in Boston on Tuesday now features and official “speech” by Dean entitled “Democracy, Freedom and Action,” in which Dean is expected to lay out what’s at stake in this election and describe how he will help Democrats “take the country back.” A formal speech is a departure for Dean, who usually speaks from memory rather than from a prepared text. The reason, per longtime followers of Dean’s career, is that the Governor performs better when not delivering prepared remarks.

The expectations-setting game is underway: Kerry embed Becky Diamond has a Kerry spokesman saying the candidate’s fundraising intake for the third quarter will be “somewhere behind Dean’s $15-20 million.” Kerry picked up enviro activist Robert Kennedy, Jr.’s endorsement yesterday.

The New York Times says Kerry also is set to snag the first union endorsement not going to Gephardt — from the International Association of Fire Fighters. AFL-CIO president John Sweeney says that right now, Gephardt doesn’t have the support necessary for an AFL endorsement, but “that if three other large unions - the American Federation of Teachers, the Communications Workers of America and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers - supported a Gephardt endorsement on Oct. 14, that could put him close to the two-thirds needed.”

Lieberman embed Dionne Scott says a campaign ad is forthcoming, with footage shot in New Hampshire during “Operation: Libermania” — an all-out campaign blitz including Lieberman’s first town hall meeting in the state.

Sharpton embed Tom Llamas, previewing Sharpton’s appearance in Louisiana tomorrow, says the campaign points out that Jesse Jackson won Louisiana in the 1988 primary and says they expect Sharpton to do the same. Llamas says some of Sharpton’s campaign staff worked on Jackson’s ’84 and ’88 campaigns, and anytime they visit a state Jackson won, they are quick to note that if “Jesse” did it, so can “Al.”

Sept. 18, 2003 / 9:30 AM ET

From Elizabeth Wilner, Mark Murray and Huma ZaidiAs of 9:00 am, we’ve got wind and something short of drizzle at 4001 Nebraska Avenue, NW. With all Northeast Corridor eyes on the skies today, we’ll indulge ourselves a bit and get personal: One week out from the CNBC/Wall Street Journal Democratic presidential debate in New York, still no confirmation from Clark that he will or will not attend. The debate is about economic issues; Clark touts himself as a licensed investment banker, former economics teacher at West Point, and former Clinton Office of Management and Budget aide. Collective coverage of his speech yesterday notes it was short on policy details but long on criticism of Bush on job losses and the deficit.

So why not, General? We’d love to have you there. Until you offer up some specific positions to chew on, media organizations will resort to picking through your business background. The Wall Street Journal justifies a long look at Clark’s business dealings by arguing that his “brief business career bears examining because it represents his only domestic experience as he seeks to lead a troubled U.S. economy — and because he invokes his time, largely at little-known companies, to assert his qualifications on economic policy.”

The Miami Herald reports, though no one else seems to, that Clark visits South Florida today.

It says something about the faded potency of corporate reform as a political issue when only two Democratic presidential candidates (Lieberman and Edwards), as best we can tell, called for Dick Grasso to resign. Democrats have two power sources revving up the base and the Establishment these days: Clark and the so-called “GOP power grab.”

We noted yesterday that while Clark himself might sink or swim, his candidacy put the Democratic presidential race on the media’s front burner for at least a news cycle. At the same time, it’s lit a fire under the party Establishment, if the number of Clintonistas flocking to Clark is any indication. The Wall Street Journal editorial page has this sharp idea: “The Democratic Establishment, very much including Bill and Hillary Clinton, is pushing the retired general as its stop-Howard Dean candidate.” Even if Clark stumbles, the energy may remain.

Kerry fueled the “power grab” fire yesterday when campaigning with Davis in Los Angeles: “Don’t let the Republicans monkey with the democracy of California.” Today, Davis appears with Jesse Jackson at a no-on-recall, no-on-54 rally at Los Angeles Southwest Community College at 2:30 pm ET.

Bustamante has a 12:30 pm ET presser with the Equality PAC in West Hollywood and a 4:30 pm ET rally in Oxnard. Schwarzenegger rolls out his political reform plan at the state railroad museum (get it?) in Sacramento at 5:00 pm ET.

“The 9th Circuit is not expected to decide before Friday whether to appoint an 11-judge panel to rehear the case. While such hearings are extremely rare, they usually result in a reversal of the smaller panel’s opinion.” — State.com

Overlooked because of Isabel: “The federal government ran a monthly budget deficit of $76.48 billion in August — double its size at the same point last year. The August budget figures, released Wednesday, show the federal government’s overall deficit is firmly in record territory,” says the Wall Street Journal.

CaliforniaThe Los Angeles Times notes that “with Monday’s move to delay the Oct. 7 election, the race has suddenly been converted from a curiosity into a national rallying cry for partisans on both sides.”

“To Republicans, the decision underscores the wanton will of the activist judges they rail against, suggesting judicial appointments could become a higher-profile issue in next year’s presidential campaign. To Democrats, the mere thought of the Supreme Court stepping into yet another election fight is enough to incite outrage and, potentially, boost voter turnout next year. The result is more partisan division, a bitterness that may spill over to the 2004 contest and open a gulf even deeper than the one that produced the last 50-50 presidential election.”

“Democrats believe that a Supreme Court decision stepping into the matter and forcing a vote Oct. 7 would be a provocation not soon forgotten by partisans still infuriated by the court’s intervention in the case of Bush vs. Gore.”

“Already, Democrats have been telling voters that the recall is ‘part of an ongoing national effort to steal elections Republicans cannot win,’ as Davis said in a speech kicking off his anti-recall effort. The practice started in Florida with the 2000 presidential election, Democrats say, continued with unusual off-year redistricting efforts in Colorado and Texas, and now extends to California, with the recall attempt coming just months after Davis won reelection to a four-year term.”

“Race is back,” another Los Angeles Times story declares. “Nine years after Proposition 187 tapped a wave of anti-immigrant sentiment, the 2003 recall campaign has pivoted on a series of racially charged issues, from the driver’s license law to a ballot initiative aimed at ending the state’s collection of some racial data. The result: an electorate bristling with resentment.”

The Los Angeles County elections chief said yesterday that putting off the recall could cause even more damage at the polling place. - LA Times

The San Francisco Chronicle says nearly 400,000 absentee ballots have already been cast for an October 7 election. “That growing mountain of absentee ballots could be tossed out if the election is delayed, and waste $30 million in printing and postage costs, says Contra Costa County Clerk Stephen Weir, a spokesman for county elections officials. Or the absentees may have already helped determine the outcome of the Oct. 7 race by locking in votes that might have been changed later.”

Bob Novak says a Democratic source told him on Sunday that the 9th Circuit would postpone the election.

Schwarzenegger administration official Howard Stern: the Los Angeles Times documents Schwarzenegger’s high-profile media appearances this week, as well as his changing media strategy. “In the first weeks of his campaign, Schwarzenegger had been reticent to answer specific questions. Then, after Labor Day, he switched tactics and began subjecting himself to extensive questioning from reporters every day... By contrast, in the last four days Schwarzenegger has held a single eight-minute question-and-answer session with the reporters following his campaign, preferring to speak on talk shows and in town hall meetings with audiences carefully selected by his campaign.”

Iraq is to the economy... The Washington Post details the Administration’s plans to spend the $87 billion and Democrats’ plans to extract a political price from Bush even as the request heads toward likely passage.

USA Today says the $20.3 billion earmarked for infrastructure may be the biggest sticking point.

And the Washington Times focuses (without mentioning Kerry) on the Biden-Kerry proposal to tie the $87 billion to a one-year tax cut rollback for the wealthiest Americans.

ClarkClark spokesman Mark Fabiani tells embed Marisa Buchanan they are working with the leadership of the various draft movements to form the various parts of the campaign. A laundry list of websites associated with the movement are already clamoring to get on board, Buchanan says. The Draft Clarkers have been readily accepted within the campaign: they were included in the conference calls yesterday, and Clark cited them as one of the reasons he decided to run. Where draftwesleyclark.com focuses on endorsements and fundraising, Draftwesleyclark2004 focuses on troops on the ground.

The Washington Post analysis calls Clark a “candidate in search of a constituency.” The Los Angeles Times says “Clark must find a clear niche in a crowded race that features contenders representing the spectrum of ideological views within the party.”

Buchanan notes that yesterday, despite the flags and signs, was not smooth when journalists went looking for a campaign spokesman and coming up empty. A campaign source concedes they have a small window of time to get their act together. That said, within 24 hours an announcement event was assembled. Former Old Clinton/Gore advance people and White House aides gleefully left their jobs to travel to Little Rock for the day when, as one put it, “we got the call.” Risers were in short supply and flags were at a premium, but the troops stayed up all night Tuesday finishing off various aspects of the Wednesday event: the massive banner America for Clark was finished at 5:00 am yesterday morning.

The Washington Post: “His announcement speech was choppy and lacked rhetorical flourish. Clark also did not outline his views on any of the most pressing domestic concerns, such as health coverage for the uninsured and tax cuts, two issues about which many Democratic voters care most, according to polls. Clark promised major addresses on the economy and national security in the weeks ahead.”

“It might be several weeks before Democratic voters get a taste of Clark’s so-far undefined domestic thinking. Clark will position himself as a moderate Democrat in favor of middle-class tax cuts and a strong national defense, the advisers said... The other candidates are likely to give Clark time to lay out his ideas, but several are gearing up to hit him for his lack of domestic experience and his refusal to declare until only a few weeks ago that he is a Democrat.”

“Clark is planning early visits to Florida, South Carolina, Iowa and New Hampshire, a road map that indicates he will try to play catch-up in early testing grounds but also plans to quickly nationalize his campaign, with a heavy emphasis on the South.”

The Washington Times/AP: “If logistics fall into place, Mr. Clark’s first post announcement stop will be Florida, aides said. He wants to portray himself as a credible candidate in the South and one willing to stretch his campaign beyond the early battleground states to the site of the 2000 presidential recount.”

The more than slightly interested Des Moines Register notes Clark in an interview yesterday “refused to say how prominently Iowa would fit into what he promised will be an unconventional campaign for the 2004 Democratic nomination.” Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Times story suggests Clark may focus more on New Hampshire than Iowa because it requires less organizational effort.

And the Wall Street Journal has this aforementioned look at Clark’s business background: “In announcing his presidential campaign, Wesley K. Clark promoted himself as the candidate best qualified to prosecute the war on terror. As a businessman, he has applied his military expertise to help a handful of high-tech companies try to profit from the fight.” The story details Clark’s board memberships and other corporate advisory posts. “After the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Gen. Clark counseled clients on how to pitch commercial technologies to the government for homeland-security applications.”

“It is unclear exactly how successful Gen. Clark’s business career has been — either for his clients or for himself. Most companies contacted declined to give specific examples of contracts he helped them win. Those willing to detail his role mainly said it was too soon to see the fruits of his efforts.”

More 2004 notes (D)As noted yesterday, Edwards is not scheduled to be in North Carolina today or tomorrow. Embed Dugald McConnell reports the campaign says Edwards will be sure to return to North Carolina if he can help regarding the storm. “I’ll be there when the state of North Carolina needs me,” he said Tuesday, when asked about his travel plans. “The last time we were hit by a devastating hurricane, I spent every waking hour making sure we got the help we needed for the state of North Carolina.” McConnell says Elizabeth Edwards told a crowd on Tuesday how her husband helped out during another recent hurricane, before he was an elected official. He got hold of a pickup truck, she said, and bought a pile of chainsaws, tarps, and other supplies, drove down to the coast, asked how he could help, and eventually dropped it all off with people at a church. She said they never even knew his name. (Of course, now he’s slightly better known, and not there.)

Kucinich’s rally with Ralph Nader and Patti Smith in DC has been canceled. Embed Karin Caifa says Matt Zawisky of Democracy Rising expects the event to be rescheduled for October 7 or 10.

Lieberman embed Dionne Scott reports Lieberman quietly campaigned in northwestern Iowa yesterday while the political world buzzed about Clark. Lieberman hasn’t spent as much time in the state as most of his opponents, Scott notes, and Iowa deputy campaign manager Brian Meyer tells Scott me that’s not likely to change: “The reality of our campaign is we don’t expect to win in Iowa, but we’re trying to beat expectations.” Meyer says the Lieberman campaign doesn’t have the same amount of resources (people, offices) in Iowa as most of the other candidates: “Everybody knows we’ve got a February 3rd strategy... We’re not Howard Dean. We’re not going to the same county five times.”

Yesterday was another quiet one for Gephardt, embed Priya David says, as he headed back to DC from California, where he did some fundraising and did not meet with Gray Davis.

But it was a busy day for Kerry and Dean. Embed Becky Diamond gets this loaded quote from a Kerry spokesman about Clark’s entry: “Don’t you think that having more people with bona fide national security credentials highlights further that the Presidency is no place for on the job training.”

The State.com says the Dean-Kerry clash over taxes intensified yesterday. . First, Kerry took after Dean on the middle-class tax cut in a Union-Leader op-ed. Dean then told a college student, “There were no middle-class tax cuts.” (He also appears to have called Kerry a “budget-fudging Bush defender.” - Boston Herald

Kerry pounced, calling it “simply another extraordinary gaffe from Howard Dean... Democrats in Congress fought to give millions of American families more than half a trillion dollars in much deserved tax relief and somehow Dr. Dean seems unaware.’” The Dean camp then said in a statement that Kerry was using “Bush’s manipulated numbers to mislead them about another Democrat.”

The Union Leader reports Gephardt, also the subject of criticism in Kerry’s op-ed yesterday, enters the fray today with his own. “President Bush’s economic plan has failed because his irresponsible tax cuts have not worked... Now, if you think those misguided tax cuts have worked for you, vote for George Bush. If you want to preserve some large part of the failed Bush tax cut, vote for Senator Kerry... But, if you want to exchange the Bush tax cuts for guaranteed health care that can never be taken away, then you should vote for me.”

The Boston Globe details Kerry’s longtime friendship with Schwarzenegger the morning after the Globe reported Kerry campaigned for Gray Davis.

Dean embed Felix Schein says that along with the Boston fundraisers planned for the next week, a number of flash mobs are being organized for Dean Visibility Day on Saturday, along with other events. Flash-mobbers have argued that a true flash mob cannot be coordinated this far in advance, Schein notes, and wonders if a controversy in the works...

Kucinich embed Karin Caifa adds that now that Kucinich has become the second candidate (after Dean) to participate in the Democrats Abroad conference call through the DNC, plans are in the works for conference calls with Kerry, Edwards and Graham.

Sept. 17, 2003 / 9:30 AM ET

From Elizabeth Wilner, Mark Murray and Huma ZaidiClark makes 10 today at 1:00 pm ET at a Boys and Girls Club in Little Rock; a Draft Clark 2004 e-mail to supporters “declares victory.” Clark did more before 9:00 am than most do all day, addressing the Draft Clarkers on the web at 6:30 am, then all the morning shows. Per an advisor, he has local media interviews from 9:00 am till 12 noon ET. Campaign embed Marisa Buchanan says former Governor and Sen. David Pryor and Rep. Marion Berry will introduce him at the main event. The Washington Times says the backdrop will be “MacArthur Park, site of the old U.S. Army Arsenal, where Gen. Douglas MacArthur, a hero of World War II, was born in 1880.”

The political media and consultant elite doubts Clark can build the organization and make up ground in key early states, which may well prove true and undercut his chances — or, we could see a campaign more unconventional than Dean’s which passes over key early states and, if successful, undermines the first-in-the-nation status of Iowa and New Hampshire. That said, would the party faithful overlook his voting for Reagan? (See below.)

On Today, Clark: rejected the suggestion that it’s too late for him to get in, saying “other people have done it this late in the past;” said he has diplomatic experience to get legislation through; critiqued Bush’s approach to the war, saying the focus should be on “bin Laden and his terrorist network;” affirmed that he is pro-choice and pro affirmative action; and said “it’s probably time for the armed forces to take another look at” gays in the military, “but that’s a matter for the armed forces.” Asked which part of the Bush tax cuts he would repeal or change, he said he would take “a comprehensive look” for a “longer term balancing of budget,” but that he probably would “start at the top of the income brackets” and “give some of their tax cuts back,” and that it “might be dividends but it also might be income level.”

Asked whether he will take part in the CNBC/Wall Street Journal Democratic presidential debate on economic issues on the 25th, Clark said he’s “looking at that right now” but is making no commitment because of a scheduling conflict. Clark has a bunch of speeches scheduled in the coming days, including the Friday speech in Iowa and one early next week at DePauw University. (Once he files, presumably he’ll stop taking speaking fees...)

The New York Daily News’ Michael Kramer writes that Clark needs to attend and impress at the debate: “Many will tune in for only one reason: to see if you’re The Answer - the candidate who can both beat President Bush and serve credibly in his job. That first impression could be your only shot.”

In addition, Kramer says Clark needs to refrain from the hyperbolic attacks the other candidates are waging. “Your candidacy is possible because you’re presumed to have the kind of gravitas the other wannabes lack.... The trick now is to reinforce that perception at the expense of your rivals.”

Why yesterday wasn’t good for Edwards: beyond the town limits of Robbins, NC, the energy and enthusiasm among Democrats was for the candidate with national security credentials, if none other — not for the candidate without such credentials who was talking about jobs and the economy. (USA Today headline: “Edwards upstaged on his big day Wesley Clark shakes up race, will run for president.”)

Why it was good for Edwards: without Clark, Edwards arguably would not have made the evening newscasts at all, with Isabel looming. Overall, Clark keeps the Democratic presidential race on the front burner at a time when it otherwise would be relegated to the salt-and-pepper ledge beyond the back burner.

Clark arguably hurts most of the candidates. The somewhat telling reactions of other campaigns:

Edwards embed Dugald McConnell says that when asked about Clark on Tuesday, Edwards said “Clark is a good man” and he looks forward to his joining the race, though it won’t change what Edwards is doing.

Dean embed Felix Schein notes Dean has pointed out that the two candidates agree on a number of issues. The Washington Post says Dean canceled his economic speech in New Hampshire today, “concerned that the Clark announcement would drown it out.”

Graham’s campaign press secretary told embed Sophie Conover: “We look forward to a spirited contest. General Clark should explain how he is going to revive the economy, create jobs, and foster one America. Bob Graham has a plan to do all those things.”

Per embed Becky Diamond, a Kerry aide says “it remains to be seen what kind of impact it has,” and that “John Kerry has the widest and broadest record of strength of all the candidates and we feel very confident of the direction we’re moving in.”

Embed Karin Caifa reports Kucinich communications director Jeff Cohen says Clark won’t hurt Kucinich’s bid: “In general, it could enliven the campaign and bring attention to it... We’ve run a grass-roots, issues-oriented campaign, issues like health care and trade. Clark comes in as a personality. People who are committed to our issues aren’t going to go to Clark.”

Lieberman embed Dionne Scott says the campaign offered no response to the news.

Sharpton had this to say about Clark, per embed Tom Llamas: “I was with him Saturday night in Knoxville and he seems to be a credible candidate and a nice guy, we’ll see where it goes. He said Saturday night if I win the nomination he would work to put me in the White House and I intend to give him that opportunity.”

In the recall today, all parties must file briefs with the 9th Circuit by 5:00 pm ET. The secretary of state will ask that the October 7 date be reinstated. Legal experts expect the limbo “to last at least a week.” — LA Times

Schwarzenegger started his morning with Howard Stern (announced late last night ET) and ends it with Larry King. In between, he greets immigrants at a naturalization ceremony in Los Angeles at 2:00 pm ET. Maria Shriver lunches with businesswomen in Pacific Beach, then holds a press avail at 4:30 pm.

More Democratic “GOP power grab” rhetoric today: Davis campaigns with the Feinstein-enodrsed John Kerry at a job training facility in Los Angeles; both will meet with local vets and make remarks. A Kerry spokesperson says Kerry seeks “to defeat the right wing hijacking of California, no matter which month it’s attempted.”

CaliforniaThe Los Angeles Times: “Although there is normally a lengthy period for the judges to exchange legal memos on whether to rehear a case, court observers said the 9th Circuit could move very fast - for judges at least - in a case involving such urgency.”

“The observers said they thought the court could complete a vote by Friday on whether to rehear the case. If a majority of the judges voting decides to reconsider, a hearing could be held as soon as Monday and a ruling could be rendered by the middle of next week, the observers said. Court officials have issued no formal schedule yet.”

The Washington Post editorial page derides the 9th Circuit panel’s decision: “Just about every election in this country sees some disparity among the voting technologies deployed by different counties. This fact has not previously caused federal courts to block elections.”

And the San Francisco Chronicle wonders whether punch-card ballots and hanging chads are really that much of a problem.

The Chronicle speculates that Bill Simon might reenter the race if the election is postponed.

Bustamante’s fundraising is being scrutinized by the California Fair Political Practices Commission and the law. - LA Times

Iraq is to the economy...The Los Angeles Times notes GAO chief David Walker gives a speech today “warning that the nation’s long-term fiscal outlook is seriously out of whack. And he challenges the assumption that economic recovery will solve the problem painlessly.”

“His is a lonely voice on Capitol Hill, where deficit-expanding initiatives are growing like crabgrass, unchecked amid new budget demands for the war on terrorism and the reconstruction of Iraq.”

“Bush and lawmakers from both parties continue to press for a $400-billion, 10-year expansion of Medicare to provide prescription drug benefits. House Republicans are pushing yet another round of tax cuts - this time for big business, at a cost of more than $100 billion over 10 years. And even as Bush asks for $87 billion more for military and reconstruction efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan, there seems to be little appetite in Congress for offsetting cuts in domestic spending.”

“But the Democratic Party is deeply divided over whether or how far to raise taxes. And with their own big spending plans for Medicare, education and other domestic priorities, Democrats also lack a clear program for getting the budget back into balance.”

Prescription drugsAlso today, also noted by the Los Angeles Times: that group of House GOP conservatives threatening to block the prescription drug legislation holds a presser on the Hill. ”[A]lthough previous vote-withholding threats have underlined the differences between Republicans and Democrats and the House and Senate, today’s action by 15 House conservatives highlights deep divisions over Medicare within the Republican Party and adds new uncertainty to the legislation’s already doubtful future.”

Administration notesThe Washington Post says U2’s Bono “confronted President Bush in the Oval Office yesterday with what AIDS activists say is a vast gap between funding he promised in the State of the Union address and the actual money headed for Africa. The U2 singer said afterward that he felt ‘depressed,’ and that he and Bush had ‘a good old row’ over how much the White House was allocating to fighting the global HIV-AIDS pandemic.”

And the Post says the Justice Department will ask the SCOTUS to “hear its appeal of — and overturn — a lower court’s order that the government turn over documents and information about the members and operations of” Vice President Cheney’s energy task force. “The chances of the Supreme Court granting the petition for hearing are considered very slim.” Cheney aides yesterday backed up his Meet the Press claim that he has no financial ties to Halliburton, against Democrats’ charges to the contrary. - Washington Post

ClarkThe AP says Clark “offers Democrats one thing they crave: New hope of undercutting President Bush’s wartime popularity... But the retired general has never held political office - not even a student council election to his credit - and he has never been pressed to produce a domestic agenda.”

”[A]dvisers said they were developing an unconventional strategy that would attempt to capitalize on the Internet and Clark’s affinity for television to build momentum nationwide. He has not decided how hard to campaign in traditional early battlegrounds such as Iowa, aides said, but they quickly concluded that he can’t catch up to his competitors through traditional means; the rest of the field has been in Iowa and New Hampshire for months.”

The Des Moines Register: “Although it was not clear Tuesday whether Clark would campaign actively for the lead-off Iowa caucuses, Democratic sources in the state continued to say they had heard little from Clark supporters or advisers.”

The bio flood begins. The Boston Globe says “Clark’s opponents may focus on that NATO tenure as well — particularly his exit from the Pentagon, when he received orders to leave his term four months early to make way for a replacement favored by the Pentagon brass. The order followed months of tension between Clark and senior officials at the Pentagon, some of whom bristled at what they considered his abrasive approach.”

The Washington Post calls Clark “a highly controversial figure within the U.S. military, disliked and mistrusted by many fellow officers.” But [s]upporters and detractors agree on this much: The retired general is immensely talented.”

And the Post editorial page says Clark “told us in an interview the other day that he is new to the party — it’s not that he’d been a Democrat all along and kept his affiliation private for reasons of propriety. Asked whether he had voted for Republicans along the way, Mr. Clark said, ‘I don’t even remember.’ Had he voted for a Republican for president? ‘I imagine that I voted for Reagan at one time or another,’ he said. It will be interesting to see how that plays with Democratic Party activists.”

Last night on CNBC’s Capital Report, House Ways and Means ranking member Charlie Rangel rejected the suggestion that it’s too late for Clark, saying a vacuum exists, and reluctantly critiqued his friend Gephardt for supporting the President on the war: “I’m not even emotional about candidates as I am about Dick Gephardt. I love him, I’ve campaigned with him. The way he handled his endorsement of the president caused me more personal pain than political pain... And he is convinced he did the right thing, and I’ve told Dick Gephardt that as much as I love him, whether he won or lost, that I could not endorse somebody that endorsed this war.”

Rangel also said, when asked about Sen. Hillary Clinton’s support for Clark: “I had a long talk with Hillary Clinton and she praised to high heavens the abilities of General Clark, but reminded me over and over again — she says, ‘Charlie, I want you to make it abundantly clear that I am not endorsing General Clark.’”

Roll Call says Clark plans his first campaign stop on Capitol Hill next week, noting that seven members “threw their support” to Clark Tuesday. “Many Democrats believe Clark is the ideal candidate to offset the presumed advantage Bush will have on foreign policy issues in the 2004 election while also attacking Bush on the economy and other domestic issues. Even without fully knowing where he is on many of the issues, some Democrats were rejoicing in his candidacy Tuesday.”

New York for Clark gathers, marches and rallies in Times Square tonight with events starting at 6:30 pm (44th and Broadway, for those who care).

The Lieberman campaign may not have any reaction to Clark’s candidacy, but embed Dionne Scott reports that tonight, Saul and Fran Singer of Dobbs Ferry, NY, who say they belong to neither major party, will host a reception for Lieberman in their home at $500 a pop. Saul Singer says he, his wife and a group of other co-sponsors sent out about 600 invitations to friends, co-workers, golf buddies, business associates, fellow club members, and between 60-80 people, affiliations unknown, are expected.

More 2004 notes (D)The Wall Street Journal’s Harwood welcomes Clark and Edwards to the race by writing that in “2004, a non-Southern formula may not be merely the Democrats’ best chance of beating wartime President Bush; it may be their only chance... Today, President Bush is even stronger in Dixie, the nation’s most pro-military region. There is scant reason to think Mr. Edwards or Gen. Clark, the former with a brief political track record and the latter with none at all, would significantly threaten him there.”

Edwards embed Dugald McConnell notes Edwards used a teleprompter yesterday and was not as relaxed as usual, giving a speech that went beyond his familiar stump speech. Edwards is in Concord, NH today for a town hall while his state braces for Isabel; he spends tomorrow and Friday raising money. But he’s not running for re-election.

Dean continues his in-Kerry’s-face approach. The Boston Herald says he “is scheduled to come to the Hub tomorrow for three major fund-raisers expected to add $250,000 to his bulging campaign coffers.” And a rally is “planned for Boston’s Copley Square Tuesday... The Dean campaign hopes to draw 3,000 supporters to the lunchtime rally, featuring a speech by Dean and - if city officials approve - live music at a site less than two miles from Kerry’s Louisburg Square townhouse.”

“Kerry campaign officials reacted to news Dean’s rally with a slap. ‘Boston is a diverse and inclusive city, occasionally even welcoming Yankee fans like Howard Dean,’ Kerry spokeswoman Kelley Benander said.”

And Kerry is in the traveling Dean’s face today with a Manchester Union-Leader op-ed attacking Dean for wanting to roll back middle-class tax cuts.

Dean embed Felix Schein covers Dean’s push to raise $40 million by September 30, “the most outlandish challenge of this campaign season,” and a threshold which, if achieved, would completely alter the race for the Democratic nomination, help spur the first dropouts of this campaign, and rewrite political history. But it’s also a mark the Dean campaign seriously (99.9%) doubts it can reach, calling it more of a challenge and a call to action than a realistic or achievable ambition.

Gephardt embed Priya David also looks at fundraising, noting Gephardt has spent most of the week in private meetings, eschewing public events for some quiet fundraising. The Gephardt campaign says they have a goal of raising $20 million dollars this year, having raised $10 million in the first six months. They responded to reports that Dean is attempting to raise $40 million by saying, “Their success should be judged on how close to $40m they get.”

The Gephardt campaign yesterday launched a new website, www.deanfacts.com, focusing (for now) on Dean quotes on Medicare and Social Security.

Kucinich today takes part in a Democrats Abroad conference call at 2:00 pm with US voters at 22 call-in sites in 11 countries, embed Karin Caifa says. He is the second Democratic candidate to participate; Dean was the first.

Sept. 16, 2003 / 9:30 AM ETFrom Elizabeth Wilner, Mark Murray and Huma ZaidiCalifornia’s “under God” court and a SCOTUS still recovering from Bush v. Gore face the grave, loaded and potentially divisive question of voter disenfranchisement. At 5:00 pm ET, California’s secretary of state announces whether and how he will challenge the 9th Circuit’s decision, while the head of the recall drive plans to take his challenge to the nation’s highest court. The candidates proceed to campaign as if the election is happening on the 7th.

New since Bush v. Gore: Democratic rhetoric about a “GOP power grab” in Florida, Texas, and California that allegedly seeks to deny minorities their vote. Presidential candidate Bob Graham bangs that drum with Davis at the Westin Century Plaza Hotel in Los Angeles at 1:00 pm ET. Graham campaign embed Sophie Conover says Graham plans to charge that Republicans stole one election in Florida and that voters should not let them steal another. “He knows first-hand what voting irregularities and disenfranchisement can mean for the electoral process,” says Graham press secretary Jamal Simmons.

Davis also appears with Jesse Jackson at San Francisco’s Third Baptist Church at 5:00 pm ET to campaign against Ward Connerly’s racial privacy initiative, Proposition 54 (which, along with the other initiative on the October 7 ballot, also faces the potential delay till March 2). At 7:00 pm ET, Davis addresses the California Nurses Association’s centennial celebration at the Oakland Marriott.

Bustamante appears with three enviro groups to attack Bush’s record and discuss “their fears that a Republican takeover of the governorship could result in a rubber stamp of the administration’s policies that threaten to weaken the state’s environmental protections,” per the release. At 1:00 pm ET at the Sierra Club offices in San Francisco.

Schwarzenegger does a town hall at the Hollenbeck Youth Center in Los Angeles at 8:00 pm ET. Former GOP candidate Peter Ueberroth yesterday announced he’ll meet with Schwarzenegger and McClintock today at the Santa Monica Doubletree, presumably to consider which candidate to endorse, with a press avail at 3:00 pm ET.

On the Democratic presidential front, the looming hurricane and specter of a Clark candidacy overshadow Edwards’ formal explanation of why he is the best candidate to beat President Bush. Edwards speaks at 10:00 am in front of the shuttered Milliken Mill in Robbins, NC, which, campaign embed Dugald McConnell notes, is Exhibit A for the case Edwards makes against Bush’s handling of unemployment.

Clark, meanwhile, “finalizes his thinking” about running together with advisors in Little Rock today, per the AP. “It would be a long-shot bid. Just four months before voting begins, Clark would be competing against candidates who have had months to raise money, build organizations in key states and recruit the party’s top political talent. But the strategists assembled in Little Rock on Tuesday are among the party’s best. An Internet-fueled draft-Clark movement has developed the seeds of a campaign organization and more than $1 million in pledges.”

The Fed meets today and “officials are expected to keep interest rates at 1958 lows... and reiterate a willingness to keep rates down even in the face of stronger U.S. economic growth.” - USA Today

The Washington Post puts Bush’s 2:40 pm Clear Skies speech today in the context of conflicting views of how the Detroit Edison power plant he visited yesterday would be affected by the initiative.

CaliforniaThe thinking in this huge state’s comparably small political circles is that the 9th Circuit panel’s decision gets overturned because the court, fairly or unfairly, is seen as being out of step with the rest of the nation. Plus, delaying the contest until March would introduce a host of new consequences. But what does happen if the election is delayed? Tim Hodson of California State University (Sacramento) explains that delaying the vote would cost the cash-strapped state even more money. “There will be a significant cost impact to counties that have already been spending millions of dollars preparing for the ballot,” he said. In addition, it would prolong the political uncertainty that now exists; Senate Republicans, he said, are already refusing to work with Democrats because they’re hoping Davis will get recalled and a Republican will succeed him.

Who actually benefits from a delay is wide open to interpretation, Hodson says. The CW is that Davis would benefit because the March election would coincide with the Democratic presidential primary, bringing higher Democratic turnout, and because Davis would have more time to better his standing among voters. Yet so much could happen between now and then — the economy could tank even further, or Davis could face another unexpected natural or man-made crisis. The same is true for Schwarzenegger, Hodson says. He would have more time to show voters he’s a thoughtful candidate — or that extra time could give him more of an opportunity to stumble.

The Los Angeles Times: “Californians who already have voted - more than 100,000 statewide, including 30,000 in Los Angeles County - were left uncertain whether they would get a chance to vote again if the election were postponed. Secretary of State Kevin Shelley issued a statement saying that voters who planned to cast absentee ballots should still do so.”

“State lawyers face questions on whether a postponement would mean reopening the ballot to allow candidates to remove their names or new candidates to join the race. State law generally requires that the ballot be set within 59 days of the election.”

“And voting officials, already struggling to produce an election on a short deadline, were handed a new problem to consider: whether combining the lengthy recall ballot with the primary in March would produce a behemoth too large for the newer voting machines to handle.”

The Sacramento Bee has an election law expert saying the legal dispute could be resolved in several different ways. “The U.S. Supreme Court conceivably could decline to review the appeals court order, meaning the election will not be held until March, said Prof. Floyd Feeney at the University of California, Davis.”

“A high court justice also could extend the appeals court’s seven-day stay for a longer period of time to give the Supreme Court more time to study the case, said Feeney, who teaches election law and criminal justice.”

“Or, it could take up the matter and focus on which issue is more important: the possibility of some voters not having their vote counted or preserving the state’s constitutionally written recall procedures.”

The Washington Post lays out the decision potentially facing the SCOTUS: “If the panel ruling is not reversed by a larger 9th Circuit body, the Supreme Court justices, for whom the stress and strain — both personal and institutional — of 2000 are still a fresh memory, will face a choice. They can stay out of the California case and risk permitting what they may view as a debatable interpretation of Bush v. Gore to stand, or they can plunge in and assume the risk that they will once again be criticized for partisanship no matter what they decide.”

The Washington Post also uses the court decision as a peg to look at waning interest in election reform.

A delay could mean more time for reports on Schwarzenegger like this Los Angeles Times project: “A Times review of more than 100 examples of his interviews and writings from the past 30 years reveals that Schwarzenegger’s habit of making off-color remarks about sex and women did not end in the 1970s, despite his defenders’ claims to the contrary.”

On Oprah yesterday, the New York Post writes, Maria Shriver said her husband is nothing but respectful to women, despite the allegations. But Schwarzenegger managed to embarrass his wife: “When Winfrey pressed the actor whether the drug use and group sex really happened, the Terminator said he didn’t remember. ‘But this was the time when I was saying things like “a pump [lifting weights] is better than [sex],” all those kinds of things,’ said Schwarzenegger, sending the audience into wild laughter as a mortified Shriver playfully slapped her husband across the mouth for his use of a slang term to describe sex.” (What he actually said, however, was arguably worse than what the Post airbrushes.)

Iraq is to the economy... The Washington Post follows on Roll Call’s report yesterday of Hill GOP nervousness: “Congressional Republicans are watching warily as President Bush’s approval ratings slide on two major issues — the economy and Iraq — and wondering if voter anxiety might cost them seats in next year’s election.”

“Of the two, the question of the economy is particularly worrying GOP lawmakers, who fear they could be blamed for the hundreds of thousands of jobs that have been lost under the Bush White House and the Republican-controlled Congress.”

“Some Republican analysts, in fact, say they would welcome a debate that focuses more on Iraq — even with ongoing U.S. deaths and other problems — rather than jobs.”

“Republican lawmakers see Bush as their party’s unquestioned leader and have been reluctant to complain about his handling of domestic or international matters. But recent independent and GOP polls, coupled with extensive conversations with constituents, have some of them worried about a potential voter backlash...”

The Los Angeles Times reports under a Xenia, OH dateline: “The downturn in the economy has hammered Ohio, costing it 185,000 jobs over the last 2 1/2 years. Ninety-four of them are here at the Hooven Allison rope factory, set to shut down this month after 134 years in business. The citizens will be asked to approve three local tax increases this fall to fend off cuts in school, city and hospital services.”

“And President Bush has attached an $87-billion price tag to an Iraq mission some here believe was well-intentioned but badly conceived.”

Prescription drugsThe Wall Street Journal reports: “Proposed Medicare legislation could result in seniors’ paying substantially different premiums from one region to the next, according to an internal Bush administration assessment of Republican-backed subsidies designed to draw more elderly into private health plans... Health-care plans in some areas would be paid only modestly more than local fee-for-service rates set by Medicare; those elsewhere would be reimbursed as much as 15% more than these rates.”

“These disparities are compounded by a second set of subsidies designed to lower the premiums of private-plan enrollees. These subsidies, in the form of rebates, potentially would be richest in those regions where private plans are given the greatest latitude to operate above local fee-for-service rates. And critics fear this dynamic would let plans flock to the most profitable markets and use the rebates to sign up customers, thereby undermining enrollment in traditional Medicare there.”

“Lawmakers are considering options to smooth out the regional differences.”

2004 notes (D)A new Raleigh News & Observer poll finds “more North Carolinians now approve of his bid but that Edwards still would face an uphill battle in his home state to beat President Bush. Fifty-three percent of Tar Heel voters approve of Edwards’ decision to seek the presidency, while 40 percent disapprove... If the general election were held today , Bush would beat Edwards in North Carolina 51 percent to 40 percent.”

“The poll also found a growing interest among North Carolina Democrats in another presidential candidate, former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean... Among North Carolina Democrats, Edwards drew the support of 37 percent of those polled, followed by Dean with 23 percent and U.S. Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts with 17 percent. All other contenders were in single digits.”

The Charlotte Observer revisits Edwards’ abandoning his Senate seat to run for president: “Betting all his marbles on the White House could put a quick end to Edwards’ 5-year-old political career.”

USA Today says not only Dean but Kerry too is “actively considering bypassing the public-financing system and the spending limits it imposes during the primaries. If they follow through, it would be a first for Democrats and would divide the nine-person field into two financial tiers.”

Dean argues public financing would amount to unilateral disarmament against Bush: Kerry says he might forgo it so as not to unilaterally disarm against Dean. “Dean said no decision would be made until November. The decision will depend on how much money he is raising and spending at the time.”

Dean embed Felix Schein reports that despite heavy attacks on Dean over the past week, 20,000 more volunteers registered with the campaign, and according to manager Joe Trippi, the campaign will reach its goal of 450,000 volunteers by the end of the month. (For context, the campaign had fewer than 500 volunteers at the end of January.) That said, Schein notes, the Governor has worked to refine his message and make it more accurate. He has also become more insulated, his state staffs working hard to keep him moving and away from the press, making assessing the depth of Dean’s support a greater challenge.

Trippi dismissed the notion that the press spotlight would somehow burn his candidate. He noted, as he has time and time again, that this campaign’s support goes up when the gloves come off.

Graham attacked Dean in Phoenix yesterday. The Miami Herald says “Graham’s new message about Dean [is]: I voted against the war, he’s just against it.” Yesterday, ”[a]sked whether he has a problem with Dean’s apparent penchant to misspeak and shift positions, Graham at first said he would not be ‘induced into the type of negativism that is sometimes tempting.’” But went on to say, “’[i]f Gov. Dean had had the kind of background as governor of a large and complex state and service that would put him in direct contact with international issues, then he wouldn’t have to backtrack.”’

Embed Dionne Scott says the Lieberman campaign is noting the other Democratic candidates’ attacks on Dean “with interest,” after their candidate got the ball rolling. First, an aide said, “these guys are as mum as a church mouse, now they’re coming out... Gephardt’s fighting for his life in Iowa. Kerry’s fighting for his life in New Hampshire.” Scott also reports Lieberman supporters in New Hampshire are saying there’s anti-Dean buzz over his shifting positions, but that neutral observers say they don’t notice that so much as Lieberman himself having yet to catch fire in the state.

The Des Moines Register on Kerry’s Cedar Rapids, IA event yesterday: “In addition to attacking President Bush as a friend of the rich, Kerry faulted the former Vermont governor” — by name — “and other Democrats for proposing to repeal all tax cuts pushed by the Republican incumbent. Kerry said he would leave tax cuts benefiting middle-class families intact.”

“Kerry again chastised Dean at the end of his speech, which dealt with protecting the middle class from corporate abuses such as the WorldCom scandal... Kerry said WorldCom employees ‘did the right thing but still got the short end of the stick. What their company did to them is wrong. What George Bush has done to the middle class is wrong. And, unfortunately, what Howard Dean wants to do is wrong for our middle-class families as well.’”

Dean’s response: “‘It’s time for someone to tell the American people the truth. The truth is, we cannot provide health care for everyone and work toward balancing the budget if we do not repeal all of the president’s tax cuts. Anyone who wants to keep the Bush tax scheme, even a portion of it, is guaranteeing Americans continue to pay higher property taxes, higher education bills and other costs middle-class families face.’”

The Boston Globe’s McGrory says Kerry broke a 1996 deal with then-GOP Senate opponent Bill Weld to “limit advertising spending to $5 million apiece, and to limit the use of personal funds in the campaign to $500,000 apiece... Kerry didn’t just violate the deal, he pulverized it. Running out of money in the waning days of October, Kerry mortgaged and remortgaged the Louisburg Square house, ultimately pouring $1.7 million in personal funds into his campaign.”

“As he made a mockery of the pact, he did something else distinctly distasteful. He accused Weld of violating the agreement, a charge that seemed specious at best, an outright lie at worst.”

Gephardt embed Priya David checked in yesterday with Duane Woerth, president of the 66,000-member International Air Line Pilots Association, about the status of his association’s promised endorsement of Gephardt. “Nobody is picking up union support like Gephardt,” Woerth told the AP right after Labor Day. “There is no question Dick Gephardt will get our endorsement.” David was then told by the campaign that ALPA’s endorsement would come soon. Since some time has passed without an announcement, David called ALPA yesterday, only to be told that they have no comment on Mr. Woerth’s previous statements. Further, they have not endorsed any candidate and have no plan do so immediately. In fact, they don’t plan on endorsing anyone until well after the candidate has been nominated, or is very close to it, if they endorse at all.

Kucinich embed Karin Caifa reports the candidate’s morning speech will kick off a big lobbying effort for his Department of Peace legislation: 220 members of the Global Renaissance Alliance Annual Democracy Conference will head to Capitol Hill to lobby for HR 1643, the bill introduced by Kucinich, that would create a Cabinet-level US Department of Peace.

Sept. 15, 2003 / 9:30 AM ET

From Elizabeth Wilner, Mark Murray and Huma ZaidiThis week, a real hurricane may diminish the Democratic contenders’ planned news, while Bush’s requested $87 billion looks like (we’ll forgo the obvious analogy) the nexus of public nervousness about both post-war Iraq war and the economy, and maybe an impetus for growing concern about the deficit. New Washington Post/ABC poll numbers show not only majority opposition to the $87 billion but, if passed, a majority favoring a rollback of the Bush tax cuts “to pay for the increased spending.” Democrats have hoped for this kind of Post-and-Times, above-the-fold spotlight on the deficit, though their presidential candidates haven’t proposed fixes of their own apart from rolling back some or all of Bush’s tax cuts. Various conservative voices today argue the tax cuts are working.

Bush’s commerce secretary focuses on the manufacturing sector, takes on China’s trade practices, and rolls out some Administration initiatives at the Detroit Economic Club today. Bush himself hits Michigan and Pennsylvania to talk about energy policy and raise money.

Kerry speaks on corporate responsibility in Cedar Rapids, IA at today. Edwards tongue-in-cheekily previews his announcement on the Daily Show tonight, and lays out his rationale for his candidacy in the storm-threatened Carolinas tomorrow. Wednesday brings a scheduled Dean economic speech in New Hampshire, and a two-day period ripe for a Clark announcement, or so the Draft Clarkers seem to think. On Friday, Clark speaks at the University of Iowa, but sources say he will not deliver a political speech. Clark himself has set a timetable of by the end of the week.

The piling on Dean by his rivals for the nomination continues: e-mails were flying fast and thick this weekend out of the Kerry camp, and both Kerry and Gephardt’s campaigns sent out the same pair of seemingly contradictory quotes from Dean on NAFTA: a 1995 claim to being a “very strong supporter,” and his pre-taped claim to ABC for Sunday that he was not a “strong” supporter. The Dean campaign yesterday rejected Kerry’s challenge for a mano-a-mano face-off in Iowa, saying this is not a two-person race. Embed Felix Schein (after cameos on both ABC and HBO yesterday) notes Dean crowds love it when he talks about being attacked, and that he uses the attacks to reinforce his outsider, un-Washington theme.

All of which builds anticipation for the CNBC/Wall Street Journal Democratic presidential debate 10 days from now at Pace University in New York. Would candidate Clark take part to round out his profile on economic issues?

In the recall today, Clinton continues to give Democrats’ “GOP power grab” argument its loudest megaphone yet, appearing with Davis at the dedication of an elementary school named for Clinton in Compton. Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver do Oprah. And that federal appellate court decision on delaying the recall could come at any time. The AP says Davis also will appear with Gore this week.

Speaking of the quote-unquote power grab, per the Austin American-Statesman, the third special session to redraw Texas’ congressional map begins today, with the Texas 11 back in the state.

Iraq is to the economy…The Los Angeles Times’ Brownstein: “History may yet record that Bush’s decision produced a safer world. But today, even the war’s supporters have fewer illusions about its costs. Some of those costs are measured in the steady drumbeat of U.S. casualties and the jaw-dropping $87 billion Bush requested to fund security and reconstruction in Iraq during the next year alone.”

“This hostility toward the war from the party faithful is shaping the Democratic presidential race more than any other factor. It has turbocharged the campaign of former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean... And it has encouraged all of the candidates who supported it to escalate their criticism of both Bush’s planning for the postwar challenge and his overall vision of preemptive attack as a centerpiece of U.S. security. Far from the unifying force it was initially after the 2001 attacks, Bush’s approach to the war on terrorism now promises to be one of the greatest sources of conflict in next year’s campaign.”

The Washington Post dissects (and corrects) Cheney’s Meet the Press appearance and says: “Administration officials said they think that any acknowledgment of a mistake only encourages critics, as when Bush included a suspect allegation in his State of the Union address that Hussein sought nuclear material in Africa — despite CIA warnings not to cite the information. Cheney’s vigorous defense of the administration’s actions went beyond the current debate to Bush’s record on jobs, tax cuts and the deficit. He said it would be a ‘serious mistake’ to freeze the tax cuts for the top 1 percent of earners to pay for the Iraq war, as some Democrats have urged.”

The Boston Globe leads with Cheney’s Meet the Press claim that he “did not help his former oil services company get a multibillion US government contract in Iraq.” The Democratic National Committee shot out a press release on that yesterday.

Roll Call reports House Republicans, ”[b]attered by public fears over Iraq and the economy and beset by falling polling numbers,” “lashed out at their own leadership and President Bush during a tense, closed-door session Wednesday,” backed up by a memo from GOP Conference Chair Deborah Pryce. “Things have gotten so bad for Republicans on the message front that Pryce huddled with White House Communications Director Dan Bartlett and House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) on Thursday to come up with an approach to push through the $87 billion Iraq supplemental funding request.”

More on the economyUSA Today reviews a new book arguing that ”[m]illions of middle-class families can no longer afford to live on two incomes.”

Grover Norquist says in a Washington Post op-ed that the message to GOP governors in the defeat of Alabama Gov. Bob Riley’s proposed $1.2 billion tax increase is: “Rein in spending and don’t even think about raising taxes. This is a deepening of a trend within the Republican Party.”

“The California recall election on Oct. 7 will give us further evidence of the power of the tax issue in the general electorate and for Republican candidates. Democratic Gov. Gray Davis probably signed his political death warrant when he tripled the car tax through an executive order. And on the Republican side, Arnold Schwarzenegger is refusing — as Alabama’s Gov. Riley did — to sign the no-tax-hike pledge, thus leaving the door open to tax hikes in case of an ‘emergency.’ This has allowed state Republican Sen. Tom McClintock... to hold onto 10 percent to 15 percent of the vote...”

“The lesson learned at the national level in 1990 and 1992 is now being painfully learned at the state level: A Republican cannot be elected and govern successfully — that is, in such a way as to make possible reelection or higher office — without staking out an unequivocal anti-tax-hike position.”

The Wall Street Journal editorial page says the elimination of the double taxation of dividends is working.

Commerce Secretary Evans in Detroit today will criticize China’s trade practices which “the White House contends are a leading reason U.S. manufacturers continue to bleed jobs,” the Washington Post says. “The speech is the administration’s latest attempt to show it is working to restore the 2.7 million jobs lost since President Bush took office. House Republicans plan to introduce a jobs initiative this week that an official said will ‘include a significant China focus, as demanded by our members.’”

Evans will announce the Administration “is establishing an unfair-trade-practices team within the Commerce Department to investigate evidence of anticompetitive practices such as illegal dumping and subsidies,” says the Wall Street Journal. “Along with the new team, Mr. Evans is expected to announce the formation of a new Office of Industry Analysis to examine the impact of government regulations and rules on manufacturers and a new assistant secretary for trade promotion, to help manufacturers, especially small to midsize ones, access foreign markets, global supply chains and boost exports.”

“Evans is likewise expected to note the knotty problems of the high cost of frivolous litigation, energy and health-care expenses as well as regulatory burdens, which have become a drag on the industry. He is expected to build on those complaints to make a case for congressional action on President Bush’s Medicare drug-benefit proposal, energy bill and malpractice reform, with special emphasis on energy.”

Re: Tort reformNoting how Texas voters passed limits on jury awards in malpractice cases on Saturday, the Boston Globe says presidential contender Edwards’ home state of North Carolina is scheduled to consider a stricter limit today, and that Republicans there and nationally plan to use the issue to put “Edwards — and his career — back in the spotlight.”

“Edwards, who declined to comment for this report, has said he opposes limiting awards for pain and suffering because they ‘will affect a situation where a child is blinded for life, where a child is paralyzed for life,’ and compensating them for medical costs or lost income wouldn’t account for their hardships. In some of his cases, the awards for pain and suffering exceeded his clients’ economic losses.”

The Wall Street Journal looks at a Senate bill to curb class action lawsuits, a version of which has already passed the House.

Re: Prescription drugsIllinois is moving closer to buying lower-cost drugs from Canada, the Washington Post says. “Although Illinois would become the first state to pursue Canadian drug purchases for its workers, [Governor] Blagojevich joins a much larger trend. Even as Congress debates whether formally to legalize the practice, millions of Americans — including horse breeders in New Jersey, a retirement village in Ohio and the mayor of Springfield, Mass. — already have decided for themselves that the financial savings are too large to pass up.”

“Conservative House Republicans who voted for the House Medicare prescription drug bill are now pledging to vote against the final bill if it is weakened in conference and doesn’t include key Medicare reforms,” like requiring Medicare to compete against private health plans starting in 2010, says theWashington Times.

CaliforniaThe Washington Times says the federal appellate court considering whether or not to delay the recall “is considered the most liberal and controversial federal court in the United States,” reminding us that this is the court that declared the Pledge’s “under God” unconstitutional. “The state will appeal the decision to either the entire 9th Circuit or the U.S. Supreme Court if the three-judge panel rules to delay the recall election until May...”

“Democratic strategists said that the arrival of Clinton [yesterday] and other nationally known Democrats in California later this week will help galvanize the party’s base against the recall and persuade other more moderate Democratic voters who are tempted to support ousting Davis to think twice.” - Washington Post

Tuesday, as Bustamante is expected to hit the air with TV ads, Davis campaigns with Graham and hits a “no on recall, no on 54” event with Jesse Jackson in San Francisco. Graham told campaign embed Sophie Conover, “I’m going to say vote no on recalling Governor Davis at a time when California is in such serious economic problems you need a steady hand on the tiller, and that’s what Gray Davis can bring.” On Wednesday, Davis campaigns with Kerry at a veterans-themed event in Los Angeles.

On the courting of minorities, the Sacramento Bee uses Clinton’s event with Davis yesterday at the First African Methodist Episcopal Church to look at the impact of African-American voters in the recall. “The task facing Clinton... was to start motivating those voters. And there was little question his audience was open to the message.”

Meanwhile, mechanical difficulties and a tight fundraising schedule kept Bustamante away from the Mexican American Political Association yesterday and cost him its endorsement. “The value of MAPA’s endorsement would have been largely symbolic, but Bustamante’s failure to capture it came just as he was trying to consolidate Latino support.” — LA Times

ClarkClark sounded like he was trying to broaden himself out a bit during his speech Saturday night in Tennessee: “Clark said Bush has failed the country on health care, education, and foreign policy.” He also stepped on Graham’s message by focusing on bin Laden. - Boston Globe

Campaign embed Marisa Buchanan reports the Draft Clark booth at the steak fry Saturday night, manned by three or four people and located en route to the food line, offered bumper stickers, a biography and Clark bars. The Clark supporters at the event were buzzing about a Wednesday announcement in Little Rock, though a Clark advisor tells us that is not necessarily in the cards. A group of eager Clark supporters who have set up an office for him in New Hampshire concede to the Washington Post “that they have no inside information about whether Clark... will run and what their role will be, if he does.”

More 2004 notes (D)Edwards embed Dugald McConnell notes Edwards said (again) in Iowa he’s tired of Democrats running away from Clinton, and praised the economic record of the Clinton Administration compared to Bush’s. Per Dean embed Felix Schein, Dean said he would love for Clinton to campaign with him should he become the nominee, but cautioned that Clinton might overshadow him. Clinton worked the rope line for about an hour in Indianola Saturday night; among the candidates, only Dean did the same. Schein says Clinton praised Dean’s health care plan: “Nobody did a better job on health care than he did.”

After Gephardt laid into Dean on Medicare and Social Security in Iowa on Friday, Gephardt’s “campaign... released fact sheets stating that Gephardt ‘has consistently opposed means-testing in Medicare and Social Security,’” the Saturday Boston Globe reported: “In recent years, he has. But in a 1979 speech, Gephardt advocated means-testing for both, meaning benefits would be restricted on the basis of income, not just age. In 1981, Gephardt and a Republican colleague cosponsored a bill to open Medicare to private insurance plans, and in 1982, he favored postponing cost-of-living increases in Social Security benefits.” A campaign spokesman said Gephardt never advocated those steps as a means to balance the budget.

The Globe also looks at Gephardt and Dean’s onetime friendship.

Reporting on Edwards’ announcement tomorrow, embed Dugald McConnell says the campaign will bus in supporters from a dozen locations across North Carolina, and is arranging for the Governor, the former Governor, and Harvey Gantt to attend. We wonder whether Edwards will serve up new rhetoric on race after criticizing Dean’s claim to being the only candidate who speaks of race on front of white audiences. The venerable Lee Bandy notes Edwards gaining some ground in his must-win South Carolina. — State.com

Ted Kennedy will campaign with Kerry in Iowa on September 27, and “will also help Kerry kick off an “Iowa Barnstorm” the following week, in which Kerry supporters in all 99 Iowa counties will meet in homes, libraries, theaters, and community centers to plan future campaign events,” says the Globe. Embed Becky Diamond says a student asked Kerry Saturday if he wanted Iowa or Iowa State to win the big football game and he replied, “I just want to win Iowa.” Per Diamond, Kerry Iowa manager John Norris said the campaign is focused on getting “one vote at a time” and that “the polls become important as you get much closer to the caucus.” He said Kerry is “holding steady” in Iowa. Diamond asked whether Kerry’s ads are making a mark there and whether he expects to see a bump up in the polls soon; Norris said people in Iowa “are less impacted by a 30-second TV spot than others in America.”

A Sunday Globe story on strategy shifts and staff changes has Kerry saying this about Dean: “‘Somebody who wants to be president ought to keep their word... I think somebody who wants to be president shouldn’t run around the country breaking their policies on a daily basis, going backwards on foreign policy, backwards on Cuba, backwards on taxes, changing around, and now possibly on a campaign finance pledge. I think it goes to the core of whether you are a different politician or a politician of your word or what you are.’”

“Kerry also has been hurt by one of the most ironic twists of his career. He rose to prominence as a veteran who became the leader of Vietnam Veterans Against the War. But with Kerry having voted for the legislation that gave President Bush to go to war in Iraq, Kerry was now perceived by many Democrats as pro-war, while Dean claimed the antiwar banner.”

“While aides are pleased that Kerry has shed some of his reluctance to go after Dean, some are still concerned that his primary campaign theme — ‘The courage to do what’s right for America’ — is too vague.”

Still another Globe story, on all the attacks on Dean: “privately, campaign aides to other candidates have been struggling to decide how hard to hit Dean now that he is doing so well. Some feared that attacking him would only drive more voters to his side by making their own candidates appear too negative.”

Graham embed Sophie Conover says Graham notes that in October 1975, Jimmy Carter was polling at 1% in Iowa, and went on to receive 27% in the Iowa caucuses. The campaign staff are playing down the Senator’s low poll numbers, pointing out that Graham hasn’t yet hit the airwaves. Ads are due out in the next few weeks.

Conover also notes Graham, the top Democrat on the Senate Veteran’s Affairs Committee, will introduce new legislation to help financially support injured and sick service members. The bill will would ban charging service members for meals while they are hospitalized as a result of injuries or illnesses suffered while in combat or training for combat. Similar legislation has already been introduced in the House.

© 2013 MSNBC Interactive

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