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First Read

/ Source: msnbc.com

“First Read” is a daily memo prepared by NBC News’ political unit, for NBC News, analyzing the morning’s political news. Please let us know what you think. Drop us a note at FirstRead@MSNBC.com.

(If you’d like to be notified by e-mail each day when First Read is updated, sign up by clicking this link and select First Read from the MSNBC Text Only Newsletters box midway down the page.

Oct. 7, 2003 / 9:30 AM ET

From Elizabeth Wilner, Mark Murray and Huma Zaidi

Pardon our acting as though there’s only one story today...

All times ET: Polls in California open at 10:00 am. Schwarzenegger and Shriver vote at a private residence in Pacific Palisades at 11:30 am (CBS pool). At 2:00 pm, the Davises vote at Kyle Bradshaw Realty on Sunset (CBS pool inside the polling place), with a media avail to follow. At 3:00 pm, they attend Mass (closed press inside the church), then Davis greets precinct walkers at the Firefighters Local 1014 Hall in El Monte at 5:00 pm. At 7:00 pm, he greets GOTV volunteers at a United Food and Commercial Workers campaign office in Los Angeles. Davis’ election night bash is at the Millennium Biltmore Hotel. Schwarzenegger’s is at the Westin Century Plaza; doors there open at 10:30 pm. Polls close at 11:00 pm.

Had Florida not happened, the media still would play up the procedural quirks of this unprecedented election in the country’s biggest state: the supersized ballot with its 135 names in numerous languages; the potentially overtaxed vote-count system; the cost facing the already cash-strapped state; and possibly even, on a slow news day, the varied voting machines.

But because of Florida, the press is braced for something to go wrong today. And face it: odds are that something will, given the chance for sheer human and/or computer error, much less the possibility of premeditated tampering.

If or when something does happen, don’t rush to assume intentional or even accidental voter disenfranchisement. This is not to say we don’t take such a possibility seriously. We all know the likely trouble spots: fewer polling places handling more voters, old punch-cards and new touch screens, etc. Unforeseen problems could arise, as well. It’s just that, as one sage election-night veteran notes, the polling place that has opened 10 minutes late for the past decade may open 10 minutes late today.

Another reminder: We may well see unusually high turnout, but wait for the numbers. Don’t go by anecdotes. With fewer polling places open, lines may consequently be longer, and polling places may run out of ballot, without turnout being higher.

This election may be over by the morning, or Tuesday night may last till Friday. A two-part election means double the chance for things to get hung up. The CW has it that Schwarzenegger wins more handily on Question Two, and maybe we get a nail-biter on Question One. But what about this race has been conventional? The CW among insiders also has been that early voters leaned Republican. Now some Republicans suggest Democrats had the more aggressive early-voting program. There’s simply no way to confidently predict an outcome.

If the election does wrap up in a timely way, the press corps will head to Phoenix on Thursday, where a Graham-less field (more on that below) of nine Democratic presidential candidates will debate that night, heralding a renewed focus on 2004.

After the polls close at 11:00 pm ET, the California secretary of state’s website will begin tracking the results, updated every 10 minutes. These results are considered the “semifinal official canvass.” Counties must begin their official canvass no later than October 9 (two days after the election), and they must complete their work by November 4 (28 days after the election), and report their results to the secretary of state by November 11 (35 days).

November 15 (39 days) is the deadline for the secretary of state to certify the results, although certification could occur earlier than that. If the recall succeeds, Davis must vacate his office once the votes are certified.

Let the long day begin.

California: links

The secretary of state’s website:

Contact information for all 58 counties

The six counties using punch-card ballots:

Los Angeles County: (LA County sample punch-card ballot:)

Mendocino County

Sacramento County

San Diego Countysays 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 Zaidi

Clark 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.”

California

The 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 drugs

Also 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 notes

The 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

Clark

The 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 ET

From Elizabeth Wilner, Mark Murray and Huma Zaidi

California’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.

California

The 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 drugs

The 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.