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First Read

“First Read” is a daily memo prepared by NBC News’ political unit, for NBC News, analyzing the morning’s political news and giving readers an inside look at NBC’s plans for covering the day in politics.
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November 3, 2003 / 10:00 AM ET

From Elizabeth Wilner, Mark Murray, and Huma Zaidi

Bookended by the Chinook incident yesterday and expected new and improved unemployment stats on Friday, with elections in between, both sides seem due for bumpy week.

USA Today sums up what the Chinook incident does to Bush’s plans: “Iraq likely will dominate another week that Bush had hoped to spend talking about issues that more clearly work to his political advantage. He wanted to capitalize on last week’s encouraging economic news with speeches on the economy today in Birmingham, Ala., and Friday in Winston-Salem, N.C... Bush travels to California on Tuesday to showcase his compassion by touring the scene of devastating wildfires that took 20 lives last week. On Wednesday, he will draw attention to his conservative views by signing legislation banning an abortion procedure known as ‘partial birth.’ The ban is a priority to conservative voters who are Bush’s most loyal supporters.”

A Bush job training speech on Friday in Edwards’ home state is timed to the labor stats. GOP charges that the Democratic presidential candidates don’t have an optimistic message echoed in the New York Times’ Sunday look at how the candidates risk sounding doom-and-gloomish on the economy in the face of positive new data.

With Philadelphia Mayor Street (D) bolstered by the bug, GOP mojo out of Tuesday’s elections would come from a two-fer in the Kentucky and Mississippi governors’ races, both Democrat-held seats. Democrats would be happy holding them to a draw at one win apiece.

Dean’s rivals pounced over the weekend on his remarks about appealing to “guys with Confederate flags in their pickup trucks” — a suggestion first uttered months ago (but he was the underdog then). One candidate, Kerry, said he’d rather be “the candidate of the NAACP rather than the NRA.” Democrats’ problem, looking ahead to potential losses of two Southern governorships: they need to figure out how to be both.

Note that the Democratic candidates’ positions on guns are basically the same, and this is the latest in a collective effort to attack Dean on race. In Michigan, his rivals are waging an organized attempt to tag him with discrimination for supporting Internet voting in the presidential primary, even though other forms of voting will be allowed.

Meanwhile, book-promoting Sen. Zell Miller (D) stirs the pot on Meet the Press, on the Wall Street Journal op-ed page, and in the Washington Times, which runs the first of three excerpts from Miller’s book under the headline, “How Democrats lost the South.”

Tuesday also brings the Rock the Vote town hall in Boston, broadcast on CNN, targeted at New Hampshire voters, and featuring all Democratic presidential candidates but Gephardt. A handful of the candidates also show at a Planned Parenthood forum in New Hampshire the following day.

Politics of Iraq

The New York Daily News: “The surface-to-air missile that blew away a U.S. Army Chinook helicopter and 16 soldiers’ lives also delivered another serious setback to Bush’s political prospects. How decisive a blow depends on whether such days are an aberration or recur with escalating frequency... Bush’s political future, and his legacy, are now inextricably linked to Iraq - and events he cannot totally control. ‘We’re in, and we’re in deep,’ a well-placed Bush source said yesterday.”

The Los Angeles Times’ McManus considers the escalating violence and the dawning election year and writes, “an aide, speaking on condition of anonymity, said irritation at the White House about the sharpening domestic debate was rising. ‘There are a lot of people who have honest criticisms of our policy, but there are more who want to make facile comparisons to Vietnam for political purposes,’ he said.”

And the Los Angeles Times’ Brownstein writes about the other side of the aisle: “Probably the most important bet Democrats will place this winter will be whether to pick a nominee who symbolizes resolve in the use of military force (say Rep. Richard A. Gephardt of Missouri), or one whose primary message is caution about new interventions (like former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean). As the violence in Iraq has escalated, the Democrats’ balance of power has tilted sharply toward those selling caution.”

“Polls show the persistent instability in Iraq has raised doubts among Americans across the political spectrum about the administration’s strategy. But among Democrats, those doubts are especially intense... In that gale, even the Democratic presidential contenders who backed the war are whispering their support for maintaining the American presence in Iraq, while all the candidates are loudly demanding that Bush shift more of the responsibility for securing and rebuilding Iraq to other nations.”

Yesterday in San Francisco, Clark assailed the Bush Administration, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. “Today, on a day in which (16) more Americans were killed, there’s still no success strategy, there’s no plan, and there’s no leadership to assure our soldiers and their families of the rightness of our cause,” Clark said.

Senators Kerry and Kennedy hit Bush on the camera ban on US soldiers’ coffins. — Boston Herald

The economy

The Washington Times, based largely on the assertions of one American Enterprise Institute analyst, says, “President Bush, like President Reagan before him, will begin his re-election campaign next year with a strong economic recovery that will make the chances of defeating him a steeper climb for the Democrats, economic analysts said over the weekend.”

Not to be overlooked amidst Iraq news: Time got Treasury Secretary Snow committing to cutting the deficit in half within five years.

November 4

Philadelphia Mayor John Street (D) spent the weekend campaigning with Clinton and Gore. Clinton told voters to ignore the recent FBI probe. (Read coverage from the Philadelphia Inquirer here and here.)

The Lexington Herald-Leader on the homestretch for Kentucky governor: the two major-party nominees “have whirlwind campaign activities today, flying around the state in a last pitch for votes. [Democrat Ben] Chandler has scheduled 30 straight hours of campaigning.”

Gov. Ronnie Musgrove (D) and challenger Haley Barbour (R) are in the same boat in Mississippi, and the Jackson Clarion-Ledger says the race might not be decided on Tuesday. “Concerns that neither Musgrove or Barbour will win more than 50 percent of the vote and thus send the election to the state House has forced both campaigns to concentrate on get-out-to-vote efforts.”

“When Musgrove first ran for governor in 1999 against former Rep. Mike Parker, neither candidate received more than 50 percent of the vote and the race was in Musgrove’s favor by the Democratically controlled Legislature. Republicans blame low turnout by the party faithful - there was about an 80,000 drop off in voters from the previous election - for their defeat.”

Meanwhile, the most recent poll has Musgrove slightly leading Barbour, 42%-41%.

The Washington Times bills the Mississippi governor’s race, in which Republicans are trying to make failed judicial nominee Charles Pickering an issue, as “Republicans’ first major opportunity to test how much voters care that Democrats are filibustering some of President Bush’s judicial nominations.”

Another Washington Times story: “Haley Barbour is trying to prove Mississippi can join the ranks of Southern states with viable Republican parties in tomorrow’s gubernatorial election, and suburban counties where President Bush campaigned with him on Saturday are critical to that effort.”

2004 notes (D)

The New Hampshire secretary of state opens his doors at 8:00 am tomorrow as he “revels in the spectacle that unfolds in his office every four years,” when candidates for president file their official registration papers tomorrow. — Boston Globe

USA Today, as a sidebar to an editorial bemoaning the early start to the Democratic nominating calendar, reminds us of the 29 primaries by March 2.

The Boston Herald has your CNN/Rock the Vote preview.

There was a huge amount of e-mail out of the Clark campaign over the weekend, much if it on national security, but also one release on partial-birth abortion. Embed Marisa Buchanan notes Clark campaigns in Keene State College in New Hampshire today with his son, a Los Angeles-based based screenwriter. The two will talk about “hot issues,” according to the schedule. Spokesperson Matt Bennett said Clark, Jr. (literally) “could be a fantastic asset to this campaign and we’re just hoping that he is able to find the time and the inclination to do as much as he possibly can. I don’t think he knows right now what the size of that will be.”

While his rivals attack Dean over race, embed Felix Schein reports, Dean surpassed his latest Internet fundraising goal: after issuing a challenge to supporters late last week to raise $310,000 by the end of the Halloween weekend, the campaign raised more than $350,000 from 6,000-plus supporters.

Schein also notes of Dean’s Florida campaign stop tomorrow that, straw poll or no, it’s certainly a grassroots-organized trip. Per a campaign source, Schein reports, Floridians for Dean simply went ahead and scheduled some outreach events, then suggested to Burlington that Dean ought to show up. No coordination with the campaign, no mandate to hold an event, no assurances Dean would even attend, Schein says — simply a group of Dean supporters taking matters into their own hands. Schein also reports Latinos for Dean decided it needs a presence in Iowa, so a group of DC Dean volunteers pooled $600 to send an operative to Iowa to stake out a space at the Fifth Annual Latino Conference in Iowa City. Again, no campaign money, no headquarters involvement, no mandate from Burlington.

Schein adds that more than 130,000 Dean supporters have registered to attend Wednesday’s nationwide MeetUps — almost 100,000 more than the next closest campaign (Clark’s), and slightly more than one-seventh of the entire database.

Is it a plus or a minus for Dean to be the candidate of the Wall Street Journal editorial board: “one reason he’s leading the Democratic Presidential sweepstakes is because his opponents don’t seem to understand his appeal... Dr. Dean’s opponents continue to attack him for violating liberal taboos on guns, Medicare, trade and now civil rights. No wonder Democratic voters find him refreshing.”

Roll Call reports, “Though running for president as an outsider,... Dean is receiving an increasing share of his financial support from inside the Beltway. Recently released fundraising figures show that Dean has garnered a greater percentage of his campaign funds from party insiders than President Bush...”

“Edwards on Sunday said his rivals have allowed the race for the 2004 nomination to become personal and have let the focus slip from reclaiming the White House.” the Des Moines Register reports.

A new poll in South Carolina shows Clark leading Edwards by seven points — with 36 percent undecided.

Embed Priya David reports that per his campaign, Gephardt passing on Rock the Vote for previously planned events in Iowa, but David notes the Rock the Vote crowd isn’t necessarily Gephardt’s best demographic. (Though we’d add that some might argue he could stand to do some work among younger voters...) A Gephardt spokesperson pointed out on Gephardt’s weekend trip to North Dakota that he is the only declared candidate to have visited the state, which holds its nominating contest on February 3; Dean also visited, but before he formally announced.

The Boston Globe over the weekend looked again at whether Kerry can get his mojo back.

Lieberman unveils a new higher education plan today at Benedict College in South Carolina; the AP has details. Embed Dionne Scott says yesterday, at the Springfield Baptist in Greenville, SC, Lieberman spoke on a longtime pet issue issue he rarely addresses these days: sex and violence in music and video games. Speaking to an audience of primarily elderly African Americans, Lieberman said, “I hope the people of faith will continue to stand up with me against entertainment products that peddle senseless violence and vulgar sexual behavior to our kids in the name of higher profits.”

2004 notes (R)

Roll Call’s Rothenberg says the question of a Bush win in California is “not a matter of whether the state is winnable for Bush. (Under certain circumstances, every state is in play.) It’s a matter of campaign priorities... the question is whether they should put resources into California, or whether the time and money that they would need to invest there would be better spent in a handful of other states.” Rothenberg writes that “in 2004 there are at least five states carried by Al Gore in 2000 - Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, New Mexico and Oregon - that are far better opportunities for the GOP than California will be next year.”

Oct. 31, 2003 / 9:30 AM ET

From Elizabeth Wilner, Mark Murray and Huma Zaidi

The Iraq supplemental, with a Senate vote likely Monday, and 7.2-percent economic growth without job growth to match gives the weekend opinion-makers more than enough to talk about as President Bush, the GOP and the Democratic presidential candidates step carefully on the GDP data, feeling the sides of their own respective boxes. Bush sounds cautiously optimistic in touting his tax cuts; Democrats stress jobs; and across the country, per a national GOP spokesman, Republican state parties issue press releases charging that the Democratic candidates’ calls to roll back the tax cuts would reverse the growth.

The Wall Street Journal on Tuesday’s elections: “Republicans see sweep of 2003 governors’ races ahead. On heels of Schwarzenegger’s California upset, they expect Republican Rep. Fletcher in Kentucky and former party chief Barbour in Mississippi to win Tuesday’s odd-year elections. White House is poised to credit Bush, who campaigns for both men this weekend. Democrats concede Kentucky nominee Chandler’s attack on ‘Fletcher-Bush’ economy fell flat. In closer Mississippi race, Gov. Musgrove hits Barbour’s special-interest lobbying. To rally whites, Republicans exploit state-flag flap, link Musgrove to black lieutenant governor candidate Barbara Blackmon. Her request that her female foe swear she never had an abortion backfires, they say.”

One note of caution: the Kentucky race could be closer than many think. Happy Halloween.

The economy

The Washington Post credits the income tax cuts “and a record surge in home-mortgage refinancing that gave homeowners more cash to spend,” as well as new tax incentives for businesses. “However, many forecasters expect the effects of both the personal tax cuts and the refinancings to wane as time passes. Several predict that growth will drop back to around a 4 percent annual rate for the remainder of this year and in 2004, a pace some economists fear might not be fast enough to produce many new jobs.”

The Boston Globe: “Democratic candidates for president quickly dismissed yesterday’s news as irrelevant. What matters most, they said, is the number of people still without jobs. Republicans also tried somewhat to downplay the positive third-quarter report, expressing doubts that the robust growth rate — the highest in nearly two decades — would continue in the next quarter without the onetime child tax credit to boost spending.”

“But for both sides, the economic news prompted an immediate flurry of political activity... And for once, Republicans, including Bush, led the way in publicizing the economic news — shedding some of their worries that the economy could sink the president as it did his father in 1992.”

The Washington Times: “Bush credited his tax cuts for the surprisingly strong performance of the economy, but was careful not to gloat about the economic rebound. He did not even mention the GDP numbers during a luncheon fund-raiser at a Columbus, Ohio, hotel.”

“The president’s campaign staff predicted that the Democrats’ plan to focus intently on the economy will no longer hinder Mr. Bush’s re-election chances next year, but help it. ‘We will focus on the president’s leadership on the economy,’ said Bush-Cheney spokesman Scott Stanzel in an interview.”

Another Washington Post story: “The White House has reason to be cautious before claiming an end to the economic downturn... economic growth has varied widely through Bush’s term, bouncing between 1.3 percent and 5 percent since the economic contraction ended after the third quarter of 2001. Also, the economy has been slow to add jobs after the private sector shed more than 3 million positions. The Labor Department on Thursday reported a drop of 5,000 in new unemployment claims last week — smaller than is needed to significantly reduce the 6.1 percent unemployment rate.”

“Democrats who hope to challenge Bush next year sought to emphasize the sluggish labor market.”

That said, “Democrats who want Bush’s job didn’t have much to say. The usual blizzard of e-mailed press releases from presidential contenders commenting on news of the day was limited by late afternoon to statements from North Carolina Sen. John Edwards, former Vermont governor Howard Dean and Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman,” says USA Today.

Politics of Iraq

The New York Daily News says Paul Wolfowitz, speaking at Georgetown University, “said a worried resident of the southern city of Najaf asked him in July at a town hall meeting, ‘What’s going to happen to us if George Bush loses the election?’”

“Wolfowitz said he tried to assure the Iraqis, but ‘when they hear the message that we might not be there next year, they get very scared.’”

“Debra DeShong, a spokeswoman for the Democratic National Committee, brushed off Wolfowitz’s remarks. ‘Iraqis are more worried about bombs and bullets than they are about ballots,’ DeShong said.”

With the bill having passed the House and a Senate vote looming, the Los Angeles Times runs an internal damage assessment: “privately many lawmakers are fuming” over “the high-handed way they believe the administration has treated the legislative branch at home.”

“...[B]eneath the apparent victory for the administration lie deep tensions even among members of Bush’s party who have felt shut out and taken for granted.” First quote: Sen. Ted Stevens. Second: Sen. Chuck Hagel. “...[T]he latest outburst of bitterness has a particularly corrosive edge. Lawmakers are being asked to support Bush’s policy amid increased skepticism from their constituents about the administration’s actions. When they get peppered with questions at home, many legislators are left feeling that the administration’s closed-door briefings give them little information they could not get from newspapers. Even senior lawmakers say they have a hard time getting access to key decision makers or answers to such basic questions as the timeline for Iraq’s reconstruction.”

The Washington Post writes up the Center for Public Integrity study on the assigning of reconstruction contracts.

Politics of fire

His performance during the wildfires probably has Gov. Gray Davis (D) leaving office more highly regarded than he has been in months, may be giving him some sort of emotional release, and is giving his detractors cause for praise. - Los Angeles Times

Some California officials are charging the Bush Administration could have prevented the wildfires, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. The officials say the Administration ignored pleas months ago “for emergency help to remove beetle-infested trees that experts warned could fuel a catastrophic Southern California fire.”

“The Federal Emergency Management Agency said it had rejected the April emergency request because it was clear the Department of Agriculture, which manages the U.S. Forest Service, was working on the problem and diverting money from other programs to tackle it. In addition, they said, $3.3 million originally designated for seismic safety was diverted in June to tackle the beetle problem in San Bernardino and Riverside counties.”

“‘It’s somewhat disingenuous to suggest there was no federal assistance, because in fact there was,’ said Chad Kolton, spokesman for FEMA.”

The Democratic presidential candidates have been quietly trolling California, including the smoking Los Angeles area, for funds this past week, despite the fires. - Los Angeles Times

SEIU primary (D)

Dean embed Felix Schein emphasizes that while it’s Dean or no one for this key labor endorsement, it’s possible, though seemingly less likely, that no national endorsement will be made and the SEIU will let its locals endorse on their own.

In that case, an SIEU spokesperson told us, some locals may go for Gephardt, Kerry, and others, and that process could start almost immediately after the November 6 meeting in DC (location and time TBD). The Boston Globe says Clark met with the SEIU yesterday.

Schein notes the SEIU endorsement is coveted not only for its 1.6 million members, but because it is the fastest growing and most diverse union. For the Dean campaign, sometimes accused of a lack of diversity, this could provide a quick fix and build upon Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr.’s endorsement earlier this week. Not to mention what it could do for Dean’s war with Gephardt on Medicare and prominence in the overall debate over health care.

Gephardt embed Priya David reports sources in the Gephardt campaign said they weren’t surprised at the news, but the campaign has no official comment at this time. Gephardt, for his part, has said he’s never expected any union endorsements — that he understands he needs to earn them, and build his union support one by one. The SEIU’s interest in Dean, David says, is attributed to his anti-war message and strong local union support, particularly with Local 1199 in New York. The support would offer Dean strong grassroots help in New Hampshire and Iowa, with more members on the ground in New Hampshire. It would also throw into question Gephardt’s status as labor’s candidate, even with his 20 international union endorsements so far — especially if an SEIU endorsement of Dean deters other unions from standing behind him.

Edwards told embed Dugald McConnell yesterday that he would wait to hear the final word. “The SEIU stopped their endorsement because John Edwards did such a terrific job in September,” press secretary Jennifer Palmieri said the other day, as the campaign headed to a union event in Detroit. “We’re happy to be in that competition, but we don’t have high expectations.”

Kerry embed Becky Diamond says the Kerry campaign had no public reaction to the news.

More 2004 notes (D)

The Wall Street Journal: “Democrats’ decisions could doom public financing of campaigns. Late entrant Clark joins front-runner Dean and Sen. Kerry in considering forfeiting federal funds, to be free to exceed the system’s $45 million spending limit in the party’s nomination race. Bush did so first, in 2000. Clark may need to exceed spending limits in early-primary states to catch Dean, aides say. Dean would give up full $18 million match; he and Kerry will decide soon, aides say.”

USA Today rolls out a means of combining national market research and its own stockpile of Gallup surveys “to analyze the American political landscape.” Noting that “as things stand, the stage is set for an election that could be as tight as the historic deadlock that sent Bush to the White House in 2000,” its first project is a portrait of swing voters. More on the methodology.

Edwards embed Dugald McConnell says about Edwards’ endorsement yesterday by influential New Hampshire state Sen. Lou D’Allesandro (D) that a few weeks ago, D’Allesandro told McConnell Edwards has “really got to make that big jump, and that hasn’t happened yet.” But yesterday, D’Allesandro said on the conference call, “It’s a case of getting more time in New Hampshire, and I think the 100 town meetings will do it for him, because when you see him, you like him.”

The Des Moines Register reports the accused Gephardt aide “insisted Thursday that he did not use a derogatory slur in a verbal confrontation with a member of Howard Dean’s campaign staff, calling the accusation ‘baffling and hurtful.’”

Per the Register, one reporter at the scene said it looked like the Dean aide started it; another correspondent said he saw no shoving. Dean embed Felix Schein reports Dean manager Joe Trippi sent another letter to Gephardt manager Steve Murphy saying, “It is my hope that we and our campaign staffs can put this incident behind us and get back to the business at hand- defeating George W. Bush next November.” And Chrissy Gephardt said at Drake University last night that “her father would not tolerate the use of a homophobic epithet like the one a Gephardt campaign aide is accused of using this week.” — Des Moines Register

The New York Times looks another seeming flip-flop by Dean — this time over guns. “Back when Howard Dean was running for governor of Vermont in 1992, he told the National Rifle Association in a signed questionnaire that he opposed any restrictions on private ownership of assault weapons... These days, running for the Democratic presidential nomination and appealing to a very different electorate from that of his small, largely rural state, Dr. Dean assures audiences that he firmly supports the assault weapons ban enacted under President Bill Clinton in 1994 though vigorously opposing any further federal regulation of guns.”

A Dean spokeswoman “said there was no contradiction between his current position and what he told the N.R.A. in its 1992 questionnaire, a copy of which was provided to The New York Times by aides to a rival Democratic candidate who is a stronger advocate of gun control.”

A Kerry statement this morning reads: “Today’s story in the New York Times on Howard Dean and the NRA reminds us that the fight against special interests begins in our own party. In an NRA questionnaire, Howard Dean said he opposed a ban on assault weapons and opposed even a short waiting period before buying a gun to allow law enforcement to determine if the buyer had a criminal record. Howard Dean’s opposition to sensible gun safety measures - now passed into law and saving laws but under siege by his friends at the NRA - is indefensible. And it explains why he has been endorsed by the NRA eight times... As a candidate and as President, I will never pander to the extremist NRA for personal or political expediency.”

Kerry embed Becky Diamond notes yesterday’s campaign e-mail headlined, “Kerry stands up to NRA’s divisive agenda in letter to blacklisted Americans.” As Kerry hits Dean for his past support for gun rights, he heads off to pheasant hunt in Iowa this weekend. Diamond notes Kerry often says he’s a hunter, but “you don’t need an AK-47 to go hunting.”

The Boston Globe asks, “Can Kerry bounce back in NH?”

Kucinich embed Karin Caifa reports the campaign continues to grow, announcing a new Florida office in Gainesville on Sunday, and the opening of an office in East Los Angeles tonight. The campaign is also within $40,000 of its goal of raising $400,000 for the month.

Embed Dionne Scott says the Lieberman campaign has no further comment thus far on allegations that Kerry Arizona campaign manager Mario Diaz may have been present when another Kerry backer told a Lieberman supporter that Lieberman couldn’t campaign three days out of the week because of his religious observance.

Moseley Braun embed Angela Miles notes the campaign seems pretty secretive lately. Moseley Braun spent Wednesday evening and most of Thursday in Dayton, OH. Miles says the candidate’s only comment about the trip was that she is still running her law practice and sometimes has to attend to private business. Consultant Kevin Lampe referred to her trip as a “private day in Ohio.” Shortly thereafter, Miles learned that Moseley Braun’s appearance at the Kennedy King Dinner in DC Saturday night has been mysteriously dropped from the schedule. Campaign spokespeople did not say why.

Embed Tom Llamas reports that at the 38th Annual NAACP Connecticut State Conference in New Haven last night, Sharpton issued a no-holds-barred tirade against Dean, African-American endorsements of white candidates, and the Governor-elect of California. His fiercest attack targeted Dean and Dean’s recent endorsement by Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr.: “Let’s look at Dean’s record, I ain’t going to argue with Jesse’s son. I’m running against Dean. Since you brought up Dean and straight talk let’s look at his record. Dean said that affirmative action should have nothing to do with race. He said no, I don’t believe that anymore... Well good, when did you change your mind? I believe in conversions I’m a preacher. But I want to know where you was when you fell of the horse on the road to Damascus.”

Sharpton also mocked African-American leaders who endorse white candidates: “I’m endorsing so and so... You are not doing nothing but playing with yourself. These people are not discussing you; they need a few cosmetic pictures to add to their profile. I’m ready to put out adds telling all Uncle Toms at least send me part of the money you get from selling out. Cause if I wasn’t in the race they wouldn’t be offering you nothing. I put a whole new generation of Toms in business,” Sharpton said. Llamas asked Sharpton if he was referring to any one African-American leader in particular. “Those that have gained from the struggle but do not participate in the struggle are who I’m talking about,” said Sharpton.

And the candidate also found room in his speech to attack the Governor-elect of California: “I defend a young girl and you act like it’s a scandal, I guess if I had fondled her and her girlfriends you would of made me the governor of California,” said Sharpton in reference to reporters who question his actions during the Tawana Brawley incident.

Llamas also notes Sharpton arrived over two hours late for his speech. “This is bad, this is really really bad,” said one organizer. At one point the choir started singing, “We shall overcome,” which prompted another organizer to say, “Lord they are singing We shall overcome. Will we overcome this? Will he show up?”

In the second National Journal poll of 50 top Democratic insiders who rank their party’s presidential candidates, Dean still leads (with 38 first-place votes), followed by Gephardt (9), Kerry (0), Clark (1), Edwards (2), Lieberman (0), Kucinich (0), Sharpton (0), and Moseley Braun (0).

November 4

The New York Times writes up the Philadelphia mayoral race between incumbent John Street (D), who is black, and challenger Sam Katz (R), noting that the FBI listening device found in Street’s office has galvanized African-American voters and has catapulted him in the polls.

The paper adds this: “Whatever Mr. Street’s advantage, a victory at the polls would not end all his troubles. Federal officials have said their investigation began before the campaign and will continue after it ends. Some people, including critics and supporters of Mr. Street, have expressed concern about his ability to govern effectively if the inquiry drags on.”

The Washington Post does the Kentucky governor’s race, in which the Democratic nominee says retiring, scandal-plagued Gov. Paul Patton (D) “would be ‘a drag on Jesus Christ.’”

NAFTA continues to be a big issue in the race for Mississippi governor, the Jackson Clarion-Ledger says. Meanwhile, the AP reports a new poll has Barbour leading Musgrove, but within the margin of error.

Judicial nominations

“Rejection of Pickering brings to four the number of judicial nominees who have been sidelined this year in the Senate’s bitter partisan war over Bush’s most conservative choices for the federal judiciary.” -Washington Post

“Some Democrats accused Republicans of planning the vote for yesterday to have the best impact on Mississippi’s gubernatorial election Tuesday, when Gov. Ronnie Musgrove, a Democrat, will face Republican challenger Haley S. Barbour,” says the Washington Times. “‘I don’t know of any issue that has united the people of Mississippi any more,’ Sen. Trent Lott, Mississippi Republican, said of the Pickering nomination. ‘If you had taken a vote on the ballot of the people of Mississippi, Judge Pickering would have gotten 85 percent of the vote. A lot of people are generally just mad.’”

Prescription drugs

The class=inlinelink target=newwin>Washington Post reports on a study released yesterday showing that if “Congress reaches an agreement on a landmark $400 billion Medicare prescription drug bill, the pharmaceutical industry stands to make a ‘windfall profit’ of at least $139 billion over eight years.” A co-author of the report said “the primary reason for the jump in profits is that neither Congress nor the administration would negotiate for price discounts in the same way that the Department of Veterans Affairs and other government agencies now bargain with pharmaceutical companies, but administration and industry said that view is misleading.”

Oct. 30, 2003 / 9:30 AM ET

From Elizabeth Wilner, Mark Murray and Huma Zaidi

President Bush adds a “scorching 7.2 percent” economic growth rate for the quarter — the best showing since early 1984, the AP notes — to a successful round of legislative jockeying. He scored with the dropped loan provision on the Iraq supplemental; awaits word from the conferees on Medicare but is well-positioned whether a bill passes or not; and stands to at least make political hay, both in Mississippi and among energized conservatives, out of an expected Pickering filibuster today.

And he dodges a bullet on having to veto a relaxed Cuba travel ban. The AP reports the proposed loosening of the ban will get stripped from the transportation approps bill so Bush won’t have to veto it and, as one academic puts it, “‘look like a captive of conservative Cuban Americans in south Florida.’”

Schwarzenegger is scheduled to meet with Vice President Cheney at the White House at 9:20 am and come to the stakeout afterward, then meet with Ag Secretary Veneman at 10:00 am before leaving for California.

Let’s see if Cheney cracks a smile. The Washington Post Style section says of “the Collectinator’s” Hill visit yesterday, “Washington tried to be utterly nonchalant about Schwarzenegger’s visit... After each of their meetings with him the lawmakers stopped to answer serious questions... But here and there the giddy fan club provincialism showed. A congressman would try to maintain a somber tone: ‘A very serious disaster,’ agreed Rep. David Dreier (R-Calif.)... And then he turned to Schwarzenegger and cracked a huge, tongue-showing, apropos-of-nothing smile.” Even Senator Feinstein “melted.”

The Democratic presidential race has the look of a melee today: The Dean-Gephardt rhetorical shoving match escalates, while the Kerry and Lieberman camps hash out sketchy endorsement charges in Arizona. To access the MSNBC embeds’ reports in full, click here. Dean and Edwards seem to be in line for key endorsements; Dean looks forward to the SEIU meeting next week, while Edwards adds a press conference call with an influential New Hampshire lawmaker to his schedule.

Politics of Iraq

The Los Angeles Times covers Bush’s victory on the dropped loan provision, noting “Bush’s win came at a price: He had to give ground in other areas that reflected lawmakers’ sensitivity to growing anxiety on the home front about the war’s toll. Over the administration’s opposition, the compromise requires the Pentagon to expand access to health-care coverage for National Guard and Reserve troops when they return home. It also trimmed about $1.7 billion from $20 billion of reconstruction aid...”

The New York Times writes up the “New American Strategies for Security and Peace” conference, sponsored by the American Prospect magazine, John Podesta’s Center for American Progress, and the Century Foundation. The consensus opinion at the conference: “Iraq is a mess, the world resents America and its debt-burdened economy is an international embarrassment.”

“The conference underscored how Democrats are finding a voice to challenge the administration on national security. They are reappropriating national symbols and insisting that their criticism is patriotic and in the best American traditions.”

Judicial nominations

The Los Angeles Times on Pickering: “Few doubt that the nomination, a symbol of the bitter ideological battle over the federal judiciary, will be stalled by a Democratic filibuster. But Bush and his Republican allies may nonetheless achieve a political goal: embarrassing Democrats just before an important state election. The Senate vote will spotlight the divide on Pickering between top Democrats in Mississippi, who call the judge a racial conciliator and support his confirmation, and their peers in Washington, who oppose him because of his record on civil rights and other issues.”

Holding the vote “five days before the closely fought Mississippi gubernatorial election... will give Republicans a well-timed opportunity to portray Democrats in Washington as out of step with a region where many Democratic incumbents are struggling to hold onto office. And it will give Bush a fresh excuse to talk up his embattled judicial nominee when the president swings through the state Saturday to campaign for GOP gubernatorial candidate Haley Barbour.”

Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Hatch’s effort to strike a deal with Democrats to avoid filibusters and fill vacancies in the Heartland-based Sixth Circuit US Court of Appeals also is in the news. The Wall Street Journal: “Republican and Democratic-appointed judges often interpret the law differently, not just on socially charged issues like abortion rights or capital punishment, but also on less obviously ideological issues, such as the rights of the disabled and access to corporate records.”

“That is why Senate Democrats are resorting to filibuster tactics to slow Republican advances and most high-profile fights are about President Bush’s nominees to the circuit level,” like Pickering. “But the Sixth, home to the Senate’s top two Republican leaders, stands out as a divisive chapter in its own right and better illustrates the broader national battle under way.”

And the Washington Times says conservatives are “furious” about the proposed deal, which would create two new judicial seats in exchange for a lift of the blockade on four Michigan judicial nominees.

Prescription drugs

A lot of focus on Bush’s refusal to offer lawmakers specific direction during his remarks yesterday — but does he need to? The Los Angeles Times: “with House-Senate negotiations all but stalled..., many said Bush’s remarks would do nothing to move the process forward. White House officials have signaled in recent days that while passage of a Medicare prescription drug benefit is important to Bush, whose public approval ratings on domestic issues have been slipping, the details of the legislation are not.”

The Washington Post: Bush “did not explicitly take sides in a central dispute among the congressional negotiators — whether the original fee-for-service part of Medicare should be required after 2010 to compete directly against private health plans based on price. However, during his 14-minute speech, Bush nine times used the word ‘choice,’ an allusion to the larger role for the private sector that the GOP favors for Medicare.”

The Boston Globe: “Bush’s speech was designed to raise the stakes in the ongoing House-Senate negotiations by telling seniors a deal is close and reminding them that he supports adding the drug benefit.”

The Washington Post focuses on the congressional crux for passage of the drug bill (as well as the energy bill): the differences between Senate Finance chairman Grassley and House Ways and Mean chairman Thomas: “tensions between the two and their staffs are complicating efforts to resolve differences between the House and Senate, according to GOP officials.”

The Des Moines Register: “The issue is key for Iowa, where there’s a high proportion of elderly residents and an active Democratic presidential campaign.”


Kerry embed Becky Diamond and Lieberman embed Dionne Scott follow up on yesterday’s Arizona Republic report that some state lawmakers who support Lieberman have accused two Kerry backers of using Lieberman’s religion to try to persuade them to switch their endorsements to Kerry. According to the paper, Kerry’s Arizona campaign manager, Mario Diaz, and state Rep. Ben Miranda suggested the lawmakers switch their endorsements to Kerry because Lieberman “can’t campaign three days a week” — a reference to Lieberman’s Orthodox observance of the Sabbath, for which he refrains from campaigning from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday.

Diamond got this: “The Kerry campaign... severed its association with Rep. Ben Miranda. We have investigated the matter thoroughly, and we are fully satisfied that no member of the campaign staff was responsible for the incidents in question,” said Kerry spokesman Robert Gibbs. “We have expressed our deepest regrets to Sen. Lieberman, a friend of Senator Kerry’s for many years, and made it clear that, of course, Senator Kerry deplores and will not tolerate the injection of religion into this race in any manner whatsoever.” Scott says that per a source, Kerry called Lieberman to apologize personally.

Diaz, Kerry’s Arizona manager, also told Diamond: “Ben Miranda is no longer associated with the campaign.” Diaz added that he had nothing to do with the alleged incident.

Yet Diamond reports state Rep. Cheryl Chase, one of the three Lieberman supporters approached by Miranda, says Diaz was in fact present at her meeting with Miranda. “Ben and Mario were in the hallway and asked if I had time to visit with them. Ben was asking me to join the Kerry campaign,” she said. According to Chase, Miranda said, “Lieberman is limited because he can’t campaign three days out of the week and there are a lot of functions on Saturdays.”

Chase adds that Diaz was in the room “and he was silent.” Diaz did not return several calls seeking comment.

But the Arizona endorsement story doesn’t end there, says Lieberman embed Dionne Scott, who notes that over the past two months, three state representatives — Miranda, Ernie Bustamante and Amanda Aguirre — have dropped their support for Lieberman and endorsed Kerry. People close to the Lieberman campaign charge that at least one of the defections wasn’t an honest change of heart, but rather an endorsement exchanged for a personal favor. According to one Lieberman supporter, Scott reports, Bustamante signed on with Kerry after his son was hired by Kerry’s campaign. “They said [to Bustamante]: ‘What would it take to get you on board?’ Bustamante told them, ‘Hire my son,’ and they did,” the supporter said.

Bustamante, however, denies there was any kind of endorsement-for-jobs tradeoff with the Kerry campaign. He told Scott his support for Lieberman was “lukewarm,” and he decided to endorse Kerry after hearing him campaign in Tucson about two weeks ago. Bustamante acknowledges that his son, Ernesto Bustamante Jr., was hired by the Kerry campaign. “He’s been with them for a couple of weeks.”

Bustamante, Jr. also denies the allegation, saying he started working for the Kerry campaign on October 2, and it wasn’t until October 15 that his father switched his endorsement from Lieberman to Kerry. “The allegations are offensive — it’s not the only way I can get a job,” he told Diamond.

But according to Scott, Lieberman’s Arizona state chair, Mary Rose Wilcox, said her Phoenix staff was surprised by Bustamante’s decision to endorse Kerry. “We were in a meeting and we were told Ernie was looking for a job for his son. But we just didn’t have any positions,” Wilcox said. “Then we heard that Kerry hired his son. And the staff felt that was the reason” Bustamante switched to the Kerry campaign. “I was surprised because he had given a very passionate speech” at a Lieberman campaign event, she said.


Yesterday, the rhetorical war between Dean and Gephardt in Iowa took a turn that a Dean staffer alleges included the word “faggot” and a physical exchange with two Gephardt staffers.

Dean embed Felix Schein writes that Hunter Allen has worked in the Dean communications office for months now, first in Burlington, but as of last week in Dean’s Des Moines office. Last Friday, Allen began tracking the Gephardt campaign, a typical undertaking in which rival campaigns monitor the words and appearances of their opponents. Dean and Gephardt staffers have in fact been monitoring each other’s candidates for some time.

On Tuesday, Schein writes, this process turned nasty. According to Allen, the confrontation began when he was asked to move from where he was standing during a Gephardt press conference so as to accommodate members of the press who were asking Gephardt questions. Allen says he complied but was moved to a spot he found unworkable, and consequently moved somewhat closer to Gephardt again.

Following the press avail, Allen alleges, he was confronted by Gephardt’s Iowa campaign director and an unidentified staffer. Both, Allen says, verbally accosted him and an exchange of words led to his being asked to leave. Schein reports it was then that Allen, who is openly gay, says he was pushed and called a “faggot.”

The Gephardt campaign denies the incident ever took place, Gephardt embed Priya David says. The campaign says Allen was disruptive through the event, using his cell phone inappropriately at one point, then crowding Gephardt and cutting in front of reporters during the press avail. The Gephardt campaign says he was asked to leave, left, and came back, only to continue misbehaving, at which point he was walked out of the building — with no mishandling. Gephardt Iowa press secretary Bill Burton said, “This seems like dirty tricks,” continuing that Dean’s had a rough couple weeks, especially with

Medicare issues.

Allen insists it did happen, Schein reports, and is calling the campaign’s denial an “insult.” Dean campaign manager Joe Trippi sent a letter to Gephardt manager Steve Murphy, and a memo from the Dean campaign went out to the media which included the letter.

“The dispute could have political ramifications in a tight campaign,” the Des Moines Register says. “Dean is noted for supporting a Vermont law that gave gay couples the same rights as married couples, and he enjoys support among gay-rights groups. Gephardt also supports civil unions and he takes credit for fighting against anti-gay legislation in Congress. Gephardt’s daughter, Chrissy, is openly a lesbian. She campaigns for her father and is scheduled to appear at 7:30 p.m. today at Drake University’s Olmsted Center.”

More 2004 notes (D)

The Washington Times reports out of a Democratic Leadership Council strategy session, “Some leading Democrats are moving to stake out more conservative positions on gun rights, reconnecting with ‘people of faith,’ and even voting to ban partial-birth abortion as the 2004 election approaches.”

At the Every Child Matters Forum yesterday, embed Marisa Buchanan reports, Clark took a question about gun control from some women from the Million Mom March who seek to raise the issue with all the candidates. Clark said he had to read a bit more about the subject, Buchanan notes, but he did say he supports gun safety. “In principal yes. The problem is I just don’t know the details of that they way I ought to know. I certainly support trigger locks. And I certainly support the Brady bill.”

Buchanan also reports Clark told health care workers at his “conversation” yesterday that he is monitoring his voice again after shooting a 30-second commercial for CNN and Rock the Vote’s Tuesday forum. He said it took almost two hours yesterday afternoon and tired out his vocal chords.

The New York Times examines the “electability” of Clark and Dean. Rarely “has a candidate for president so banked on electability as General Clark has” — though we’d note it’s still not clear which states Clark figures on winning. “And rarely has a candidate who has proved so popular in states with early contests grappled with the doubts that have surrounded Dr. Dean.”

Meanwhile, Dean’s “foray into New York City politics backfired yesterday when he appeared to take conflicting positions on whether party primaries for local offices should be dumped,” the New York Daily News reports.

The New Republic’s Lizza reports that “according to union officials and aides to several campaigns,” the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) is likely to endorse Dean next week — a big deal if it happens. “With 1.6 million members, SEIU is the biggest and fastest-growing union in the AFL-CIO. Its 63-member executive board will meet in Washington on November 6..., and no other candidates are being considered for the endorsement. “It’s come down to the one candidate who has demonstrated enough support among our members,” says Andy Stern, SEIU’s president, “which is Howard Dean...”

Not only would such an endorsement be politically big for Dean in terms of labor support, but the SEIU has focused more publicly on health care than any other Democrat-affiliated interest group, and a stamp of approval for Dean could transform the ongoing debate on the issue within the Democratic field.

Per the pool report, embed Dugald McConnell passes along, more than 100 producers, writers, actors, agents and other entertainment types turned out for the $1,000-a-head fundraiser for Edwards at the Venice Beach home of actor Dennis Hopper last night. Ashton Kutcher, star of “That 70s Show,” was among those billed as a co-host, but a professional commitment in New York, coupled with fires that have delayed flights in the Los Angeles area, made it impossible for Kutcher to attend, his agent said.

Gephardt embed Priya David says Gephardt, who rarely minces words when it comes to the Republican-controlled Congress, asked yesterday why he hasn’t progressed with some of the ideas he’s had, responded that the opposition from the GOP-run Congress was too strong. He said, “It’s my way or the highway every day with them. It’s like the Taliban.”

The Boston Globe does Gephardt and Iowa: Alamo or launchpad.

Controversy over Kucinich’s weekend endorsement from the New Hampshire Greens, Kucinich embed Karin Caifa says. It’s rankled the national party, which issued a release saying, “The endorsement decision reportedly took place at a meeting in a coffee shop that was attended by six individuals.” Noting that the New Hampshire arm is not recognized by the national group, they continued, “Green Party officials wish to clarify that the half-dozen individuals responsible for the news release in question are not affiliated with the Green Party of the United States.” Caifa notes the national Greens will hold their own presidential convention in Milwaukee in June 2004. Nader has said he will make a decision on a bid by the end of this year.

Following Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr.’s endorsement of Dean, Moseley Braun embed Angela Miles says it doesn’t appear that his father is likely to endorse Moseley Braun. The candidate herself told Miles that the Congressman is entitled to support whoever he wants. Asked if it would have an effect on her campaign, she said she isn’t sure, it’s too early to tell, but she doesn’t think so.

Embed Tom Llamas and MSNBC’s coverage of the Sharpton-Dean scuffle over Jackson, Jr.’s endorsement of Dean continues today.

2004 Notes (R)

Per the Bush-Cheney campaign, last night’s fundraiser featuring Vice President Cheney raised $475,000.

November 4

“Wins in all three states would allow Republicans to say with some credibility that they are not only holding their own in the South, but actually gaining votes and power in a region that was once solidly Democratic - and still is, at the local and state level,” the Washington Times says.

USA Today on Kentucky: “Democrats here, hoping to hang on to the governor’s office they’ve held for 32 years, are blaming President Bush and Republican economic policies for job losses and the lagging economy in their state. But their argument is being swamped by” retiring Democratic Gov. Paul Patton’s sex scandal.

TheAP on Kentucky: “Former U.S. Sen. Wendell Ford, stumping for [Democrat Ben] Chandler through central Kentucky on Wednesday, hammered at an issue that has been one of Chandler’s personal favorites: a federal budget deficit - exacerbated, the argument goes, by Bush’s tax cuts.”

Oct. 29, 2003 / 9:30 AM ET

From Elizabeth Wilner, Mark Murray and Huma Zaidi

The spotlight’s on the Hill. House and Senate conferees plug away on the Iraq supplemental and on Medicare. Bush pivots from the former to the latter, with 11:05 am remarks on Medicare, as the Washington Times reports “Many House Republicans know few details about the final Medicare prescription-drug legislation being crafted, which will make it hard for party leaders to sell it to their colleagues when the bill emerges.” Other Medicare elements: the Gephardt-Dean fight continues, with Gephardt’s campaign calling Dean “Bush lite” on the issue, while prescription drug costs pop up in the Kentucky governor’s race. — AP

The Wall Street Journal says about the supplemental: “Lawmakers neared agreement on a compromise Iraq-aid bill that would cut an estimated $1.6 billion in reconstruction funds sought by President Bush and require a reluctant Pentagon to provide greater access to its health-care programs for Reserve and National Guard troops and their families. Talks abruptly broke up Tuesday night, and Senate Democrats may press to further expand the health benefits Wednesday.”

And Governor-elect Schwarzenegger arrives. NBC’s Mike Viqueira says Schwarzenegger first meets with FEMA, then heads to the Hill; an 11:15 am meeting with House Minority Leader Pelosi was a late add to a schedule laid out for reporters yesterday. The incoming Governor meets with the California GOP delegation at 9:00 am; attends the Republican conference at 9:30 am; holds a press avail in the hallway outside HC-5 at 9:50 am; meets with House leaders in the Speaker’s office at 10:00 am; attends a reception with the California Bipartisan and Bicameral Delegation at 10:30 am; visits separately with Senator Boxer and Senator Feinstein; and also visits with Senate Majority Leader Frist and Senator Stevens. A source says Schwarzenegger and wife Maria Shriver also lunch with Senator Kennedy and his wife; a photo op is scheduled for 1:35 pm.

In the afternoon, Schwarzenegger meets with Energy Secretary Abraham at 2:00 pm and with Transportation Secretary Mineta at 4:30 pm. Finally, he attends a (closed) reception at 7:00 pm at 101 Constitution Avenue, NW.

Obscured by the wildfires and their collective piling on Bush over his news conference, things nevertheless got pretty hot in the Democratic race yesterday: Dean, newly endorsed by Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr., got hit by Sharpton for having an allegedly “anti-black agenda;” and also by Gephardt who, as noted, likened Dean to Bush on Medicare. The Edwards campaign said Clark’s health care plan looks sort of familiar, and Clark knocked Lieberman for voting for the war (using Edwards’ “blank check” line), while Lieberman knocked others for voting for the war but against the $87 billion. See below.

Politics of Iraq

USA Today, armed with recent Gallup numbers: “With the onset of more violent and coordinated attacks on U.S. forces in Iraq, this week has become a pivotal point in the conflict and a perilous moment for Bush. In some ways, he has staked his presidency on a war that he promises will, in time, bring stability to a turbulent region and combat terrorism against the United States.”

The story says the death toll in the aftermath “has limited military significance but enormous symbolic power. A majority of Americans call the death rate unacceptable, one factor in the declining sentiment that the war was worth it.”

“Support fell further among men than women, though men are generally more supportive of military action. The decline was much more pronounced among those 65 and older than among those under 30, the age group that bears the brunt of casualties from the war.”

“The conventional wisdom is that, for Americans, domestic concerns trump foreign policy when it comes to the issues that matter. But Iraq now dominates the headlines.”

The Washington Post says while Bush emphasized how “dangerous” Iraq is, he “previewed a 2004 reelection strategy that labels as a success his performance in Iraq and in foreign policy generally.”

The Wall Street Journal’s Harwood: “Against Mr. Bush’s cardinal principle of muscular U.S. action, Democrats now advocate multilateralism without apology as an indispensable element of American strength. As a result, the 2004 election is likely to present voters with their clearest foreign-policy choice in at least two decades.”

From Republican National Committee chairman Ed Gillespie’s memo to Hill and other GOP leaders, slated to go out yesterday: “Americans instinctively know that anyone who’s willing to demean the presidency in order to gain it is not worthy of having it entrusted to him. Internal polling continues to show the American people consider the President as favorably today on questions of leadership, honesty and trustworthiness as they did at the beginning of the year. And the American people trust the President more than Democrats to handle the economy, foreign policy and national security. Their protests, pessimism and political hate speech are not working.”

“Mission accomplished”

Embed Becky Diamond called Lt. Commander John Daniels, public affairs officer on the USS Lincoln, to ask about the President’s assertion that the crew of the Lincoln were responsible for the banner. Daniels told Diamond “it was some sailors on the ship who had the idea” for the banner — “the White House had nothing to do with it.” He said the sailors made the banner and hoisted it into position. When Diamond asked which sailors did it, he said, “No one can remember exactly who came up with the idea,” and then reiterated it was not the White House. The sign, he said, went up on April 27 or 28 and the President came on board May 1. “Mission accomplished,” Daniels said, referred to the fact that the Lincoln spent over nine months deployed and participated in three operations — Enduring Freedom, Southern Watch and Iraqi Freedom — on its deployment, a significant achievement. He said that the “rainbow sideboys” (the flight deck crew in colorful shirts) were part of a normal tradition — called “piping them on board” — any dignitary visiting the ship would receive. The only difference between the President’s arrival on the Lincoln and that of Gen. Tommy Franks, Daniels said, was that the crew made sure their shirts were crisp and clean. “For Tommy Franks they probably would have been greasy from the flight deck.”

Less than an hour later, a source on the Lincoln called Diamond to clarify what she was told previously: This source said that, in fact, the White House had “produced” the sign — but it was still the sailors who came up with the idea. “The sailors asked the White House to make it.”

Shortly after Bush’s news conference, the Kerry campaign issues a press release noting a New York Times report on the Bush carrier landing that the sign was the work of a Bush advance staffer.

USA Today: “Military officials agreed that the banner was their idea but said White House aides signed off on it, made it and positioned it prominently behind the spot where Bush made his remarks.”

“Bush’s advance staff did have a hand in the banner, said other military officials who asked not to be identified. Personnel aboard the Abraham Lincoln asked the White House to make the banner because there were no art supplies aboard the ship, the officials said. The White House advance team then brought the banner to the ship and positioned it behind Bush.”


The San Francisco Chronicle says “Schwarzenegger’s agenda shows he clearly understands who holds the purse strings in Washington: He has a morning meeting with House GOP leaders and the chairmen of the Appropriations, Ways and Means, and Budget committees. In the afternoon, he is scheduled to meet with Senate Republican Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist of Tennessee and Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska, the powerful Republican chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee.”

“Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, said Schwarzenegger could help the state a great deal by leaning on Republican leaders to provide more money for education, health care, immigration costs and the state’s Cal-Fed water program.”

A Pelosi spokesperson told Roll Call the Minority Leader “wants to talk with Schwarzenegger about the ‘critical issues facing California,’ including the state’s budget troubles and the wildfire crisis in the southern part of the state.”

Schwarzenegger’s spokesperson “said even though California’s wildfires are creating a major crisis in the state, Schwarzenegger didn’t believe he needed to cancel his Washington visit. He stressed that Schwarzenegger is keeping tabs on the situation with regular briefings and conversations with Davis.”

On Thursday, per a Schwarzenegger source, he is scheduled to meet with Agriculture Secretary Veneman and Education Secretary Paige, though these events haven’t yet been finalized.

Partial birth

USA Today, again armed with recent Gallup data, looks at Bush’s assertion yesterday that the country isn’t ready for a complete abortion ban in advance of his expected signing of the partial birth ban into law next week.

2004 Notes (D)

Gephardt embed Priya David notes that while Gephardt’s speech yesterday was billed as adding a new component to his health care plan, the speech seemed to once again be more about attacking Dean than about new policy. Gephardt said, “...on all of these Medicare issues, there is very little difference between George Bush and Howard Dean. They both support cutting Medicare; they both support turning it into managed care; they both think recipients should pay more for services; and they both have no plan to address the Medicare reimbursement crisis.”

The Dean campaign retorted that Gephardt had done very little to improve health care during his 27 years in Congress, David says, while pointing to Dean’s record in Vermont as exemplary. Gephardt fired back that he saved Medicare from getting cut, and that Dean actually cut back health care four times as governor, and is falsely claiming his work as an accomplishment. For his part, campaign communications director Erik Smith asked, “Who spent the last year calling other Democrats ‘Bush-lite’?”

The Des Moines Register: “Gephardt also renewed his criticism that Dean has not ruled out limiting the growth of Medicare as part of a plan to balance the federal budget... Dean did not return telephone messages for comment responding to Gephardt’s charges.”

David says this fight doesn’t seem to be turning off voters: she spoke with several Democrats in Iowa yesterday who’d come to hear Gephardt speak. While they hadn’t made up their minds to vote for him, she says, they were pleased with his rhetoric about Dean and Medicare. Several said they were glad to learn the differences between the two candidates.

And that “new component,” David adds, turned out to be a rehash of legislation Gephardt has sponsored with Iowa Rep. Leonard Boswell, called the PROMISE Act. What’s new is Gephardt’s focus on Medicare reimbursement rates; Gephardt talked up how Iowa “is dead last when it comes to Medicare reimbursements,” despite the fact that “Iowa has the largest percentage of patients over the age of 85 and the fifth-highest percentage of patients over 65.” The speech was standing room only.

The Boston Globe reports: “Dean has cited his support for a 1997 federal law curbing Medicare costs in an effort to fend off attacks from his rivals for the Democratic presidential nomination, but correspondence obtained under the Freedom of Information Act shows that Dean, as governor of Vermont in 2000, complained to federal officials about a significant provision of the cost-containment law signed by Bill Clinton.”

Dean “said the provision unfairly hurt Medicare recipients at two Vermont hospitals and should be amended.” In return, Dean’s camp “yesterday defended the complaint as one made by a governor seeking to represent the interests of his state.”

“But rivals charged that Dean’s criticism of the cost-containment measure was inconsistent with his earlier support for cuts, when he served as chairman of the National Governors Association.”

The New York Post says of Clark’s tough words for Bush yesterday, “It was Clark’s harshest criticism yet of Bush and comes as the buzz over his late-start campaign has faded. Clark’s attack on Bush was a total about-face from January 2002, when he said he ‘tremendously’ admired ‘the great work done by our commander in chief.’”

On Clark’s health care speech yesterday, the Washington Post notes “Clark had little to say on the hot-button issue of soaring drug expenditures, though aides said he would support legalizing Canadian imports. In coming weeks, Clark hopes to offer more specifics on ways to improve health insurance for military reservists and veterans, and on how to close ethnic and racial disparities in access and care.”

The Los Angeles Times’ Brownstein: “Although Clark stressed preventive care more than some of his opponents, the plan fits squarely in the mainstream of the emerging debate among the Democrats on health care.”

Clark embed Marisa Buchanan reports that while Edwards might not be so pleased to see Clark use one of the basic mandates of his health care plan, which is to insure all children, the Clark campaign was not just snipping usable ideas from Edwards — the campaign noted after Clark’s speech that this health care plan was basically “a best of” the better points, in their opinion, of the other presidential health care plans.

Edwards embed Dugald McConnell says when Clark unveiled his health care plan yesterday, Edwards staffers said they thought it looked great. They also said it almost looked like they wrote it for him. “It was awfully familiar,” New Hampshire spokesperson Colin Van Ostern told McConnell, “right down to the slogan on the sign over his head: Real Solutions.” Edwards’ policy book, produced a few months ago, is called Real Solutions, and calls for covering all children as a matter of law, and using tax credits to parents to make it happen. Clark’s plan would do the same, the spokesman said, except it would cost more. “I think this will definitely win a nomination for ‘planburglary of the week.’”

Van Ostern also responded to Lieberman’s first ads, going up today in New Hampshire and featuring Lieberman talking about why he voted for the supplemental. “Senator Edwards agrees with Senator Lieberman that $87 billion is too much money — without our allies, without a plan, and with no-bid contracts for Bush’s friends like Halliburton,” Van Ostern’s statement read. “That’s why Senator Edwards took a principled stand and actually voted against it.”

McConnell says Edwards’ fundraiser tonight in Los Angeles is closed to cameras, except for one photographer who will be allowed to shoot one picture. While in Los Angeles today, McConnell notes, Edwards also continues courting minorities, meeting with African American ministers. Yesterday he met with Hispanics in New Mexico, touting his plan to improve health care for minorities through clinics and translators.

Sharpton embed Tom Llamas says Sharpton’s dismay over Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr.’s endorsement of Dean may go much deeper than 1995 comments Dean made about affirmative action on CNN. Jackson was one of the architects of Sharpton’s presidential platform. Jackson’s communications director, Frank Watkins, a former top aide to his father, also recently served as Sharpton’s campaign manager until he left over structural disagreements and for financial reasons. Watkins has since returned to his role as Jackson’s communications director.

In an interview with the Boston Globe, “Sharpton denied any personal animosity toward Jackson... Some political analysts say they believe Sharpton is trying to use his campaign to usurp the political influence of the congressman’s father, the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, who elevated his national profile with bids for the White House in 1984 and 1988.”

“In the interview, Sharpton said his statement merely held Dean to the same standard the former governor was applying to rivals such as Senator John F. Kerry of Massachusetts, Representative Richard A. Gephardt of Missouri, Senator Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut, and retired Army general Wesley K. Clark of Arkansas. ‘Governor Dean has been blasting everybody this whole week,’ Sharpton said. ‘So, clearly, he can’t ask people not to raise his record when he’s been the one sharply attacking Kerry, Gephardt, Lieberman, and Clark on their record. I mean, clearly, this is time for everybody to be accountable for what they have done.’”

Dean embed Felix Schein reports on the campaign’s two-pronged response to Sharpton’s attack: First, Jackson responded with a statement decrying Sharpton’s claims as inaccurate and noting that “whoever the ultimate nominee of the Democratic Party is I intend to support — and I will not agree with them on every issue. Governor Dean and I may just have to agree to disagree on the death penalty. However, I would remind Reverend Sharpton that both he and I supported Bill Clinton in 1992 and 1996 even though he supported the death penalty and ending welfare as we know it — both of which we disagreed with.” Jackson’s statement was followed by a rebuke from Dean deputy campaign manager Andi Pringle, herself African American and the former campaign manager for Moseley Braun. Putting her name on the release was no coincidence, Schein says, and was intended to underscore the diversity of Dean’s campaign and its credibility in the African American community.

Also of note, Schein reports: a statement issued later in the evening by African American Rep. Major Owens, also a Dean supporter. His most pointed line: “Our people, our rank and file is already with Howard Dean. Black leaders must run to catch up.”

The New York Times points out that Jesse Jackson, Sr. has not chosen a candidate - - obviously to the disappointment of Sharpton and Moseley Braun. “Mr. Jackson’s neutrality is no surprise to Democratic Party officials, who say they would not expect him to squander his leverage this early in the campaign season. But it is a setback to the two black candidates, the Rev. Al Sharpton and Carol Moseley Braun, who could benefit most from his support, analysts say.”

“His silence, combined with the decision of his son... to support Howard Dean, has exacerbated tensions between him and Mr. Sharpton, people close to them say. Mr. Sharpton, after all, is casting himself as the new Jesse Jackson.”

Howard Kurtz says Lieberman, with his new ad emphasizing his support for the supplemental, “wound up delivering a mixed message on Iraq.” “The ad suggests this was a courageous vote, but 86 other senators voted aye, too. Lieberman aides view the commercial as something of a risk, given the strong opposition to the war among many Democratic primary voters.”

Lieberman embed Dionne Scott reports off the campaign conference call yesterday that media consultant Mandy Grunwald said the campaign is “contemplating” running ads in New Hampshire all the way through the primary. Grunwald said the campaign’s new ad buy is two and a half times as big as Edwards’. Campaign pollster Mark Penn also said Iraq and tax cuts are “relevant and current” issues and the ads “have appeal across the spectrum of voters who will vote in the primary.” The campaign believes the race is still wide open in New Hampshire, despite recent polling. Penn said, “It appears there are 50% of voters for Dean or Kerry and 50% who haven’t decided.” He believes Lieberman’s “vigorous campaigning” in the Granite State and the ad campaign will make a difference.

Embed Angela Miles says Moseley Braun consultant Kevin Lampe had no comment regarding the news that Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. supports Dean. Lampe’s line: they do not comment on other campaigns.

Call the Moseley Braun HQ, Miles says, and the receptionist will tell you there are two interim campaign directors: Patrick Botterman and Paula Xanthopoulou. Botterman has made it clear to Miles that his main interest is in delegates and he wants to make that his sole duty for the campaign. Xanthopoulou tells Miles she is in charge of managing the day-to-day operations during what she calls a time of transition. She comes to the campaign from Miami, where she is president of the Florida Chapter of the National Women’s Political Caucus.

Kerry is expected to get endorsed by two New York Members of Congress today in a conference call at 2:00 pm.

Edwards returns to NBC’s Meet the Press on November 9 for the first time since May 2002. - Raleigh News & Observer

And the Washington Post’s Broder calls the New York Times editorial advocating more candidates skip Iowa and New Hampshire “deeply offensive to anyone who knows that the meanest campaign ever run in Iowa and New Hampshire is an elevated spectacle compared to any contest in decades for mayor of New York City or borough president in Queens. Clean up your own mess, Timesfolk, before you go trashing the ‘quaint’ states!” He follows with: “That said, it was entirely sensible for Clark and Lieberman to bail out of Iowa.” Now viewed as a race for third place, Broder says of Iowa that his “guess is that the reward for finishing third will be minimal, unless it is a blanket finish.”

Oct. 28, 2003 / 9:30 AM ET

From Elizabeth Wilner, Mark Murray and Huma Zaidi

Iraq and health care today. On Topic #1, NBC’s Mike Viqueira reports the supplemental conferees meet at 10:30 am, with the loan proposal’s prospects for survival unlikely. After Democrats re-aired their differences on the war and the supplemental Sunday night, Lieberman now has a TV ad going up in New Hampshire tomorrow (buy TBD) attacking not only the President but Lieberman’s Democratic rivals who voted for the war but against the supplemental.

But Lieberman himself comes under criticism: On Hardball last night, “Sharpton called it ‘disingenuous’ for fellow contenders [Kerry, Edwards and Lieberman] to now question the Bush administration on exit strategies from Iraq. ‘You should not now say, “Oh my God, where is the exit strategy?” You should have asked him that when you gave him entry,’ Sharpton said.” — Boston Globe

Which sounds sort of like Dean’s argument. But Dean is getting attacked by Kucinich for airing a TV ad allegedly misrepresenting Kucinich’s and his own positions on the war, and Kucinich is threatening to go up with his own ads, embed Karin Caifa reports.

Meanwhile, new Gallup/CNN/USA Today numbers show “Independent voters, who some say are key to President Bush’s re-election hopes next year, are losing confidence in his leadership in Iraq as attacks there continue.”

“As headlines announce daily attacks against occupying forces, the American public’s resolve for staying the course is fading. Fifty-seven percent say the United States should withdraw some or all of its troops from Iraq. That is up considerably from two months ago, when 46% wanted to withdraw some or all of the troops.”

“Overall, 53% of those polled approve of the job Bush is doing as president. That is down from 56% earlier this month but still above his lowest rating, 50%, in mid-September... In a good sign for Bush, the poll found optimism on the economy. For the first time in 16 months, Americans who say the economy is getting better outnumber those who say it is getting worse, 47% to 43%. Last month, 40% said it was getting better and 50% said it was getting worse.”

On Topic #2, Bush readies his Medicare remarks for Wednesday while Clark talks health care (universal access for adults/universal coverage for kids) in New Hampshire at 11:00 am, and Gephardt talks health care (could that new “Iowa component” mean Medicare?) in Des Moines at 1:30 pm. Per an advance copy of Clark’s remarks, “Clark tells about his own experience with the health care system after being shot by a sniper in Vietnam,” the AP says. Edwards also talks health care in New Mexico.

A bunch of conference calls back it all up: Lieberman strategists Mandy Grunwald and Mark Penn on the campaign’s two new New Hampshire TV ads — the other touts Lieberman’s tax plan — at 11:00 am; Clark’s policy advisor on Clark’s health care plan at 1:30 pm; and the California Teachers Association on its endorsement of Dean at 1:45 pm.

And we’re now one week out from election day 2003. Bush hits the trail on Saturday. Meanwhile, the New Democrat Network goes up with ads in Kentucky today, including a spot attacking the GOP nominee for economic policies that favor the wealthy — without mentioning Bush by name. Ad buy TBD.

Politics of Iraq

The Chicago Tribune on how the escalation of violence in Iraq may present some political risks for the Administration: “The concern in GOP circles is such that one prominent Republican strategist said many party faithful hope the administration can provide an ‘achievable’ deadline for withdrawing U.S. troops by next summer. But that ‘decision-can’ keeps getting kicked down the street,’ the GOP strategist said.”

Still, “Bush’s political vulnerability to developments in Iraq will depend on whether Democratic candidates have an alternative plan acceptable to most Americans, said Democratic political consultant Jim Duffy. But Duffy also said Bush could help himself politically with some ‘truthful accounting,’ admitting that his administration miscalculated the strength of the opposition and that there are not enough troops in Iraq to do the job.”

The Washington Times enhances its report on Republican National Committee chairman Ed Gillespie’s (off-camera) press briefing yesterday with a draft memo from Gillespie to GOP leaders. At the briefing, Gillespie “acknowledged for the first time... what has been a growing concern of the GOP’s rank-and-file as well as elected officials for months - that the war in Iraq will be a major issue in President Bush’s attempt to win a second term.” He “said Republicans will go on the offense against critics, rather than playing defense. He said Republicans will draw ‘bright lines’ of distinction between their ‘positive views’ of America’s future and what he called the negative views of Democrats and the demonstrations of their supporters.”

Gillespie’s draft memo says: “‘Last week a significant minority, including leading Democrats, moved to the left of Syria and France by opposing funding for troops and reconstruction in Iraq. Some Democrats seem to think we would be better off had an international coalition not removed Saddam Hussein from power.’ The memo does not mention that some Republicans voted against the $87 billion,” the Times notes. “The memo also makes clear Mr. Bush will not back away from his policy of pre-emptive war, even though some in his own party have registered discomfort.”

Considering the Democrats’ situation, the Los Angeles Times’ Brownstein suggests all the focus on Iraq helps Dean “by sustaining a spotlight on the issue at the core of his candidacy. And even initial supporters of the war, such as Sens. John F. Kerry of Massachusetts and John Edwards of North Carolina, are being tugged in Dean’s direction as they express greater skepticism about President Bush’s policy in Iraq.”

“Just as important, the continued prominence of Iraq is making it tougher for Dean’s rivals to focus attention on other issues that might cause problems for him and undercut his support. That looms as a particular challenge for Kerry and Rep. Richard A. Gephardt of Missouri. Both men, on the defensive over their votes for the congressional resolution that authorized the war, are now trying to target Dean over statements suggesting he might support cuts in Medicare.”

Prescription drugs

Sources tell the Washington Post the conferees “have rejected a $163 billion plan favored by House conservatives that would create a major tax break for Americans who set up savings accounts for their medical expenses.”

“The sources said that the lawmakers participating in the secret negotiations have, in recent days, abandoned the most expensive of several tax provisions the House grafted onto its bill to redesign Medicare. Senators had warned that the issue would ruin the chances that a final agreement could pass in that chamber.”

“The White House will attempt to inject momentum into the issue Wednesday, when President Bush is to deliver another speech on Medicare in the White House Rose Garden. His press secretary, Scott McClellan, yesterday reiterated that Bush considers the issue a high priority.”

The Los Angeles Times: “with Bush’s public approval ratings slipping on domestic issues, GOP strategists are encouraging Republican leaders to show voters they can get the job done on Medicare.”

“Both Republican and Democratic strategists see potential for political gain in a Medicare prescription drug bill. Roughly one-fifth of voters are seniors, and many have been clamoring for years for Medicare prescription drug coverage. Beyond that, however, political strategists realize that the specifics of a Medicare reform bill - less than total drug coverage and changes that could increase seniors’ costs - could ultimately hurt their candidates.”

On drug importation, the Des Moines Register reports “Gov. Tom Vilsack is taking heart from Illinois’ conclusion that it could safely save millions of dollars by helping state employees buy prescription drugs through Canada. Vilsack asked his staff last month to look into whether such a program should be set up in Iowa.”

The leak

“Democrats are engaged in a full-throated attack on President Bush over the leak of the identity of a CIA employee, frustrated over the story’s apparent lack of traction in the national media,” the Washington Times reports.

A Kerry e-mail to supporters, forwarded by a recipient, touts a live online chat with Joe Wilson on Wednesday at 11:00 am. “Now’s your chance to ask Joe Wilson about the yellow cake, the White House leak, and Niger Uranium... he’ll also address questions about his time in Baghdad, his diplomatic career, and what’s to be done about our current situation in Iraq.”


NBC’s Ken Strickland reports Governor-elect Schwarzenegger will meet with Senate Majority Leader Frist and other Senate Republicans Wednesday at noon.

2004 Notes (D)

On Lieberman’s ads going up in New Hampshire today, the AP says: “Combined, the other four [to have run ads there] - Howard Dean of Vermont, Rep. Dick Gephardt of Missouri and Sens. John Kerry of Massachusetts and John Edwards of North Carolina - have spent more than $6 million on ads already, nearly a third of that in media markets that reach New Hampshire voters.”

“The tax ad will outline Lieberman’s plan to restructure the income tax code by cutting rates for the middle class while raising them for the wealthy. The Iraq spot will highlight what Lieberman calls Bush’s ‘absence of integrity’ in foreign policy decisions. It also will target some of his Democratic opponents who have supported the war but opposed Bush’s request for $87 billion to rebuild Iraq.”

Lieberman’s camp also launched a new website yesterday,, “to chronicle alleged distortions and deceptions by the president,” says the Boston Globe. And he has a Manchester Union-Leader op-ed on the middle class tax cut today.

The Kucinich campaign continues its crusade against Dean’s TV ad about his opponents’ stances on Iraq, embed Karin Caifa reports. “It’s not just an ad we dislike. It’s an ad that’s misleading,” said press secretary David Swanson. “The reason for the concerns over the ads is because they’re harmful to the campaign. It’s not something that we’re not going to allow to go unchallenged... There are problems with the ad that is running in Iowa, but not as great as the ones in New Hampshire,” Swanson continued. “It also very strongly implies that Dean opposed the spending of the $87 billion in Iraq. The same falsehoods were brought up in the debate last night and Dean never corrected it. These ads are misrepresenting Congressman Kucinich’s position but also misrepresenting Dean’s.” Caifa reports the campaign now says they’re considering running TV ads of their own to counter the Dean ads, a bold move for a campaign with relatively small coffers.

Embed Marisa Buchanan says some Clark statements on the trail last week about health care could offer hints as to what to expect today: Clark wants to cover all children first, support state programs that involve unaffiliated adults, and emphasize preventive care and diagnostic care. He said, “It’s a matter of stretching the existing system.” To one woman last week, he said, “There is no quick fix to this — a lot of the insurance thing has to be directed to cost control.” And he told another person with whom he discussed health care, “I’m kind of a high-tech guy” — referring to his advocacy of new modern technologies that could be used, as he said, “to control costs, prevent misdiagnosis and limit poor treatment regiments.” When reporters asked last week what Clark was reading, New Hampshire press secretary Bill Buck said he would not be surprised if it was quite a bit on health care policy.

The AP has details and puts the plan in the context of everyone else’s: Clark “would look to spend $695 billion over 10 years to ensure all American children get health insurance and expand access for coverage to adults. Like the plan offered by his rival John Edwards, Clark would make it law that parents get health insurance for their children. All families making up to five times the poverty limit would be eligible for a tax credit that could help them pay for their children’s health care, either through their employer or a government plan.”

“Clark said he also would give financial assistance to those who need help to buy insurance, provide incentives for disease prevention and seek to cut costs with better efficiency.”

“Some of Clark’s rivals - including Dick Gephardt, John Kerry, Howard Dean and Dennis Kucinich - are offering plans that aim to cover nearly all Americans. Clark is joining Edwards and Joe Lieberman in proposing alternatives that make more modest increases in coverage, but at a lower cost.”

And previewing Gephardt’s health care speech today, embed Priya David reports we can expect news, per the campaign. Deputy press secretary Kim Molstre says the speech adds a new component to Gephardt’s already extensive health care plan which will have relevance for Iowa voters. David advises not to expect a comparative speech, as with the past two times the campaign announced a “major policy speech.”

Dean embed Felix Schein says that when asked about Gephardt’s strength in Iowa and seeming publicity surge, a Dean spokesperson said, “Iowa is Representative Gephardt’s state to lose. Everyone should expect him to perform there. We don’t take anything for granted in October.” That said, Schein notes, don’t expect Dean to dramatically alter his Iowa or New Hampshire strategies to counter a Gephardt surge. According to numerous sources, the Dean campaign continues to see strong support and few indicators that Gephardt’s (or Kerry’s) attacks are damaging their campaign.

Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. is set to endorse Dean, the Chicago Tribune reports. “The backing of Jackson (D-Ill.) would be significant both in substantive and symbolic terms for Dean, particularly because of the prominence of Jackson’s name and its standing among black voters... With the support of Jackson and others, aides said, Dean would seek to increase his support in early primary states such as South Carolina, where nearly 40 percent of the Democratic primary vote is made up of African-Americans.”

Edwards embed Dugald McConnell says the Edwards fundraiser in Los Angeles tomorrow may draw the likes of Jack Nicholson and Charlize Theron, with hosts Dennis and Mrs. Hopper and (of course) Ashton Kutcher. McConnell says the Kutcher connection seems to have come from a campaign worker and Kutcher’s agent knowing each other, but this apparent odd couple may have a thing or two in common: Kutcher swept floors at a General Mills plant, and Edwards swept floors at a mill. “My understanding is, that’s why he likes Edwards: they came from the same kind of working class background,” a staffer says. “He thinks he’s a normal guy.” The two met for dinner, McConnell was told, with Kutcher girlfriend Demi Moore in tow.

McConnell also notes Edwards yesterday preemptively criticized an expected Bush tax cut on retirement savings accounts before it has been proposed. “Republican National Committee spokesman David James said Edwards’ position is hostile toward reforms that would ease the tax burden on millions of Americans,” the Des Moines Register says.

The Los Angeles Times looks at “the problem plaguing Edwards’ candidacy not only in Iowa but in New Hampshire... He receives high marks for his message and its presentation. But so far, such favorable reactions have translated into little steadfast support. Analysts speculate that the first-term senator simply remains too much of an unknown to most voters. And some suggest he may best be suited for the second spot on the Democratic ticket.”

“The question that now dogs the Edwards campaign is whether he can recapture the buzz that surrounded his candidacy when he ended the first quarter of this year as the top fund-raiser among the Democratic candidates.”

“Edwards... tailored his most recent speeches around proposals for reforming the nation’s health-care system, unveiling a plan for improving nursing homes and another for lowering the cost of prescription medications.”

Kerry embed Becky Diamond notes Kerry’s schedule is extremely Iowa-heavy for the next seven days, with five days in Iowa and two in New Hampshire — and nothing else. The Iowa events are mostly meet-and-greets with local Democrats in various counties; in New Hampshire, there are some house parties and political events. Kerry’s Iowa state director told Diamond to expect Kerry to spend about 10 days a month in Iowa for the next few months.

Kerry’s publisher touts Kerry’s new book — published by Viking and selling for $24.95 — as “the first book from Democrats’ field of candidates to take on the issues in detail,” Diamond notes. The book “sets Senator Kerry apart from the vast crowd of candidates, demonstrating clearly his experience in both domestic as well as foreign affairs.” Kerry had a book-signing in New York yesterday, though Diamond the campaign didn’t notify the traveling press until shortly before the event.

Kucinich has a book out, too, embed Karin Caifa notes: a collection of essays and speeches penned by Kucinich throughout his career in public service, including the February 2002 “Prayer for America” speech advising against military action in Iraq that sparked a “draft Kucinich” movement that eventually led to his presidential bid. The book can be purchased from the campaign for $15.

Embed Dionne Scott reports that at St. Anselm’s College in New Hampshire yesterday, Independent voter Bob Jean told Lieberman: “We need to know a little bit more about your strengths and weaknesses. So what I’d like to know is when you review your whole life, what is the most, the biggest success in your life? And also what is the biggest failure in your life? And how learning from each of those, how will that make you a better president?” At first, Scott says, it seemed Lieberman might offer some personal insight, acknowledging that Jean was “asking difficult, but important questions that really go to the heart of how, I believe, people make a judgment about who to support.” Then Lieberman launched into his bio — the grandchild of immigrants, born into a hardworking and religious family, the first child to attend college, etc. — and then said, “Let’s see if I wanna answer some of your personal questions.” Turned out he didn’t, Scott notes. Instead, Lieberman predicted how the world may change for the worse if Bush stays in office, then wrapped up by saying, “The personal stuff is real personal.”

Afterward, Jean told Scott the exchange didn’t turn him off or away from Lieberman, but said it makes a difference: “He’s not really very open personally. He didn’t show any self-introspection at all. Like if you ask McCain what his successes or failures are, he’d give you a whole list. You know, that endears people to him. I think that makes it hard when he can’t give of himself a little bit more.”

Moseley Braun embed Angela Miles reports the campaign, which has gone without a director since early August, may undergo more staff changes. Interim director Patrick Botterman says he wants to focus solely on delegate selection and says with the deadlines inching closer, he would prefer to give up his interim director duties. Miles writes that apparently some candidates are lining up for the director’s job, but when she asked if anyone would be coming in from another campaign, the answer was simply that the hiring would be newsworthy.

Sharpton embed Tom Llamas says of the candidate’s turn on Hardball last night that by his count, Sharpton won three rounds and host Chris Matthews won two, but Sharpton’s scorecard reads differently: He told Llamas he won three rounds, tied one, and gave Mathews one. Llamas says Matthews hit Sharpton hard in asking Sharpton to explain how he would pay for his health care plan, calling him on a lack of specificity. Llamas also says Sharpton shone the brightest when he was able to steer the crowd onto his side by using political commentary while adding a joke or two along the way.

And finally, addressing the sardine-packed house at Dream last night, former President Clinton gave a short but energized speech to some 5,000 (per the emcee) attendees. Clinton was tough on Bush, calling his presidency an affirmative action decision by the Supreme Court for a party who has struggled to win and maintain the presidency. Clinton also said “we’ve gotta make more friends.” Seeking to mobilize younger voters, the Democratic National Committee had tapped hip-hop performers from DC’s trendiest nightclubs. Chairman Terry McAuliffe, who introduced Clinton to deafening cheers, told the crowd Bush didn’t deserve their votes and that they should get out on the “streets” and get people to listen to what they have to say — and if they don’t listen, to “tackle” them.

Oct. 27, 2003 / 9:30 AM ET

From Elizabeth Wilner, Mark Murray and Huma Zaidi

An added morning meeting with his special envoy to Iraq ensures Bush comments on the latest attacks, while news outlets have until 10:00 pm Tuesday to use up to two minutes of sound of the Democratic candidates attacking Bush and each other on the war in Detroit last night. For Republican National Committee reax to last night’s Democratic presidential debate, chairman Ed Gillespie holds a pen and pad at 11:00 am. Former President Clinton spearheads the Democratic National Committee’s quest for the hip-hop vote at a fundraiser tonight at DC nightclub Dream, aimed at drawing younger donors for $50 a pop.

Regarding last night’s debate: 1) The Democratic field can still spend the bulk of 90 minutes debating their own positions on the war; 2) another debate went by without frontrunner Dean getting truly pummeled; and 3) does Dean’s pledge to do everything he can to help the Democratic nominee get elected extend to making nice at the convention?

Next debate up: MSNBC’s Des Moines debate on November 24, moderated by Tom Brokaw.

Tomorrow, Gephardt and Clark talk health care in Des Moines and New Hampshire, respectively, prior to Bush’s Medicare speech in DC Wednesday. Gephardt expects to offer one new component to his health care plan. The South Carolina teachers go for Edwards; the California teachers go for Dean, who also picks up the painters’ union endorsement today.

The Washington Post decrees: “Medicare and energy legislation, moving haltingly toward a final showdown, hold the key to the scorecard for the first session of the 108th Congress.” The Post also says of that House GOP-drafted “tax cut aimed at aiding ailing U.S. manufacturers” that the definition of manufacturing “has expanded steadily to include agriculture, food processing, construction, mining, software, movie making, recording, oil refining, and even architectural and engineering services.”

“Committee Republicans hope to approve the legislation tomorrow, with a House vote possible early next month.”

“The inclusion of architectural and engineering firms under the manufacturing definition may prove politically problematic, since it ensures that Halliburton Co., the oil services conglomerate formerly headed by Vice President Cheney, would benefit from the bill’s new manufacturers’ tax rate.”

And Roll Call reports that amidst the focus on Medicare and other hot issues, “Senate GOP leaders are still shopping around myriad proposals to see what, if anything, on their ‘B’ list of legislation can be accomplished while leaders wait for pending conferences on the ‘A’ list to yield results.” They “continue to seriously contemplate bringing up a controversial wildfire prevention bill, a measure to punish criminals who harm a pregnant woman’s fetus, a bill to protect firearms manufacturers from lawsuits, and more judicial nominees that Democrats find objectionable, among other things.”

Prescription drugs

Hot this week: drug importation. The Washington Post says Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D), “intensifying his battle with Bush administration regulators over rising drug bills, will release an analysis today showing that his state could save $91 million a year by buying prescription medications from Canada.”

“At a hearing in Boston tomorrow, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) is expected to tout his plan for steering thousands of residents to Canadian drug suppliers that receive the state’s ‘stamp of approval.’ Pawlenty, like Blagojevich and a handful of other governors, is considering waiving drug co-payments for state employees who shop at an authorized Canadian pharmacy.”

“There are indications that the Bush administration is sensitive to the political currents, particularly for state and local officials. After a meeting with Massachusetts leaders, William K. Hubbard, the FDA’s senior associate commissioner, said the agency has no intention of suing a city or state that helps citizens buy medicine from Canada.”

USA Today reports out the Illinois study.

Partial birth

The Sunday New York Times noted the “new ban represents, not a watershed, but a kind of equilibrium, a resting place in the 30-year national conflict over Roe. Most Americans, they say, and most political candidates, have little inclination to roll back Roe entirely.”

”[T]he ban lays down the marker for the next battle in the abortion wars: the 2004 presidential election. So far, the courts have rejected attempts to ban a particular abortion procedure. Three years ago, the Supreme Court struck down a Nebraska law similar to the one Congress just passed, on the grounds that it was overly broad and did not include an exception for the mother’s health. But the decision was a narrow one, 5 to 4. Both sides know that with one or more Supreme Court justices now contemplating retirement, that majority could easily flip the other way if Republicans keep their hold on the White House.”

TheNew York Daily News says Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist has vowed to push through two more bills relating to abortion and pregnant women. “Frist said Republicans will first try to pass the Unborn Victims of Violence Act - inspired by the Laci Peterson murder - which would pin a federal rap on killing a fetus during a violent crime.”

“Frist said legislators also will take up a parental notification bill that will require children of military members to get permission before getting an abortion at a military installation.”

The economy

The Fed meets Tuesday, with interest rates expected to stay low, but some churning going on over “whether Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan and his colleagues are at risk of getting behind the inflation curve.” — USA Today

The Wall Street Journal reports a serious push on Capitol Hill for expansion of the H-1B visa program for high-tech workers “despite complaints that plenty of Americans are available to fill the jobs.” “Advocates of liberalizing the visa program concede it will be a tough sell. Sparked by rising layoffs among U.S. tech workers, a backlash of American workers and labor unions has targeted the widespread use of the visas as a significant cause of U.S. job woes. They contend that U.S. companies often are replacing American workers with lesser-paid foreign workers.” No Administration reax or comments in the story.

2004 notes (R)

The Washington Post, aided by its own survey and analysis, considers the hopes the GOP is pinning on the investor class — direct or indirect investors in the stock market. “Some Republican strategists see this investor class as one key to their future — akin to soccer moms or the burgeoning Latino population — and argue that the more these voters are in the market, the more likely they are to support the kind of free market-oriented economic policies associated with GOP administrations. Over time, some of them say, more of these voters, regardless of income, education or family background, will identify and vote as Republicans... Democrats say those claims are vastly overstated, but they are doing their own studies just to be sure.”

The Post “found that Americans who have bought individual stocks — ‘direct investors’ — are more optimistic about the economy, more likely to identify themselves as Republicans, have a more favorable view of the GOP and are more inclined to support Bush’s reelection than are non-investors of comparable income.”

“Where Republicans strategists are wrong is in their assumption that less direct involvement in the market changes attitudes and party affiliation.”

“Ruy Teixeira, a Democrat who has studied the demographic trends of the electorate, says the flaw in the Republican theory is that the investor class is simply too large and diverse to be remotely considered a homogenous group.”

“The battle for the hearts and minds of the investor class will intensify as even more Americans start retirement or other long-term savings plans, as will the debate about how to appeal to them.”


The Governor-elect travels to Washington this week, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. “Schwarzenegger plans to meet with all 53 members of the state’s House delegation, both senators, and several members of President Bush’s cabinet during his 48-hour stay beginning Tuesday. There are no plans to meet with Bush, who flies to Texas on Wednesday.”

With Bush campaign manager Ken Mehlman visiting California on Thursday, the Los Angeles Times’ Brownstein, leading with how “the White House needs Schwarzenegger to succeed in office if Bush is to have any chance of seriously contesting California in 2004,” goes on to lay out how on state aid, CHIP expansion and expansion of after-school programs, allowing illegal immigrants to work toward citizenship, and a bunch of energy and environmental proposals, Schwarzenegger arguably is more in line with the Democratic presidential field.

CBC debate

The Boston Globe: “Set in Detroit, the 90-minute debate showcased the candidates for two key groups of voters: union members and African-Americans, both powerful forces in the Michigan caucuses on Feb. 7. More strategically, the location gave Democrats a chance to begin building general election support in this critical swing state, whose 17 Electoral College votes have made it a prime target for candidates from both parties.”

The Los Angeles Times: “More than a third of the 90-minute debate was devoted to the war in Iraq, a matter the candidates have debated at length on virtually every occasion they have come together.”

The New York Times says the bickering over the Iraq supplemental vote added “new vigor” to this debate.

The AP: “even as the nine candidates debated Sunday over who would make a better commander in chief, party regulars warned that the emphasis on foreign policy and military service will backfire unless the contenders articulate their own vision.”

Clark embed Marisa Buchanan says Clark’s response to the question about Gen. Hugh Shelton’s negative comments from over a month ago resulted in some bewildered looks in the press room, with many saying the answer was hard to follow. Later, in the spin room, spokesperson Matt Bennett said, “Clark’s integrity was challenged without any sort of back up. Hugh Shelton refuses to say what he meant about the charge on General Clark’s integrity, that’s un-American.” Speaking of Clark’s integrity, Bennett added, “When somebody attacks that and refuses to say why, I would say that that is not consistent with American values and I think that he would say that the way McCarthy conducted his hearing was not consistent about American values.”

Buchanan reports Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick (D) said he was thoroughly impressed with Clark when Clark first announced, but apparently was not impressed with his debating skills: “He is gonna have to get it together pretty soon. It’s tough to have to make the transition from General to public servant but he has to make it quick — he’s running for president.” He added, “He is gonna have to strengthen his debate skills and strengthen his positions on things so it’s concise so people understand where he is.” Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick (D), the Mayor’s mom, had a different view: “I thought the General did a good job. With what he had — a lot of questions came at him, when you’re at the top or near the top you get a lot of opposition from the others.” But she also added that he needed to be a bit “sharper and direct.”

While the candidates may be getting debate fatigue, embed Dugald McConnell says, Edwards noted there was also an advantage to having one every week or two. “It’s very hard with nine candidates to get a lot through with one debate. But if you have a series of debates,” he said, “people will develop a real impression of you.”

Gephardt embed Priya David captures a point of contention: Gephardt campaign manager Steve Murphy argued, “I don’t know how Howard Dean gets away with saying in Iowa on Friday, two days ago, that Medicare and all other entitlements are on the table for budget cuts and then tonight in the debate says they’re off the table. No entitlements are on the table; Medicare and Medicaid are not on the table. So he’s saying two different things in two different places.” Murphy was referring to a statement Dean made on Friday on Iowa public TV; the Gephardt campaign claims Dean said, “We’re going to have to limit the growth of entitlement programs.” Murphy argues this is simply a “Republican euphemism for cutting Medicare... It’s exactly the kind of language Republicans used in 1995 to support their $270 billion Medicare cut.” Dean campaign manager Joe Trippi had not seen the Iowa TV program at the time David asked about it and had no immediate comment.

Embed Becky Diamond notes Kerry continued to dodge the Iraq bullet. He can’t seem to escape the criticism of his vote authorizing the President to go to war. His campaign said they were not surprised at all about the Iraq questions during the debate — especially the criticism from Lieberman for Kerry’s vote against the $87 billion. Spokesperson Robert Gibbs said about Lieberman, “John Kerry asked tough questions before we went to war with Iraq, not after.” Proposing a debate, Gibbs said, “If Joe Lieberman wants to debate with Senator Kerry — it’s not something we’ll shy away from.” The reason Kerry voted against the $87 billion, according to Gibbs: because “the administration doesn’t have a plan in Iraq and John Kerry won’t write a blank check.”

Diamond also notes that at every possible opportunity during the debate, Kerry criticized Dean’s policies. USA Today links that to the latest New Hampshire poll: “Kerry was dealing with particularly bad news: A Zogby International poll from New Hampshire released Friday that showed former Vermont governor Howard Dean with a big lead of 40% among likely Democratic voters to Kerry’s 17%... So it was no surprise when Kerry questioned Dean’s qualifications to be commander-in-chief and charged that Dean would raise taxes on middle-class workers by repealing the child tax credit and marriage penalty remedy that were part of Bush’s tax cuts.”

And the paper also has this on Lieberman and Clark: “Lieberman needled former Gen. Wesley Clark for past statements praising Bush and his prosecution of the war. The two men both hope to break through in the half-dozen contests that follow Iowa and New Hampshire.”

Kucinich embed Karin Caifa, reporting on Kucinich’s misstated number of fatalities in Detroit in September, says Kucinich told her he’s just looking for the truth: “Look, everyone makes mistakes,” he said. “I made a mistake with some numbers tonight. But I admitted it. When you’re wrong, why not just admit you made a mistake?”

Lieberman embed Dionne Scott notes how not only did Lieberman take one from Kerry on Iraq, but Sharpton, generally Lieberman’s buddy at debates — in Baltimore, they joked with each other on stage, and in New York debate, Sharpton introduced Lieberman to his daughter — this time singled Lieberman out, questioning him on the Middle East conflict: “Let’s put the hard questions out, Senator Lieberman. Would you meet with the head of the Palestinian Authority?”

Was Lieberman thrown by either attack? Regarding Kerry, Scott says, Lieberman wouldn’t say whether he was thrown, but did say, “Look, I was raising in response to questions serious positions about inconsistencies and waffling” by Kerry and Clark. As for Sharpton, Lieberman said, “Reverend Sharpton asked a question of me. Fair enough. And I answered it. I felt good about it. Look, this was a debate. How are the Democratic voters in Michigan and around America gonna know who to vote for, unless we respectfully ask each other questions. That’s one of the tests of leadership.”

Embed Tom Llamas asked Sharpton if he is adopting a new strategy at debates, ditching the referee act and getting aggressive. Sharpton: “I think I responded to what Lieberman said. I think you got to be fair when you talk about terrorists, who are the terrorists, and I responded to what he said, and I responded on policy. What I’ve tried to say at the debates is let’s not get personal, and I think I did not get personal tonight. I dealt from a policy point of view. I will continue to do that throughout the campaign.”

2004 Notes (D)

The Boston Globe previews the Democratic party’s fundraiser tonight and says: “Next year, Boston will be the host city for a large hip-hop summit prior to the Democratic National Convention, according to Benjamin Chavis, former NAACP president and CEO of the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network. The exact time and place are still in the works, said Chavis, adding that the summits were a way to register the hip-hop generation to vote.”

Per a campaign source, Clark this morning will claim the endorsements of Wisconsin’s lieutenant governor and over 20 current and former state lawmakers. His “Conversations with Clark” event today on health care is meant to preview his health care speech in New Hampshire tomorrow.

The New York Post notes how Clark, who once billed himself as the frontrunner, has now “done a strategic about-face” by portraying himself as the underdog. Also: “The retired general is also trying to invigorate his campaign by copying Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s ‘listening tour’ in 2000.”

Lieberman touts his plan to revamp the tax code and counters GOP charges that he wants to raise taxes in a Wall Street Journal op-ed.

Edwards embed Dugald McConnell says the campaign has launched a contest for supporters who spot when other candidates are copying ideas Edwards proposed first. For example, the campaign claims Dean is a “planburglar” for touting a free year of college, and Kerry is a planburglar for proposing incentives to keep jobs from going overseas.

Regarding Kucinich’s efforts to have Dean’s latest New Hampshire ad pulled, Kucinich embed Karin Caifa reports Kucinich’s legal counsel expects to take the claim “to the next level” today (details TBD), and that Kucinich said he had a “private conversation” with Dean in New Hampshire on Saturday.

Roll Call reports, “With the help of Democratic lawmakers, a progressive radio outfit plans to launch a national talk show in January, the first step by a liberal organization to gain a presence in a medium dominated by conservatives in recent years. Partnering with Jones Radio Network, Democracy Radio has signed Ed Schultz, a North Dakota-based radio personality with a liberal bent, to deliver a progressive message.”

The Wall Street Journal says “Democrats are tailoring a message aimed at cutting the emotional bond President Bush forged with Latino voters.” The New Democrat Network “plans to test a couple of commercials on Spanish-language TV stations late this year or early next year. The ads will lean on emotional images aimed at spelling out the key differences between the Republican and Democratic parties’ positions.”

“Though they haven’t yet decided on the specific commercials, the New Democrats are considering both positive ads focusing on education and economic opportunity and negative ads focusing on the perception that the Bush administration has been disappointing on immigration and relations with Latin America.”

November 4

A new poll by the Lexington Herald-Leader and other media groups now has GOP nominee Ernie Fletcher leading by nine points in the Kentucky governor’s race. Meanwhile, the AP says President Bush will campaign yet again for Fletcher on Saturday.

In the Mississippi governor’s race, a new poll for the Jackson Clarion-Ledger and the AP has Haley Barbour (R) leading Gov. Ronnie Musgrove (D) by five points, but the race is “a statistical dead heat considering the poll’s 4 percent margin of error.