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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 17, 2003 / 09:30 AM ET

From Elizabeth Wilner, Mark Murray, and Huma Zaidi

The “simple” side of the day in politics: the return of Rush, and the swearing-in of Governor Schwarzenegger at 2:00 pm ET in a ceremony billed as simple, but amounting to a global media event.

The not-so-simple side: some 2,200 pages of Medicare and energy legislation backed by the White House and not yet thoroughly perused by many Members on both sides, with votes looming and Senate Democrats ready to dig in their heels. The injection of market forces into a government program, as the Wall Street Journal describes the Medicare deal, is bigger and sexier than energy, so Medicare gets more play.

But Iowa, we’d note, where the energy bill would double ethanol production, cares about both. We’re now one week out from MSNBC’s Des Moines debate, and just over two months shy of the caucuses. The Democratic candidates are facing and making choices on spending time and effort in Iowa versus elsewhere. Gephardt and Dean take their war up another notch. Kerry kicks off an Iowa bus tour under pressure to move past his staffing problems. Lieberman, who’s not competing there, threatens to filibuster the energy bill and skips the debate to campaign in New Hampshire. Clark, also not competing there, does the debate but launches his first TV ad in New Hampshire focusing on his military service.

That ad, and his mid-December trip to The Hague, raise the question of whether Clark is too focused on the war, given how undefined he remains on domestic issues. Embed Marisa Buchanan says Clark’s December 15-16 appearance at The Hague has the campaign trying to reorganize his schedule. Since they found out the exact date just recently, they have been discussing with lawyers the role the campaign has to take both with traveling staff and publicity associated with his trip. Clark on how he will manage the campaign and the trial at the same time: “This interrupts the campaign. That’s a duty... This is an historic trial. It’s absolutely essential to make the case against Slobodan Milosevic.” The Des Moines Register (not that he’s campaigning in Iowa) headline: “Clark’s campaign to take break next month.”

And Moseley Braun embed Angela Miles reports former NOW president Patricia Ireland — who, we’d note, can raise real money — will be named the new campaign manager today; the campaign has gone without a permanent manager since August.

The Washington Post says “GOP House and Senate negotiators have decided to put the vouchers provision — and the $5.6 billion 2004 District budget to which it is attached — into a larger federal budget bill that cannot be amended.”

Drugs and energy

The Los Angeles Times: “As the mammoth bills head toward final votes, the GOP’s main challenges in the next few days are to hold party ranks in the House - especially on a $400-billion Medicare expansion that dismays many conservatives - and to fend off Democratic filibusters against both bills in the Senate.”

“Enactment of the two pieces of legislation would enable Bush to claim that Washington’s perennial gridlock on two highly controversial domestic issues has been broken by the first full year of Republican control of both the legislative and executive branches in half a century. Failure on either, or both, would reinforce Democratic claims that Bush is steering the country too far to the right to get things done.”

“Prospects for passage of both bills in the House appear good, advocates say, but battles may lie ahead in the Senate.”

On the energy bill, USA Today says Lieberman may help Schumer filibuster over concerns about water pollution. USA Today also breaks down the interests who would benefit from the bill.

The Wall Street Journal says “Democratic leaders remain unhappy with some provisions of the proposal, though it is unlikely they can block it... [T]he 1,100-page proposal was crafted to attract enough Democrats to assure passage by asserting that it will create one million new jobs in the construction and energy sectors, and emphasizing incentives that have broad appeal in farm states and in coal country.”

On Medicare, the Los Angeles Times considers the “fundamental difference - Medicare as a government program versus Medicare as a huge government-subsidized health insurance market - that underlies the deep divisions between Democratic opponents of the bill and its Republican supporters.”

The Washington Post notes the Medicare negotiators conceded yesterday “the 1,100-page bill is not entirely written and that congressional budget analysts will not determine at least until late today how the plan fits within the $400 billion Congress has set aside for it.”

“AARP, the 35-million-member group for older Americans, did not make a formal endorsement but sent positive signals.” AARP has pledged to spend money to gin up voter support for a bipartisan bill it can back.

The New York Times: “an administration official said on Sunday that that he did not expect Senate Democrats to use their ultimate weapon, a filibuster, to block the bill... ‘I don’t think anyone wants to kill drug coverage for seniors on a filibuster.’”

Edwards embed Dugald McConnell gets this from the candidate: “There’s a bill passing through Congress right now. Just to be clear to everybody, this is George Bush’s ideas. The proposal in Congress will drive seniors into HMOs. At least in my judgment, it is not the kind of prescription benefit we need in this country. There were some minor cost control provisions, but they’ve been taken out. What a surprise, you know, the drug industry has won once again.”

And on the energy bill: “It was put together by Republicans behind closed doors. The result is, we weren’t in the process. I don’t know a lot of the details, and I need to know the details. What I know about it leads me strongly to believe I will be against it, just because it sounds like it’s loaded with special interest provisions, and it’s taken out some of the conservation things that we believe in.”

Politics of war

The Washington Post notes Bush’s remarks yesterday about Saturday’s chopper crash “reflected the view of some aides that as casualties mount, he takes a risk by remaining silent, as he did after the Nov. 2 downing of a Chinook helicopter that killed 16 soldiers.”

Iowa’s currently neutral Democratic governor told the Washington Post that Dean “is vulnerable to Republican attacks that he is not tough enough to keep the United States safe in the age of terrorism, despite rising opposition to President Bush’s handling of the war to stabilize Iraq.” The comments “highlighted the unease that exists in some parts of the party over Dean’s candidacy and the importance the Iraq war is playing in the campaigns for the Democratic nomination.”

“Some leading Democrats believe the politics of Iraq have changed in recent months because of the stream of terrorist attacks there and the rising U.S. casualties. They say that leaves Dean far less exposed politically than he was when the war began and there was overwhelming public support for Bush’s policies.” Iowa Gov. Tom “Vilsack said he believes Dean may be able to overcome questions about his strength to protect the country, but not because of changing perceptions about Bush’s policies in Iraq.”

“Vilsack’s comments came just as Dean reinjected the war issue into the Iowa campaign by attacking Gephardt for supporting Bush and the congressional resolution authorizing the president to go to war. A new Dean direct-mail brochure includes a photo of Gephardt and Bush in the Rose Garden on the day the president announced a deal with congressional leaders on language for the resolution and says Gephardt stood ‘shoulder-to-shoulder with President Bush’ on the issue.”


The Los Angeles Times, tongue-in-cheek, previews the quote-unquote simple ceremony: “All right, so there will be a few brass bands. Seven thousand or so invited guests. A five-story camera riser groaning with the weight of an international press corps. Live, national television coverage. A flotilla of satellite trucks. Every living former governor of California, with the sole exception of Ronald Reagan. Both houses of the Legislature. A Hollywood contingent expected to include Tom Arnold, Jamie Lee Curtis, Danny DeVito, Linda Hamilton and Rob Lowe. A few Kennedys. And Kaiser Jagdproviant (which is not someone you salute, but something you eat). Not to mention Vanessa Williams singing the national anthem.”

The Wall Street Journal on the business end of the new Governor’s day: “Scheduled among his first official acts Monday... will be to convene a special session of the California legislature to consider changes to the state’s workers’ compensation system, aides say. Premiums paid by businesses have more than tripled to about $20 billion annually from about $6 billion in 1998. State legislators say they have been advised by Mr. Schwarzenegger’s office to prepare to begin meeting on the issue as early as Tuesday afternoon.”

“Also Monday, aides say, Mr. Schwarzenegger is set to move to reduce by two-thirds the annual license fee for cars, effectively repealing an increase imposed by his Democratic predecessor, Gray Davis, to help close the state’s budget gap...”

“But rolling back the license fees won’t help Mr. Schwarzenegger deal with his biggest challenge — the state’s perilous fiscal position... Mr. Schwarzenegger is believed to be considering sponsoring a massive bond issue, of $15 billion or more, for voter approval in the March primary. But Democrats, who control substantial majorities in both houses of the state Legislature, and all other statewide offices, are skeptical.”

The Los Angeles Times, speculating on outgoing Gov. Gray Davis’ political future, says Davis “has hinted at a political comeback - sometimes in a joking fashion, at other times seriously - noting that his removal from office so early in his second term means he still could serve another term as governor, said people close to Davis, all speaking on the condition of anonymity.”


On the Louisiana gov run-off, the Los Angeles Times’ Brownstein writes that Democrat Kathleen Blanco’s “win will probably avert a full-scale panic among Southern Democrats unnerved when the GOP captured governorships in Kentucky and Mississippi two weeks ago.”

“Yet the overall trend in the region since President Bush took office still looks ominous for Democrats. In 2004, with Bush on the ballot, the Republicans appear to be poised for further Southern gains. Indeed, the GOP’s solidifying hold on Dixie now looms as perhaps the most imposing obstacle to Democratic hopes of regaining control of either Congress or the White House.”

“In 2004, population growth will swell the number of Electoral College votes from those 13 Southern states to 168. That means the South alone could provide Bush with more than three-fifths of the 270 Electoral College votes he needs for reelection. Even if Florida, the most competitive Southern state, slips away from him, the South could still give Bush just over half the electoral votes he needs.”

The New York Times says a late attack ad criticizing Jindal’s health-care record pushed Blanco over the finish line. The New Orleans Times-Picayune adds that Blanco was also successful in capturing support among white voters. “Jindal’s bold push to win over African-American voters with high-profile endorsements succeeded to a point: He got 9 percent of the black vote, almost twice what most Republicans typically get in the state.”

“But as much attention as that garnered, a key to Blanco’s victory was the white vote, of which she won 40 percent...”

More 2004 notes (D)

Florida “party leaders voted Sunday to not hold the non-binding beauty contest at their convention near Orlando next month, succumbing to pressure from candidates who feared a time-consuming and costly battle in Florida just weeks before real votes are cast in Iowa, New Hampshire and other key states.” — Miami Herald

The Los Angeles Times says the Gephardt-Dean war “is what appears most significant in the race. By favoring one over the other, Iowa Democrats will take a first step toward selecting not just a candidate but also a whole strategy for replacing President Bush, choosing whether to mount an antiestablishment crusade or take a more conventional economic populist approach.”

“There is almost a messianic quality to Dean and his candidacy, a fervor that makes his effort sometimes seem less a political campaign than a social movement. Gephardt, like the voters he attracts, is more matter-of-fact.”

“Voters who support Dean, or at least are considering him, tend to see Gephardt as too familiar and too much a product of Washington... Gephardt voters tend to see Dean as an upstart, a media creation even, who lacks stature and seems unconvincing as president.”

The Boston Globe says “a clear theme is emerging from some corners of the Democratic establishment, that the angry rhetoric that is Dean’s trademark cannot win in a general election. Several of Dean’s rivals hope to turn that argument into a political strategy, portraying themselves as the sunny alternative.”

“In truth, Dean in his stump speech blends angry attacks on Bush with specific proposals for what he would do in office... But Dean clearly was among the first to use Democratic fury against Bush to his advantage, and it is not difficult to portray his rhetorical style — blunt, quick, sometimes defensive — as more negative than some of his opponents’.”

The Los Angeles Times reviews Clark on Meet the Press, while USA Today runs the results of its interview with Clark yesterday, and the Boston Globe continues its two-part profile: Part 1 and Part 2.

Dean embed Felix Schein reports Dean is now on the record saying public financing effectively died when President Bush opted out of the program in 2000 and that campaigns have no choice but to follow suit if they want to remain competitive. Dean noted that he remains open to the idea of voluntary spending limits during the primaries, as suggested by Kerry, but added that the idea has not yet been discussed internally and he has no position on it for now.

Schein notes that Dean, at an on-the-record brunch with reporters this past weekend, in fact did his best to avoid all questions related to Kerry, including questions about Kerry partly self-financing his campaign. However, Dean did say he is worried about agreeing to limits, along with Kerry, given that Kerry broke such an agreement in his re-election battle against Bill Weld. Asked about it in more general terms, Schein says, Dean did question the self-financing of campaigns, saying, “If this is about public support, this does raise issues... There is something that bothers me about that. It just doesn’t seem right if you have a billion dollars it seems funny to use your money.”

Edwards embed Dugald McConnell notes Edwards today becomes the first Democratic candidate to take part in a series of forums hosted by Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle called “Wisconsin Works.” “Jobs and the economy is certainly the No. 1 issue,” says Edwards state director John Kraus. “Wisconsin Democratic primary voters are not as liberal as some of the earlier states. They’re probably more moderate than Iowa and New Hampshire.”

TheRaleigh News and Observer looks at what Edwards needs to be viable.

The Saturday Boston Globe said the Edwards camp hopes “to exploit the recent turmoil in” Kerry’s campaign and “have hyped the largely negative media coverage of Kerry’s decision to fire his campaign manager and of the subsequent resignations of two top Kerry deputies.”

“Kerry advisers say they regard Edwards as a serious threat in the state, pointing out that he appears to be running low on campaign cash to purchase television advertising in January, traditionally a crucial factor.”

Roll Call says western Missouri remains fertile territory for Gephardt’s rivals looking to make inroads in a February 3 state. That said, the paper also reports on signs that Gephardt “has his Iowa campaign back on track and is given the best chance to deal Dean a blow in the state and possibly slow his momentum nationally.”

Kerry embed Becky Diamond reports Kerry’s “Real Deal” Iowa bus tour kicked off yesterday with about 20 supporters and five members of the Senator’s staff as well as five traveling press in tow. The idea, Diamond says, is that Kerry’s on the bus with those he’s fighting for: students, veterans, families and firefighters. Spokesperson David Wade says the tour will “send a ripple through Iowa” and will “reestablish that it’s a three-person race in Iowa.”

Diamond also reports Kerry talked about his recently discovered Jewish roots at a Des Moines synagogue yesterday. Diamond says he made the comment after talking about the struggle and persecution of the Jewish people — that the Jewish people understand how important it is to have good leadership. He said, “We understand [that struggle] and I say ‘we’ because of my ties to the Jewish faith and my own history.” He told reporters later, “What I was thinking was a generic we.”

Also at the synagogue, Kerry said “Dean has displayed foreign-policy inexperience through past statements about the conflict between Israel and Palestine.” — Des Moines Register

The New York Daily News describes Kerry’s “last-ditch effort to compete in Iowa.”

Kucinich embed Karin Caifa notes that halfway through November, the campaign’s effort to raise $800,000 looks out of reach. So far the total sits at $210,386. Copies of Kucinich’s book, sold through the campaign to raise money, have sold out. Good for book sales, Caifa says, but bad for the fundraising effort, with another printing not expected till mid-December. The campaign holds a fundraiser in Manhattan Friday night featuring author Barbara Ehrenreich, who wrote “Nickel and Dimed: On (not) Getting by in America,” among others.

Lieberman embed Dionne Scott gets Lieberman himself on skipping the Iowa debate: “There are three or four debates coming up in Iowa and I’m not participating in the Iowa caucuses, I made that judgment. It just seems to me that on that day I have some commitments here in New Hampshire that I wanna keep. So this is where I begin my run for the White House in the first in the nation New Hampshire primary. My guess is that I will go to one or more of the other debates in Iowa for the caucuses.”

The Des Moines Register takes the latest long look at what the Internet has done to presidential campaigning, while the Washington Post Style section covers the lighter side — the all-too-serious fighting amongst the two dot-com movements to draft Sen. Hillary Clinton into the race.

November 14, 2003 / 09:30 AM ET

From Elizabeth Wilner, Mark Murray, and Huma Zaidi

The Wall Street Journal: “Bush heads abroad with domestic priorities unresolved. The president meets staunch war ally Blair in London on a trip scheduled with the expectation Congress would be in recess. With Medicare and energy legislation still hung up in House-Senate talks, former Republican National Chairman Rich Bond concedes, ‘It ain’t the best time in the world to not be around.’ Ex-Gore strategist Donna Brazile advises Democrats to ‘seize the initiative and remind seniors that Bush is leaving town before delivering’ a prescription-drug benefit.”

At the same time, Saturday through Monday, Republicans likely shut out Democrats for the 2003 gubernatorial races, hanging onto their seat in Louisiana in the Saturday run-off, then officially claiming the governorship of California on Monday. After victories in California, Kentucky, and Mississippi, Republicans have a 29-21 edge in governors. Meanwhile, on Saturday, six of the nine Democratic presidentials must share a stage with Sen. Hillary Clinton Saturday night in Des Moines. (She may not be running for president this cycle, as she has said repeatedly, but she can repeatedly steal the limelight.)

In advance of the weekend’s events, the GOP nominee in Louisiana has a Wall Street Journal op-ed today on jobs and economic opportunity, and the Des Moines Register has a poll saying it’s jobs and the economy.

Stereotypes aside, the Washington Post offers a way to look at the Louisiana race: “‘Listen, man, we’re looking at a guy who’s not even from this country! And then we’re looking at a woman!’ said Jubal Vallot, 38, a handyman in Lafayette sporting tattoo-spangled forearms, a Chevy pickup truck and a fist-size clump of keys at his belt. He hooted and shook his head at the outlandishness of the selection. ‘I go to church, I believe in the good Lord and this ‘n’ that. I never ever dreamed in my whole life — I been right here in Louisiana — that I’d be in this kind of dilemma.’”

Also this weekend, Florida Democrats decide whether or not to hold a straw poll in early December; even if they vote to hold one, not all the candidates may participate. And on Sunday, Clark Meets the Press.

Senate “Republicans will conclude their talkfest this morning with votes seeking to break filibusters against three female judges: Priscilla R. Owen of Texas and Carolyn B. Kuhl and Janice Rogers Brown of California,” says the Washington Post.

Prescription drugs

Still no drug bill: “congressional negotiators Thursday acknowledged a fresh setback,” the Washington Post reports. “A small group of House and Senate negotiators said late Wednesday they had been unable to agree to a compromise worked out this week by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) and House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), who had intervened to try to end months of fractious haggling.”

“The lead negotiator, Ways and Means Committee Chairman Bill Thomas (R-Calif.), said the sticking point remained the issue that has been most polarizing all along: how much the traditional Medicare program should be required to compete with private health plans.”

On Bush’s speech yesterday: “When White House aides scheduled Thursday’s event, there was the possibility that it could have been a victory rally if negotiators reached a deal. In an indication of that, the White House arranged for Bush’s speech to be broadcast to events in five other cities, where administration officials met with seniors.”

The Los Angeles Times reports that “while Republican and Democratic lawmakers continued to argue over the details of a compromise bill to reform the Medicare program, the leaders of” the AARP “upped the ante.”

“If the House-Senate conference committee produces a compromise bill that AARP’s board of directors could support, the mammoth organization would spend tens of millions of dollars on advertising, grass-roots organizing and other activities to promote passage of a Medicare reform bill this year, said... the group’s executive director and chief executive. And if Congress does not pass a Medicare bill? The group is prepared to empty its war chest, he said.”

“To win the group’s support, a final bill must be bipartisan...”

The Wall Street Journal notes the current “Medicare package isn’t likely to permit Americans to buy cheap medicine from Canada legally. Maintaining the ban on imports has been the top lobbying priority for U.S. drug makers. Instead, the legislation is likely to include language similar to what Congress has approved previously, which would allow importation only if the Health and Human Services secretary certifies it is safe. Citing that requirement, the Clinton and Bush administrations declined to implement previous importation legislation.”

The economy

“Taxpayers’ refund checks will increase nearly 27% to an average $2,500 per family early next year, according to new forecasts from tax experts and economists, who say the windfalls will aid consumers, the economy and President Bush’s re-election campaign.” - USA Today

“An improving economy would aid Bush’s re-election hopes and blunt Democratic criticism of job losses and economic weakness during his tenure. But the cuts, along with increased federal spending, have contributed to a record federal budget deficit that is estimated to hit $494 billion this year.”

The Wall Street Journal: “Economists are nudging higher their projections for economic growth early next year, suggesting they are becoming more confident the recovery is sustainable.” The Journal’s economic forecasting panelists “expect growth to remain steady throughout 2004.”

“Economists noted that with business inventories low, companies now must turn to increased production to meet consumer demand. Robust productivity gains, they said, are expected to boost corporate profits and companies will need to replace aging equipment such as computers and software. Moreover, they said the effect of tax cuts hasn’t yet faded.”

“In a separate aspect of the survey, economists weighed in for the first time on the economic policies of presidential contenders in the Democratic Party. While... Dean, who has called for the repeal of the Bush Administration’s tax cuts, is widely seen as a front-runner for the party’s nomination, he wasn’t a favorite among the business economists who participate in the survey. Only one economist surveyed said Mr. Dean’s policies were best suited — when compared with the other Democratic candidates — to increase employment, incomes and growth.”

“Senator Joseph Lieberman won the support of 11 economists, or 29% of those who answered the question, while Wesley Clark won the support of five and John Kerry won the support of four. Eight economists indicated they felt none of the candidates could get the job done.”

More 2004 notes (R)

The New York Times looks at the Bush-Cheney fundraising juggernaut, which has now raised over $100 million this cycle, yet the paper notes the team’s fundraising prowess raises “questions about whether legislative efforts to reduce the influence of money in politics are having any effect, members of both parties and campaign finance experts say.”

“Mr. Bush’s campaign says it is raising so much money just to remain competitive with what it says is a well-financed liberal political machine. Campaign aides point to George Soros, the investor and philanthropist, who has pledged $15 million to a liberal advocacy and get-out-the-vote effort, as well as to unions, interest groups and individuals who are planning expensive programs to oust Mr. Bush.”

Bush raised another $2.6 million in Florida yesterday, the AP reports, saying the campaign may have exceeded $106 million.

Iowa JJ

Saturday night at Veterans Memorial Auditorium in Des Moines, starting at 7:30 pm ET, six of the nine Democratic presidentials address the Iowa Democratic Party’s Jefferson Jackson Dinner, the state’s largest pre-caucus event, with 7,500 expected to attend. Sen. Hillary Clinton emcee’s the dinner and Gephardt, Kucinich, Edwards, Kerry, Dean, and Moseley Braun each get seven minutes to speak, in that order. The state party expects to raise over $300,000.

The Des Moines Register notes Clinton will have a book-signing in West Des Moines on Sunday.

The Register also has a new poll: “Forty percent of Iowans likely to take part in the Jan. 19 caucuses say the economy and jobs matter most to them among a list of seven issues for the next president to address.” Iraq comes second. “Health care ranks third, at 17 percent, and education is fourth, at 10 percent... Trailing in single digits as priority issues are the budget deficit, homeland security and agriculture.”

And, “Gephardt of Missouri leads the field in Iowa, with 27 percent of likely caucus participants naming him their first choice. Dean comes in second, with 20 percent, and Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry has 15 percent.”

B-roll alert. Edwards embed Dugald McConnell previews tonight’s “land rush:” When officials open the doors, five staffers from each campaign will swarm the hall to cover as much wall space as possible with their own campaign signs. Edwards staffer Micah Kagan: “I don’t want to tip our hand and give our friends in the other campaigns hints as to what we are doing, but let’s just say that since we won the Harkin Steak Fry sign war... we have a few new tricks up our sleeve.”

McConnell notes Edwards is up with a new TV ad in Iowa, focusing on jobs. The ad pledges Edwards will end tax breaks for companies who move jobs overseas; give tax breaks to companies who create jobs in the United States; and block unfair trade agreements. Edwards opposed NAFTA, but voted in 2000 for normal trade relations with China.

Embed Angela Miles says Moseley Braun consultant Kevin Lampe anticipates the format will be good for the candidate; the campaign says they welcome any opportunity for Moseley Braun to be seen with her rivals so voters can see the differences.

2003 governors

Tomorrow, Democrat Kathleen Blanco and Republican Bobby Jindal face off in Louisiana’s gubernatorial run-off. Polls in Louisiana open at 7:00 am and close at 9:00 pm ET. If Blanco wins, Democrats will be able to pat themselves on the back for winning a tough race in the GOP-tilting South. But perhaps the macro theme of a Blanco victory, per Cook Political Report analyst Jennifer Duffy, will be that dissatisfied voters threw out the incumbent party in all four gubernatorial contests this year. If that’s the case, will that voter dissatisfaction carry over to the 2004 presidential race?

Duffy offers this: In the 41 governors races since November 2001, there have been 25 switches in party control: 12 have switched from Republican to Democrat, while 11 have gone the other way. (The other two were independent-held seats, one going Republican and the other Democratic.) Duffy says this proves one party isn’t really dominating — rather, what we’re really seeing is change.

That said, Republican Jindal has the momentum and seems likely to beat Blanco, in which case the Sunday and Monday papers will play up how Republicans triumphed in every 2003 gubernatorial race, including the recall, while the Democrats got shut out.

The AP: “No matter how pickup-driving conservative Southern white men vote Saturday, Louisiana will make history. The state has never had a woman governor and has not put a non-white in the office since Reconstruction.” In fact, Jindal “would be the first non-white ever popularly chosen governor of Louisiana — or any Deep South state, for that matter — in a state where a majority of white men voted for former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke just over a decade ago.”

“Jindal also would be the rare Republican to make inroads among black voters. Polls indicate him with 12 percent to 15 percent of the black vote. That is more than twice the usual GOP total.”

The New Orleans Times-Picayune on the final campaign blitzes: “Jindal leap-frogged across the state, including an appearance with NASCAR legend Darrell Waltrip, while Blanco crisscrossed the New Orleans area in a caravan that included a camper and a bus. Both candidates plan to use a combination of airplanes, buses and RVs in a final blitz today.”

And Monday brings the swearing-in of Governor-elect Schwarzenegger at an outdoor ceremony in Sacramento at 2:00 pm ET. A few thousand campaign supporters, legislators, and other dignitaries will attend — in addition to reporters from all over the world. “The governor... will give a speech and call for a special session of the Legislature to begin Tuesday,” USA Today says. “Then he’ll lunch with the Democrat-run Legislature and California’s members of Congress. He’ll mingle with Republicans later at a California Chamber of Commerce reception. That’s the extent of the celebration.”

The Los Angeles Times leads: “Aides to... Schwarzenegger presented him with a series of budget-balancing choices this week that included cuts in higher education and mental health programs, according to informed sources who spoke on the condition that they not be identified. The proposals came during five hours of confidential meetings... after which the group adjourned with no consensus on how best to begin cutting services to attack the state’s multibillion-dollar deficit.”

“For Schwarzenegger, sources said, the closed-door sessions became another lesson in just how limited his options will be in addressing the budget crisis if he is to keep his campaign promises to repeal a recent tripling of the state vehicle license fee, avoid tax increases and still not disturb education programs long championed by the governor-elect.”

“More pressure will be placed on Schwarzenegger today, when Legislative Analyst Elizabeth Hill is scheduled to reveal her latest estimate of the size of the budget problem.”

The Washington Times: “An attempt to revive accusations that... Schwarzenegger groped several women during his days as an actor seems to have fizzled on the eve of his inauguration.”

More 2004 notes (D)

Kerry still hasn’t announced whether or not he’ll accept matching funds, but is expected to forgo them. Clark is sticking with the system, the AP reports. An Edwards e-mail asks potential givers to help him strengthen public financing. Walter Shapiro notes how some Democratic candidates are choosing not to “wrap themselves in McCain’s reformist aura. Instead, the 2004 New Hampshire primary is becoming a free-spending, the-sky’s-the-limit battle between two candidates who have chosen to spurn a bedrock tenet of campaign reform.”

“Campaign reform is an issue with proven appeal to New Hampshire voters. But given the complexity of the law, it is somewhat doubtful that Dean and Kerry will pay a political price in the first primary for their strategically motivated rejection of public financing.”

Dean embed Felix Schein reports Dean will further define his economic vision for the country on Tuesday with what’s sure to be a red-meat speech outside Enron’s Houston headquarters.

As Dean unveiled his higher-ed plan at Dartmouth, the New York Times says several students waved Confederate flags, “a reminder of a controversy that had dogged him for more than a week. The students said they were offended by Dr. Dean’s promise to be ‘the candidate for guys with Confederate flag decals on their pickup trucks,’ as well as by his eventual apology.” The New York Post also notes the flags.

The Boston Globe, looking at how Dean is making the most of his momentum, also notes, “for all the campaign’s seemingly upward motion, there are new challenges. As a front-runner, Dean is now the man to bring down, and scrutiny of the former Vermont governor will only intensify. With just over two months remaining until the first delegate selection, there is plenty of opportunity for derailment by a gaffe that proves less forgivable than others he has weathered...”

Also: “As the campaign’s expands — propelled by the addition of thousands of union workers — the campaign’s identity is apt to change, with its cozy intimacy, so prized by Dean supporters, more difficult to maintain.”

Gephardt’s campaign manager continues to send “Dean Doubletalk” e-mails, first slamming Dean’s alleged multiple positions on the Iraq supplemental, and now on higher education, geared toward Dean’s speech on that topic yesterday. The latest charge: Dean wants to cut student aid programs the same way, allegedly, that he proposed cutting Medicare.

Kerry embed Becky Diamond got this from the candidate on changing the dynamics of the race: “It’s going to be a combination of factors over the next few weeks — increased presence, a great deal of energy — other things we’ll be doing over the next days. You’ll just have to watch. I think the most important thing is to focus on the real issues of the campaign. People really want to know constructively what we’re going to do to help America move to a better place. And I want it to be as constructive as possible. My message is one of optimism and hope for the country. I believe that if we will deal with these issues we can have a future that’s unlimited. But we need leadership that knows how to make our country safer.”

Seems Kerry’s dismissed staff may be better-mannered than the candidate according to the AP — though the AP later reported Kerry called the staffers to apologize. That same AP report includes wife Teresa Heinz Kerry saying her husband is unlikely to run for president a second time. An e-mail to potential givers from Kerry’s campaign treasurer touts Kerry’s “positive message.”

Rep. Barney Frank (D) thinks Kerry’s campaign is lagging because of Kerry’s support of the war, the Boston Herald reports.

Kucinich embed Karin Caifa got this from managing editor James Pindell yesterday: Kucinich has agreed to meet the winner of the matchmaking contest the website launched last week. Up until this point, the campaign hesitated to give the contest its blessing. But, Pindell told Caifa, Kucinich will have dinner with the winner during one of his upcoming visits to New Hampshire. His official statement on the matter: “I am very flattered by PoliticsNH’s offer to provide an opportunity for me to meet one of the many dynamic women who have contacted their web site. The response over the past week has been amazing. Women really like the idea of a partnership in the White House with a shared commitment for peace and prosperity... We are in a new era where true inner equality requires that a First Lady be respected for her intellect, her passion, her involvement, and her commitment to people... I look forward to our meeting. Dennis Kucinich”

Lieberman’s top staff and advisors hold a conference call at 11:30 am to roll out a new TV ad for New Hampshire. Embed Dionne Scott says the spot will be in the same format as his two previous Granite State ads: Lieberman sitting down, reading the paper and speaking directly to viewers, in a casual, conversational style. That format, the campaign says, allows the Senator to continue a dialogue with voters on the current headlines.

Sharpton embed Tom Llamas says Sharpton missed a local Democratic endorsement forum in New York last night — an event that was on his schedule and that his campaign confirmed he would attend. The Broadway Democrats hosted the forum so members could choose a candidate to endorse. Sharpton was the only candidate scheduled to speak, but other campaigns sent surrogates. Sharpton’s attorney and eventual “stumper” Sanford Rubenstein said Sharpton “got caught up in a meeting.”

November 13, 2003 / 09:30 AM ET

From Elizabeth Wilner, Mark Murray, and Huma Zaidi

With the House and Senate now closing in on deal on prescription drugs, President Bush gives well-timed and -located remarks on Medicare in Florida, sandwiched between fundraisers. The Orlando Sentinel previews this presidential trip the Sunshine State. Edwards is in Florida too, but currently with no public events.

(Speaking of Bush fundraisers, according to his campaign’s Web site, the President has now raised over $100 million for this cycle.)

We’ll see if Gephardt gets in on the Medicare act; his attacks on Dean over the issue quieted when the Confederate flag flap arose. In fact, Gephardt may get his chance when he holds a media avail at the Massachusetts State House with supporter state Rep. Ron Mariano at 5:30 pm ET. In other Gephardt news, his campaign manager yesterday smacked Dean via e-mail for taking alleged various positions on the Iraq supplemental, ending with: “Putting faith in a candidate with a record of contradicting himself on fundamental issues like Iraq would lead to an electoral disaster against George W. Bush.” Kerry, meanwhile, jumped on both Clark and Bush after Clark unveiled his plan to catch Osama bin Laden.

Clark, Dean, and Kerry are all in New Hampshire.

Want more evidence about how the economy is beginning to look like a strength for Team Bush, while Iraq is maybe looking like its Achilles’ Heel? Try these figures from the latest NBC/Wall Street Journal poll: 50% approve of Bush’s handling of the economy, which is up seven points from September; and 38% say the economy has gotten better, which is up 11 points from the last poll. The Wall Street Journal reports that those numbers “helped halt the recent decline in Mr. Bush’s overall job rating. Some 51% approve of his performance as president, compared with 49% in September. The survey of 1,003 adults, conducted Nov. 8-10, has a margin of error of 3.1 percentage points.”

“‘The public feels better,’ say Republican pollster Robert Teeter and his Democratic counterpart Peter Hart, who conduct the Journal/NBC survey. ‘A rising economic tide lifts all presidential ratings.’”

But the news for Bush isn’t as good on Iraq: 60% say the Bush Administration underestimated the strength of the Iraqi opposition; 46% say ousting Saddam wasn’t worth the number of U.S. casualties and the financial cost of the war; and only 36% say the U.S. will find weapons of mass destruction. The news about a bomb in Nasiriya on Wednesday that killed 17 Italians and at least 9 Iraqis and wounded more than 105 others probably won’t do much to change those sentiments. - New York Times

Nevertheless, the polls says, most believe that U.S. was right to take military action against Saddam, and that Saddam’s regime did have weapons of mass destruction before the war.

Put all of these numbers together, and we still see a tight race in 2004. Bush, the Journal writes, “continues to run essentially even when matched with a generically identified Democratic opponent. And he draws no more than 52% of the vote, with leads ranging from 12 to 16 percentage points, when matched against Democratic challengers former Vermont governor Howard Dean, Retired Gen. Wesley Clark and Missouri Rep. Richard Gephardt.”

Which is why, as we mention above, Bush is in Florida — which probably will once again be the primary battleground state in 2004.

Finally, in case you forgot about the ongoings in California politics, Gov.-elect Schwarzenegger gets sworn in on Monday. We’ll have more on that tomorrow.

Prescription drugs

The Wall Street Journal reports on the tentative compromise that Senate and House negotiators seem to have reached on this legislation. “The compromise seeks to appease House conservatives wary of spending $400 billion over 10 years on a drug benefit, while reassuring Senate Democrats who criticize many Republican-backed changes as threats to Medicare. Central to the proposal is a pilot project beginning in 2008 that would, in select areas, link Medicare premiums — whether for the traditional government-administered program or for a private health plan — to bids from the private plans.”

“The compromise would include a trigger for congressional action if Medicare’s dependence on general revenue increases above 45%. But action wouldn’t be required, as some had wanted.”

But the Washington Post says that the compromise isn’t a done deal yet. The one “Democrat who may wield the greatest influence over the fate of Medicare legislation in the Senate, Edward M. Kennedy (Mass.), derided the offer, saying, ‘We can’t accept a proposal that is going to threaten the whole Medicare system.’ House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) called it a ‘backroom deal’ that did not meet Democratic goals for the program.’”

“The leader of the House-Senate Medicare negotiations, House Ways and Means Chairman Bill Thomas (R-Calif.), refrained from public comment but appeared to be voting with his feet. He told several colleagues he was flying home to the West Coast, but sources said he returned to the Capitol last night.”

Labor primary (D)

Well, the worst-kept secret in politics is finally official, as the SEIU and AFSCME publicly announced their endorsement of Dean. According to the New York Times, the president of AFSCME promised “boots on the ground and blood and treasure” for Dean in Iowa, where the has 20,000 members — many of them tested veterans of that state’s caucus system.

The Washington Post: “Yesterday’s endorsement announcement quickly turned into a political rally as Dean, wearing a purple SEIU jacket and a green AFSCME shirt and carrying a black hard hat of the Painters and Allied Trades Union, entered the room. The painters union had endorsed Dean earlier.”

Moreover, yesterday’s union endorsements “represented not only a big victory for the insurgent Dean from the heart of the Democratic Party establishment, but also a vindication of Dean’s careful wooing of key labor leaders, an effort that is expected to continue as he seeks the support of unions of teachers and auto, electrical, and communications workers” says the Boston Globe.

And: “In a jab timed to the AFSCME announcement, Kerry campaign workers circulated letters yesterday they said Dean wrote as governor of Vermont in which he offered support for privatizing government jobs — a position opposed by AFSCME, whose core membership includes government workers.”

In other news, the RNC quickly distributed a press release asking if Gephardt was “a miserable failure” for losing out on the SEIU and AFSCME endorsements to Dean.

But Gephardt received some good news yesterday when he got the nod from Iowa United Auto Workers, which represents 36,000 union members. According to embed Priya David, that puts his total of Iowa union members at nearly 100,000. The Des Moines Register has more on the state’s UAW endorsement.

Embed Becky Diamond reports Kerry’s reaction to Dean’s union nods yesterday: “When I ran in 1984 for the US Senate I didn’t have anyone’s endorsement. I am going to have the endorsement from citizens of Iowa and New Hampshire and the states where they vote. This isn’t about endorsements — this is about vision and people and who can be president. I believe I’m ready to be president of the USA and I have a vision about how to make our country safer and stronger.” The campaign gave Diamond a letter from Iowa labor leaders supporting Kerry: “We believe Howard Dean is the wrong candidate for public employees. In the enclosed letter, Howard Dean explained to a constituent why he supported the privatization of a child-care center. Dean wrote: ‘The State of Vermont relies on the outsourcing of certain State functions in order to save taxpayers money’... Dean’s statements directly contrast with the pro-worker record of John Kerry.”

More 2004 notes (D)

The Wall Street Journal breaks down the Democrats’ emerging five-point plan to defeat Bush in 2004. “Neutralize Mr. Bush’s national-security edge by fanning doubts about his Iraq policy. Craft economic attacks that can work even if the economy keeps improving. Dent the president’s reputation for honesty and competence. Mobilize Democratic partisans in 17 states that Mr. Bush barely won or lost in 2000. And maneuver around the new campaign-finance law by redirecting now-banned big donations away from the Democratic Party to a new set of groups that will coordinate attacks on Mr. Bush.”

The Los Angeles Times reports on Clark’s plan combat terrorism and oust Osama bin Laden. “With many Al Qaeda leaders being Saudi nationals - and considering the recent Al Qaeda-linked bombings in Saudi Arabia - Clark said he would first ask the Saudis to contribute special operations troops to a search for Bin Laden along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.”

“Second, he said, he would reassign intelligence specialists, linguists and others now searching for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq to the hunt for terrorists.”

“Then, Clark said, he would seek to repair relations with U.S. allies that were damaged by the Iraq war.”

The Boston Globe, meanwhile, analyzes the somewhat-struggling Clark campaign.

Embed Dugald McConnell notes the Publishers Weekly review of Edwards’ forthcoming book, “Four Trials:” “Edwards is at his best in his endearing portraits of the victims he represented in medical malpractice and personal injury lawsuits. Edwards can tell a good yarn, and at times this book works as a courtroom drama. But it suffers from shoddy, platitudinous prose.” The book does reinforce the populist theme of his campaign, McConnell says — that Edwards is fighting for ordinary people. When the Edwards and Dean books hit the shelves, every candidate but Moseley Braun will have published a book in the last few years.

The New York Times begins another round of profiles of the Democratic candidates, and it starts with a lengthy look at Gephardt. “He is ... the paradigmatic Congressional Democrat - too tactical and attuned to the polls, critics say, but battle-tested by a generation of partisan combat and hungry for one more race.”

“If he fails, Mr. Gephardt says, it is almost certainly his last campaign. If he wins, he knows what he wants to do and how to do it.”

Embed Becky Diamond notes of Kerry in New Hampshire yesterday — where he was trailed by a couple of trackers for other campaigns — that about half the questions at his environmental Q&A were on the state of his campaign (better than Monday, Diamond says, when all the questions at a veterans event were about his campaign). In answering the questions, Kerry basically asserted again that he is changing his campaign, but refused to explain how. There was more of “watch and you’ll see” tone.

The Washington Post looks at former New Hampshire Gov. Jeanne Shaheen’s role as Kerry’s national chairwoman. “Campaign-watchers say that the Jan. 27 ballot will determine the fate of the once-favored Kerry, who trails former Vermont governor Dean in all recent New Hampshire polls. But those who have followed Shaheen’s career warn not to bet against a woman who beat long odds to become the first female governor of the largely Republican state.”

“‘New Hampshire will make Kerry or it will break Kerry. I don’t think even a close second place will do it,’ said Dante Scala, a research fellow at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm College in Manchester. ‘My sense is that it will be largely up to Shaheen to revive him, and if so that is the best news that campaign has gotten in some time. One thing Jeanne Shaheen knows how to do is win elections in New Hampshire.’”

Meanwhile, after his campaign shake-ups, Kerry “returned yesterday to the safe haven of one of his signature political issues, the environment, proposing a new federal commission to stop “special interests” from influencing environmental regulators,” the Boston Globe reports.

Kucinich embed Karin Caifa says she was solicited by the campaign for donations. Caifa says the campaign is being particularly aggressive in phoning supporters for help. On Wednesday, a volunteer got her name from a mailing list and called for a donation. After informing the volunteer she was a reporter, the volunteer continued to press for a donation. The conversation went like this:

Volunteer: “Is that a law? Is it written somewhere that journalists can’t give money to campaigns?”

Caifa: “No, it’s more of a journalistic code of ethics thing, one that I strictly adhere to.”

Volunteer: “Oh, ok. So, you wouldn’t be able to send anything our way?”

The Kucinich camp, Caifa adds, is still marching towards its goal of $800,000 for the month of November, and they had tallied about $130,000 through Wednesday evening. The bid got a boost from weekend fundraisers in California, where the Santa Cruz Sentinel reported he picked up $60,000 at events in Santa Cruz.

As the Senate considers the nomination of Janice Rogers Brown for the US Court of Appeals in DC, embed Angela Miles says, Moseley Braun has sent a letter to Senate leaders opposing Brown: “Justice Brown has not demonstrated the balance and judicial temperament and prudence that are central to a respected judiciary... The extremism of her views has been publicly demonstrated time and time again, particularly concerning matters of settled law regarding the national government’s responsibility to protect civil and political rights of women and minorities... Not all black people think alike, and I have no doubt that there is a constituency that would be happy to see an African American of any political persuasion confirmed for such an important position as the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. However, it does both the black community as well as the courts a great disservice to confirm to such a position an individual who has so clearly demonstrated a disregard for the balance and impartiality required of the members of the bench.”

Embed Tom Llamas reports that the Sharpton camp, which has been struggling with fundraising, is cutting back on unnecessary travel and focusing on trips that will bring both supporters and money to the war chest. “We are going to be strategic when we travel,” said campaign manager Charles Halloran. “We are not barnstorming.” That said, Sharpton will eulogize 22-year-old Specialist Darius T. Jennings in Cope, SC on Saturday. Jennings was one of 16 US soldiers killed in the Chinook helicopter attack on November 2. Llamas says Sharpton agreed to perform the eulogy after speaking with Jennings’ mother Harriet Elaine Johnson. He will be campaigning over the weekend in South Carolina, and says politics will not play a role in remembering Jennings.

2004 notes (R)

On CNBC’s Capital Report last night, Commerce Secretary Evans said he’s staying in his job, rather than moving to the Bush campaign.

November 12, 2003 / 09:30 AM ET

From Elizabeth Wilner, Mark Murray, and Huma Zaidi

The Senate talkathon, a 30-hour PR effort by Republicans to highlight alleged Democratic obstructionism on judicial nominees, starts tonight, offering possible b-roll of cots, pizza deliveries, furtive napping, etc. On a more substantive note, the Medicare conference committee could produce a bill today. Bush and Cheney have foreign policy events. Dean gets his union labels at a 1:00 pm endorsement event with the heads of the SEIU, AFSCME and the painters’ union at the Mayflower Hotel in DC. Clark, at Dartmouth, hits Bush on Afghanistan and proposes his own plan for catching Osama bin Laden: “he would press Saudi Arabia to provide commandos to accompany U.S. troops in the hunt for Osama bin Laden and other al-Qaida leaders,” per the AP.

The new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll measuring public opinion on all of the above issues will be released on NBC Nightly News at 6:30 pm.

Prescription drugs

NBC’s Ken Strickland says the Medicare conference committee meets today for a potential “take it or leave it” session at 11:00 am. The Wall Street Journal on the looming deal: “Compromise now is expected to scale back one of the House’s most controversial proposals, which would have used private plans as a standard to force premium increases in Medicare’s traditional fee-for-service program. Elements of the idea remain, but negotiators have tinkered with the details in an effort to get Democrats’ support.”

“Other changes meant to appeal to conservatives that weren’t in either bill have been added during the negotiations. A proposal to charge higher premiums for Medicare’s Part B outpatient services to beneficiaries with incomes exceeding $80,000 could yield savings of as much as $14 billion after it is phased in in 2007, according preliminary estimates. Also, a provision has been added that would trigger congressional action if Medicare begins to rely on the government’s general revenue to cover more than 45% of its costs. That could be as early as 2014 with the new drug benefit, according to estimates.”

“A House proposal for tax-preferred health savings accounts also is likely to be included.”

Politics of patriotism

The Boston Globe, based in part on the previously reported memo from Republican National Committee chairman Ed Gillespie, says, “Faced with growing public uneasiness over Iraq, Republican Party officials intend to change the terms of the political debate heading into next year’s election by focusing on the ‘doctrine of preemption,’ portraying President Bush as a visionary acting to prevent future terrorist attacks on US soil despite the costs and casualties involved overseas.”

“Republican strategists maintain that this tack is consistent with Bush’s style: direct, sweeping, and bold to the point of brazenness. But by going on the offensive on Iraq — effectively saying ‘bring ‘em on’ to his potential Democratic rivals, daring them to question his fundamental foreign policy doctrine in the face of a rising body count — Bush is taking a measurable political risk. Starting with a major foreign policy address last week, Bush has begun embracing a subject that has proved increasingly problematic for him both in the public dialogue and the polls.”

“His position is designed to change the conversation from the situation on the ground in Iraq to the philosophical decision of whether to attack prospective supporters of terrorism in the first place. But some strategists and analysts in both parties say he’s unlikely to succeed unless the drumbeat of fatalities slows down.”

Embed Marisa Buchanan got Clark comparing his military background with Kerry’s: “I think the people of New Hampshire have to look and compare the difference. John Kerry served as a junior officer in the armed forces in Vietnam he had a very distinguished record there. I served as a junior officer in Vietnam, came home on a stretcher, Purple Heart, and all that, Silver Star, but I stayed with the armed forces. I believe that serving in the armed forces was a very important calling. I believe that the country needed an effective military. And I was privileged to have had a great career in the armed forces. And it took to me on to the front lines on diplomacy and in war.”

Clark staked out his position yesterday on the flag-burning amendment: he supports it. Buchanan notes this arguably conflicts with his position on the right to dissent. Clark tried to clarify, she says: his “idea is your protest should be through words and other things.” He added, “And in this case it’s just something that people hold really dear and for that reason because so many people have died for it. I think the popular opinion is we should hold that flag and not use it as a symbol of protest.”

Gephardt also supports the amendment, while Kerry, Edwards and Lieberman oppose it. Kerry issued an oddly worded statement yesterday that if he saw someone burning a flag, he would “punch them in the mouth,” but that he believes flag-burning is protected under the First Amendment.

Edwards and Clark chose Veterans’ Day to pick a fight after Edwards let it be known that he gets advice from Clark critic General Shelton. Clark’s communications director sent Edwards an outraged letter; Edwards’ signed response: “When I talk to the former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, it’s about the safety and security of our men and women in uniform, not about politics.” Clark traveling press secretary Jamal Simmons told embed Marisa Buchanan: “It is clearly a reflection on the Edwards campaign.”

Dean embed Felix Schein says Dean changed his usual stump speech a bit yesterday to reflect Veterans’ Day: he attacked the Administration’s foreign policy goals and went after Bush’s alleged ties to big business. The idea, Schein says, was to highlight how US soldiers have become pawns in a flawed foreign policy designed to enrich the President’s “cronies.”

The Dean campaign also sent an e-mail yesterday criticizing Kerry for voting for the Iraq resolution, captioned, “A Leader on National Security?” The e-mail includes side-by-side photos of Kerry in front of the USS Yorktown for his announcement speech, and Bush on the USS Lincoln. “Senator John Kerry and President George Bush seem to agree on at least one thing: A speech on an aircraft carrier is a fine substitute for leadership in the face of a failing war you supported.”

Government spending

Perhaps fiscal conservatives are placated enough by Bush’s tax cuts that they’re letting this slide. The Washington Post: “Confounding President Bush’s pledges to rein in government growth, federal discretionary spending expanded by 12.5 percent in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, capping a two-year bulge that saw the government grow by more than 27 percent, according to preliminary spending figures from congressional budget panels.”

“Bush has demanded that spending that is subject to Congress’s annual discretion be capped at 4 percent. But the Republican-led Congress has not obliged.”

“Much of the increase was driven by war in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as homeland security spending after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. But spending has risen on domestic programs such as transportation and agriculture, as well.”

“Administration officials say spending is being brought under control.” Still: “Even some Republicans have trouble squaring such comments with the evidence.”

Politics of steel

Walter Shapiro: “Bush’s decision-making designed to protect the domestic steel industry from foreign competition is beginning to look like a textbook example of how not to choose politics over principle.” Given the USTR’s suggestion that the WTO ruling was “all but inevitable,” Shapiro says, “what remains baffling is why Bush chose to follow this high-risk strategy when administration legal analysts should have alerted him that he probably would have to abandon these tariffs before reaping any political dividends from steel-producing states in his re-election campaign.”

“...[W]hile Bush may still come up with some way to delay the day of reckoning over the steel tariffs, it is hard to concoct a scenario under which the president will benefit from Rove’s apparent political miscalculation. The administration is likely to face intense lobbying pressure from industries such as textiles that are set to be targeted by punitive foreign tariffs. The whole trade mess illustrates that sometimes the shrewdest political strategy is to unswervingly follow ideological principles.”

The Washington Post looks at the domestic steel turnaround since the tariffs were imposed and how the industry is lobbying the White House to keep them in place.

The WTO ruling brought reactions from industrial union-dependent Gephardt and Kucinich: Gephardt called for Bush not to repeal the tariffs, while embed Karin Caifa notes Kucinich took the opportunity to reissue his call for withdrawal from the trade organization.

Labor primary (D)

Dean embed Felix Schein writes that should the theory held by many in the Dean campaign hold true, today’s endorsements are just the beginning of what will be a series of endorsements and shows of support for the Dean campaign.

The Washington Post has the tick-tock on the under-the-radar battle for the union endorsements, and the AFSCME chief’s “big bang theory” of a joint nod to “vault Dean above the rest of the Democratic pack in a way that each (union) acting alone might not.” The Post reports on how Gephardt, Kerry and Clark lost the endorsements, noting that Clark lost the AFSCME nod because of campaign disorganization and because he pulled out of Iowa.

The Los Angeles Times: “For Dean, the windfall seems equal parts the result of his own hard work at courting the SEIU... and a failure by his opponents to seize opportunities to gain favor with AFSCME, whose pragmatic president... has been focused on finding the Democrat with the best chance to beat President Bush.”

The Des Moines Register puts it this way: “Dean is expected today to solidify his front-runner status for the 2004 Democratic presidential nomination while again displaying his agility in exploiting the 21st-century political landscape.” The Register says Dean is showing “the ability to attract support from among the few growing sectors of the labor movement: government, health care and education workers... The endorsements follow Dean’s adroit use of the Internet...”

“Gephardt campaign manager Steve Murphy played down the significance of Dean’s achievement, saying Gephardt’s labor backing, which includes political heavyweights such as the Teamsters and Machinists, is larger and broader.”

“The endorsements come at a critical time when the sense of electability is beginning to coalesce around Dean, said campaign manager Joe Trippi. ‘It’s a sign of how we’re beginning to answer in a credible way: Who can beat George Bush?’ Trippi said.”

The New York Times looks at the divide between the industrial unions endorsing Gephardt, and the new, rapidly growing service- and government-sector unions that are endorsing Dean. “In some ways the split within labor goes straight to the heart of various unions’ perceptions of themselves, even union leaders acknowledge. The industrial unions backing Mr. Gephardt, like the steelworkers and machinists, see themselves as beleaguered and have embraced a candidate who has devoted much of his career to helping the industrial heartland. In contrast, the service employees union is growing and sees itself as a grass-roots, bottom-up and new type of union - just like Dr. Dean’s campaign.”

The Alliance for Economic Justice, the 16-union coalition backing Gephardt, goes up with a new ad today. The AP says the ad will run for two weeks. Embed Priya David says one ad features a Teamster who lost his job because of NAFTA; the other ad features a single mother who lost her job and health benefits.

Edwards embed Dugald McConnell says the Edwards campaign sees a silver lining in Dean’s endorsements: “It makes Dean stronger in Iowa and New Hampshire, but it hurts Gephardt and Kerry, and leaves people looking elsewhere for a candidate who can go up against Dean,” says spokeswoman Jennifer Palmieri. “Edwards has proven himself an effective adversary for Dean. Lots of people saw the two of them in a one-on-one situation in the debate [over the Confederate flag], and Edwards was a good match for him.”

(Side note: Sen. Ted Kennedy, now almost singlehandedly staffing the Kerry campaign, rolls out legislation today to help workers unionize...)

More 2004 notes (D)

The Wall Street Journal’s Harwood uses Clark to lead his column on how Dean’s Democratic rivals aren’t succeeding with maverick rhetoric.

Dean embed Felix Schein says when news of Kerry’s internal troubles reached Burlington on Sunday, the initial reaction was one of surprise, speculation and uncertainty, but that has since changed to confidence, amusement and awe. It seems many in the Dean camp can smell blood in the water, and take that as affirmation of months of hard work and a positive sign after a period of ups and downs for Dean’s own campaign.

Still, Schein says not to look for a significant change in strategy from the Dean folks. No attack ads will be released; the half-hour Iowa spot will keep running, with a new policy ad rotated in. The campaign will stay dark elsewhere, including New Hampshire. Dean will keep refraining from commenting and won’t be making any additional stops in Kerry’s backyard in the coming days.

USA Today has the latest look at Dean’s temperament.

Kerry wrapped up a day in which he lost two more staffers by riding a motorcycle onto The Tonight Show set; embed Becky Diamond notes he struggled with the kickstand, but it was a strong entrance nevertheless, followed by an interview that fell flat. If you missed it, the Los Angeles Times also fills you in:. Kerry is expected to announce his decision on matching funds today.

Following up on the turmoil within the Kerry campaign, the New York Times front-pages Kerry adviser Bob Shrum and the Shrum curse. “As prominent and well-traveled a figure as Mr. Shrum is - alter ego to Senator Edward M. Kennedy, consultant to four presidential candidates and many senators - there is one thing he has never accomplished: advising a successful presidential campaign.”

“Instead, he has become known as a polarizing figure who dominates and divides a staff, a relentless player of inside politics who will sometimes steamroll colleagues to win an argument, people who have worked with him for years say.”

Edwards did a Washington Post ed board meeting and getsfront-page play for his relatively optimistic message:. Edwards “did not direct his comments at any of his rivals for the Democratic nomination in particular. But his strategic analysis of the presidential race appeared to apply most directly to former Vermont governor Howard Dean, whose early and angry assault on Bush and the war in Iraq has vaulted him to” leads in fundraising and New Hampshire polls.

Edwards “said he must finish third or a close fourth in the Jan. 19 Iowa caucuses... Edwards said he must finish at least third in the Jan. 27 New Hampshire primary... A week later, on Feb. 3, Edwards will face what he acknowledged will be the most critical early test of his campaign, one he said will determine whether he will survive deeper into the nominating process. ‘Oh, I need to win South Carolina,’ he said of the first primary in his native South.”

Excerpts from the meeting.

Howard Kurtz notes Edwards’ and Kerry’s latest ads pit policy against bio.

Gephardt Iowa press secretary Bill Burton claims to embed Priya David the Dean and Kerry camps have spent $100,000 each in what Burton calls the “sign war” for Saturday’s Jefferson-Jackson Dinner. Burton adds, “Gephardt will have hundreds of volunteers out on the streets of Des Moines knocking on over 10,000 doors. In the last five years, Gephardt has been responsible for directing more than $750,000 to help Iowa Democrats win majorities in the legislature, seats in Congress and the governor’s mansion for our party.” Burton says Gephardt would rather spend money on TV ads in Iowa than on trying to convince a “room full of people who have already made up their minds.” He says Gephardt has spent little to no money on the dinner.

The New York Post looks at Sen. Hillary Clinton’s appearance at the JJ, and at other events this week, and notes her appearances are angering some of the Democratic nominees for president. “Clinton will do three cash grabs for the Iowa Democratic Party, one for an Iowa congressman, one for her own Senate re-election, and two in Illinois.”

“The former first lady’s visit has miffed some of this year’s crop of presidential wannabes, who fear she’ll steal their spotlight, and is focusing new attention on her own political ambitions.”

Kerry embed Becky Diamond notes Kerry hasn’t filed papers in New Hampshire yet, and is told by the campaign “there will be a press event around it.”

Embed Karin Caifa says the Kucinich campaign has set another fundraising goal for the month of November. After setting and surpassing the goal of $400,000 in October, they’ve decided to double it to $800,000. So far, the campaign reports raising $117,340.

2004 notes (R)

Vice President Cheney is a likable guy, new Gallup numbers show. “The survey also quells the notion set forth by persistent critics that Mr. Cheney lurks behind the scenes as a kind of White House puppet master and power broker.” - Washington Times


In advance of his Monday swearing-in, the Los Angeles Times analyzes Governor-elect Schwarzenegger’s chosen staff: “his range of appointments suggests the Republican governor-elect plans to run the state much as he campaigned - as a fiscal conservative with decidedly centrist views on other matters... Both liberals and conservatives have found reason for delight and despair in the appointments announced thus far.”


With Louisiana’s gubernatorial run-off on Saturday, the New Orleans Times-Picayune says Kathleen Blanco (D) and Bobby Jindal (R) “zipped across the state” yesterday to rally supporters. “The candidates meet tonight in the final televised debate of the campaign on WWL-TV and then resume a nearly nonstop schedule heading into the weekend.”

The paper also says Jindal has come under fire that “65,000 people, including 30,000 children, were dropped from the health-insurance rolls while he was the state’s health secretary from 1996 to 1998.”

“Jindal dismissed the criticism as a last-minute bid by political opponents to distort his record.”

November 11, 2003 / 09:30 AM ET

From Elizabeth Wilner, Mark Murray, and Huma Zaidi

On war-versus-economy, war naturally takes precedence as President Bush and the Democratic presidential field commemorate Veterans’ Day. Bush signs the Fallen Patriots Tax Relief Act at 10:10 am, lays a wreath at Arlington National Cemetery at 10:55 am, makes remarks on Veterans’ Day at 11:10 am, makes remarks at the Heritage Foundation President’s Club luncheon at 1:15 pm, and signs the National Cemetery Expansion Act of 2003 at 2:10 pm.

Clark, in New Hampshire, visits a VA medical center and a VFW post. Dean gives a foreign policy address and meets with veterans in Iowa. Kerry breakfasts with veterans in Phoenix and does a veterans’ event before taping The Tonight Show in Los Angeles. Lieberman, in Oklahoma, keynotes a Veterans’ Day ceremony and hosts a roundtable discussion with veterans. The two candidates generally focused more on the economy, Gephardt and Edwards, are down.

Campaign stories run thick. That EU has some sharp political analysts: The WTO ruling yesterday that Bush’s steel tariffs violate international trade rules leaves the White House with a dicey choice between repealing the tariffs and ticking off voters in battleground states, or not repealing and facing sanctions targeted at battleground states.

The Washington Post sets up Thursday as the day Bush may crack the $100 million fundraising mark. Bush advisors use Dean’s forgoing matching funds as justification to fundraise even more. Dean uses Bush’s expected “$200 million from corporate special interests” to justify forgoing matching funds, while George Soros dumps a couple mil into an Internet-driven advocacy group out to beat Bush. Kerry is likely to use Dean’s opting out to announce shortly that he will, too.

And then, there’s Kerry. Typically, we don’t devote much space to campaign staff changes. Kerry, however, says he let his campaign manager go to change the dynamics of the race. Well then.

The dynamics changed, alright. It’s Veterans’ Day. Kerry’s driving rationale is that his Vietnam background best positions him to take on Bush in a time of war and threats to homeland security. Clark competes with him for that slot, while the national security-lite Dean has overtaken him in his must-win state. Yet Kerry has flushed his own Veterans’ Day opportunity.

Yesterday, we wrote, “Kerry’s chance to tout his Vietnam credentials today will get stepped on by the firing of his campaign manager.” This morning’s Des Moines Register headline after Kerry’s day of campaigning with veterans in that key state: “Kerry fires manager in plan to move campaign forward.” The nation’s newspaper leads with Kerry’s “fall from front-runner to underdog.” The Boston Herald leads: “insiders contend Kerry himself has been the campaign’s real problem.” The Boston Globe gives it THREE stories. The Manchester, NH Union-Leader runs the AP account.

This short-term pain may yield longer-term gain. But changing campaign managers doesn’t typically change the dynamics of a race. And emphasizing that it will, as Kerry is, only ratchets up the pressure.

The campaign’s change-the-subject TV ad also emphasizes how much they are reacting to Dean. Embed Felix Schein says that per the Dean campaign, the Boston Globe report suggesting Dean was going to launch a TV ad using Bush on the USS Lincoln was wrong; no such ad is in the works. Yet the report promoted the Kerry campaign to put their own such spot out there — an undercurrent which may get as much media attention as the message in the ad itself.

The Wall Street Journal reports: “Congress’s year-end budget squeeze threatens one of President Bush’s top foreign-policy initiatives, an incentive approach to U.S. aid that rewards poor countries that shed corrupt one-party governments and move toward democracy and market economies. The so-called Millennium Challenge Account program, announced in March 2002 and highly touted during Mr. Bush’s trip to Africa in July, has yet to be authorized by Congress and appears increasingly in competition with a second Bush priority: more money to fight AIDS overseas.”

Veterans’ Day

“Mired in a complicated, unfinished mission in Iraq,” says the AP, Bush will honor the nation’s veterans with a wreath laying and speech at Arlington National Cemetery today, right after signing the Fallen Patriots Tax Relief. Later this afternoon, Bush plans “to talk about the high stakes in Iraq in a speech at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center, an event sponsored by the conservative Heritage Foundation. He’ll talk about his assessment of the current situation in Iraq, both the security situation and our strategy to prevail.”

Bush will also sign the “Fallen Patriots Tax Relief Act, which doubles the tax-free death gratuity payment given to the families of fallen soldiers from $6,000 to $12,000; and the National Cemetery Expansion Act to help establish new national cemeteries for deceased veterans in southeastern Pennsylvania and in and around Birmingham, Ala., Jacksonville and Sarasota, Fla., Bakersfield, Calif., and Greenville and Columbia, S.C.”

Despite the scrum over his own campaign shake-up yesterday, Kerry apparently elicited a response from the normally quiet Bush campaign: “Kerry, in remarks at Paralyzed Veterans of America, accused President Bush of failing to meet the health-care needs of veterans. Bush’s campaign fired back that Kerry was spreading falsehoods about the president’s treatment of veterans,” says the Des Moines Register.

Kerry embed Becky Diamond says the campaign yesterday touted support from over 1,000 Iowa veterans. Kerry spokesperson David Wade said veterans are “a core constituency” that “if mobilized could make a huge difference” in Iowa and New Hampshire. The campaign estimates 281,000 veterans live in Iowa. Of those, 158,359 are registered to vote and 142,185 have never caucused before. The Kerry campaign pointed out to Diamond that many of their veteran supporters are new to the caucuses.

Yesterday in New Hampshire, embed Dionne Scott reports, Lieberman played up how his Veterans’ Bill of Rights includes eliminating “don’t ask, don’t tell:” “You shouldn’t prohibit somebody from being in the military because of a status that they have. You should judge them based on their conduct as soldiers. And therefore, I thought that the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy was not fair.” Lieberman opposed the policy when it was introduced during the Clinton Administration.

Also yesterday in New Hampshire, the Boston Globe says, “Clark said he would establish a national memorial in Washington, D.C., to honor the soldiers who fought in Panama, Iraq, and Somalia; fully fund veterans’ health care and extend it to reservists and National Guardsmen; and eliminate the Disabled Veterans Tax, which reduces some veterans’ retirement benefits by the amount they receive in disability pay. Legislation is pending in Congress to eliminate that tax. Clark will campaign today at several Veterans Day-related events in New Hampshire.”

The Columbia, SC State reports, “Clark’s status as a former four-star Army general has piqued the interest of some military veterans in this key primary state, but that doesn’t mean the Democratic presidential hopeful will automatically get their vote.”

“Still, a number of veterans find Clark’s sharp criticism of the Bush administration’s policy in Iraq too much to swallow.”

Politics of steel

The Washington Post: If Bush “abides by the WTO ruling and rolls back the steel tariffs, he would anger voters in key steelmaking states such as Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia. But if he maintains the tariffs, he would risk angering industries in other states that would be hurt by the retaliatory duties.”

“White House spokesman Scott McClellan said Bush has not yet made a decision. But sources close to the White House say the administration’s economic team has united in imploring Bush to scrap the tariffs rather than let them stay in effect until their scheduled expiration in March 2005. Perhaps more important, one source said, Karl Rove, the president’s top political adviser, now believes the tariffs have cost Bush more political support among steel-using industries and conservative free-trade advocates than the political goodwill he gained from their imposition.”

The Los Angeles Times: “The Europeans have targeted some of their promised sanctions to inflict symbolic and political pain for the president and GOP lawmakers, including citrus grown in Florida and garments made in the Carolinas.”

The Chicago Tribune spells it out: “If Bush does not repeal the tariffs, the European Union has said it will impose $2.2 billion in punitive tariffs on American goods produced in states critical to Bush’s re-election chances, including citrus fruit from Florida, where his brother, Jeb, is governor.”

The Wall Street Journal notes the “administration’s initial response was defiant... But internal dissension makes it unclear what the White House’s next move will be.”

Politics of the economy

The Columbia, SC State on Bush’s fundraising and speech-making stop yesterday: “Bush raised a record $1.6 million for his re-election bid Monday in a South Carolina visit also intended to show his concern for unemployed textile workers.” A local poli sci professor says, “‘The people who attended his fund-raiser ... are well-heeled... That’s a stark contrast to what the president said at BMW today, that some people should get “a little drive.” That may not sit well.’”

“The president said his tax cuts have helped spur the economy. He called on Congress to make them permanent.”

The story notes, “Bush delivered something of a mini State of the Union address, ticking off his accomplishments and challenging Congress to finish acting on his agenda. The president drew his biggest applause when he called for an end to frivolous lawsuits that he said are driving up the cost of medical care.”

The Los Angeles Times: “Bush’s comments marked a shift in both emphasis and tone over the last few days - from reticence Friday in response to improving economic indicators to near-exuberance Monday in proclaiming that his agenda, most notably two across-the-board tax cuts, have set the nation on the road to recovery.”


The Washington Post reports, “With President Bush’s reelection fundraising nearing the $100 million mark, several advisers said Monday that the new financial threat posed by... Dean should encourage the president’s donors to vault his campaign well past its ambitious fundraising goal of $170 million.”

“When Bush passes the $100 million mark, possibly Thursday, he will eclipse the amount he spent in 2000 and break the record for political fundraising.”

“Republican officials said that if Dean becomes their opponent, his campaign-financing decision could dramatically change the landscape for Bush in the months between clinching the nomination and the Democratic National Convention in late July. Bush’s strategists had assumed the Democratic nominee would be low on money, or broke, during that period and would have to rely on advertising by outside interest groups, which cannot legally coordinate their messages with the campaign.”

“Republican officials have said they expected to be able to use that time to run a flood of advertising — with separate waves promoting Bush’s record and bashing the Democrat, with little direct opposition on the air. Bush, who is pouring much of his money into elaborate get-out-the-vote operations, now faces the prospect of an ad war with a well-funded competitor through the spring and summer.”

“Bush is still likely to far out-raise any competitor.”

First Lady Laura Bush has done 13 fundraisers since June and has raised “more than $5 million so far.” — Washington Times

Just days after Dean justified bowing out of the matching fund system because Bush will raise hundreds of millions from “corporate interests,” the Washington Post covers George Soros’ gift of $5 million to to help defeat Bush, which brings “to $15.5 million the total of his personal contributions to oust” the President.

“Soros’s contributions are filling a gap in Democratic Party finances that opened after the restrictions in the 2002 McCain-Feingold law took effect.”

“In an effort to limit Soros’s influence, the RNC sent a letter to Dean Monday, asking him to request that [Soros beneficiary groups] follow the McCain-Feingold restrictions limiting individual contributions to $2,000.”

The press release explains that Soros and fellow financier Peter Lewis “have given a challenge grant to the Voter Fund as it seeks to raise millions of dollars from its members and others to support a television campaign to tell the truth about... Bush. Two weeks ago the Voter Fund kicked off a fundraising effort aimed at producing $10 million to be spent on TV advertising in selected battleground states in the 2004 election. The spots will begin shortly and run steadily through next March.” Soros and Lewis “have committed to give as much as $5 million to match grassroots contributions to the fund on a one-to-two basis. Thus, if the fund succeeds in reaching its $10 million goal it will reap an additional $5 million from the matching gift.”

More 2004 notes (D)

Kerry embed Becky Diamond says Kerry yesterday repeated over and over again that he was “changing the dynamics of the race” by changing campaign managers, but refused to elaborate on what those dynamics were. (Watch the press avail video, Diamond says, and you will count “change the dynamic” numerous times with no explanation of what it means.) Kerry would not answer questions as to whether it is “too late” to change the dynamic or whether he would be attacking Dean more aggressively. Traveling press secretary David Wade also said new campaign manager Mary Beth Cahill “can change the dynamic.”

Per Diamond, a Kerry Iowa staffer says she got a phone call with the news at 4:30 am CT on Monday. The staffer said the campaign’s Iowa operation had to “put it on the shelf” because Kerry was in town.

The Washington Post: “Kerry told his staff in a contentious phone call Sunday night that he was under pressure from donors and key supporters to dramatically shake things up, according to sources. Several aides told the senator his problems are much bigger than Jordan’s leadership and suggested Kerry had to make personal changes, too, the sources said. Several aides said Kerry’s campaign has been too muddled and mean-spirited.”

“Kerry’s decision to sack his campaign manager midcourse is likely to only reinforce his image as Gore-like.”

On Dean: “Several aides are lobbying Kerry to strike a balance: Attack Dean, but not so personally, and offer a clearer alternative to the front-runner.”

“Kerry also has had a tough time capitalizing on what was once seen as his greatest asset: his highly decorated service in Vietnam. Veterans still flock to his events, but his wavering position on the war in Iraq has left many Democrats confused and frustrated.”

Boston Globe Story #1: (the news) “By taking the personally painful step of ousting one of his most trusted lieutenants, Kerry is acknowledging that something has gone badly wrong with his campaign.”

Boston Globe Story #2 : (the analysis): “Kerry offers a vivid snapshot of the anguish spreading through some corners of the Democratic field as Howard B. Dean barrels toward the presidential nomination with increasing velocity.”

“While other Democrats are clearly feeling the effects of Dean’s insurgency — Representative Richard A. Gephardt of Missouri is facing a serious challenge in his backyard, in Iowa, home to the first caucuses — Kerry is locked in a must-win battle for New Hampshire, where Dean has shown a double-digit lead in recent polls. And although all the major candidates in the race are working to derail Dean’s candidacy — [Edwards, Lieberman and Clark] have all taken turns attacking Dean over various issues — the Dean-Kerry rivalry has drawn the most attention, in part because Kerry grappled so publicly months ago with the question of whether to home in on Dean or not.”

Boston Globe Story #3: (Dean) looks at “how Dean’s campaign has been able to overshadow moves by Kerry’s time and again, making deft use of the political process to build momentum for the former Vermont governor.”

Diamond also says to expect word on whether Kerry will forgo matching funds as early as today; he already has pledged to stick to the $45 million overall limit if he forgoes the match, and has challenged Dean to do the same.

Dean embed Felix Schein notes the Dean campaign’s response to that challenge and Kerry’s criticism of Dean’s decision to forgo matching funds: Yesterday, the Dean campaign released a series of Kerry quotes meant to demonstrate that he is on the verge of committing the same re-evaluation Dean did in deciding to opt out. Schein also says Dean’s top aides leave little doubt that he will not adhere to the $45 million limit. According to senior Dean officials, adhering to the limit would give Clark a massive advantage since he got into the race late, has spent less, and consequently has more room under the cap than the campaigns who have been spending money all year.

Kucinich embed Karin Caifa reports that since launching “The Dr. is Out” late last week, a campaign designed to attract Dean supporters, the Kucinich folks have posted over 100 “testimonials” on their website from those who have allegedly dropped off of the Dean bandwagon.

The New York Times looks at a surging Team Gephardt which, it notes, is now leading Dean in Iowa. “As he darts from town to town, Mr. Gephardt is drawing larger crowds and is increasingly described by some Democrats as the most potent adversary to Dr. Dean.” (Pretty impressive work, we’d note, for a labor-reliant campaign that just lost two big union endorsements.)

Edwards embed Dugald McConnell says the campaign’s new TV ad yesterday in Iowa and New Hampshire — — is the campaign’s 11th. The already released policy booklet touted in the ad, reminiscent of Bill Clinton’s, is more extensive than the efforts of other candidates, McConnell notes, reminding us that this campaign relies more on policy and bio than on characteristics like leadership. Edwards’ style in New Hampshire also seems geared more toward issues than toward themes. “Most of the town hall meetings, he doesn’t have a stump speech anymore,” said New Hampshire spokesman Colin van Ostern. “He’ll talk about the policy of the day, and then open it up for questions.”

Lieberman plans to spend most of January in New Hampshire, says the Courant.

The lead Boston Globe online story isn’t about Kerry, actually — it’s about the Democratic convention host committee and the fact that “organizers have attracted only about $3 million in cash donations, including just two worth more than $250,000, according to a list of corporate sponsors posted on the host committee’s website.”


The AP reports jurors in GOP Rep. Bill Janklow’s trial for manslaughter “will hear testimony about a close call Janklow had at the same intersection, but not about three accidents and 12 speeding tickets in his driving record, a judge ruled Monday.”

November 10, 2003 / 09:30 AM ET

From Elizabeth Wilner, Mark Murray, and Huma Zaidi

President Bush spotlights the economy in South Carolina, in between fundraisers there and in Arkansas, while Veterans’ Day plays big in a Democratic nominating contest where the CW is that electability means support for, and prior service in the US military. Base appeal, however, still means opposition to the President.

So Clark, Kerry and Lieberman flex their pro-military records and talk about helping veterans, while frontrunner Dean (again) stands out for his consistent opposition to the war. The Boston Globe says Dean plans to air TV ads of Bush landing on the USS Abraham Lincoln “— images Bush deployed as a triumphant visual coda to the Iraq conflict but which Dean says are now powerful reminders of a war gone wrong.”

Kerry’s chance to tout his Vietnam credentials today will get stepped on by the firing of his campaign manager. (Note that Kerry’s statement highlights the incoming manager’s work for Sen. Ted Kennedy and “progressive causes.”) Embed Becky Diamond says Kerry will play up his military experience as he meets with veterans groups in Iowa and New Hampshire. Per the campaign release: “Kerry will embark on an Iowa bus tour with Iowa veterans on Monday, November 10, the eve of Veterans Day. Kerry will be joined by veterans from all across Iowa as well as members of his Veterans for Kerry Leadership team. John Kerry is proud to have the support of over 1000 veterans in Iowa and an unprecedented Iowa Veterans for Kerry grassroots organization.” (Affiliate coverage.)

Embed Marisa Buchanan says Clark today unveils his “vision” to assist vets. A Clark e-mail to supporters asking for clothes for wounded soldiers in Germany says: “In 1970, I as being flown on a stretcher to Saigon after being hit by enemy fire in Vietnam. I missed the birth of my only son while I was recovering in Japan. I know something about how the young men and women who were wounded in Iraq feel, because I experienced it myself. If there is one thing that can make those tough days of recovery easier, it’s having support from home.”

And Lieberman embed Dionne Scott reports on Lieberman’s proposal of a US military “bill of rights” to: ensure gays won’t be denied a chance to serve; enlist NATO troops to help US troops in Afghanistan and Iraq; demand more rigorous training for peacekeeping and nation-building missions; and arm US troops with advanced technology. Lieberman over the weekend was endorsed by a Manchester, NH alderman who is a Vietnam vet and is now Lieberman’s senior advisor for veterans’ affairs. The Boston Globe outlines Lieberman and Kerry’s pro-vet proposals.

On Tuesday, Clark has Veterans’ Day-themed events in New Hampshire; Dean speaks on foreign policy at the Iowa City of Foreign Relations Council and meets with veterans in Ottumwa; and Kerry breakfasts with veterans in Phoenix before taping The Tonight in Los Angeles.

The other dynamic out there: The Dean versus Someone Else concept really took root over the weekend. An e-mail from Gephardt’s campaign manager to supporters calls Gephardt “The Deanslayer,” while Kerry’s Face the Nation appearance was all about Dean. Again, AFSCME, along with the SEIU, is expected to endorse Dean on Wednesday.

Next weekend brings the Louisiana gubernatorial run-off and the Florida Democratic Party’s decision on a straw poll, and Schwarzenegger gets sworn in a week from today.

The economy

The Columbia, SC State heralds Bush’s visit: “When President Bush arrives today in Greenville, he will be visiting the manufacturing hub of a state that has lost 91,100 jobs since the Republican won election three years ago.”

“Bush arrives in the wake of positive economic news... That may be small comfort for the 400 workers who lost their jobs when Georgetown Steel closed last month, and for the 600 workers at Greenville’s General Electric gas turbine plant who expect to lose their jobs by next summer.”

“Bush won’t be speaking at either plant. Instead, he’ll speak at 4 p.m. at BMW’s Greer plant that makes Z4 roadsters and X5 sport utility vehicles. BMW has been one of the state’s brightest spots in the recession, adding more than 400 jobs in the past year alone.”

“The president‘s visit to Arkansas comes just days after reports of lagging Arkansas state revenue collections and the highest state jobless rate in ten years, signaling a sluggish state economic recovery.” — KARK

Prescription drugs

With the prescription drug reform conference committee expected to vote this week, House GOP leaders are trolling for support for wish-list items like requiring Medicare to compete directly with private plans, the Washington Times reports. The Wall Street Journal says the latest battle within the committee is over “rapid growth of physician-owned specialty hospitals:” “Critics say these facilities target the most profitable procedures under Medicare, such as heart and orthopedic surgery, leaving community hospitals with less revenue to support emergency services. Supporters counter that specialization increases the effectiveness of physicians, providing quality care more efficiently.”

The Los Angeles Times says Senator Kennedy remains the Democratic heavy on the legislation, even though he’s not on the conference committee. “Some Democrats worry that his deal-making could make possible passage of a Republican-leaning bill that they believe would permanently weaken Medicare. None was willing to speak on the record about disagreements with the senator, but many have shared their concerns with him.”

Politics of civil liberties

The Los Angeles Times reports on Gore’s critique yesterday, “Bush’s reelection campaign referred calls on the speech to the Republican National Committee. RNC officials did not return a call seeking comment.”

Beyond President Bush, the one person drawing the most ire from the Democratic field is Attorney General Ashcroft, says the Dallas Morning News.

Politics of elections

The AP covers Democratic governors’ efforts to save their states’ presidential primaries from the budgetary chopping block.

The Los Angeles Times says former state officials responsible for implementing election reforms, like California’s ex-secretary of state, are now working for the companies making the new voting equipment. “Out of the tumultuous 2000 presidential election has come a national initiative to replace punch-card voting devices with modern optical-scanning and touch-screen systems. And in California, where 54 counties are expected to buy about $400 million in new equipment, some voting machine makers are hiring former government officials... to supply prestige, entre or expertise for a competitive edge.”


The Los Angeles Times considers the possibility that the Democratic state attorney general’s reversal on the probe into the Schwarzenegger groping charges is politically motivated. “In California, the post of attorney general is among the best stepping-stones to higher office... But at age 62, Lockyer’s best shot for running for governor is in 2006. He already has $10 million for his next campaign.”

The AP contemplates the role NBC’s Maria Shriver may assume as a top adviser to her husband.

2004 notes (R)

On Bush and Laura Bush’s fundraising stops today: — AP

Bush’s reelection team is eyeing New Hampshire, reports. “Matthew Dowd, the senior strategist for Bush-Cheney 2004, said in an interview... that New Hampshire was among a half-dozen or so top-tier targeted states by the re-election campaign. Thus, while Dowd suggested Bush could visit the state again before January’s presidential primary, Bush would very likely campaign harder for Granite State votes for November’s general election.”

“In 2000, New Hampshire was a state Bush barely won over Al Gore by 7,211 votes in the general election. Green Party candidate Ralph Nader’s 22,000 votes no doubt help give New Hampshire to Bush. It was the only state in New England that he won.”

Which adds poignance to this Los Angeles Times New Hampshire-datelined story: “Times are relatively good in New Hampshire. The unemployment rate is more than a point below the nation’s - even in Franklin, a blue-collar town that has struggled since the textile mills shut down 30 years ago. Now it’s the war that is making some New Hampshire voters nervous...”

The story goes on to say: “Ambivalence about the situation in Iraq helps explain why former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, who questioned the war from the start, has staked out a strong lead among the Democratic candidates in state polls. In just one sign of his popularity, he is drawing such large crowds to house parties that some people have had to park three blocks away.”

Race and the south

Race and ethnicity have played big so far in Indian-American Republican Bobby Jindal’s bid for Louisiana governor, and the Shreveport Times says Pakistani-Americans are now lining up to support his opponent, Democrat Kathleen Blanco. “The support culminated during an Oct. 21 fund-raiser for Blanco in Lake Charles sponsored by the Pakistani-American Business Association of Louisiana, which gave Blanco $50,000 for her campaign.”

“One attendee said Jindal’s Indian heritage has some Pakistanis worried, given the decades of animosity between India and Pakistan.”

In the Democratic presidential race, Edwards embed Dugald McConnell says Edwards in Atlanta today picks up the endorsement of former Gov. Roy Barnes (D) of (South Carolina neighbor) Georgia.

The Sunday New York Times notes that since Edwards’ attack on Dean at Rock the Vote last week, “some voters have been thinking more about [Edwards’] calls to heed the South.” McConnell says Edwards on Sunday addressed 250 supporters dubbed “African Americans for Edwards,” telling them they put him in the Senate, asking for their help, and vowing to fight for civil rights, like-minded judges, and affirmative action.

That said, Edwards is among the four Democratic candidates skipping the DC beauty contest (though that’s probably more about making Iowans happy). Sharpton embed Tom Llamas notes Sharpton opened his DC campaign office on Sunday with a lot of show, though not a lot of show of support. Subtract the Bowie State University marching band and members of the media, Llamas says, and that left around 20 people in attendance.

More 2004 notes (D)

In “an attempt shake up his beleaguered presidential bid,” the AP says, Kerry has fired his campaign manager. The decision came Sunday night from the Kerry camp, who has since replaced Jordan with “Democratic operative” Mary Beth Cahill.

Edwards embed Dugald McConnell got this from the candidate on his return to Meet the Press: “I think it went well. Tim was tough as always, but it was an honest discussion. I thought it was good. There are always questions you haven’t thought about, so you have to be able to think on your feet. I think the mix was good. Felt like about 70 percent policy, 30 percent politics. This show has a huge audience, so we’ll talk to people who are activists in Iowa and New Hampshire, and obviously the Beltway crowd pays close attention.” Dean embed Felix Schein adds that staffers at a certain Burlington, VT HQ conceded Edwards did very well.

As noted above, the Dean-vs.-Democrat TBD concept really took root over the weekend. The Sunday New York Times had Democratic quotes that the next few months will be a referendum on Dean, and that Kerry is now the underdog in New Hampshire.

The Sunday Washington Post: “The path to victory may look brighter inside the Dean campaign because of what happened in the past seven days, but he still faces a serious obstacle course. His opponents will both gang up on him in attacks and attempt to isolate him into a series of one-on-one battles in various states. With his profile as high as it is today, the other question is whether Dean has the temperament and candidate skills to go with the grass-roots energy his campaign has aroused. The former governor’s penchant for making comments he later has to clean up could cause him further problems.”

“Many Democrats, including key figures in Congress and at the Democratic National Committee, say they worry Dean may be too liberal or too abrasive to defeat President Bush. They are scrambling to stop the former governor before it is too late. Yet with so many candidates from which to choose, it is unlikely that the Democratic establishment, which Dean spends much of his time bashing at campaign events, could coalesce around an alternative. Several Democrats said they hope former President Bill Clinton, his wife, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) and former Vice President Al Gore will intervene to help thwart Dean, but that appears unlikely, too.”

Embed Felix Schein notes the Dean campaign seems to be spending heavily to ensure nothing changes. The Burlington HQ is officially full. Security has been upgraded, with a magnetic door that is always locked, a receptionist who screens visitors, and ID badges around all necks. In Iowa, the press operation has expanded.

Dean explains his matching funds move in a Wall Street Journal op-ed: “A Democratic nominee with no money is exactly what the Bush campaign is hoping for. A nominee who has no opportunity to fight back against the onslaught of the Bush attacks between March and August — spending caps would leave a publicly financed Democrat broke by next spring. But we found a third way — for the people to change the system themselves.”

“I knew that this decision was not mine to make. Many of my supporters made those small-dollar contributions expecting that they would be doubled when the federal government matched them in January of 2004. But more importantly, this campaign has become larger than the candidate; it belongs to the community of more than 500,000 people who have built it. I concluded that this decision must be placed in their hands.”

The Washington Post editorial page (again) calls for Dean to abide by the overall $45 million spending limit, as Kerry and Gephardt have challenged him to do. Schein also reports that the campaign’s online vote on matching funds, which required voters to enter their names and some personal information, turned up a Gephardt staffer and several DNC staffers signing on as Dean supporters.

Kerry and Clark now may shortly follow suit and forgo matching funds. - USA Today

Some teachers hold a grudge against Dean, who “backed a school-funding scheme when he was governor of Vermont that turned teachers there against him and is now being used to try to sway powerful teachers unions in key primary states.” — Boston Herald

“Dean’s support for a plan that would have seized control of teacher salaries, ending local collective bargaining in a gambit to cut property taxes . . . Now, Bay State teachers backing U.S. Sen. John F. Kerry are trying to make sure the decade-old issue haunts Dean’s White House run.”

The Gephardt campaign got some good news over the weekend after a string of press hits like the SEIU/AFSCME news and the report that top staffers are taking pay cuts; also, word that UAW won’t endorse a candidate is a mixed blessing for Gephardt, who can now go for support of UAW locals. The good news: A Des Moines Register poll puts Gephardt in the lead over Dean in Iowa at 27% to Dean’s 20%, with Kerry third at 15%.

A Register story today looks at how candidate ads haven’t gained much traction yet.

Clark embed Marisa Buchanan says the campaign is confident they will raise at least $6 million by the end of the year, on top of the $3.5 million raised the first two weeks of the campaign. The New York Times looks into Clark’s post-military business activities, which the paper notes has put him in “the enviable position of having $2 million in checking accounts and an annual income that topped $1.6 million last year.”

Another top military general has blasted Clark, per the New York Post. “Gen. Tommy Franks, who retired after leading the first stage of this year’s war against Iraq, says in a new report that Wesley Clark, another former general, would make a lousy president.”

“‘Absolutely not,’ said Franks, when asked if Clark, who recently joined the pack of presidential wannabes, would make a good commander-in-chief.”

Buchanan reports the campaign holds a conference call on Internet initiatives today at 12:15 pm. One initiative, Buchanan says, is the “WesCam,” which is the brainchild of a friend of the family’s to get the behind-the-scenes of the campaign and get at “the General’s essence across to a broad web community.” “The Wescam will run on the campaign’s website on a regular basis to show the ‘in-between moments.’” It’s being billed as “the ultimate grass-roots approach to video coverage of the presidential race.”

Kucinich embed Karin Caifa says the campaign is planning a billboard ad blitz in Iowa and New Hampshire, at $800 a month per board; the campaign also is encouraging supporters to get together to buy billboards on their own.

Moseley Braun embed Angela Miles reports the candidate will be burning up the phone lines this week, with no public events on her schedule until Saturday.

Embed Tom Llamas asked Sharpton if he’s going to take any acting classes to prepare for his appearance on Saturday Night Live. Sharpton told Llamas his SNL appearance will bring America together: “I see me doing Saturday Night Live as the same as Bill Clinton doing Arsenio Hall. When Bill Clinton was running for President he did Arsenio Hall and people said he reached out. Well this is me reaching out on the other side,” Sharpton said. “So Al Sharpton on Saturday Night Live is my answer to Bill Clinton on Arsenio Hall. I’m meeting them half way across the divide bringing America together.” And on those acting lessons: “I don’t need acting lessons to be witty, I have to act to be dull. I need acting lessons to be dull.”

The Washington Post Style section does Sharpton in South Carolina.

November 7, 2003 / 09:30 AM ET

From Elizabeth Wilner, Mark Murray, and Huma Zaidi

A Black Hawk down and a second day of good economic news, with unemployment dropping to 6%, have the President and his aspiring Democratic challengers again shifting their feet on the war versus the economy, the tectonic plates of the 2004 campaign. Bush gives job training remarks in Edwards’ home state of North Carolina, while a Democrat-produced summary of textile industry “discontent” with the Administration makes the rounds. Democrats — like the trio in New Hampshire today and Clark down South — are likely to focus on the war; Veterans’ Day may start early for this field.

Special interests are at the fore: Dean began the week under fire for the flag flap but ends with (at least) two big union endorsements coming his way. As he awaits word from supporters on whether or not to take matching funds, with that verdict coming Saturday, he charges that Bush will get hundreds of millions from “corporate special interests.” (A Republican party spokesperson reminds Dean that corporations can’t contribute...) Kerry, meanwhile, attacks Dean for pandering to “special interests like the NRA.”

On Sunday, Edwards makes his first Meet the Press appearance in a year and a half, and Al Gore comments on the Administration’s response to terrorism at a Constitution Society event in DC at 2:00 pm.

And in California, revival of the Schwarzenegger groping charges was not unexpected, but for the Governor-elect, came from an unexpected source. - San Francisco Chronicle

The Washington Post writes up the White House e-mail to the Hill stating it “will not entertain any more questions from opposition lawmakers.” “The director of the White House Office of Administration... sent an e-mail titled ‘congressional questions’ to majority and minority staff on the House and Senate Appropriations panels. Expressing ‘the need to add a bit of structure to the Q&A process,’ he wrote: ‘Given the increase in the number and types of requests we are beginning to receive from the House and Senate, and in deference to the various committee chairmen and our desire to better coordinate these requests, I am asking that all requests for information and materials be coordinated through the committee chairmen and be put in writing from the committee.’”

“He said this would limit ‘duplicate requests’ and help answer questions ‘in a timely fashion.’ It would also do another thing: prevent Democrats from getting questions answered without the blessing of the GOP committee chairmen.”

Also: “Senior Senate Republicans said yesterday that unless Democrats disavow a plot to use the traditionally nonpartisan intelligence committee to wage political attacks on the Bush administration, they would consider taking away Democrats’ power-sharing privileges,” the Washington Times reports.

The economy

The AP on the unemployment numbers: “The Labor Department also made substantial upward revisions to payrolls for August and September, a sign sizzling economic growth in the third quarter translated into more jobs.”

USA Today rounds up yesterday’s positive economic news: Greenspan’s optimism on job growth, increased productivity, and Gallup numbers showing “53% of those surveyed earlier this week said the economy was getting better, up from 47% two weeks ago. That’s the highest in 19 months and more than double the 23% who said it was getting better in March, a low point in the Bush presidency.”

Forsyth Tech is thrilled about their presidential visit. — Winston Salem Journal

Politics of Iraq

The Washington Post on Bush’s speech yesterday: “A senior administration official familiar with the speech’s preparation said the purpose was to ‘elevate the president’s foreign policy to a moral cause, and remind people why they’re fighting.’ The official said such a discussion ‘takes the whole thing out of troop levels and border patrols,’ subjects that have been vexing for the administration during the deadly Iraqi insurgency...”

“The speech came after some division within the administration about how best to cast the hostilities in Iraq. A Republican source said some of the more politically minded of Bush’s advisers argued ‘that the whole issue must be framed only in terms of American security.’”

The Washington Post reports Clark called yesterday for reconstruction chief Bremer to be replaced and suggested more US troops in Iraq. He had more to say about Iraq on CNBC’s Capital Report: “I’m concerned that the administration doesn’t have a strategy. And if it does, it hasn’t shared it. And I keep asking, why won’t they come forward with a strategy?”

Lieberman embed Dionne Scott reports that before Clark laid out his post-war Iraq points yesterday, Lieberman said, “From what I’ve heard about them, they sound a lot like what I’ve been saying for more than a year now... Wes Clark’s plan sounds a lot like the plan I put out last October and then again in February, so I would say it’s a good plan... About a month or so ago, I welcomed Wes to the Democratic party and to this campaign, so I guess I should welcome him to my plan.”


The San Francisco Chronicle says California Attorney General Bill Lockyer yesterday called for an independent probe into the allegations that Governor-elect Schwarzenegger groped women over the years. That move angered Schwarzenegger’s aides, who “responded that the governor-elect had already decided to hire a private investigation firm to look into the allegations. They accused Lockyer of violating ‘attorney- client’ privilege by publicly disclosing discussions about the matter.”

“The accusation of a breach of trust and of professional ethics marks a strange twist in the relationship between the Republican governor-elect and the Democratic attorney general. Democrats were stunned when Lockyer said after the election that he had voted for Schwarzenegger and downplayed the groping allegations as ‘frat boy behavior.’”

The Los Angeles Times: “Schwarzenegger spokesman Rob Stutzman refused to reveal the name of the investigative firm he is hiring and said the scope of the investigation had yet to be determined.”

“Despite skepticism that a prominent public official can pay for an investigation of himself, Stutzman said the ‘impeccable reputation’ of the firm chosen would allay any concerns about the credibility of the investigation.”

Gay marriage

The Boston Globe: ‘Republican strategists are planning to make gay marriage an issue in the 2004 political race if the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court rules that same-sex couples can legally wed in the Commonwealth.”

“Under pressure from social conservatives who want President Bush to campaign against gay marriage in 2004, GOP officials say they are studying battleground states where same-sex unions could be a wedge issue in national and state races, and they are weighing endorsement of a proposed federal constitutional amendment sanctioning only heterosexual marriage.”

“At the same time, conservative groups are raising money to spend on campaigns next year, assembling volunteers to press candidates to oppose gay marriage, and organizing petition drives and ballot initiatives in favor of the constitutional amendment.”

Labor primary

Dean embed Felix Schein says the SEIU delayed their endorsement of Dean yesterday to wait for AFSCME, whose board meets in DC next Wednesday, in order to present a united union front and signal that their differences would be set aside to facilitate the higher goal: the nomination of Dean and the defeat of President Bush.

The Washington Post: “The sudden convergence of the SEIU and AFSCME, two unions that appeared headed in opposite directions on their choice of a Democratic nominee earlier this year, is one of the most surprising turns in the race and would give Dean critical political manpower and infrastructure in Iowa, New Hampshire and a number of key states that hold primaries or caucuses in the weeks after those two contests.”

“If AFSCME joins the SEIU, as expected, labor will find itself badly divided between industrial unions and those in the service economy.”

The New York Times: “For Dr. Dean, the S.E.I.U. is especially significant because about 35 percent of its members are black or Latino and, as former governor of a nearly all-white state, he lacks a political network in minority communities. With 755,000 health-care workers among its members, Dr. Dean also hopes S.E.I.U. will help sell him as the health-care candidate.”

The Chicago Tribune: “labor and political sources said they thought the power of a possible combined endorsement was worth the awkward moment of SEIU not formally backing Dean despite calling a news conference in Washington for that purpose.”

Embed Dugald McConnell got Edwards on Dean’s forthcoming SEIU nod: “Actually it was a remarkable turn. For example, when I appeared in front of the SEIU meeting in September it was clear they came in planning to endorse Howard Dean. They had basically already made the decision. And I appeared before them, and that appearance was what stopped the endorsement that day.”

Embed Priya David reports the Gephardt staff on Thursday, upon hearing the news of AFSCME’s likely Dean endorsement, was taken aback. An SEIU endorsement of Dean was expected, but deputy press secretary Kim Molstre said they hadn’t received any notification from AFSCME that this was in the works. Gephardt senior advisor Steve Elmendorf: “We’re happy with the level of labor support we have... there’s going to be other unions that support us and other unions that support other candidates. I mean it’s a big field with nine candidates, so we’re not going to get everyone. We’d like to get everyone but you never get everything you want.” Elmendorf told David they feel good about where they are with labor because they have a message that resonates on health care, trade, and the economy. “We’ll go up against Howard Dean or anyone else with that message.”

More Elmendorf: Dean “has some labor unions. We have a lot more. John Kerry has some labor unions. Other people are going to get labor unions. He doesn’t have near as many as we have... You know, the national polls, sometimes he’s ahead, sometimes Clark’s ahead, Lieberman’s been ahead, we’ve been ahead, everybody’s been ahead one time or another in the national polls. I don’t think they’re particularly meaningful. I think what’s meaningful is where you are in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, the early states. And we’re very competitive.”

An official Gephardt statement and an accompanying one-pager outline their union support to date: “We are always disappointed when a union does not decide to endorse us, but we have the support of 20 international labor unions, representing 5 million members nationwide and more than 54,000 Iowans and with that solid grassroots support we will win the Iowa caucuses and go on to win the nomination.”

Kerry manager Jim Jordan, per embed Becky Diamond: ’”Obviously we’re disappointed, and obviously we’re surprised that the major unions are backing a candidate who through his career has proposed raising the retirement age of working Americans, of slashing social security, and who now supports big tax increases on middle class families. Nonetheless, we look forward standing side by side with these same unions against George Bush when we’re the Democratic nominee.”

Race, guns and the south

USA Today on the Confederate flag flap: “However clumsy he may have appeared, Dean was addressing a real problem that confronts Democrats in the South: the loss to Republicans of white male moderate and conservative voters. It’s a problem for Democrats nationally as well, since Democratic presidential nominees in modern times haven’t won election without carrying at least part of the South.”

The Washington Post: “It remains to be seen whether Dean will be damaged politically by his comments about Confederate flags, pickup trucks and the people who drive them. But what’s certain is that a candidate whom many here know little about is beginning to be defined by some South Carolina voters by his stance on the Confederate flag. Talk radio stations are crackling with chatter about his remark, with hosts questioning whether Dean — a northerner with liberal leanings on many issues — was unflatteringly generalizing southerners.”

Dean told the Boston Globe’s Lehigh regarding his decision to apologize over his flag remarks, “that after mulling the matter into the wee hours, he realized at ‘about 3 o’clock in the morning’ that he needed to make amends.”

“Dean says he also decided that North Carolina Senator John Edwards had a point. During the debate, Edwards angrily told Dean that he had stereotyped Southerners. And that the South didn’t need ‘somebody like you coming down and telling us what we need to do.’”

“At first, Dean said, he thought Edwards was only trying to embarrass him. ‘But after I thought about it, I realized he really was reacting as a Southerner,’ Dean said. ‘I thought Edwards really meant that. He wasn’t just doing it to yank my chain.’ Dean added that ‘we need to talk about race, but we also have to go about it in a measured way and be careful and thoughtful.’”

Gephardt and Lieberman statements yesterday suggested they are putting the flag flap behind them. Embed Becky Diamond reports Kerry, on the other hand, said of Dean’s remarks: “It was not an effort to reach out and have a dialogue about race. It was his response to my comments about his support for the NRA and his opposition to assault weapons. It was his effort to justify his appeal to the NRA for support. It was his effort to talk about why he thinks we need to reach out to people with guns. This is not straight talk when you stand up and try to translate your appeal to the NRA into a glorious discussion of race relations in America... Falling in line with the most extreme elements of the NRA, Howard Dean did not offer not straight talk but he offered a pander to one of the most powerful special interests in America. He has been endorsed more times by the NRA than the NEA.”

Matching funds

And on Dean potentially not taking matching funds, Diamond reports Kerry saying: “What do you believe? What do you believe in life? Your political positions say something about what you believe. I’ve been fighting special interests all my life. I believe in not taking special interest money in campaigns. I’ve made my political life harder and I’ve had to go out and spend a lot more time fundraising to refuse to take any check from a PAC or soft money... He said he thought campaign finance reform was a critical issue and Democrats should stand up for it — that it would be terrible if people went outside campaign finance reform. Now he’s going to go outside of campaign finance reform. Where’s the principle?”

A Dean spokesperson e-mailed a response: Kerry’s “desperate attacks have reached a new low and they represent the type of politics the American people are sick of... [and] John Kerry, accusing someone of pandering is like Ken Lay accusing someone of cooking the books.”

Kucinich embed Karin Caifa says the campaign has launched a new initiative to attract Dean supporters, titled, “The Doctor is OUT.” In a statement Thursday, Kucinich said, “Dr. Dean promised to make it a campaign issue if any of his opponents opted out of public funding. I’m making it an issue now. Dr. Dean may feel that he can drag his supporters into agreeing with his preconceived decision because in the end he believes they have no other place to go. Well, he’s wrong. Our campaign is reaching out to them. They don’t have to give up hope.” Caifa notes the campaign website includes about 25 “testimonials” from former Dean supporters who say they’ve switched to Kucinich.

The New York Times editorial page makes the same argument that the Washington Post did yesterday — that while Dean’s expected decision to opt out of public financing is understandable, “Dean should show his commitment to principle by pledging right now that he will voluntarily spend no more than the $45 million limit in campaigning against other Democrats, and save the rest of his private funds for challenging Mr. Bush.”

More 2004 notes (D)

With AC/DC keeping things humming, Iowa Democratic Party staff and interns assembled thousands of caucus training packets yesterday. The Des Moines Register notes the party is under big pressure to pull off a smooth caucus night given the debate over Iowa’s first-in-the-nation role.

The Columbia, SC State reports Clark will get former Gov. Jim Hodges’ endorsement today. Some Clark campaign e-mails: one titled “URGENT: CAMPAIGN APPEAL,” saying that all money raised online in the next two days will go to the New Hampshire campaign; and another touting an “urgent need for campaign housing in NH!”

“Edwards yesterday scolded rivals running lackluster Iowa and New Hampshire campaigns, vowing not to rely only on key primaries in his native South to make him a contender,” the Boston Herald says.

The Washington Post editorial page takes its turn questioning Dean’s temperament: “as Mr. Dean himself recognizes, the very characteristics that appeal to many Democratic voters — his confrontational, even angry attitude — could also be his downfall. That, and not bogus suggestions that he is a racist, is the real concern raised by Mr. Dean’s flag remarks and their aftermath.”

For the third week in a row, Dean tops National Journal’s poll of 50 Democratic insiders who rank the candidates on their chances of winning the nomination. But this week’s poll also ranks which candidate would be the strongest challenger against Bush, and Gephardt leads the pack with 16 votes, Clark follows with nine, and Kerry gets five. Dean got four, tying him with Lieberman and Edwards. (Eight of the poll’s 50 insiders did not cast a vote on this question.)

The New York Daily News says things are looking “grim” for Kerry’s campaign. “He doesn’t lead in a single primary state. In New Hampshire, his own backyard, he trails Howard Dean by double digits. In South Carolina, a state he considers so key that he staged his formal campaign announcement there, his numbers are so bad that he’s being beaten by the Rev. Al Sharpton.”

Nevertheless, his campaign remains optimistic. “‘We’re still in the phase of courting activists,’ said campaign spokesman David Wade. ‘The wholesale campaigning begins in earnest about now. He always says things get real when the weather starts changing.’”

“Kerry’s camp is hoping for more incidents like Dean’s Confederate flag imbroglio this week... They believe the hotheaded Dean will self-immolate, leaving the field to the less exciting but steadier Kerry.”

Sharpton embed Tom Llamas reports that after the Washington Times yesterday said Sharpton was breaking ranks with his party over a potential filibuster of Bush judicial nominee Janice Rogers Brown (the Times quoted Sharpton from an interview he did yesterday with Sinclair Broadcasting: “I don’t agree with her politics. I don’t agree with some of her background. But she should get an up-or-down vote”), the Sharpton campaign then said Sharpton did not convey what he really meant. The “Reverend was talking about a vote in the committee not on the Senate floor. An up and down vote means on the Senate floor. To a Reverend and a lifetime civil rights activist an up or down vote means where you stand,” said campaign manager Charles Halloran. Llamas says Sharpton made it clear he is not in favor of any vote that would help a Brown appointment: “I asked the Senators to do everything within their means to prevent her from gaining a lifetime appointment to this important Court, and call upon the full Senate to take the same steps to ensure that she is not confirmed,” said Sharpton. The Washington Times covers.

November 6, 2003 / 09:45 AM ET

From Elizabeth Wilner, Mark Murray, and Huma Zaidi

President Bush signs the Iraq supplemental at 1:05 pm and Clark gives a national security policy speech at South Carolina State University at 2:00 pm. Yet the political news cycle once again is all Dean. The quasi-apologetic (per the media and his rivals) Dean expects to claim a Big endorsement from the Service Employees International Union, further solidifying his frontrunner status by making inroads with a key interest group; an AFSCME endorsement may follow, though that union is still considering others. You have to wonder how Dean’s bumpy transition from underdog to frontrunner — including these plays for traditional party support, his clear itch to ditch matching funds, and the flag flap - are going over with his Internet-driven base.

But that quasi-apology over the Confederate flag still dominates the news, and now Dean’s temperament for office is getting more broadly questioned. Says a New York Times editorial: Dean “is going to have to demonstrate that his Confederate flag moment was a one-shot, recoverable gaffe and not a symptom of something more haunting, like a pattern of misspeaking or a hardheaded combativeness that makes it impossible to give way with grace.”

The real big Dean news, though, concerns his move to opt out of the public financing system. More on that below.

Partial birth

Almost all the papers lead with yesterday’s signing of the abortion ban. In its news analysis, the New York Times

says that yesterday’s signing was “a validation” of the Right-to-Life movement’s “long-term strategy of incrementalism, restricting abortion step by step as part of the larger battle to turn public opinion against Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that recognized a constitutional right to abortion.”

“Regardless of how the courts ultimately rule on the new legislation, several of its advocates described the long fight for passage as a ‘teaching moment’ that will endure.”

USA Today : “Bush faces a delicate political challenge. He opposes abortion, but he said last week that the nation is not ready for a total ban. He wants conservatives who oppose abortion and are his most loyal supporters to know he’s on their side, but he doesn’t want to alienate everyone else.”

Meanwhile, although last night’s Planned Parenthood forum in New Hampshire occurred just hours after Bush signed the ban, abortion surprisingly wasn’t the dominant issue discussed by the Democratic candidates who were present. In fact, Kerry embed Becky Diamond reports only two of the candidates got a chance to answer the first question about Bush’s signing of the partial-birth abortion ban.

The Boston Globe has more on last night’s forum, which it says was “tamer than the face-off the candidates had a night earlier. However, the forum did have “an undercurrent of conflict between Dean and Kerry, as the two clashed over tax and education policy.”

The six Democratic candidates in attendance “courted women voters last night, touching on prayer, parenthood and the military draft while blasting President Bush for seeking to roll back abortion rights.” — Boston Herald

The AP reports that Dean will receive the SEIU’s endorsement today after meeting with the union’s executive board. “SEIU spokeswoman Sara Howard said Dean is the only candidate being considered, but the board could decide not to endorse anyone.”

“But other officials said it was a done deal.”

Gephardt embed Priya David says the Gephardt campaign is keeping quiet in the face of Dean’s expected SEIU nod. Gephardt has met several times with both the SEIU and AFSCME. The SEIU has said their number one priority is health care; Gephardt undoubtedly has the most in-depth health care plan, and also the most expensive, but several other candidates including Dean have detailed health care plans. AFSCME has said their priority is electability, David says, and for awhile there was buzz that Clark was in high favor, being close to AFSCME chief McEntee, but while there’s no strong Clark vibe right now, Gephardt doesn’t seem to be closing in, either.

Mike Fitzgerald, business manager of Chicago’s 18,000-member IBEW Local 134, endorses Moseley Braun today and commits to running as a delegate at 4:00 pm in Chicago.

Race, guns and the south (D)

The Washington Post writes that for the first time yesterday, Dean “expressed remorse” for his remarks about the Confederate flag. “‘I regret the pain that I may have caused either to African American or southern white voters,’ he said in New York. What he had hoped to do, Dean said, was provoke a ‘painful’ dialogue about race among all voters, including those displaying Confederate flags. But, he said, ‘I started this discussion in a clumsy way.’”

But the paper adds that “Dean’s rivals believe they have exposed what they consider among his greatest flaws: his temperament, obstinacy and propensity for making controversial or conflicting statements. Dean has brushed off most attacks, which seem to only intensify by the day, frustrating the other Democratic candidates, who are testing several themes to thwart his momentum.”

The New York Times has more. In an interview at the Times, Dean “said that his main mistake had been not immediately condemning the flag during the debate, and that he had decided to change course as he came to understand that his comments had been personally offensive to two of his rivals, the Rev. Al Sharpton, who is black, and Senator John Edwards of North Carolina.”

“‘When people get in my face, I tend to get in theirs,’ Dr. Dean said ... ‘Al Sharpton was in my face last night and I was not going to step one step, half a step, backwards, and I don’t care who’s in my face.’”

“‘I tend to be reflective rather later than sooner,’ he added. ‘Now, unfortunately, we all know that nobody’s personality is perfect. So the things that make me a strong candidate are also my Achilles’ heel.’”

For Edwards, the flap over the Confederate flag is closed, reports Edwards campaign embed Dugald McConnell. “I think he should have said last night that he was wrong,” Edwards said. “He had an opportunity to do it and he didn’t several times. But he’s done it today, and needs to be applauded for that.”

Embed Tom Llamas reports Sharpton’s response to Dean’s acknowledgement Wednesday that he offended some with his comments on the Confederate flag: “I think it is about time. I asked him to do that from the beginning and I think if he had done it from the beginning he wouldn’t give people the perception that he was forced or in some way pushed to do it,” Sharpton said. Sharpton said he had asked Dean to apologize more than once. “I think the apology is the right thing, I think I told him that last night that he must apologize, he said he wouldn’t, I told him in private he must apologize he said he wouldn’t. Maybe at midnight the Lord spoke to him.”

In addition, Sharpton is asking Senate Democrats not to filibuster African-American Bush judicial nominee Janice Rogers Brown, who gets a committee vote today. The Washington Times says Edwards plans to vote against Brown in committee today.

Matching funds

The Washington Post reports on Dean’s possible move to opt out of the public financing system. “Dean appealed to his supporters for permission to become the first Democrat ever to reject public funding, charging that President Bush is ‘selling our democracy’ to wealthy contributors. He said the only way to compete against the $170 million Bush plans to raise is to forgo public financing, as Bush has done, and try to raise an equivalent amount from an army of small contributors. Those who accept public money must limit total spending on primary elections to $45 million.”

“Many Democrats, including Dean, have come to believe that acceptance of public financing has turned into a financial trap in light of Bush’s decision to reject the money and the limits. A candidate who takes public money in the primaries faces the prospect of being outspent by Bush by 4 to 1 or more between now and early September 2004, when Bush is formally nominated.”

But if Dean walks away from public financing system, the Post notes, “the estimated $18.6 million in federal matching money that he would forfeit on Jan. 1, 2004, might be desperately needed in the caucuses and primaries of January and February — unless his supporters quickly sent more contributions.”

Dean campaign embed Felix Schein says that the idea of opting out of the public financing system was the top issue discussed at the more than 800 Meet Ups the campaign held on Wednesday. And judging from the early results, Schein notes, it appears that Dean backers will support his move to opt out.

The Post’s editorial page says that Dean’s move to opt out of the public financing system is perhaps “a rational response to an outdated, unfair system.” But it makes this proposal: “...if Mr. Dean’s goal is to level the playing field with Mr. Bush, not to gain an edge over his Democratic competitors, there’s an easy way for him to prove it: He — and any Democratic competitors who follow suit — can pledge to abide by the spending limits until they emerge as the Democratic nominee.”

The Kerry campaign yesterday sent out an e-mail highlighting what they allege is a Dean’s flip-flop on accepting federal matching funds, pointing to a recent Los Angeles Times article and saying, “Last week, while campaigning in California, Dean told potential supporters he had already decided to forgo public financing, according to people who attended the closed-door sessions...”

The Lieberman campaign also weighed in, embed Dionne Scott reports. Campaign spokesperson Jano Cabrera says the polling of Dean’s supporters is clearly a ploy: “The bottom line here is that Governor Dean is using his supporters as political cover for changing his position on public financing. Let’s be honest - this is just political gimmickry, not an honest survey.”

More 2004 notes (D)

In an op-ed in the Boston Globe , Clark lays out a seven-point strategy for success in Iraq. “For the sake of every member of our armed forces, we need a plan to end the conflict in Iraq. Retreat is not an option. Withdrawal would be a disaster for America, a tragedy for Iraq, and a crisis for the world. It would destroy our credibility, give terrorists a new haven, and throw the Middle East into greater turmoil. No matter how difficult it will be, we need a ‘success strategy.’”

Clark adds, “Bush keeps saying we need to ‘stay the course.’ We need to change the course.”

Edwards files his candidacy for the New Hampshire primary at 2:00 pm in Concord.

Embed Tom Llamas reports on Sharpton’s symbolic move yesterday in filing for the DC primary though his name would have been on the ballot anyway. Sharpton: “There’s nothing automatic about participation. Yes we would’ve been on the ballot, but that doesn’t give a declaration from the candidates that they would participate and they regard this primary as they regard any other primary,” said Sharpton. Llamas reports the campaign has set up their largest operation to date in DC, with a staff of around seven campaign veterans and other volunteers.

2003 Elections

A USA Today editorial warns, “Tuesday’s Republican victories mask a larger message, a warning to incumbent officeholders of both parties. Voters are fractious, and many are demanding change, particularly when it comes to politicians struggling with a rocky economy. And a wider look at the record shows they aren’t picky; they can target the GOP as well as Democrats.”

TheWashington Times, looking at fading Democratic hopes of regaining a majority of governorships anytime soon, says, “Democrats say the Republican victories are only a trend of voters bucking the status quo and they hope it will continue through next year’s presidential election.” The paper also gets former Gov. Doug Wilder (D) venting about the state of Democrats in Virginia and saying the GOP is likely to dominate there for the foreseeable future.