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Per a Treasury spokesman, "As he told the senior staff this morning, there are lots of other important things to do in life. Back in December of 2000, he was planning to retire and devote himself to improving health care and education in Pittsburgh. I'm sure he will return to those important projects."
"He told the senior staff that he appreciated their support, wisdom and energy. He encouraged them to remain focused and true to their sworn responsibilities.
"This resignation will be effective some time in the next few weeks. We don't have a fixed date at this time."
According to ABCNEWS' Katy Textor, the text of O'Neill's resignation letter reads as follows:
"I hereby resign my position as Secretary fo the Treasury."
"It has been a privilege to serve the Nation during these challenging times. I thank you for this opportunity."
"I wish you every success as you provide leadership and inspiration for America and for the world."
All the speculation about reasons and replacements to come this weekend and beyond.
Starting tomorrow in Louisiana, in four of the state's eight "wildlife management areas," hunting with dogs is permitted.
Possibly (probably) not as important in the state culturally, but more important to the nation politically, Louisiana's US Senate run-off also takes place tomorrow. Polls will open at 7:00 am ET and close at 9:00 p.m. ET.
The welter of partisan and nonpartisan polling out there collectively depicts Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu and Republican state Elections Commissioner Suzanne Haik Terrell in a dead heat.
But momentum-wise, Terrell clearly has the edge, boosted by a visit earlier this week from President Bush, a TV ad featuring Bush, and, per Kit Seelye in the New York Times , a radio ad featuring a Bill Clinton impersonator named "Bubba" who says, "'Mary Landrieu is so liberal, she might be closer to Hillary than I am.'"
While this run-off isn't the cliffhanger it would have been had control of the Senate been left in doubt on election night, it will make the difference between a Senate that is 52 R to 47 D and one I, and 51 R to 48 D and one I a difference which, despite the hard reality that a party really needs 60 vote to run roughshod in the chamber, could matter on certain votes dear to President Bush's heart, and could affect the balance of power among Senate committees.
It matters most, though, in terms of sheer symbolism, since the strength of the Republican "brand" and the national GOP operation would be illustrated by a win, especially since Terrell is not the kind of powerhouse candidate normally needed to beat an incumbent US Senator.
Losing this one would serve to further demoralize Democrats, and would be another feather in the cap of the political machine built by a meticulous former heart surgeon named Bill Frist, who, don't you forget, endorsed Ms. Terrell back when other Republicans (including Republican Gov. Mike Foster's candidate) were still in the race.
And of course the White House political operation, which has worked hard to recreate its November magic, would relish a win here.
Is it just us or does the run-up to this run-off feel a lot like the run-up to November 5, when no one had any clue who was going to turn out to vote, and everything depended on that equation?
The African-American vote could comprise as much as 25% of the total and Landrieu will need every one of those votes.
David Rogers, writing with the classic "Abbeville, La." dateline, stresses the Bush angle in the Wall Street Journal , with a lovely summary of the race.
He leans into the Landrieu turnout problem (" older black labor leaders are plainly worried. 'This time, we can't get the pulse of the people,' says Irvin Joseph, vice president of an International Longshoreman's Association local"), and he reviews the textbook NRSC-directed and NRSC-themed attacks that have been aimed at the incumbent, but without giving Chris LaCivita his full due (Boy Scouts, "values," gays, and the Finkelsteinian homage to "liberal").
To briefly review why we are where we are: according to Louisiana's unique election law, because no candidate broke 50 percent in the state's open US Senate primary on November 5, the top two finishers advanced to this run-off. Landrieu received 46 percent of the vote on November 5; Terrell placed second with 27 percent, beating two other Republican candidates for the run-off slot.
There is no VNS exit polling going on here, but you can count on one or two surveys being conducted by some other reputable outfits.
The AP tabulated the vote here fairly quickly on November 5, and barring problems with the count or a very tight race, we likely will know the results before the night is out. There already has been a fair amount of absentee voting; absentee ballots are due at midnight tonight.
Counting by parish elections supervisors begins at 2:00 p.m. ET on election day.
But given this state's long tradition of questionable voting practices, there IS the possibility that the now de rigueur army of election lawyers on both sides just might be overmatched.
In fact, Landrieu won her seat six years ago only after her Republican opponent, based on a margin of just 5,788 votes, appealed to the Senate. The Senate seated Landrieu anyway, not finding sufficient reason to doubt her (albeit very narrow) victory.
There is no automatic recount provision under Louisiana law. Aggrieved parties can request one within nine days after the election, but only for the absentee ballots.
Most Louisiana parishes use electronic DRE machines, which allow easy tallies. Forty-eight parishes use lever Printomatic machines. The state is waiting for money from the federal government to replace them. See: LINK for a full list.
Machine totals are transmitted to parish headquarters, and then over data lines to the state election commissioner's office, which will release tallies. With Terrell otherwise occupied, Secretary of State Fox McKeithen will be overseeing things. Parish certification takes place quickly with electronic and lever machines. Parishes have until 12 noon six days after the election to certify the results. Since there are no "ballots," there are no ballot canvasses.
As for provisional ballots, Louisiana has an affidavit ballot system; voters swear to be who they are and fill out a ballot that is subject to verification.
There's plenty more on Landrieu vs. Terrell below.
There's also, of course, a House run-off here too, in the state's 5th district, with Democrat Rodney Alexander facing Republican Lee Fletcher. Republicans were thought to have an edge here, but a messy tax lien situation may make the field more level.
ABCNEWS' Textor reports that there will be a meeting at the White House today with President Bush and NSC principals on Iraq.
Former Vice President Gore will appear on This Week with George Stephanopoulos on Sunday. President Bush has no public events scheduled for Saturday, but on Sunday evening, he will attend the Kennedy Center Honors, which we're sure he is looking forward to. He won't glance at his watch during the thing, not even once.
ABCNEWS' Schindelheim reports that the November job number is worse than had been expected: the economy lost 40,000 jobs when many economists had been expecting it to GAIN that many. Unemployment is now at 6 percent a level not seen since April.
Take the eye you aren't using to watch those numbers and put it on this Wall Street Journal lead: "Household wealth has fallen to its lowest level since 1995, suggesting consumers may have to rein in their free-spending ways to rebuild their balance sheets."
In one of the day's few must-reads, the Washington Post 's Weisman leads, "The nation's governors are increasingly fingering the federal government as a major culprit in their widening fiscal crises, pointing to billions of dollars in tax cuts and new spending mandates that Congress and the Bush administration have foisted on the states."
"Bush administration officials are resisting the governors' entreaties for direct federal aid. 'As to the question of whether federal taxpayers should be on the hook for states' budget problems, I'm skeptical,' R. Glenn Hubbard, chairman of the president's Council of Economic Advisers, told the Financial Times this week."
"White House budget office spokeswoman Amy Call said it was unfair for the governors to blame Washington for their troubles. The states are grappling with the same forces that have pushed the federal government into deficit: rising health care costs and a sluggish economy that has sharply eroded tax revenue. And the administration has been trying to help "
"Most importantly, the governors say they are simply losing control of their Medicaid budgets. For that, they largely blame Washington "
We will continue to resist the urge to link you to the daily torrent of newspaper stories in every major (and minor) newspaper in America chronicling the budget problems of our 50 states, and old and new governors attempts to deal with them. But, believe you us, those stories are there.
Louisiana Senate run-off:
Turnout facts, courtesy of the Baton Rouge Advocate:
"Statewide turnout on Nov. 5 was about 44 percent Black voter turnout was 40 percent, while white turnout was about 48 percent "
Landrieu has cut a TV ad about that alleged Bush Administration deal on sugar imports that she says would harm the state. LINK
She also bashed Terrell on farm policy.
Terrell continued to highlight Landrieu's voting record.
"Behind the flashy television ads and the hyped-up campaign rallies, there is a far quieter but no less intense effort being waged by Democratic incumbent Senator Mary Landrieu and Republican challenger Suzanne Haik Terrell for Saturday's U.S. Senate runoff: a ground war to energize their core supporters and get them to the polls." LINK
"Telephone banks have been humming for days, some with recorded calls from national political celebrities. Members of the Congressional Black Caucus have, with little fanfare, flooded the state to energize carefully targeted groups of likely Landrieu voters. Terrell, who has hosted a parade of GOP stars, is counting on election day help from hundreds of out-of-state college students and Christian home-schooled students."
"Direct mail, fliers and other campaign materials are overflowing mailboxes and papering doorsteps across the state."
The Washington Times Dinan notes the shades of the Georgia (which the GOP won) and South Dakota Senate (which they lost) races in this run-off.
In another story, the Washington Times also reports, "Democratic Senator Mary L. Landrieu sent $10 gift certificates for food to 108 service members in Louisiana just before Thanksgiving, leading some critics to accuse her of trying to buy military votes."
"The certificate, which says it is from 'the Armed Services Foundation and Senator Landrieu,' thanks the troops for their service and tells them to use the $10 card 'for a turkey and trimmings.' The Armed Services Foundation is a small organization based in New York City that provides scholarships to the children of service members."
An FEC spokesperson OK's the move.
Planned Parenthood's attempt to tag the pro-choice Governor and pro-choice Mayor of New York for helping raise money for Ms. Terrell gets a ride in the New York Daily News , and we couldn't help but love the pair's defense: "A Bloomberg spokesman said the mayor used his visit to lobby Rove to hold the 2004 Republican convention here. A Pataki spokesman said the governor simply is trying to ingratiate himself with the Senate's Republican majority."
Here is what Senator Trent Lott, Republican of Mississippi, said yesterday at Senator Strom Thurmond's birthday party, according to ABCNEWS' O'Keefe. "I want to say this about my state: When Strom Thurmond ran for president we voted for him. We're proud of it. And if the rest of the country had of followed our lead we wouldn't have had all these problems over all these years, either."
There is, as you might recall, an election in the Bayou tomorrow, where African-American turnout is crucial to the chances of Democratic incumbent Landrieu. Maybe Lott was being jocular. But a plain reading of what he said did generate some anger:
Wade Henderson of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights told ABCNEWS' Douglass: "This was an offensive and blatant attempt to rewrite the history of the last 50 years" "Thurmond ran for president as a Dixiecrat, a segregationist. He gave the longest filibuster in history to try to stop passage of the Civil Rights Act. In his statement today, Lott also embraced those dubious achievements." ..'Lott betrayed his role as the Majority Leader of all Americans."
Donna Brazile, the Democrats' turnout czarina in Louisiana right now, was also said to be outraged.
But there is no mention of Lott's comments in the Louisiana papers we checked . Interesting how advocacy by, say, National Right To Life makes the front page in Louisiana, while liberal interest groups can't break through. A measure of the political climate in Louisiana, perhaps.
ABC 2004: The Invisible Primary:
The Washington Post editorial page, while directing most of its ire onto Bill Clinton, seems to dub Senator John Kerry's position on Iraq, which is shared by Al Gore, as a "weaselly third way," and also seems, by implication to tacitly approve the position of Senators Lieberman and Edwards.
Kerry has had a good week, overall, and we're sure the Kerry folks were expecting some flak from the Boston Globe . On cue, the Globe's Lehigh notes that "Kerry is like the soldier who suddenly appears to have taken a significant step forward, though on closer inspection it's actually because the other members of the platoon have all stepped back."
"Al Gore, for example, faces growing and vocal doubts about whether he should run again. Thwarted in four different efforts to reclaim the House for the Democrats, Dick Gephardt has given up the minority leader's post. The dwindling prospect of a Tom Daschle candidacy may have perished when his party lost control of the Senate."
"Kerry, however, emerged from the midterm elections unscathed and on the move."
"And yet there remains about Kerry a cold-fish quality, which, combined with an almost visible sense of calculation, renders him, for all his gifts, an acquired taste. Too often he is left looking distant, vague, and vaporous, a half-frame out of comfortable focus."
Comparing Kerry with oft-mentioned colleague Senator John McCain, Lehigh says, 'though Kerry is laudably thoughtful, there is a ever-present sense of the tactical about him, a recurring reluctance to give a firm answer that might pin him down."
Kerry gets a bit of attention from the Washington Times op-ed page this week
and from USA Today readers.
The Raleigh News & Observer's Wagner reports, "U.S. Senator John Edwards' dinner guests Monday night will include several visitors from New Hampshire, the nation's first presidential primary state. The North Carolina Democrat is opening his Washington home to a handful of politically active Granite Staters, including former state Senator Caroline McCarley, who was Al Gore's political director in New Hampshire in 2000."
"Former Vice President Al Gore used a book promotion stop in Chicago on Thursday to lambaste President Bush for his positions on taxes, foreign policy and the environment. Gore said he would announce his presidential aspirations for 2004 'sometime after the holidays.'"
(Another) Gore TV alert: Monday, December 9, on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. LINK
Vermont Gov. Howard Dean will be in Vermont on Saturday and New York on Sunday, where he will address the holiday party of the Three Parks Independent Democratic Club.
Quiz: Who will soon become the highest ranking Democrat in New Hampshire politics? LINK
Note to Drudge (as if): if the New York Post and the Washington Times don't pick up a story bashing Gore, it's probably not worth screaming across the top of your site.
The Boston Herald gossip column has a run-o-the-mill item about Kerry's hair, but the lead is more significant to the planet, we believe: "Sorry gals, but Boston's most eligible bachelor is off the market! Nomar Garciaparra, 29, has popped the question to his soccer sweetie Mia Hamm, 30, and the two are tying the knot 'sometime in the next two years."' LINK
On the convention front, the Boston Herald says, "The FleetCenter's location atop North Station the nexus of thousands of daily rail riders, a subway tunnel, and an underground parking garage is giving terror-conscious security planners for the 2004 Democratic National Convention an unprecedented headache."
"About 47,000 daily rail passengers from west and north of Boston, and thousands more who ride the MBTA's Green and Orange lines to a new underground 'platform' near North Station, are potential security threats, according to officials."
"FleetCenter/North Station has the added concern of the underground Big Dig running close to the base of the building."
And the Boston Globe reports, "At least four prominent foundations and nonprofit organizations have signed onto the private fund-raising campaign to support the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston, but the groups say they will place strict limitations on how convention organizers can use their contributions."
Campaign finance legislation
Messrs Allen and Edsall report in the Washington Post , "Senator John McCain accused President Bush yesterday of breaking a written promise to speedily appoint a Democrat to the Federal Election Commission, reigniting their roiling feud just as McCain is about to regain the Post of chairman of the Senate commerce committee."
"In an interview, he said the White House had delayed the appointment as part of an 'orchestrated and systematic undermining' of the campaign finance legislation that he long championed and Bush belatedly and grudgingly supported."
"A White House official said last night that Bush plans to appoint Weintraub this morning."
Toymaker Mattel yesterday got hit with $477,000 in FEC fines for reimbursing individual donors for political contributions.
Mr. Lester, among others, covers the $1 billion price tag on political advertising in the recent midterm elections for the AP, as rung up by Ken Goldstein and his fine troops at the University of Wisconsin.
Former Energy Secretary and New Mexico Gov.-elect Bill Richardson will be in DC today for the unveiling of his official portrait at the Department of Energy.
The highlights of John Wagner's story on incoming Senator Elizabeth Dole (R) probably are her emphasis on the fact that she didn't have a chance to learn a lot about the Senate while her husband was majority leader because she had a full-time job, too, and this kicker: "'I'm going to go see what Bob Dole made me for dinner.'"
And the highlight of Mark Leibovich's Washington Post piece on Strom Thurmond's 100th birthday: "Bob Dole offered to introduce Thurmond to Britney Spears, with whom he appeared in a TV advertisement for Pepsi. Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott endorsed the idea, riffing off a scene from the ad: 'Instead of saying, "Down boy,"' Lott said, "You just say, 'Down Strom.'"
Once upon a time, he worked for the legendary-ish mayor of Boston, Kevin White, working on poverty law and legal services for the poor. Now, he writes about food for Vogue, and in his new book, "It Must've Been Something I Ate." And now, this weekend on "Here's the Point," Jeffrey Steingarten talks with Mark Halperin about Parmesan, why New York City barbeque isn't all that, and whether "obsessive" is a dirty word.
"Failure by Iowa Republicans to win top-of-the-ticket races as the GOP triumphed nationwide Nov. 5 has some in the party's leadership pushing to replace state Chairman Charles Larson Jr. with former gubernatorial candidate Bob Vander Plaats," the Des Moines Register reports.
"Larson, who is seeking his second two-year term as GOP chairman, still enjoys the support of many influential members of the state party's central committee, although others say Vander Plaats is popular with party activists outside Des Moines."
Happy birthday, Governor Vilsack.
Senator Orrin Hatch must have ingested too much Mormon salsa (his joke) before his Imus appearance this morning. He alternated between earnest flippancy, jocularity, and serious policy discussions.
He said "bullsh*t" as the punch line to a story we caught the end of. Bullsh*t, unbleeped.
When Imus asked Hatch to punch Senator Pat Leahy, Democrat of Vermont, Hatch said he'd leave that to Senator Thurmond, "our designated puncher."
Hatch said he was working with the Marriott Corporation to place a copy of his book in the desk of each hotel room. "You'd have a Bible and a Mormon."
"I hear Al Gore got some Democratic volunteers to sign his books. And Barbra Streisand did too. You can tell they were fake because she signed them with a big B."
Senator Pat Roberts: your sobriquet as funniest Senator is in jeopardy
Bush Administration strategy/personality
Karl Rove turns down more press opportunities in TV and print in a month than most government officials have in their lifetimes, and that has helped him limit the amount of scrutiny he has gotten.
But with two books on the way, and the cartoon in the Daily News (page 58, Susan, or LINK click on the cartoon applet on the left side of the page), it just might be that the clock is running out on the status quo of the world's greatest disparity between power and metaphoric and actual column inches in White House history.