From Elizabeth Wilner, Mark Murray, Huma Zaidi, and Jennifer Colby
Forty-one days until election day... Declassified portions of the National Intelligence Estimate label the Iraq war as a "cause célèbre" but give the Administration some means to counter Democrats' attacks. Iraq and the war on terror remain in the spotlight, between the NIE, President Bush's working dinner with his counterparts from Afghanistan and Pakistan, and the new schedule addition of another presidential address for Friday. Yesterday morning, the White House announced that Bush will give another speech on the war on terror before another military audience, the Reserve Officers Association.
In addition to having favorable portions of the NIE to tout, the White House must be hoping to claim victory on Friday on a raft of security-related spending bills and legislation passed by a departing GOP-run Congress. But while the detainee trial and treatment bill seems likely to pass, the fate of legislation reaffirming the NSA warrantless surveillance program remains in flux; NBC's Mike Viqueira and Ken Strickland advise that final passage before Congress leaves town is unlikely. Congress may get to it in a lame-duck session -- or they may not. Also by Friday, the Administration's campaign to bolster public support for the unpopular war in Iraq by casting it as central to the WOT will be just shy of a month old.
The economy is starting to crowd the war on terror for the spotlight. The Dow Jones Industrial Average yesterday closed at its highest point in six years and its second highest closing level ever, and falling gas prices help level the playing field for the White House and GOP. They continue to try to make hay out of House Ways and Means ranking member Charlie Rangel's statements that he can't imagine further extending any of Bush's tax cuts. Rangel made these assertions while talking about fixing the alternative minimum tax, which affects more middle-class Americans every year, and balancing the budget, but that context doesn't make it into the GOP's headlines. The tactic dovetails nicely with their effort to draw attention to motivate their base with the prospect of life under a Democrat-run House.
With gas prices off the table, Democrats are focusing on a minimum wage increase, fixing the aforementioned AMT, balancing the budget, retirement security, and the latest economic trouble spot: falling housing prices, touted in a memo from the party's House campaign committee yesterday.
Per the pool report, Bush raised $1.5 million or so at a fundraiser for three state parties in Washington last night. Today, he headlines another fundraiser behind closed doors at another private home, this time in Memphis for Bob Corker, the Republican nominee for retiring Sen. Bill Frist's seat. After the moderate Corker defeated two more conservative former congressmen to win his primary this summer, the CW was that he'd have the advantage against Rep. Harold Ford (D) in this GOP-leaning state. But Corker now finds himself in a dogfight; a recent poll for the Ford campaign shows Ford leading by six points.
NBC's Kelly O'Donnell reports that White House advisors say they won't be releasing a schedule for these events, but that Vice President Cheney will make remarks at a reception for GOP Sen. Rick Santorum tomorrow night in Chevy Chase, MD. On Saturday night, he'll headline a fundraising reception for the Wyoming GOP. Both events will be held at private residences and will be closed to the press.