From Elizabeth Wilner, Mark Murray, Huma Zaidi, and Jennifer Colby.
One week out... The final pre-election NBC/Wall Street Journal poll will be released tonight on NBC Nightly News and MSNBC.com. Per the poll, President Bush's job approval rating on the economy is 46%, up from 44% two weeks ago and continuing its upward trend since September -- presumably due to lower gas prices, a booming stock market, and the White House's intense focus on the economy over the past few weeks. The rest of the poll will be released at 6:30 pm ET.
CNBC dissects that economic job-approval rating and weighs in on what the looming midterm elections could mean for business and the economy with a day-long series of reports today. Scheduled guests include possible presidential contenders Sen. Barack Obama (D), Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R), and Gov. Mitt Romney (R); House campaign committee chairs Tom Reynolds (R) and Rahm Emanuel (D); Senate Finance Committee chair Charles Grassley; Sens. Mike DeWine (R) and Ted Kennedy (D); and endangered Rep. Steve Chabot (R) of Ohio and his Democratic opponent John Cranley. Also in the spotlight: what Wall Street firms, investment gurus and big CEOs are saying about the state of the economy and how they expect the election to turn out.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice also addresses the Iraq half of the midterm-election equation in an interview with CNBC's Larry Kudlow. We'll see if she echoes the Bush-Cheney rhetoric from yesterday. Bush, on the stump, basically said that if Democrats score big gains in the election, the terrorists will win and the nation will lose. Cheney, on FOX, linked the escalating violence in Iraq to terrorists' efforts to affect the outcome of the elections: "It's my belief that they're very sensitive of the fact that we've got an election scheduled and they can get on the websites like anybody else." NBC's Lisa Myers reports that there's no intelligence that al Qaeda plans anything for the elections, but intel officials wouldn't be surprised to hear from Osama bin Laden before November 7.
And MSNBC continues its wall-to-wall political coverage today.
President Bush returns to Georgia today take another whack at helping the GOP uproot two Democratic incumbents there. He rallies in Perry, GA later this afternoon. Brother Jeb e-mails Republican supporters this morning: "I can tell you that my brother is absolutely committed to winning this election." Laura Bush campaigns in North Carolina and at two stops in Tennessee.
Bush isn't the only one out there working ropelines. Obama's book-selling/Democratic victory tour came to Rochester, MN last night with Obama lending his help to Democratic House candidate Tim Walz and Senate candidate Amy Klobuchar, MSNBC's Tom Curry reports. In a precursor to a possible 2008 contest, Rochester voters also will see Sen. John McCain (R) tomorrow morning when he campaigns for GOP Gov. Tim Pawlenty and Walz's opponent, Rep. Gil Gutknecht.
Lean and relaxed, Obama gave a motivational speech to an ecstatic crowd of about 3,000, drawing huge applause with his homage to the late Sen. Paul Wellstone. Even though he said neither party has a monopoly on virtue, he argued that the Democrats are the ones who care about ordinary folks. It wasn't a policy speech, so he didn't offer a plan for Iraq. But he got raucous cheers and applause when he said, "The might of our military has to be matched by the finesse of our diplomacy."
The Monday night rally had a 2008 bonus for Obama: parts of it were broadcast live on NBC affiliate KTTC, whose signal reaches several counties in northern Iowa, Curry notes. After the speech, Obama took to the ropeline. Fans thrust out copies of Time magazine with Obama's photo on the cover for him to autograph.
A big Obama fan from among the many in the crowd: former Minnesota Gov. Wendell Anderson (age 73) who said that Obama ought to run in 2008 and not wait for some far-off chance. Youth is his asset. "I was a very young governor," recalled Anderson. "If I had been elected governor 15 years later, I would never have tried to do the good things we did, because I would have thought they were impossible."