The Washington Post leads with Howard Dean's announcement that he is "no longer actively pursuing the presidency." Dean said he is going to try to transform his organization, as expected, into some sort of grass-roots network. He also promised to support the eventual Democratic nominee. The Los Angeles Times, Wall Street Journal world-wide newsbox, and USA Today all lead with campaign catch-alls. USAT emphasizes the results of its poll that has Sens. Kerry and Edwards both leading President Bush (in one-on-one races) by about 10 points. The New York Times' top local story also goes with the campaign.
Most of the papers note that Edwards continued to say he's tougher on trade issues than Kerry, who said, nuh-uh. Kerry argued that the two basically have the same positions and history of votes. The Journal does some reading and concludes that Edwards' positions are darn similar to Kerry's.
The NYT and WP front word that U.N. chief Kofi Annan will back the U.S. argument that direct elections can't be pulled off by the planned summer handover date. The papers say Annan will wait at least a week to give his opinions on a resolution, namely whether transfer of power should be delayed until direct elections can happen or if it should happen on schedule with partial, caucus-style elections as the U.S. prefers. The Post's subhead seems confused, "U.N. Chief to Urge Delaying Elections."
In a piece oddly run under the "news analysis" rubric, the NYT notes increasing dissent within the administration over the plan to give Iraq sovereignty on June 30."When we went into Iraq, our plan was to have a government, build a structure and write a constitution that would be a source of longterm stability," said an administration official. "Now that's out the window." The Times says the White House warned U.N. officials visiting Iraq not to negotiate on the transfer date. "It is holy writ," said one administration official.
The LAT goes Page One with suggestions from France and Germany that the Security Council should vote on whatever plan emerges for the transition. U.S. officials aren't thrilled with that idea, arguing it could delay the transfer of power.
The LAT announces above-the-fold: "KERRY LOBBIED FOR CONTRACTOR WHO MADE ILLEGAL CONTRIBUTIONS." The head of a defense firm and his employees gave Sen. Kerry about $25,000. Kerry along with a few other legislators wrote a series of letters to the Pentagon and some members of Congress advocating the guy's project, which would employ people in Massachusetts. (Kerry wrote at least 21 such letters.) The contractor has since admitted that he made employees give campaign donations and then reimbursed them, which is illegal.
The Kerry story flags some caveats up high. First what Kerry did isn't that unusual: "Members of Congress often write letters supporting constituent businesses and favored projects." That doesn't make it right, but it does put more weight on the "illegal contributions" part of the story. Here's what the article concludes about that: Investigators "said there was no evidence Kerry or other members of Congress would have known" that the contributions were illegal. Given that, is the LAT's headline fair?
On Page One, the NYT flags an FEC decision allowing independent advocacy groups to spend unlimited contributions on campaign ads though under what the Times calls "far more restrictive rules." The organizations will have to use some regulated money for their ads. The Times sees this as a win for the groups and figures the ruling "could have profound effects on the 2004 election by helping Democrats" since the organizations are more popular with Dems (think Moveon.org). The other papers aren't so sure. Most say the ruling was mixed. "Interpretations of yesterday's action varied greatly," writes the Post. The Journal gets the confusion right into its headline: "U.S. LIMITS ADVOCACY GROUPS BUT STOPS SHORT OF TOUGHER RULES." Only the NYT fronts the decision.
The NYT fronts word that the Army formally charged a national guardsman with trying to spy for al-Qaida. The soldier allegedly tried to e-mail AQ, offering info about the U.S. military. Instead, he had reached undercover investigators.
The WP fronts word that in their latest step toward reconciliation, Pakistan and India agreed to peace negotiations. The Post notes that it's going to be hard for Pakistani leader Musharraf to strike a deal since he "faces fierce internal resistance to anything that smacks of compromise."
The NYT says that despite all the attention given to Pakistan's nukes-export business, many of the central players in the deals are from Europe.
Everybody notes that the White House backed away from the quite cheery forecast it published last week that about 3 million jobs would be created this year. Attributing the estimate to "number crunchers," White House spokesman Scott McClellan explained, "The president is not a statistician."