Everybody leads with the Wisconsin primary where Senator Kerry squeezed by Senator Edwards, 40 percent to 34 percent. Howard Dean finished third with 18 percent, and the Los Angeles Times reports that he has decided to essentially drop out. Citing a "top aide," the LA Times says Dean will stop campaigning but will keep his name on the ballot. He's expected to make an announcement today at 1p.m. EST.
Exit polls showed that unlike many previous primary voters, cheese-headians thought "agrees on issues" was more important than electability—by a 60 to 33 margin. Edwards also did much better than Kerry among voters who said the economy was their biggest issue.
Wisconsin's primary allowed non-Democrats to cast ballots, and they represented 38 percent of the vote; 29 percent were independents and 9 percent were GOPers. Edwards finished first among those folks by a big margin. The New York Times' Adam Nagourney takes the pro-Kerry spin, paraphrasing a Kerry camper who essentially argued that Edward's top billing among the non-Democrats isn't a bad thing, and actually resulted in a sort of undercount for Kerry. But isn't it actually bad news for Kerry? As Nagourney coworker Todd Purdum puts it, those votes offer "at least a tentative hint of Mr. Edwards's potential appeal in a general election."
Slate's Will Saletan notices that Edwards has been beating Kerry among most cross-over Republicans in most of the primaries' exit polls, which suggests that the Kerry electability hoopla might be just that. Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Times'Ronald Brownstein quotes a bunch of Dem strategists saying it's too late for an Edwards surge.
The Washington Post says on Page One that contractors' rising security costs in Iraq are cutting into reconstruction funds. According to the CPA, security is eating up 10 percent of each reconstruction project, up from 7 percent in the fall. Security companies working for contractors appear to have hit the mother lode. "In a normal situation, you would have your client looking at the costs of security in terms of their profit and loss," said one businessman. "But here, you have the U.S. government saying it wants security. 'OK, here's the bill for it.' The Army Corps wants it. 'Here's the bill.' A big contractor wants it. 'Here's the bill.' I've never had a security line item reduced."
A frontpage piece in the NYT says that Shiites and Kurds leaders have joined up to offer an inspired plan for the transfer of sovereignty to Iraq: Only allow elections in majority Shiite and Kurd areas and not in the so-called Sunni Triangle. It's left to an unnamed American official to pop their balloon, "Allowing citizens from some regions to vote and disenfranchising others certainly does not inspire credibility and legitimacy." The likelihood of this plan happening seems to be exactly zero. So why is the Times fronting it?
The Post says inside, "ADMINISTRATION SPLIT OVER ROLE OF U.N. IN IRAQ; How Much Control Will U.S. Cede?" The article itself goes to say the split is between "senior U.S. foreign policy officials and military officers" on one side and Vice President Cheney and SecDef Rumsfeld's offices on the other. The piece waits until the 12th paragraph to clarify and offer the real nugget: "Some senior U.S. military officers involved in Iraq have also split with the Pentagon's civilian leadership and favor involving the United Nations as much as possible." How about at least teasing this on Page One, with a less flabby headline, say, "SOME U.S. COMMANDERS SUPPORT EMPOWERING U.N. IN IRAQ; Cheney and Rumsfeld Resist."
Nobody fronts word that the federal prosecutor involved in the only major post-9/11 terror case to win a guilty verdict has sued Attorney General John Ashcroft and other top DOJ officials, alleging that they interfered with his case and retaliated against him after he complained about what the suit calls a "lack of support and cooperation, lack of effective assistance, [and] lack of resources." In a point that the LAT buries in the backwaters (19th paragraph), the prosecutor accused Justice officials of intentionally outing one of his informants who had been working on terror-related cases. The Associated Press has a good piece on the suit, while the NYT seems to skip it. (At least TP couldn't find it.)
The NYT and Post go inside with the U.S. commander in Afghanistan saying that the U.S. has developed a tighter relationship with Pakistan's military, which has apparently become mighty aggressive in the border areas. According to the Times, Pakistani commanders are giving village leaders lists of suspected militants in town. And if the suspects aren't coughed up quickly, says the Times, the "Pakistani Army threatens to punish the group as a whole, withdrawing funds or demolishing houses." The U.S. commander called the tactics, "quite innovative."
The NYT eats crow on a story from yesterday: A correction states, "A headline yesterday on a front-page article about fund-raising for President Bush's re-election referred imprecisely to donors described in the article. Not all are Arab-Americans; they include Pakistani and Iranian-born donors." And what exactly was the article's headline and supposed thesis? Oh yeah, "ARABS IN U.S. RAISING MONEY TO BACK BUSH." Slate's Jack Shafer whacked the piece yesterday. His subhead, "Today's New York Times story about Arabs. I mean, Muslims. No, brownish people from the Middle East. Or possibly South Asia."
As the Post's Al Kamen notes, the following press release was sent out last week by the White House: "NOTICE OF INTENTION TO ENTER INTO A FREE TRADE AGREEMENT WITH AUSTRILIA." [ Sic ]