Not even two weeks left until Election Day! Loop Fans know what that means -- it's time for the Loop's quadrennial Pick the President Contest.

Simply predict the winning candidate and the number of electoral votes he will receive. The first 20 entrants with the correct candidate and number of electoral votes will win a highly coveted In the Loop T-shirt and the bragging rights that accrue to all winners.

All entries must include home, work or cell phone numbers. As always, Hill and administration aides may submit entries "on background." Send entries via e-mail to or mail to In the Loop, The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071.

Deadline is midnight, Oct. 29. Don't delay. Good luck.

Note: Special thanks to 2000 winner Wayne T. Curtin, director of government affairs at Harley-Davidson Inc. in Milwaukee for reminding us to run the contest. Doctors say forgetfulness is a common side effect of baseball-playoffs-induced sleep deprivation.

Friends and Foes Make Their Selections, Too

Speaking of the election, foreign endorsements are starting to pick up, and the race couldn't be closer. Even the Axis of Evil is split. First there was word that North Korea is backing Sen. John F. Kerry for president. Now Iran, another partner in the Axis, is said to be endorsing Bush. And the House of Saud, Reuters reports, finds Bush "the lesser of two evils" even though under Bush, U.S. ties with Saudi Arabia have eroded and "tension has grown over the U.S. war on terror and Middle East policy." They don't seem to mind, however, that Bush is calling for democracy, which would put them out of business.

Nonpoliticking in Battleground States: a History

Meanwhile, the buzz continues over national security adviser Condoleezza Rice's odd visits to support President Bush in key battleground states.

Democrats criticized Bush for using Rice in a political role, saying this was not in keeping with the traditional posture of a national security adviser. Her sudden acceptance of battleground-state invitations from the thousands she had received over the years seemed suspicious.

Former Carter White House national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski, talking to reporters in a conference call arranged by the Kerry campaign, said Rice's speeches "are obviously timed to coincide with the national elections . . . [and] represent, at least in my book, excessive politicization of an office which is unusually sensitive."

Absolutely not, White House communications director Dan Bartlett said. "She doesn't involve herself in the political campaign," he said. "But we're a nation at war, we're a nation that has troops in harm's way and the president has a foreign policy staff that helps explain the actions we are taking. And it's a totally appropriate role."

That reminds us of a White House debate in 1972, when another political operative, working for another wartime Republican president running for reelection, was looking for a few votes from Democratic-leaning Jewish voters. He wanted President Richard M. Nixon's national security adviser, Henry A. Kissinger, to be involved in political matters.

In two 1972 columns by Rowland Evans and Robert D. Novak, we see that Kissinger was leery about overt stumping. "A somewhat apprehensive Henry A. Kissinger," they wrote, gave a "pro-Nixon foreign policy pitch" to Jewish "Democratic fat cats," but "fearful of compromising his bipartisan standing as the president's national security adviser, Kissinger angrily intervened to bar any fund raising" at the luncheon.

Then-Nixon operative Fred Malek, worried about the Jewish vote, had argued for more effort in encouraging defections from the Jewish vote, which was dependably Democratic. But then-Sen. Jacob K. Javits (R-N.Y.) "cannot influence Jewish voters and Kissinger is barred from open politicking," the columnists wrote.

The definition of "open" is key. So Rice is scheduled to be a "surrogate for [the] President," according to White House documents, and will be speaking at the Yeshiva Beth Yehuda anniversary dinner in Detroit, on Sunday, followed Monday by a talk at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee's national summit, conveniently located in Hollywood, Fla.

On the Hill, a Shot in the Dark

Talk about flu-fighting flip-flopping. Congress had been giving out flu shots to lawmakers -- and anyone who really wanted one -- regardless of federal guidelines to limit vaccine to older people or those "at risk" for other health reasons. Now top lawmakers say even members of Congress should follow the guidelines.

Some lawmakers floated the notion that they deserve flu shots because they are out a lot amongst the public these days and shake a lot of hands. It's to protect other people. Only problem is that, except for a few dozen contested House and Senate seats -- these are the truly "at risk" members -- most of them are doing very little handshaking these days.

Not to say they don't always have their hands out, but that's different.

'Mr. Las Vegas' Does Baghdad

This just in from Forward Operating Base Union I, Iraq: "Hundreds of 1st Cavalry Division troopers in Baghdad received a special visit from "Mr. Las Vegas" himself, Wayne Newton, during his USO variety tour in the Middle East." Danke Schoen.