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The Case Of The Slipped Disk

A computer disk with the internal 2002 and 2004 election predictions of White House political director Ken Mehlman and analysis from top Bush aide Karl Rove is making its way around Capitol Hill. A Senate Democratic aide claims he accidentally found it on a street corner near the White House and passed it on. CBSNews.com got hold of the computer file too.

The disk contains "The Strategic Landscape," a PowerPoint presentation on the political climate for the upcoming elections reportedly written by the two White House insiders.

Democrats contend this is a troublesome issue for Republicans because White House employees paid by the taxpayers may be prohibited from doing this sort of political work.

As first reported in the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call, the analysis includes several bombshells, including White House concerns about the prospects of two incumbent Republicans facing tough re-election fights this fall: Tim Hutchinson of Arkansas and Bob Smith of New Hampshire. Mehlman also listed Colorado, Maine, North Carolina, Tennessee and Texas as "Possible D Pickup" – a dramatically different prediction than most Republicans have made publicly. On the House side, Mehlman's predictions are far more GOP-friendly - he's predicting a net gain by Republicans.

Mehlman says a map indicating elective prospects, including Arkansas and New Hampshire as "Strong D Pickup(s)," was "old" and "not accurate." Why, then, did he use that map, you wonder. "That day I literally gave five speeches. I didn't have time to update it," he says.

Mehlman said he called some of the Senate campaigns to tell them that the presentation did not necessarily reflect his own feelings on their respective races.

Roll Call reports that Mehlman says he's baffled how the disks – part of a presentation he and Rove were making to California GOP activists at the nearby Hay Adams hotel on Saturday – leaked out. "I have no idea how it leaked," Mehlman said. "I've been trying to figure it out. I know I didn't drop it. Mine was on my computer."

Mehlman speculated that the audio-visual technician "may have forgotten to delete it" after he and Rove spoke.