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34 days until Election Day the first presidential debate is tomorrow! 6 days until the vice presidential debate 9 days until the second presidential debate 14 days until the third presidential debate


For all the all-over-the-top punditry that makes our collective skin crawl, there is one bit of received CW that is oh-so true — John Forbes Kerry needs a boffo debate perf to make winning the White House feasible.

And "boffo" starts with a version of Kerry who organically projects intensity and pacific calm at the same time — and means them both.

None of that "if you can fake sincerity, you got it made" stuff will do.

If recent past is prologue, then Diane Sawyer's exclusive pre-debate interview with Kerry is more like a giant tea bag than simply some leaves — the man is clearly on a path to his big game face.

Is it all the way where it needs to be to win?

Did the president's campaign advisers watch "Good Morning America" this morning and say, "Crawford, we have a problem"?

Will there come a moment tomorrow night in which the president seems personally intimidated by John Kerry?

Does the New York Times ' in-house political historian/poet/sage Todd Purdum capture the legend of "Kerry the strong closer" perfectly this morning? LINK

The answers are "yes," "maybe," "too soon to say," and "not on your life," but not necessarily in that order.

In the first part of the interview (the second half airs on tomorrow's Clash in Coral Gables edition of GMA), here's something key:

DIANE SAWYER: The polls show 53 percent of the voters in the recent poll think that you change your mind too often. George Bush has 59 percent of a clear stand on the issues — you have 28 percent. Is there any way in which you're responsible for that?

JOHN KERRY: I think their advertising and their — their effort over these last months to use that word have been particularly successful. I give them credit for it. But it doesn't reflect the truth. See what the Republicans do — and they love to do — and they're very good at it — and they've spent millions of dollars doing it — is just find a little sentence here and find a little sentence there — and take it out of context. That's why I look forward to this debate, because it's an opportunity to be able to really let the American people know the truth and know where you stand.

As we said, Part 2 airs tomorrow morning on Good Morning America. See below for more great excerpts.

President Bush participates in a walking tour of Orange Groves in Lake Wales, FL (3:15 pm ET). He overnights in Florida.

Sen. Kerry spends the day in Spring Green, WI for debate prep, departing for Ft. Lauderdale, FL at 6:00 pm ET in anticipation of Thursday's debate.

First Lady Laura Bush speaks at a "Victory 2004" rally at Curry County Fairgrounds in Clovis, NM (3:30 pm ET), delivers remarks on the economy at D.R.B. Electric in Albuquerque (6:05 pm ET), and speaks at a "Heather Wilson for Congress" dinner at the Hilton Hotel in Albuquerque (7:30 pm ET).

Vice President Cheney participates in a BC04 roundtable at the Machine Shed in Lake Elmo, MN (8:00 am ET) and attends a town hall meeting at the Cirrus Design Corporation in Duluth, MN (10:40 am ET).

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