ABC News' The Note: First Source for Political News




Morning Show Wrap

Evening Newscasts Wrap

35 days until Election Day 2 days until the first presidential debate 7 days until the vice presidential debate 10 days until the second presidential debate 15 days until the third presidential debate


The front page of the New York Times heralds pre-war intelligence warnings about the problems in Iraq; the front page of the Washington Post trumpets the rising costs and declining availability of health care; higher oil prices also represent a juicy thematic target for John Kerry and his allies.

And yet our focus today is on more prosaic matters.


What are the Electoral College implications of proud pappy John Norris returning to Iowa?

Of Teresa Vilmain, uber-strategist, returning to Wisconsin?

Of the Kerry campaign sending several dozen staffers and regional press secretaries to Wisconsin and New Mexico and Iowa?


All that matters now is 270.

For all John Kerry's problems in attributes; for all of George W. Bush's strengths on national security issues; for all the carping about the Kerry campaign's competence; for all the national horse race polls; for all the implications of Karl Rove's secret plan to engage in psy-ops with possible last-minute visits to New Jersey and Connecticut — for all that, getting to 270 electoral votes is — before, now, and forever — where the rubber meets the road.

If we've said it once, by golly, we've said it a zillion times: the general election today is truly 13 or so separate elections in very different states with very different problems and opportunities for both campaigns. (Yes, a boost in the national horse race for Kerry — most likely from the debates — could change this calculus, but that's a discussion for another day — like maybe Friday.)

Every strategic decision the Kerry campaign makes today is based on the unforgiving mathematics of the Electoral College.

And make no mistake — the Senator's margin of error is at this point pretty small. There aren't that many plausible combinations of states that get him to the electoral Promised Land — which means that almost any state he CAN win, at this point, he MUST win.

In some ways, Tad Devine's state targeting job is easier now (with fewer states in play, there are fewer macro choices to make), and Michael Whouley's, Karen Hicks', and Steve Rosenthal's has become even more important. (We'd add Doug Sosnik to that list, but no one has a clue what this Wizard of Electoral Oz is doing at the DNC.)

The questions they'll poll on and will respond to include: Where geographically in the targeted states is Kerry underperforming? With what groups? What are his vote goals? Where, in a state, should he visit? What should he do in the state when he does visit? What surrogates, Robocalls, and pieces of direct mail might tip the balance?

Having the right person on the ground answer those questions can literally be what distinguishes a winning campaign from a losing one.

There are those who theorize that the ground game (the campaign, the national and state parties, the unions, and the interest groups) could be worth more than 2 percent to the Democrats in a given state — although Karl Rove has spent several years trying to make sure that that doesn't happen.

So that's why Norris and Vilmain matter — and why their being dispatched from Washington marks a new phase in the campaign.

Norris, with a little help from his friends, put together a smashing Iowa caucus victory for Kerry and was promoted to national field director shortly thereafter. He is a former congressional candidate and former chief of staff to Governor Tom Vilsack.

Vilmain is one of the Democratic Party's best Midwestern battleground strategists, with experience in states like Wisconsin and Iowa and a resume that includes just about everything. She's been the party's principal general election strategist for the past several months. She helped Al Gore and Joe Lieberman win Wisconsin in 2000 as their state director, and she actually lives in the Badger State; she's been commuting to DC.

To help them, the Kerry campaign plans to direct several dozen staffers to Wisconsin and Iowa (and New Mexico) too. Regional press secretaries will also take up shop.

In fact, within the next week and a half, as many as ten states will see an influx of party resources. By the end of the week, Florida will have more than 140 full-time staffers from Kerry, DNC, and state party operations.

The Republicans are putting some extra folks in Colorado and Maine, the former, because they'll want a full GOTV program for all the races on the ticket, and in Maine, because BC04 is quite competitive there.

Various theories abound about Kerry's Iowa problem ("Voters do not like John Kerry" . . . "the farm economy is pretty good . . ." . . . "Kerry has visited Des Moines too many times" grouse Democratic strategists . . . ), but Democrats in and out of the state say there's no reason, given what they think is a superior combined ground game, that Kerry should not now at least be tied there.

In September, the Bush campaign outvisited the state and outspent the Kerry campaign on television.

Remember that Bush bracketed his convention week with Iowa visits, a great way to drum up free media. No matter, say donkey strategists: Kerry will close the gap. The campaign has upped the number of visits Kerry plans to make to the state between now and election day.

"When the elections are close, the Democrats win," says Gordon Fischer, the Iowa Democratic Party's chairman. "I think people feel confident without being cocky. the right track, wrong track numbers are just astounding here."

Why is Iowa, with 7 electoral votes, so important?

Assume the 2000 Electoral College tally in 2004 numbers, with the Census-adjusted state-by-state totals.

Bush has 278 votes to start with; Kerry has 260.

Assume Kerry loses Wisconsin — he has 250. Bush has 288.

Based on where Kerry is sending resources and spend advertising dollars (and knowing that the national map could still shift in either direction) — the following combinations of states get Kerry to 270 (or not), assuming New Mexico and Iowa stay Democratic.

(a) Kerry loses Wisconsin, wins Ohio and wins the election, 270 to 268.

(b) Kerry loses Wisconsin, wins Florida and wins the election: 277 to 261.

(c) Kerry loses Wisconsin, wins New Hampshire and West Virginia and no other Red states: he loses, 259 to 279.

(d) Kerry loses Wisconsin and Maine and Iowa and New Mexico (10 + 4 + 7 + 5) and picks up Ohio and Florida (20 + 27): Kerry wins 281 to 257.

(e) Kerry wins New Hampshire and West Virginia and no other Red states; he defends all his Blue states: It's a TIE: 269 to 269. Bush wins in Congress.

Now imagine this scenario:

What if Bush picks up Wisconsin, Iowa, and New Mexico?

And Kerry picks up Ohio, New Hampshire, and West Virginia?

The electoral vote total would be: Bush 271 vs. Kerry 267

BUT — assuming passage of Colorado's ballot initiative that awards electoral votes in accordance with the statewide popular vote — Kerry actually wins 271 vs. 267 (inevitable court challenges notwithstanding).

That Colorado ballot initiative is a free 4 electoral-vote bonus in KE04's pocket . . .

Let us explicitly add the obvious — and most important — point: Without Ohio or Florida in Kerry's column, he will most likely not be taking the oath of office on the west steps of the Capitol next January.

And holding all of the 2000 Blue states is not a given at this point.

Both President Bush and Senator Kerry are down for debate prep: Bush at his Crawford ranch and Kerry in Spring Green, WI.

Vice President Cheney and Lynne Cheney host a town hall meeting at the Grand River Center in Dubuque, IA (1:40 pm ET) and participate in a Victory 2004 rally at Choice Products USA in Eau Claire, WI (6:20 pm ET).

First Lady Laura Bush speaks at a rally at Chemeketa Community College in Salem, OR (4:30 pm ET) and another rally at Henderson Pavilion in Henderson, NV (8:10 pm ET).

Senator Edwards participates in a town hall meeting at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, PA (11:00 am ET), attends a rally at the Robert Treat Hotel in Newark, NJ (5:15 pm ET), and attends a fundraising reception at the Hilton Hotel in East Brunswick, NJ (7:50 pm ET).

Ralph Nader speaks at Carefree Theatre in West Palm Beach, FL (8:00 pm ET).

Following their appearance on "Fox and Friends," Elizabeth Edwards hosts a town hall discussion with "Moms on a Mission" at the VFW Post 9916 in Westover, WV (10:00 am ET) and participates in a roundtable discussion with community members at the Food and Friends Diner in Lewisburg, WV (2:15 pm ET).

The Senate resumes debate of the intelligence reform bill.

The Clash in Coral Gables:

The Commission on Presidential Debates: "No" to signing a document, "yes" to enforcing its stipulations. And the Bush campaign is (on the record and) pleased, all per the New York Times . LINK

"Still, officials of the debate commission said they were agreeing primarily to those things Mr. Bush's aides had emphasized as especially important to them: a strict time limit on candidate responses, an electronic warning when candidates exceed their speaking time that can be seen and heard by viewers at home, and a prohibition against the candidates' directly posing questions to each other."

"One official said the commission would probably not abide by the agreement's stipulation that the audience at the Oct. 8 town-hall-style debate in Missouri be composed of people who are 'soft supporters' of Mr. Kerry and Mr. Bush, meaning they had not solidly made up their minds but were leaning one way or another. The commission had proposed that the audience be filled with strictly undecided voters. "

"But a senior Bush campaign official noted that the commission said in its statement, 'There will be no departure from the terms of the memorandum without prior consultation with and approval by the appropriate campaign representatives.'"

"'I'm unaware of any such prior approval or consultation,'' said the official, who said he expected the point to be worked out between the parties."

So it seems not quite done to us, maybe, perhaps, sort of.

They're either raring to go or getting antsy, but "the candidates' appearances in two of the election's marquee battlegrounds — Bush in Ohio and Kerry in Wisconsin — broke with the tradition of pre-debate seclusion, and the events reflected the moods and messages of both camps," write the Washington Post 's Mike Allen and Lois Romano. LINK

Don't miss this graf:

"With both candidates planning to spend much of Tuesday preparing for the first debate, officials of the Commission on Presidential Debates said the Bush-Cheney campaign is leaving open the possibility of pulling out of the second or third debate because the commission has decided not to sign the debate agreement between the two campaigns. The nonpartisan commission said the campaigns' request for such a signature was a first since the nonpartisan group was formed in 1987. Kerry's campaign said he will debate in any case, but the Bush campaign has sought assurance that all of the restrictions on the format will be enforced."

Breaking the tie, ABC News' Jonathan Karl reports that BC04 is indeed reserving the option of ducking out of the debates two and three.

"We'll see how it goes," says a senior BC04 official involved in debate negotiations told Karl. "There are a lot mixed signals coming out of the Commission. They say they are going to enforce the rules of the and consult with the campaigns. If they do that, we'll see."

"Foreshadowing their likely approaches to the debate in Miami, each candidate sought to undermine voter confidence in the other man's capacity to lead a nation under threat of terrorist attack," write Michael Finnegan and Ed Chen for the Los Angeles Times. LINK

Knight Ridder's Kuhnhenn and Johnson explain how the candidates "tested their best debate lines yesterday, mixing dashes of humor with cutting criticism in a preview of their Thursday night encounter in Miami." LINK

The Boston Herald's Andrew Miga writes that Kerry "faces a daunting challenge in his first debate with President Bush, seeking to forge a breakthrough despite restrictive rules for Thursday's showdown that ban direct questioning between the two men." LINK

Hans Nichols of the Hill Notes the Kerry camp has recruited congressional Democrats to "play down expectations" of their candidate's performance at the first presidential debate "and then flood the airwaves with jubilant analysis that he has won it." LINK

Lots of fun stuff out for reporters covering the Clash this week. The Republican National Committee plans to release video of its researchers and analysts preparing debate briefing material for President Bush today, ABC News has learned.

The Bush-Cheney '04 campaign has compiled a briefing book on Senator Kerry for Thursday's debate, which looks at several issues and includes Senator Kerry's current position on them — as determined by the Bush-Cheney campaign, ABC News' Karen Travers reports..

The document then lists Senator Kerry's record and then the (tongue-in-cheek and very snarky) attack that he could use against President Bush on Thursday in Miami. For example on Iraq, BC04 helpfully suggests that Kerry "pretend like no position you have ever taken matters. Political opportunity, pessimism and the implication of inevitable defeat is the key here. Nobody knows what you really believe anyway."

The most attention is devoted to Iraq and diplomacy.

Issues highlighted in the briefing book: Iraq Diplomacy Intelligence Troop realignment Afghanistan North Korea Israel Cuba Patriot Act Homeland Security

The Cleveland Plain Dealer on must-see TV: LINK

"Three Westlake High students have a plum assignment when the vice presidential de bate is held at Case Western Reserve University next week. Steve Aurora, Kim Kopcak and Doug Bullard will create documentaries of the debate, to be aired in a one-hour program sometime this fall."

"Each student will produce a 10- to 15-minute piece, while being trailed by a crew from C-SPAN. They will work alongside members of C-SPAN's crew and the dozens of other reporters in town for the event."

"The students already have plenty of hands-on experience at the high school's WHBS-TV. Aurora is the station's president."

"C-SPAN contacted the local Adelphia Cable office seeking high-school students for the project, according to a news release, and Westlake's television program was 'immediately suggested.' C-SPAN wants to show viewers the vice presidential debate from a student's point of view."

The politics of national security:

This truly is the politics of national security!!!

The New York Times ' Douglas Jehl and David Sanger found that the National Intelligence Council "warned the Bush administration about the potential costly consequences of an American-led invasion two months before the war began, government officials said Monday." LINK

They are not nearly as descriptive as Bob Novak in describing just how they obtained the information — "The contents of the two assessments had not been previously disclosed. They were described by the officials after two weeks in which the White House had tried to minimize the council's latest report, which was prepared this summer and read by senior officials early this month."

(The Times men DO say that the leakers are NOT connected to the presidential campaigns . . .)

More, from the article: "The assessments, meant to address the regional implications and internal challenges that Iraq would face after Mr. Hussein's ouster, said it was unlikely that Iraq would split apart after an American invasion, the officials said. But they said there was a significant chance that domestic groups would engage in violent internal conflict with one another unless an occupying force prevented them from doing so."

"The officials outlined the reports after the columnist Robert Novak, in a column published Monday in The Washington Post , wrote that a senior intelligence official had said at a West Coast gathering last week that the White House had disregarded warnings from intelligence agencies that a war in Iraq would intensify anti-American hostility in the Muslim world. Mr. Novak identified the official as Paul R. Pillar, the national intelligence officer for the Near East and South Asia, and criticized him for making remarks that Mr. Novak said were critical of the administration."

The investigation into the disclosure of the name of CIA agent "seems to have been both exhaustive and inconclusive," writes the New York Times Adam Liptak. LINK

But Mr. Liptak has great detail, so read the whole thing.

The New York Times ' Philip Shenon and Carl Hulse report a bill to enact many of the 9/11 Commission's "central recommendations faced an uncertain fate on Monday as the Senate opened a floor debate and moved toward a final vote, possibly this week." LINK

How the politics of this are going to play out remains anyone's guess.

ABC News Vote 2004: polls:

The new ABC News- Washington Post poll shows good horse race news for President Bush, but it's tempered with voters' concern about his approach to decision-making and the situation in Iraq. The horse race number among likely voters is 51 percent for Bush, 45 percent for Kerry, and 1 percent for Ralph Nader. Registered voters gave Bush a 52 percent job approval rating, and fewer than half said they are satisfied with the nation's direction, or approve of his work on Iraq or the economy. LINK

ABC News Polling Director Gary Langer spells out Bush's Iraq problem, and sees a possible talking point for Senator Kerry on Thursday: "six in 10 registered voters now say the United States has gotten bogged down in Iraq, and 51 percent say the war there was not worth fighting — each up six points this month. Also, 55 percent call Bush 'too willing to take risks,' a possible line of Democratic attack."

Nonetheless, by a 13-point margin, voters say they trust the president over the Senator to handle Iraq and terrorism, and by a 5-point margin they trust him over Kerry on the economy. A key reason: Bush's perceived leadership and clarity on the issues. Across the board, Langer Notes, Bush leads Kerry on personal characteristics, and the leadership gap is a whopping 26 points.

"That result is not predictive — the race has been tied and it can be again. But these results present three prime worries for the Kerry camp. One is that, unlike Kerry, Bush has maintained his immediate post-convention gains (the candidate evaluations in this ABC/Post survey are little changed from those in the last). A second is Kerry's weak personal position, which sends him into the debates with a certain lack of good will. And the third is a very broad sense that Kerry hasn't enunciated a clear message; registered voters by 2-1 say Bush has taken clearer stands on the issues."

"Together, these mean that while Bush's task Thursday night is to consolidate and reinforce, Kerry's, more critically, is both to explain his positions in a compelling way, and at the same time to create a more positive rapport with the voting public."

The Washington Post 's Dan Balz and Vanessa Williams write up the poll for the Post , Noting that while Bush "remains a polarizing figure," Bush's relentless attacks on Kerry have badly damaged the Democratic nominee, the survey and interviews showed. Voters routinely describe Kerry as wishy-washy, as a flip-flopper and as a candidate they are not sure they can trust, almost as if they are reading from Bush campaign ad scripts. But Kerry's problems are also partly of his own making. Despite repeated efforts to flesh out his proposals on Iraq, terrorism and other issues, he has yet to break through to undecided voters as someone who has clear plans for fixing the country's biggest problems." LINK

Don't miss the religion gap numbers.

USA Today 's Susan Page writes up the new USA Today /CNN/Gallup poll that shows "a smaller advantage than the president held in mid-September but shows him maintaining a durable edge in a race that was essentially tied for months." Among likely voters, Bush got 52 percent support, and Kerry claimed 44 percent. In terms of right track/wrong track, 52 percent of people think "things are going badly" for the country, but that number is down from 60 percent in June. LINK

ABC News Vote 2004: Bush v. Kerry:

There are new BC04 and DNC attack ads today. More on that below.

We could say it's getting ugly out there on the airwaves, what with all the misstated facts and truncated quotes designed to tell just part of the story, but what's the point in repeating the obvious? If nothing else, it's interesting and warms our dark little hearts to see fast response times on ads from all parties involved. The Washington Post 's Howard Kurtz Notes "the escalating exchanges mark an increasingly personal debate before Thursday's first presidential debate, which will be devoted to foreign policy." But, um, Chad Clanton, what's the deal with taking our act? Do we need to trademark our furry little helpers? LINK

"Kerry spokesman Chad Clanton said the Bush team is 'using fear and dishonest political tactics to distract voters from the deteriorating situation in Iraq. They've got Googling monkeys at the Bush campaign working overtime, slicing and dicing old quotes and then going into the edit room and pulling them out of context.'"

The Los Angeles Times' Nick Anderson takes a look at the barrage of political ads using the images of Osama bin Laden and other al Qaeda terrorists. LINK

"Democrats could be forcing the electorate to focus on an issue that is an apparent Bush strength: domestic security. But Republicans, if they overplay the terrorist threat, could remind voters that Bin Laden himself is still at large. Whatever the fallout, there is little doubt the ads stand out in the thickening blizzard of political commercials."

The New York Times ' Paul Krugman ponders whether the press will "play Karl Rove's game (during the debate) by, as Mr. Clymer puts it, confusing political coverage with drama criticism, or will it do its job and check the candidates' facts?" LINK

The Washington Post 's Vanessa Williams takes a look at voters who were originally Bush supporters, but given a reason have switched to Kerry. The question remains for the Democrats how to turn anti-Bush voters into pro-Kerry voters. LINK

The New York Times ' ed board looks at efforts to discourage young people from voting and urges "elections officials and institutions of higher education must do more to remove the barriers that still too often stand between young people and the ballot box." LINK

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Woods reports from Barcelona on the expatriate vote — something to which both campaigns have given Notable attention. It's time for their voting to begin. LINK

Peter Cannellos of the Boston Globe serves up a stellar and thought-provoking column today discussing party unity. It seems so strong now, but things aren't always as they appear. LINK

The Wall Street Journal 's Sarah Lueck writes with the lack of discussion on Medicare on the campaign trail, "Dr. [Mark] McClellan is prescribing his own medicine — a dose of free-market competition, an injection of information to help doctors and consumers make wiser decisions, and some soothing public-relations salve."

The Boston Globe 's Jeff Jacoby explains how "For countless American Jews, loyalty to the Democratic ticket is as automatic as breathing." LINK

Glen Johnson of the Boston Globe Notes the president's repeatedly describing Senator Kerry as an extreme flip-flopper in Ohio yesterday. LINK

Note Glen's "brief" interview with K. Rove!!!!!

USA Today 's Benedetto and Kasindorf report that each candidate contended that "the other is not capable of fighting the war on terror or managing the violent aftermath of war in Iraq" on Monday. LINK

The Raleigh News & Observer 's Lynn Bonner's headline reads: "Bush lead grows in N.C." LINK

In his latest Wall Street Journal column, Alan Murray fact checks Kitty Kelley. LINK

ABC News Vote 2004: Bush-Cheney re-elect:

Today, the Bush-Cheney '04 campaign releases its second television ad in two days, "Peace and Security," as well as a radio ad, "Facts," ABC News' Karen Travers reports.

The television ad ("Peace and Security") will rotate in on national cable and local markets in battleground states. The radio ad ("Facts") will being airing today in local markets.

The TV ad focuses on national security and leads with this statement: "History's lesson . . . strength builds peace . . . weakness invites those who would do us harm."

The spot builds on President Bush and Vice President Cheney's campaign rhetoric where they tout going on the offense and using force to defeat terrorism as opposed to Senator Kerry who they say would wait until the U.S. is attacked before taking action.

It also highlights the theme that the BC04 campaign has been pushing over the last week: that Senator Kerry's rhetoric on Iraq shows weakness and mixed signals that emboldens and aids the enemy

Finally, it looks at Senator Kerry's record in Congress on national security issues, linking him with "congressional liberals" voting on intelligence budgets, weapons systems and the $87 billion Iraq supplement.

The radio ad is an expanded version of the TV ad, touching on the same themes.

Script: "Peace and Security"

Voice Over:History's lesson … Strength builds peace … Weakness invites those who would do us harm. Unfortunately, after the first World Trade Center attack, John Kerry and congressional liberals tried to slash six billion dollars from intelligence budgets. And tried to cut or eliminate over 40 weapons now fighting the War on Terror. And refused to support our troops in combat with the latest weapons and body armor.

Graphic: John Kerry & Congressional Liberals. Putting Our Protection at Risk

President Bush:I'm George W. Bush and I approve this message.

Script: "Facts"

President Bush:I'm George W. Bush and I approve this message.


Voice Over:What does it take to lead America in the War on Terror? Steadiness, a commitment to make decisions based on what's right, not political expediency. John Kerry and his liberal allies in Congress want us to believe they're strong on national defense. But the facts speak otherwise.

FACT: Just one year after the first World Trade Center attack, Kerry and the liberals in Congress voted to cut our intelligence budgets by 6 billion dollars.

FACT: Over the past 20 years, they have fought to cancel or reduce 40 key weapons now being used by our troops in combat to protect them and America in the War on Terror.

FACT: After voting to authorize the use of force in Iraq, they voted against funding our troops in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan.

How can John Kerry and his liberal allies protect us when they voted against what America needs to fight the War on Terror?

BC04 senior adviser Karen Hughes made the morning show rounds today.

On NBC's "Today," she said that the only message voters can take from Kerry calling Iraq the wrong war is that he would "bring our troops home immediately without working for victory."

Hughes also accused Senator John Kerry and his running mate of talking like if the U.S. were to retreat and withdraw from Iraq that Al-Zarqawi and the other al Qaeda-affiliated terrorists would return to peaceful endeavors like opening a produce stand or a jewelry store."

She also slipped in a clever Vietnam reference.

On CNN's "American Morning," Hughes sought to lower expectations for Bush on the debates despite a Time Magazine poll showing more people expect Bush to do better. "I think [Kerry] may be [the favorite], Bill. Remember Senator Kerry began debating in prep school," she said to CNN's Bill Hemmer.

On "Fox and Friends," Hughes quipped that Bush's debate team has "had to prepare over and over and over again" because "every time we've met [Kerry's] had a new position on Iraq."Asked how Bush has changed since 2000, Hughes refused to get off message: "I still see the same person . . . But he's become more so. He's always been disciplined, now he's more so. He's always been focused, now he's more so . . . He is absolutely focused on preventing another attack . . ."

Hughes discussed the 32-page debate agreement this morning on ABC News Radio, saying, "It basically is insuring that there will be a healthy exchange of ideas, there'll be a lot of topics covered . . . no gimmicks, no tricks, no sudden surprises so that we really can have a debate that's dominated by the issues," ABC News' Ann Compton reports.

The New York Times ' David Stout Notes that President Bush's criticism of Kerry is not new, but "the fact that he spoke extensively about Iraq, at an event that had been billed as a "focus on education" meeting, showed how the issue was becoming even more dominant in the campaign." LINK

The Washington Post 's Dana Milbank ponders the origin of Allawi's address to the joint session of Congress based on the similarities to President Bush's speeches — and does a line by line comparison for others who are curious. LINK

The New York Times ' David Halbfinger Notes the Bush campaign has taken the campaign rally "to a new state of the art, by pressing audiences to work as foot soldiers, before, during and immediately after Bush events." LINK

The Cincinnati Enquirer puts the crowd estimate at 50,000 for the president's largest rally of the campaign thus far. Note too Karen Hughes' demotion to "campaign speechwriter" and Senator DeWine's statement about the state being closer perhaps than polls make it appear at the moment. LINK

"The biggest campaign rally of the year had the air of a political Woodstock, with about 50,000 people crammed into an Ohio park as rock music blared and President Bush declared he was pumped up for Thursday's debate," leads the Cleveland Plain Dealer. LINK

Bill Sammon of the Washington Times leads with President Bush mocking Senator Kerry for being able to "spend 90 minutes debating himself." LINK

The Dallas Morning News' wrap on President Bush's jaunt to Ohio yesterday: LINK

David Rosenbaum takes on the challenge of fact-checking Senator Kerry's comments on Vice President Cheney and Halliburton, and the Vice President's financial connections to the company. LINK

ABC News Vote 2004: Kerry-Edwards '04:

The Boston Globe 's Pat Healy tells us all about Senator Kerry's day in Wisconsin — filled with counter-attacks from Rudy Giuliani and even some potential new debate lines. LINK

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's Craig Gilbert Notes Kerry's wading into dairy issues and gun issues during his town hall meeting primarily focused on Iraq and foreign policy in the run up to the first debate. Gilbert also includes this Packers tidbit without mentioning "Lambert" field. LINK

"Kerry made the obligatory nod to the Green Bay Packers, telling the crowd that the day before, he stopped at a tavern in Mount Horeb, and 'within 10 seconds of my walking in, they scored.'"

"Kerry said he didn't claim to be a Packers fan — 'I'm not pretending something I'm not' — but the Packers' opponent was the Indianapolis Colts, rivals to Kerry's hometown New England Patriots, so he was eager for a Green Bay victory."

The Boston Herald's Noelle Straub reports that Senator Ted Kennedy said Kerry "must move beyond attack mode and outline a clear economic and security agenda." LINK

Adam Smith of the St. Pete Times writes that Kerry needs the "almost cliche" of himself as a strong closer more than ever now. LINK

On Monday, the Kerry-Edwards campaign launched a new 30-second ad that we all expect to get hit by the ad watches this morning. "Doesn't Get It," a response to the president's comments on FOX's "O'Reilly Factor," in which the president said he would wear the flight suit and re-play the scene aboard the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln again, misstates what Bush actually said.


Narrator: "There he goes again. George Bush said Iraq was 'mission accomplished.' 16 months later, he still doesn't get it. Today: over 1,000 US soldiers dead, kidnappings, even beheadings of Americans. Still Bush has no plan what to do in Iraq. How can you solve a problem when you can't see it? John Kerry's plan: Train Iraqis to handle their own security … real elections … and work with allies to shoulder the burden. It's time for a new direction in Iraq."

John Kerry: "I'm John Kerry and I approved this message."

Meanwhile, the Democratic National Committee's independent expenditure arm will spend $6 million to air an ad that a Democrat who has watched it calls "pretty harsh."


NARRATOR: "No one can tell him he's wrong … even though there are no weapons of mass destruction … the deficit has never been higher … he's lost more jobs that any president in 75 years . . . and a thousand American soldiers have died in a war poorly planned. But no one can tell him he's wrong. America can no longer afford four more years. The Democratic National Committee is responsible for the content of this advertisement."

The visual is a very slow push into a black and white photograph of Bush.

The spot is running is the 13 states familiar to Kerry and DNC ad buyers.

Michael Saul of the New York Daily News Notes John Edwards' first campaign event in New Jersey today, "a clear sign that the campaign is worried about losing the historically Democratic state to President Bush." A Kerry spokeswoman says this: "New Jersey is a critical battleground state. At this point, it's pretty close." LINK

ABC News Vote 2004: casting and counting:

The AP's Rachel Konrad follows the lawsuit by Florida Rep. Robert Wexler (D) in his quest for paper print outs of electronic ballots, and how unlikely reforms are in time for this election. LINK

The Miami Herald 's Gary Fineout and Lesley Clark write, "Regardless of whether Wexler wins his lawsuit in court, state officials said Monday that they will now draw up an emergency rule requiring touch-screen counties to do manual recounts in close elections — a startling turnaround, because the state fought for months to bar such recounts." LINK

The Orlando Sentinel's Jim Stratton tracks the drive to register Floridians to vote, Noting that "so far, about 9.75 million Floridians are registered to cast ballots in the 2004 election — about 1 million more than were eligible to vote in the contested 2000 election." It's a smart follow to the New York Times Sunday story on voter registration. LINK

The Wall Street Journal 's editorial board calls the notion of a widespread disenfranchisement of African-American voters in the 2000 election a "myth."

"[The] idea that racial animus rather than all-around incompetence produced higher spoilage rates for blacks, or accounted for their misplacement on the infamously inaccurate 'felon purge list,' is fanciful at best. In Florida, as in many other states, the manner in which elections are conducted, including all of the essentials of the voting process, is determined at the county level."

"Which leaves the 'stolen election' crowd with these inconvenient facts: In 24 of the 25 Florida counties with the highest ballot spoilage rate, the county supervisor was a Democrat. In the 25th county, the supervisor was an Independent. And as for the 'felon purge list,' the Miami Herald found that whites were twice as likely to be incorrectly placed on the list as blacks."

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that inaccessibility to voting for the disabled is still a major problem in the Keystone State just weeks before the election. LINK

The Minnesota Supreme Court ruled today that Independence Party candidates should have access to the Nov. 2 ballot, which means all ballots already printed in the state must be re-printed. According to state election law, absentee (including military) ballots must be printed and mailed beginning 30 days before the election, which is this weekend. The Secretary of State's office in Minnesota will surely have a busy week. LINK

Ohio Democrats are suing the Republican Secretary of State over the rules concerning provisional ballots. Stay tuned for more like this in a battleground state near you. LINK

"Republican officials say the significant number of lawyers the Democrats will dispatch to oversee balloting in the presidential election indicates that Democrats plan to demand recounts in an attempt to litigate the outcome of the contest," writes Donald Lambro of the Washington Times . "The Democrats have made the very large number of lawyers they're using part of their political message. They are playing a very high-stakes legal game for a political outcome," says the RNC's very own Terry Holt. "It's almost as if they would rather have lawyers decide this election than the voters." LINK

This e-mail is circulating among college students and Democratic lawyers in New York.


ABC News Vote 2004: the field:

Ahead of the Oct. 4 registration deadline in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Michigan, voter registration and partisan mobilization groups are gearing up their ground game.

The American Federation of State, County, Municipal Employees, which will spend in excess of $40 million on election activities this year, will continue what it bills as a non-partisan drive to register infrequently voting home health care workers in cities like Des Moines, Toledo, and Pittsburgh.

The ground is most fertile for AFSCME in Ohio. Imagine Steve Rosenthal's dreams in 1996. Now imagine the AFL-CIO's combined efforts in 2000, which led to Blaise Hazelwood's 72-Hour Task force for the GOP. Then imagine what the unions bill as the biggest, more expensive, most efficient union identification and voter targeting program ever.

That's how it's being billed, in any event. The state AFL-CIO has divided Ohio into 10 zones and distributed the work among its member unions with thousand of eager activists benefiting from millions and millions of dollars in resources and technology.

For two years, they've been building what one labor official called the "biggest GOTV infastructure I've ever seen." (And this official has seen 'em all.)

By Oct. 23, every full time state AFL-CIO employee will devote their entire days to electing John Kerry. They'll set up 10 phone banks, staffed by 60 to 70 employees. Nearly 5,000 unions members will walk door to door. Priority one: the knock and drags — finding every Kerry-identified union member and ensuring they get to the polls. Priority two: finding those undecideds and giving them that extra attention. Priority three — election day everything.

Based on the likelihood of specific voters to vote, the AFL-CIO will visit them as many as three times during that 12-day period.

The SEIU, with its HERO program (part of a $65 million political expenditure), will play a big role, as will the Steelworkers, the Teamsters, food and commercial workers' unions, IBEW, and others.

AFSCME is playing a leading role.

Its Take Back Ohio program has been in the works for two years and has already involved the participation of more than 10 percent of AFSCME Ohio's 120,000 members. AFSCME's goal is to get 80 percent of AFSCME's members registered, 80 percent of those registered to say they support Kerry, and 80 percent of those who say they support Kerry to actually vote.

More than 2,000 AFSCME members have already knocked on doors. (Overall, at least 5,000 AFL-CIO members have done the same.) More than 570,00 pieces of mail have been sent; more than 240,000 leaflets were distributed at workplaces.

How does this compare to what organized labor did in Ohio in 2000?

"There is no comparison," says Joseph P. Rugola, an AFSCME international vice president heading GOTV operations in Ohio. " In 2000, You could measure the total of activists in the hundreds."

Ohio AFL-CIO Bill Burga has spent the better part of three years putting this machine together.

The AFL-CIO's efforts don't include America Coming Together's top-secret targeting of middle-of-the-vine fruit. With those weapons in their arsenal, no one wonder the Dems are at least somewhat confident that if it's neck-and-neck in the state on election day, they have a good chance to win.

From the outside:

The New York Times ' Kenneth Chang reports that a new 527 advocacy group, known as Scientists and Engineers for Change "will give talks in 10 contested states: Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Oregon, Virginia and Wisconsin." LINK

ABC News Vote 2004: the Big Four battlegrounds: Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Wisconsin:

In an excellent focus piece, USA Today 's Judy Keen computes, "Simple math explains why Wisconsin is a target." LINK

The Wall Street Journal 's David Rogers reports "The federal price tag for recent hurricanes will exceed $12.2 billion, as President Bush asked Congress for an additional $7.1 billion in emergency funding on top of two prior requests to help stricken areas in Florida and the Southeast." LINK

The Quinnipiac University poll out today shows Senator Kerry leading President Bush among likely voters in Pennsylvania by 3 points — just inside the margin of error: 49 percent for Kerry, 46 percent for Bush. The new numbers represent a slight shift for President Bush, who in the Sept. 16 poll led Kerry, 49 percent to 48 percent. According to Quinnipiac, rising anti-war sentiment is contributing to Kerry's nudging of the numbers, and that sentiment seems to have particularly helped him in the all-important Philadelphia suburbs, according to Quinnipiac. LINK

The Philadelphia Inquirer's Michael Vitel profiles Abington Township, PA — one of the darkest purple towns in the state. LINK

The Chicago Tribune's Mark Silva takes a look at the changing face of Florida: LINK

"As late as two years ago, Amtrak riders could select from five routes that crossed Ohio . . . By next spring, that number will shrink to three with Amtrak's plans to eliminate its Three Rivers train through Ohio, closing stations in Youngstown, Akron and Fostoria," reports the Cleveland Plain Dealer. LINK

The Media Fund launches a new ad today in Ohio. The script:

Man wearing hard hat: "I'm not a big Bush fan but what's Kerry going to do that's different?"

VO: "For twenty years, John Kerry has fought for jobs. In the 90's he helped balance the budget that led to 23 million new jobs."

Man wearing hard hat: "I didn't know."

VO: "Under Bush and Cheney Ohio has lost two hundred and thirty thousand jobs while they give no bid contracts to Halliburton."

Man wearing hard hat: "Halliburton."

VO: "Kerry and Edwards will reward companies who keep jobs at home and rebuild a strong middle class for a stronger more secure America."

Man wearing hard hat: "That is a big difference."

VO: "Learn more about the Kerry Edwards plan at facts 4 Ohio dot com. The Media Fund is responsible for the content of this ad."

ABC News Vote 2004: the battlegrounds:

The New York Times ' Johnny Apple says Kerry's chances of winning Iowa depends largely on the number of absentee voters, which as of last Wednesday was more than 140,345. LINK

The Kerry camp responds today to an Iowa ad questioning his security credentials. He refers to the ads as "despicable politics." Thomas Beaumont of the Des Moines Register reports. LINK

Knight Ridder's Scott Canon writes, "Iowa politics remains mostly a candidate-to-voter proposition." LINK

Jonathan Roos of the Des Moines Register reports on a bungled GOP mailing in Iowa. Democrats respond with laughter. LINK

William Petroski reports on security at Iowa polling places. LINK

Absentee ballot confusion strikes Iowa. State Democrats blame the Republican party for rushing ballot entries. Lynn Campbell of the Des Moines Register reports. LINK

The Washington Post 's David Broder says New Hampshire is now in play, "joining West Virginia and New Mexico on the short list of low-population states so closely contested that both Republicans and Democrats believe they have no choice but to battle for a narrow advantage." Broder provides a brief and fantastic outline of New Hampshire politics, and the changes in economics and parties that have brought New Hampshire the spotlight beyond the primary this year. LINK

Thomas Oliphant writes a mini-profile of Nevada and Notes a certain third-party candidate, Libertarian Party candidate, Mike Bednarik, is causing some problems. As he ledes: "For those who adore the oddities of politics, this place may be ground zero." (Note to Oliphant: based on the bumper sticker, it's spelled BAdnarik.) LINK

The Associated Press reports on Senator Byrd's stumping for Senator Kerry in West Virginia and denouncing the recent RNC mailing. LINK

At an address to the Portland Regional Chamber, White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card said the debates would not change the outcome of the election, Joshua Weinstein of the Portland Press Herald Writer files. LINK

John Kerry's stepson Chris Heinz talks to students at the University of Southern Maine, recruiting them to vote, Justin Ellis of the Portland Press Herald reports. LINK

Tom Bell of the Portland Press Herald reports on Maine schools failing to meet the requirements of No Child Left Behind. LINK

If you didn't think Senator Kerry had even the slightest chance in Arizona, read the Arizona Republic's Jon Kamman's in-depth and detailed look at whether the Senator from Massachusetts could possibly have a teeny tiny chance in this historically Red state. LINK

Craig Welch of the Seattle Times continues his five-part environmental series by slamming President Bush on his failure to reduce pollution from cargo ships. LINK

Welch also writes a piece praising some of the president's diesel fuel revisions. LINK

Terrorism and the election:

Now that the Olympics and national conventions have passed, all eyes are focused on the five weeks between now and Nov. 2 as a time period for a possible terrorist attack. LINK

The politics of intelligence:

"Counterterrorism authorities would be granted unprecedented access to law enforcement and commercial databases containing billions of records about private citizens under a bipartisan bill to restructure the intelligence system that the Senate began debating yesterday," reports the Washington Post 's Robert O'Harrow Jr. LINK

Senator Lieberman declares the House version of the intelligence reform bill "weak." LINK

The Washington Post 's Dan Eggen reports that though the FBI has hundreds of thousands of hours of wiretap recordings from counterterrorism and counterintelligence investigations since Sept. 11, 2001, and though funding has been expanded for translators and linguists, the job's not getting done. LINK

ABC News Vote 2004: the Senate:

The Washington Post 's E.J. Dionne suggests that Kerry take note of the heartland and "as he prepares for Thursday's debate with President Bush, John Kerry might ponder the thoughts of Ken Salazar, Colorado's attorney general and one of the Democrats' best hopes for picking up a U.S. Senate seat this year." LINK

And here's the Los Angeles Times ad box on Senator Boxer's first campaign commercial of the season. LINK

Roll Call reports Senator Elizabeth Dole may seek the position of chair of NRSC. LINK

ABC News Vote 2004: the House:

The Hill Notes, House Republicans are taking a full offensive position — "moving aggressively to try to increase" their majority "by knocking off Democratic incumbents." LINK

The politics of health care:

The Washington Post 's Ceci Connolly assesses the state of health care in America, and according to government statistics and studies, "In the past four years, Americans have spent an ever-growing portion of their paychecks on health care and for the most part gotten less for their money, forcing millions into the ranks of the uninsured or personal bankruptcy." LINK

The politics of guns:

In one of the clearest examples of election-year posturing out there, Reps. Henry Waxman (D-CA) and John Conyers (D-MI) on Monday called on President Bush to declare whether or not he supports a measure sponsored by Rep. Mark Souder (R-IN) to "end the city's stringent bans on handguns and semiautomatic weapons, lift registration requirements for ammunition and other weapons, and decriminalize possession of unregistered firearms and carrying a handgun in one's home or office." The White House, unsurprisingly, did not comment on the specifics of Souder's bill. LINK

The politics of same-sex marriage:

The New York Times has a global look at the state ballot measures on this hot-button issue. LINK

GOPer and Harvard Law Grad Chris Cox (R-CA) has an impassioned appeal against the Federal Marriage Amendment in today's Wall Street Journal .


Justice Sandra Day O'Connor has been assigned to review a request for stay of the Oregon Supreme Court's decision to take Ralph Nader's name off the ballot, reports Gina Holland of the AP. While the Nader-Campaign filed its case just last Friday, an announcement is expected soon. Oregon residents vote by mail, and their counties have already started printing the 1.9 million ballots. If she approves the Nader campaign's request, the state will be asked to halt printing immediately and put his name back on the ballot. Because this is an emergency appeal, one justice has been assigned to handle the paperwork. She may act alone or ask the entire bench to weigh in.

Nader's attorney Daniel Meek argues state election officials misinterpreted unwritten rules that disqualified Nader's signatures — and in doing so they have disenfranchised voters who would support the independent candidate. Nader took five percent of the Oregon vote in 2000; his support in 2004 has dwindled significantly. LINK

We expect to have a decision SOON from the Ohio Secretary of State on Nader's status the battleground state with 20 electoral votes.

James O'Toole of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports on Nader's status in Pennsylvania [21 electoral votes] where yesterday the Commonwealth Court held an unprecedented eight simultaneous hearings in five cities on challenges to Nader's petitions. The challenge in this state has been highly complicated, and fiercely partisan. "It is expected to be late in the week before the court could hope to consolidate the results of the scattered proceedings around the state," O'Toole writes. More than 30-thousand of Nader's signatures are in question. LINK

Today in Chicago, a hearing will be held to look into the time sheets of Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan to see if employees were checking the validity of Nader's petitions for candidacy on company time. LINK

In Arkansas, country clerks and ballot printers are standing by, awaiting a decision on Nader's Nov. 2 status. The deadline for printing is Oct. 8. Oral arguments on Nader's appeal are set for Thursday, so says the AP. LINK

The Chicago Tribune's John McCormick hitches a ride on the Nader "motorcade of one" in Wisconsin, where a judge could rule as early as today about his status on the ballot there. On Monday, a judge in Madison temporarily forbid the state board from telling county clerks which presidential candidates to list on the ballot. LINK

In Wisconsin, it's the same deal. Printing is at a halt until Dane County Judge Michael Nowakowski announces his decision about Nader's candidacy this afternoon.

Barring a slow appeals process, the state is still on schedule. LINK

Note: A third-party debate will be held in Coral Gables, FL this Thursday, Sept. 30 with the Libertarian and Green candidates. At this point, Ralph Nader does not plan to participate, though he will be in Miami.

There will be other third party debates between now and Nov. 2. The one with the longest-held tradition is being organized by Cornell University.

That debate will be held Oct. 6, 2004 in the Cornell campus with David Cobb, Walt Brown [Socialist Party], Michael Badnarik, and Michael Peroutka [Constitution Party]. LINK

Politics: Gov. Schwarzenegger's autograph — err, signature — ended the "eight-year experiment" that was California's March primary. California will now return to a June primary date. Schwarzenegger also made it the law of the land for any electronic voting machine certified in the Golden State in 2005 and beyond must have a verifiable paper printout. LINK

We've told you this before and now with the help of the Los Angeles Times' Susannah Rosenblatt we are telling you again. If you are a fan of political campaign television ads (and we know that you are), you've got to check out "The Living Room Candidate" exhibit. LINK

TODAY'S SCHEDULE (all times ET):

—9:45 am: The Senate convenes for morning business —9:45 am: Chris Heinz holds a town hall at the University of Maine, Orno, ME —10:00 am: Elizabeth Edwards holds a town hall with "Moms on a Mission" at the VFW Post 9916, Westover, WV —10:00 am: The Human Rights Campaign hosts a press conference with Republican voters opposed to President Bush's proposed constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, Washington, DC —10:15 am: Cate Edwards holds a town hall at the University of North Carolina, Pembroke, NC —10:30 am: House Majority Leader Tom DeLay joins Hispanic leaders at a news conference in support of the Federal Marriage Amendment at the Capitol, Washington, DC —10:30 am: The New Democratic Network holds a news conference to announce an advertising campaign targeting South Florida Hispanic voters, Washington, DC —10:30 am: The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life hosts a discussion on "Pushing the Envelope? The Political Activities of Religious Organizations in Campaign 2004" at the Renaissance Mayflower Hotel, Washington, DC —11:00 am: Sen. Edwards holds in a town hall at Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA —11:30 am: Reps. Carolyn Maloney and Christopher Shays hold a press conference at the Capitol on the 9/11 Commission's recommendations, Washington, DC —11:45 am: Sens. Joe Lieberman and Susan Collins and 9/11 Commissioners Lee Hamilton and former Sen. Slade Gordon hold a news conference at the Capitol to discuss the Collins-Lieberman National Intelligence Reform Act of 2004, Washington, DC —11:45 am: Democratic billionaire donor George Soros, introduced by Gen. Wesley Clark (Ret.), criticizes President Bush's policies on Iraq and the war on terror at the National Press Club, Washington, DC —12:00 pm: Majority Leader DeLay holds a pen and page briefing at the Capitol, Washington, DC —12:15 pm: Cate Edwards holds a town hall at Fayetteville State University, Fayetteville, NC —12:30 pm: Senate Democrats and Republicans meet for their regular Tuesday closed session policy committees at the Capitol, Washington, DC —12:30 pm: The House of Representatives meets for morning business —12:30 pm: The Council on Foreign Relations holds a meeting on trade and the U.S. economy as part of its Campaign 2004 Debate Series, Washington, DC —12:30 pm: House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer, with Rep. Ike Skelton, holds his regular pen and pad briefing at the Capitol, Washington, DC —1:40 pm: Vice President and Lynne Cheney hold a town hall at the Grand River Center, Dubuque, IA —2:15 pm: Elizabeth Edwards hosts a roundtable discussion with community members at the Food and Friends Diner, Lewisburg, WV —4:15 pm: Barbara Bush and her grandchildren Jenna and Barbara Bush speak at Exeter High School, Exeter, NH —4:30 pm: First Lady Laura Bush speaks at a campaign rally at Chemeketa Community College, Salem, OR —5:00 pm: Chris Heinz attends a rally at Harvard University, Cambridge, MA —5:00 pm: Andre Heinz attends a rally at the University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH —5:15 pm: Sen. Edwards holds a town hall in the Robert Treat Hotel, Newark, NJ —6:20 pm: Vice President Cheney participates in a Victory 2004 rally at Choice Products USA, Eau Claire, WI —7:50 pm: Sen. Edwards attends a Kerry-Edwards 2004 Victory Fund Reception at the Hilton Hotel, East Brunswick, NJ —8:00 pm: Ralph Nader speaks at Carefree Theatre, West Palm Beach, FL —8:10 pm: Laura Bush speaks at a campaign rally at Henderson Pavilion, Henderson, NV