ABC News' The Note: First Source for Political News

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.

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