ABC News' The Note: First Source for Political News

The new Wall Street Journal -NBC News poll shows President Bush with a slight lead over Senator Kerry — 48 percent to 45 percent — and Iraq, unsurprisingly, remains a huge issue, going from a liability in Kerry's mind to one of his strengths, reports the Wall Street Journal 's Jake Schlesinger in a must-read analysis of the strategies of both campaigns. LINK

"Though President Bush slightly leads Democratic John Kerry overall — 48% to 45% — the survey suggests the economy represents strong political ground for Mr. Kerry right now," the Wall Street Journal 's Shailagh Murray and John Harwood report.

Latest WSJ/NBC poll results: LINK

The AP's Ron Fournier reports that the Kerry campaign has canceled plans to begin broadcasting television commercials in the bellwether state of Missouri (as well as in Arizona, Arkansas and Louisiana). "Plans are still in place to air ads starting the second week of October, campaign officials said, but those will likely be tabled, too."

LINK

Democrats are frustrated that despite Bush policy shifts, it is Kerry who wears the flip flop label, the Washington Post 's John F. Harris writes in a news analysis. LINK

"Over the past four years, [Bush] abandoned positions on issues such as how to regulate air pollution or whether states should be allowed to sanction same-sex marriage. He changed his mind about the merits of creating the Homeland Security Department, and made a major exception to his stance on free trade by agreeing to tariffs on steel. After resisting, the president yielded to pressure in supporting an independent commission to study policy failures preceding the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Bush did the same with questions about whether he would allow his national security adviser to testify, or whether he would answer commissioners' questions for only an hour, or for as long they needed."

"Democrats working for John F. Kerry cite these twists and turns with glee — but even more frustration. Polls have shown overwhelmingly that Kerry — with his long trail of confusing and sometimes contradictory statements, especially on Iraq — is this year's flip-flopper in the public mind, a criticism that continued to echo across the campaign trail yesterday."

"Once such a popular perception becomes fixed, public opinion experts and strategists say, virtually every episode in the campaign is viewed through that prism, while facts that do not fit with existing assumptions — such as Bush's history of policy shifts — do not have much impact in the political debate."

Don't believe the flip-flop hype, writes the San Francisco Chronicle's Marc Sandalow in a must-read analysis of Kerry's ability — or lack thereof — to explain his positions clearly. Overall, Kerry's position on Iraq has been consistent. LINK

"There were times when Kerry's emphasis shifted for what appear to be political reasons, such as the fall of 2003 when former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean surged to the top of Democratic polls based on an anti-war platform and Kerry's criticism of the president grew stronger. There are many instances in which clumsy phrases and tortuously long explanations make Kerry difficult to follow. And there are periods, such as last week, when the sharpness of Kerry's words restating old positions seem to suggest a change."

"Yet taken as a whole, Kerry has offered the same message ever since talk of attacking Iraq became a national conversation more than two years ago."

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