ABC News' The Note: First Source for Political News

Katie Couric and John Stewart flirted/laughed it up on "Today." Stewart called the critique of John Kerry as a flip-flopper "silly" and "not really the case. I suppose you could say about President Bush that he opposed the 9/11 Commission before he created it. But that's not a flip-flop. That's leadership." Stewart added that he was pleased Dan Rather was "clearly picking up my mantle" of fake news.

ABC News Vote 2004: Bush v. Kerry:

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

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