ABC News' The Note: First Source for Political News

"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."

"Mr. Kerry has finally begun to fight back and put the focus on Iraq instead of Vietnam. His speech on Monday was compelling and, unlike W.'s toxic cotton-candy spin, has the additional advantage of being true," writes Maureen Dowd. However, she says, Kerry's argument still has a "hollow center" because he is sidestepping the central moral issue which, she says, is not "the way" Bush went to war but what he did. LINK Apparently unironically, Senator Kerry said yesterday that "when you're horse is drowning in midstream, it's a good time to shift," the Washington Post 's Balz and Snyder report. LINK "Congressional negotiators beat back efforts yesterday to expand and preserve tax refunds for poor families, even as they added $13 billion in corporate tax breaks to a package of middle-class tax cuts that could come to a vote in the Senate today," the Washington Post 's Weisman reports. LINK

Writing for the Hill — and with the latest numbers tipping away from his candidate's favor — Kerry pollster Mark Mellman chronicles wide discrepancies in polling figures through the election cycle, arriving at one firm conclusion: "at minimum, the polls produce an uncertain portrait of the state of the race."

Mellman gets on the media's case a bit for offering headlines that are too strongly worded and articles that contain little analysis. Further, he writes news orgs don't contrast their findings with other recent studies. In an argument that seems surprsing coming from a man who's bread is buttered on the media's obsession with numbers, Mellman pushes "uncertainty" as the new lede.

"Uncertainty may not sell papers or create the aura of clairvoyance, but it has the benefit of accurately reflecting reality. Reputable polls disagree … ."

"I suggest a simple syllogism. The truth is that the state of this year's presidential contest is uncertain at best. Journalists report the truth. Therefore, journalists should be reporting that the state of the race is uncertain."

"Instead, we get each media outlet putting faith in its own poll as revealed truth and therefore reporting the race as a certain Bush lead or a certain tie. Only a consumer who consults a variety of media outlets would have a clear idea of how unclear the current picture is. It should not be so difficult for readers and viewers to get a picture of reality." LINK

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