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46 days until Election Day 13 days until the first proposed presidential debate 18 days until the proposed vice presidential debate 21 days until the second proposed presidential debate 26 days until the third proposed presidential debate

NEWS SUMMARY

The best example of how degrading it can be to be a political reporter: USA Today 's classy Susan Page forced to write up the Gallup poll/joke "showing" the president with a mythical 13-point lead for the front page of her paper — thus suggesting Gallup's 2000 track record of wild swings might be replicated this cycle.

(Question it gives rise to: What's the real margin? A. 5-6 points, with Bush holding small- to medium-sized (surmountable) leads in most of the important battlegrounds.)

The best political theater of the day: The Florida Supreme Court hearing arguments about whether Ralph Nader will be on the November ballot.

(Question it gives rise to: How many of the Florida high court's justices can you (still) name? A. Chief Justice Barbara J. Pariente, Justice Charles T. Wells, Justice Harry Lee Anstead, Justice R. Fred Lewis, Justice Peggy A. Quince, Justice Raoul G. Cantero, III (new since 2000), and Justice Kenneth B. Bell (new since 2000).)

The best analytical newspaper story of the day telegraphing where the Kerry strategy is going:Ron Brownstein's must-read Los Angeles Times story on how the Democrat plans to step up the arguments that the Iraq war is a failure and has hurt the war on terror. LINK

(Question it gives rise to: Can Kerry do this with credibility with voters and the media, given his checkered rhetorical past on the issue generally? A. Only time will tell, but it would be quite a feat.)

The best story for insiders: Mark Leibovich and Jim VandeHei on the front page of the Washington Post on the intra-campaign power struggles of Kerry World — even though it adds only the slimmest of details to the comparable stories that have come before it elsewhere.

(Question it gives rise to: Has Paul Begala ever seen Mary Beth Cahill with chicken salad dripping from her chin? A. Probably not, or that piece of color would have made it into the story.)

The best tactical Bush campaign information semi-hidden in a newspaper story: This, from Dana Priest and Mr. VandeHei, in their Washington Post opus: "The White House . . . had planned a vigorous election-season defense of its Iraq strategy next week . . . Administration officials plan to use next week's U.S. visit by Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi as the centerpiece of an effort to showcase progress toward democracy."

(Question it gives rise to: Will this defense/showcasing go as well if the violence and death in Iraq next week matches what it has been like this week? A. Not so much.)

The best political-reporting-masquerading-as-national-security-reporting in a newspaper story:Tie: Eric Schmitt in the New York Times on the looming Army Reserve personnel shortage and Doug Jehl (also in the New York Times — and on a roll!!) on the upcoming report on the weapons inspection report out of Iraq.

(Question it gives rise to: Has the relentless Bush-Cheney assault on Kerry's foreign policy credentials and judgment made him unable to take advantage of this stuff? A. Only time will tell, but it would be quite a feat.)

The best color about alleged CBS News source Bill Burkett (as profiled by the Washington Post 's Sylvia Moreno):Tie: "He and his wife are regulars at the Whistle Stop Cafe, ordering bacon cheeseburgers with jalapenos and fries or the pork chop special on Mondays" and "Burkett has frequently posted notes to an Internet message group for Texas Democrats, urging other members to work harder to defeat Bush in the election, but also lambasting Democratic nominee John F. Kerry for 'one of the worst run campaigns I've seen in my lifetime … .Many of us have risked everything on this election,' Burkett said in a message posted on Aug. 31. 'The disappointment is deep and difficult to manage. But we fight on, in spite of incompetence at the top.'")

(Question it gives rise to: Is there ANYTHING that would cause the cast and crew of "Fox and Friends" to check the accuracy of something on Drudge before blurting it out on the air? A. Apparently not.)

The best debate-about-debates story by a former ABC News Political Unit intern: Jonathan Greenberger's piece on the Commission on Presidential Debates continued Maytag repairperson status, in the Washington University in St. Louis' Student Life. LINK

(Question it gives rise to: Will there be a debate deal announced today? A. In our heads, we say "yes"; in our hearts, we say "no" — a hedge more masterful than even Mitch Bainwol could come up with!!)

At 8:00 am ET, the Florida Supreme Court was hearing oral arguments and by all accounts will declare their answer as to whether or not Ralph Nader should be on the ballot in the Sunshine State today — given that overseas ballots must be mailed by tomorrow. (Yesterday, John McCain said Nader should be allowed on the ballot: LINK)

A little north of there, President Bush comes to North Carolina, a former quasi-battleground state in which the Kerry campaign is no longer running ads, to hold a 3:45 pm ET "Focus on Women's Issues" event in Charlotte. The event comes as President Bush is doing better than expected among women in recent polls and as strategists in both parties say, as the Chicago Tribune's Jeff Zeleny writes, "there are a growing number of suburban, independent-minded voters who believe Bush would do a better job securing America."

Bush also has two RNC fundraisers today: one that is open press in Washington (12:45 pm ET) and one that is closed in Charlotte (5:50 pm ET).

Sen. John Kerry today will highlight Vice President Cheney's connections with a "golden parachute" from Halliburton in an ad and during Kerry's 11:00 am ET Albuquerque town hall. Kerry will, according to the campaign's preview, unveil "new reforms" that will end the "Era of Halliburton" of "rewarding special interests and big contributors with no bid contracts and special deals."

(And the same preview borrows from a certain primetime show: "As President, John Kerry will make sure that we tell companies that cheat the U.S. military and American taxpayers: 'You're fired.'")

Kerry later flies to the city of his birth, Aurora, CO, for a 5:25 pm ET town hall on health care the day after his campaign released the fourth health care ad from the campaigns and parties in the last week.

Elsewhere:

The Bureau of Labor Statistics releases the regional and state unemployment figures for August at 10:00 am ET: LINK.

Elizabeth Edwards is also in North Carolina (Winston-Salem and Greenville).

Vice President Cheney has two events in Oregon.

First Lady Laura Bush is in Charleston, WV; Columbia, SC; and East Stroudsburg, PA.

This Sunday on "This Week," George Stephanopoulos interviews Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi from London, and Sens. Joe Biden (D-DE) and Richard Lugar (R-IN) will talk politics and Iraq.

This weekend, President Bush heads to Maine for a down day before pulling out his trump card: yet another visit to Florida (and Alabama) to look at Hurricane damage.

On Saturday, Sen. Kerry does a (closed press!) taping of "Dr. Phil" in Boston, followed by a DNC fundraiser at the Hynes Veterans Memorial Convention Center. He's down in Boston on Sunday until traveling to New York Sunday night.

On Monday, both campaigns find themselves in New York City for fundraisers and mainstream media interviews (Kerry appears on "The Late Show" with David Letterman and "Regis and Kelly."). This will not be a preview of the Al Smith dinner, however, which will not feature either candidate this year: LINK

ABC News Vote 2004: Bush v. Kerry:

The Washington Post 's Dana Priest and Jim VandeHei report on Kerry's criticism of Bush's Iraq policy yesterday with a focus on the new National Intelligence Estimate. "The National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq, representing the consensus view of the U.S. intelligence community and written in July, said Iraq's prospects for stability and self-governance over the next 18 months were, at best, 'tenuous,' according to U.S. government officials who have read it." President Bush did not talk about the intelligence estimate on the stump Thursday in Minnesota. LINK

The back-and-forth each day seems to kick things up a notch almost every news cycle. Yesterday's was complete with a "fantasy world of spin" and the standard Bush-Cheney mantra that Senator Kerry is an indecisive flip-flopper in every possible way. Pat Healy of the Boston Globe fills us in on the details. LINK

Healy nugget of the day: "Sasso sits in Kerry's cabin more than any other aide and is known among a few staff members on the plane as 'the quarterback.'"

AP's Tom Raum wraps Bush and Kerry sniping over Iraq yesterday. LINK

Scot Lehigh of the Boston Globe explains today in his column how President Bush has had a better few weeks as he actively shapes public opinion while Senator Kerry does not. LINK

An interesting Lehigh observation reveals what Democrats see as the president's secret weapon: "He is dismayingly willing to say things that are either blatantly false or clearly designed to create a misleading impression."

AP's Nedra Pickler on Kerry's criticism of Bush yesterday. LINK

Neither Bush nor Kerry were invited to this year's Al Smith dinner because "issues in this year's campaign could provoke divisiveness and disagreement and could detract from" the spirit of the dinner, Archdiocese spokesman Joseph Zwilling tells the Associated Press. LINK

In announcing that neither presidential candidate will be invited to attend the Al Smith dinner this year, the usually unflappable Zwilling doesn't explain why this year's presidential election could "provoke divisiveness and disagreement" and how that differs from the issues in 2000. LINK

Mahoney and Standora of the Daily News report who's not coming to the Al Smith dinner, "New York's marquee political event." Given the choice between a Methodist and a pro-choice Catholic, Edward Cardinal Egan has decided to "snub" both. LINK

AP's Jennifer Loven highlights President Bush's claim yesterday that Kerry wants to "expand government" in virtually every domestic policy and reports that the Bush campaign has increased its ad buys in Minnesota, forcing the Kerry campaign to do the same. LINK

The Wall Street Journal 's Washington Wire reports, among other items, that First Lady Laura Bush will campaign solo through the election.

Plus: "While Democrats seize on polling signs that Republicans' post-convention gains are waning, Republicans say Bush continues to hold a narrow lead nationally as well as in battleground states overall. As Kerry winnows his target-state list, he struggles even in those Gore won."

If you're looking for a free link to Ryan Lizza's latest piece (on Bush speak and Democratic frustration), look no further. LINK

The Los Angeles Times takes a look at the battle for military votes. LINK

"Tight restrictions on seeking the votes of active-duty military personnel, along with taboos in the military culture against the open expression of political views, make it tough for candidates to target military voters — and make it tough for pollsters to figure them out."

The Wall Street Journal 's Daniel Henninger explores the Lehigh Valley's significance in this year's presidential race.

In the Financial Times, U.S. managing editor Lionel Barber writes that "Republicans are outsmarting the Democrats in dirty politics" — with a rapid-response machine that puts both Dems and the press on the defensive instead of focusing on the issues. LINK

ABC News Vote 2004: polls:

Al Hunt turns a skeptical eye toward poll numbers and ponders the effect if those "likely voter" screen questions aren't so accurate. LINK

USA Today 's Susan Page writes, "President Bush has surged to a 13-point lead over Senator John Kerry among likely voters, a new Gallup Poll shows. The 55%-42% match-up is the first statistically significant edge either candidate has held this year." LINK

Maura Reynolds of the Los Angeles Times didn't wait for the Gallup numbers before writing her poll story — which led with the other polling floating out there that showed the race more like tied. LINK

The Pew Research Center for the People and the Press is one such measuring effort, showing the president's post-convention bounce fading, not only in the weeks after the gathering in New York but also between the first wave and second wave of its survey.

Pew conducted two waves of polling over seven days, Sept. 8-14. During the first period, Sept. 8-10, President Bush lead Senator Kerry among registered voters 52 percent to 40 percent. During the second period, Sept. 11-14, the race was tied at 46 percent among RVs. Among likelies, the first wave showed Bush leading Kerry 54 percent to 38 percent, and the second wave showed Bush at 47 and Kerry at 46.

President Bush boosted his standing on the issues — Kerry's strong suit — but still was vulnerable on Iraq and the economy — 58 percent of voters say Bush's plan for Iraq if he is re-elected is unclear. For Kerry, the outlook is uncertain, even among partisans on his side — just 43 percent of Dems say they think he'll win, down from 66 percent in August.

ABC News Vote 2004: Kerry-Edwards '04:

The Wall Street Journal 's Schlesinger and Hitt lead strongly with what they say is the Kerry campaign's view of Iraq: "If voters judge the Iraq war issue by the benefits of removing Saddam Hussein, President Bush prevails. If the focus shifts to conditions in Iraq after Mr. Hussein's fall, Senator John Kerry has a better chance to win in November." LINK

The Orlando Sentinel's Jim Stratton reports that Jim Rassmann is urging Kerry to take the gloves off and mix it up with President Bush. LINK

Walter Shapiro writes, "With his sternly worded speech Thursday afternoon to the National Guard Association meeting in Las Vegas, Kerry is fast making the debilitating war in Iraq the central issue in this campaign." LINK

The Los Angeles Times' Brownstein looks at why we are hearing tougher talk on Iraq from Senator Kerry. LINK

"Senior Kerry aides say such pointed criticism may be only the first step toward a more frontal assault on Bush's case that the war will reduce the looming threat of terrorism by encouraging the spread of democracy in the Middle East."

"'We have to separate [the Iraq war] from the overall war on terror and make the case that this … diverted resources to something that did not contribute to the war on terror,' said Joe Lockhart, Kerry's new senior communications adviser."

And then there is this lovely blind quote: "'You and I know John hasn't made the case [against Bush on the war] so far,' said one of Kerry's top foreign policy confidantes. 'His failure has been in the critique.'"

"The Democratic presidential nominee received several standing ovations for promising improved benefits and equipment for the National Guard, but he heard only silence — and a boo — as he accused Bush of dishonesty and a failure to lead," writes the Los Angeles Times' Maria La Ganga. LINK

USA Today 's Martin Kasindorf Notes that "Kerry scored some of his heaviest applause when he advocated more federal medical benefits and earlier retirement benefits for Guard members." LINK

Stephen Dinan of the Washington Times Notes the reaction to Kerry's National Guard speech, "'The thing that was frustrating to me sitting here listening to him is every time he would say, 'We didn't do this, we didn't do that,' it was a slap in my face,' said the officer, who asked not to be named." LINK

The Las Vegas Review-Journal's headline: "LAS VEGAS VISIT: Kerry rips handling of war." LINK

"Kerry took aim at the president before several thousand supporters in Phil Chacon Memorial Park. Organizers billed the event as a health-care rally, but Kerry, speaking from an elevated platform on an unusually warm evening, hammered at Bush on a range of issues," reports the Albuquerque Journal. LINK

The Washington Post 's Leibovich and VandeHei try to answer the "who's running this campaign?" question with a front-page look at the new-power-nexus-in-the-Kerry-camp, and report that the Kerry/Clinton/"several aides" conference call was a "turning point." LINK

For those keeping score at home: Bob Shrum's influence has diminished "significantly in the shake-up"; Mary Beth Cahill is still in charge of day-to-day operations. ". . . Lockhart, Whouley, Sasso and Cahill are 'essentially running the campaign' now, one high-level adviser to the campaign." Michael Whouley is managing trench warfare at the DNC. Michael McCurry, Joel Johnson and Douglas Sosnik, advise on message and strategy. John Sasso is "uber adult" on the road. Paul Begala "nearly" accepted a job months ago. President Clinton advised Kerry to stop being so passive and get in the game.

Flow charts made? Excellent.

Dick Morris keys off the recent staff changes at Kerry headquarters to write about Kerry's playing checkers against the president's "subtle game of chess." LINK

The New York Times ' Elisabeth Bumiller gets spokesman Mike McCurry to say criticizing President Bush's Guard record is "just not something that gets you anywhere." LINK

And she has this great color: "At the point that Mr. Kerry said Mr. Bush had not told the convention the truth, a man shouted out 'No!' As Mr. Kerry finished speaking, a few officers sat in their chairs, arms crossed. Col. Joanne F. Sheridan, of the Louisiana National Guard, got up and walked out before he was done."

So much for resisting negative campaigning. Kerry-Edwards '04 is launching a new 30-second ad slamming Vice President Cheney, saying that though Cheney has said he has no financial interest in Halliburton, he's gotten $2 million from the company while he's been in office. The 30-second spot will begin airing in battleground states and on national cable next week, and is part of the campaign's $50 million ad buy.

Script:

Cheney: "I have no financial interest in Halliburton of any kind and haven't had now for over three years."

Narrator: "The truth: As vice president, Dick Cheney received $2 million from Halliburton. Halliburton got billions in no-bid contracts in Iraq. Dick Cheney got $2 million. What did we get? A $200 billion dollar bill for Iraq. Lost jobs. Rising health care costs. It's time for a new direction. John Kerry. Stronger at home. Respected in the world."

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

"Kerry pops up here and there, makes speeches and moves on. But nothing sticks with me, other than the nagging sense that Kerry can't quite warm to the task," opines Steve Lopez in the Los Angeles Times. LINK

Boston Globe columnist Derrick Jackson puts on his campaign strategist hat and explains why Senator Kerry needs to be more like Suffolk County Sheriff Andrea Cabral. Known as a flip-flopper, Cabral turned her image into one of a vibrant straight-talker, according to Jackson. LINK

The Washington Post 's Charles Krauthammer thinks John Kerry has "nowhere left to flop" on the Iraq war, accusing the Senator of taking every possible position on the war out of political expediency so that his credibility is shot. "These dizzying contradictions — so glaring, so public, so frequent — have gone beyond undermining anything Kerry can now say on Iraq. They have been transmuted into a character issue." LINK

Howard Kurtz's takes a look at the health care ad Camp Kerry released yesterday: LINK

AP's Carrie Spencer highlights Edwards' poking fun at Vice President Cheney's claim that economic indicators might be better if they included eBay sales. LINK

Sen. Edwards has been focused on voters in Ohio and Kentucky. Local reax:

The Lexington Herald-Leader reports that Sen. Edwards raked in $700,000 at last night's fundraiser in Louisville. LINK

Four thousand showed in Portsmouth yesterday to hear John Edwards say, "Hope is on the way," according to the Dayton Daily News. LINK

The Canton Repository prints an interview with Edwards. LINK

The Associated Press on Edwards' swing through Louisville. LINK

Lynn Bonner of the Raleigh News & Observer reports that Mrs. Edwards in her speech in Fayetteville convinced a Bush-leaning voter to walk out planning to vote for Kerry. LINK

Meanwhile, Cate Edwards spoke to a group of students at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse "clad in blue jeans and sandals . . . " LINK

Correction:

Yesterday, in previewing Sen. Kerry's speech to the National Guard Association, The Note erroneously stated that the Senator had advocated increasing the number of troops in Iraq by 40,000. In fact, Senator Kerry has advocated increasing the active-duty military overall by 40,000. The Note regrets the error.

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

The Bush-Cheney '04 campaign came out with a new ad today, this time attacking Sen. Kerry on taxes on small businesses.

The ad, "Common Sense vs. Higher Taxes," will run on national cable and local markets in battleground states. There will also be three state specific ads running in West Virginia, Ohio, Michigan.

The ad has a similar theme and style as the last BC04 ad, "Healthcare: Practical Vs. Big Government" in that it contrasts the President's plan for the economy with Sen. Kerry's, again lumping the Democratic nominee in with "liberal in Congress."

The bottom line: President Bush will create jobs and help small businesses grow while Sen. Kerry will tax small business owners and hurt the economy.

BC04 currently has two ads in rotation on national cable and local markets that focus on health care.

Script for "Common Sense vs. Higher Taxes:"

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

VO: President Bush and our leaders in Congress have a common sense plan … To grow our economy …

Graphic: Fairer, simpler tax code. Lower healthcare costs. Invest in education. Help for communities. Less dependence on foreign oil

VO: And create jobs …So small businesses can expand and hire. The Liberals in Congress and Kerry's Plan:Raises taxes on small business. 900,000 small business owners would pay higher tax rates than most multinational corporations. Tax increases would hurt jobs, hurt small business and hurt our economy.

Graphic: Raises taxes on small business. Higher tax rates. Job growth hurt. Small businesses suffer. Hurts our economy

USA Today 's Judy Keen writes about why the president is feeling confident. LINK

Lynn Bonner of the Raleigh News & Observer previews today's visit from President Bush in Charlotte, where he plans to discuss women's issues. LINK

The New York Times ' Stevenson and Toner say that President Bush's criticism of Kerry's health care plan met applause in Minnesota.

"There are few signs that Mr. Bush has gotten the political lift he and others hoped for last year when he signed the Medicare law promising limited coverage of prescription drug costs for the elderly. But with polls suggesting that health care costs rank at or near the top of voters' concerns and with Mr. Kerry campaigning hard on his plan, Mr. Bush has struck back by suggesting that Mr. Kerry's solution would be unwieldy, costly and intrusive." LINK

The New York Times ' Glen Justice reports on the Bush campaign's criticism of a new MoveOn.org ad yesterday depicting a soldier in quicksand under the word "quagmire." LINK

The campaign's statement from chairman Marc Racicot:

"When John Kerry speaks before the National Guard today, he should apologize for the actions of his surrogates and demand that they take down their ad depicting a defeated American soldier.

"John Kerry's campaign is rooted in the past, hollow with pessimism, and preaching defeat to the American people.

"John Kerry's continually shifting positions on Iraq and his sinking rhetoric of a defeated America send a signal to our allies and our enemies that America is not willing to finish the job. This attitude undermines the great progress that the men and women in America's armed forces have made in the fight against terror around the world. America expects more from one who aspires to the position of Commander-in-Chief."

The Washington Post 's Mike Allen reports that the Bush campaign is moving staff and ads from states he won in 2000 such as West Virginia and Missouri "into ones he wants to make Democratic nominee John F. Kerry defend, notably Minnesota and Wisconsin." LINK

Allen Notes the confusion between the new Gallup/ USA Today poll, which showed President Bush with a 13-point lead, and the latest survey by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, which showed the race tied. "The president's aides said they believe they are winning narrowly."

The Washington Post 's editorial board praises President Bush for speaking out against Russian President Vladimir Putin. LINK

AP's Kathy Barks Hoffman on Jenna and Barbara Bush's campaigning in Michigan yesterday. LINK

Sue Niederer, whose son died in Iraq, was arrested and charged with defiant trespass after interrupting First Lady Laura Bush's speech in Hamilton, NJ yesterday. LINK

ABC News Vote 2004: Bush-Cheney re-elect: Cheney on the trail:

Vice President Cheney was on the trail in New Mexico and Nevada Thursday, where he strongly criticized Sen. Kerry's remarks to the National Guard, saying that he was "stunned by the audacity" of Kerry's statement and that his positions shift with the political winds, ABC News' Karen Travers reports.

Cheney highlighted Sen. Kerry's comment that leadership starts with telling the truth. When the crowd began laughing, Cheney stopped and said "That's not the laugh line."

More Cheney from Reno:

"The American people also know that true leadership requires the ability to make a decision," Cheney said. "True leadership is sticking with the decision in the face of political press and true leadership is standing for your principles regardless of your audience or your most recent political adviser."

"Sen. Kerry today said he would always be straight with the American people on the good days and on the bad days. In Sen. Kerry's case that means when the headlines are good he's for the war, and when his poll numbers are bad, he's against it."

This is the second event yesterday that Cheney had strong words for Sen. Kerry, acting as the BC04 rapid responder on the campaign trail. Over the past three weeks the Vice President has been utilized more frequently to hit back on Sen. Kerry's comments on the campaign trail.

At a breakfast roundtable in Albuquerque, Cheney said that Kerry's position on Iraq was "absolutely incoherent" and questioned the Democratic nominee's ability to pick a position and stick with it, a quality he said that George W. Bush had, even though people may disagree with the President.

The Las Vegas Review-Journal's Ed Vogel Notes, "Cheney never mentioned the Yucca Mountain nuclear repository, which would be built about 100 miles northwest of Las Vegas. Neither did Republican Gov. Kenny Guinn, who sued the president over his decision to place nuclear waste in Nevada." LINK

AP wraps Cheney's criticism of Kerry as lacking "true leadership." LINK

President Bush and the National Guard: the politics of the documents:

AP's Matt Kelley reports that a federal judge told the Pentagon on Wednesday to find all remaining documents related to Bush in the National Guard and release them next week. The Pentagon said it would have its search done by Monday. LINK

The Wall Street Journal Barnes and Flint profile CBS producer Mary Mapes, noting her stellar reputation and her years of diligence about the Guard story, in particular.

"Hers is not a household name, but Ms. Mapes is one of the show's star producers. At the venerable newsmagazine, it is producers such as Ms. Mapes who pound the pavement in search of scoops and celebrity anchors like Mr. Rather who get all the credit — or blame. The on-air personalities participate in the reporting to varying degrees — Mr. Rather is known for being very involved — but the producers do the heaviest lifting."

The Washington Post 's Sylvia Moreno on the "well-regarded" Bill Burkett. LINK

The Houston Chronicle has its own mini-bio. LINK

A very long but very interesting correction in the New York Times reads in its entirety:

"An article on Wednesday about disputed memos obtained by CBS News that cast doubt on aspects of President Bush's service in the Texas Air National Guard truncated a quotation from David Van Os, a lawyer for Bill Burkett, a retired National Guard officer whom Newsweek called a source of the memos. Asked what role Mr. Burkett had in raising questions about Mr. Bush's military service, Mr. Van Os posed a hypothetical chain of events in which someone — not Mr. Burkett, he said — reconstructed documents that the preparer believed existed in 1972 or 1973. Mr. Van Os then asked "what difference would even that make'' to the 'factual reality of where was George W. Bush at the Times in question and what was he doing?'" LINK

"The article also misidentified the position held by Mr. Bush's father in the early 1970s. (That error also occurred on Saturday, Sunday and Tuesday in articles about the memos.) The elder Mr. Bush was ambassador to the United Nations from 1971 to January 1973, and chairman of the Republican National Committee from 1973 to 1974. He was no longer a Texas congressman."

The New York Times ' Jim Rutenberg looks at Dan Rather's run-ins with conservatives over the years and reports Bob Dole said yesterday that Rather "does not like anyone in the Bush family that I know of, unless maybe one of the dogs." LINK

The Washington Times ' Bill Sammon writes "[P]rivately, some Bush advisers said Mr. Rather has become part of the story and therefore should recuse himself from further coverage. They suggested a more objective journalist at CBS should begin aggressively pursuing the question of whether the documents were forged." LINK

Robert Strong, the administrative officer in charge of air operations while President Bush was in the National Guard, tells AP that "the public ought to be concerned about his preferential treatment getting in and whether he satisfied his commitment to the Air Guard," Kelley Shannon reports. Strong also says that Killian's records would have been removed from his office before his family would have been allowed to retrieve them. LINK

In a Wall Street Journal op-ed, Bernie Goldberg recounts his attempts to debate the issue of political bias with Rather, his former boss.

The debate about debates:

Reuters' Steve Holland reported yesterday afternoon that the Commission on Presidential Debates hopes to hear from the campaigns shortly. LINK

The Washington Times ' Ralph Z. Hallow offers up a look at Republican objections to CBS' participation in the debates, given what they call Dan Rather's "stonewalling." Note the hint of frantic effort by the Commission on Presidential Debates to get the campaigns to even talk to them in enough time to get the logistics and security organized. LINK

Jonathan Greenberger reports in Student Life, St. Louis' premiere student publication, (our boy is all growed up!) Notes "Steve Givens, the coordinator of Washington University's debate planning committee, said the commission did not consult him before sending the letter, and he is unsure how it arrived at the ten-day figure." Greenberger writes "So far, the University has only spent about $50,000 on direct preparations for the debate, mostly on small 'incidental fees' like preparing press kits and ordering t-shirts and pins."

"The proposed debate at the University is seen by many observers as the most likely of the four proposed debates to be cancelled, a notion which the CPD appeared to address in its memo. Writing specifically about the town hall format of the St. Louis debate, the CPD noted that this is 'a format that has proved most popular with the American public.'" LINK

ASU tells the university community what to expect. LINK

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

The Columbus Dispatch's Joe Hallett reports that "the 12-county northwestern Ohio region not only picks the Ohio winner — 10 for 10 since 1964 — but it does so with uncanny accuracy." LINK

The Columbus Dispatch's Mark Niquette watches Edwards talk about health care in Portsmouth, OH. LINK

According to the latest Philadelphia Daily News/CN8 Keystone Poll, "Bush now leads Kerry 47 to 45 percent among registered voters in the state with 8 percent still undecided. The lead was within the poll's 4.4 percent margin of error, essentially making it a tie." LINK

The Philadelphia Inquirer explores the bellwether that is Elk County, PA. LINK

ABC News Vote 2004: the battlegrounds:

USA Today 's Julie Appleby reports, "Hundreds of people in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Vermont had their Canadian prescription-drug orders seized and thousands more had their shipments delayed after about 450 packages arriving in Miami from the Bahamas were seized by U.S. Customs in July." LINK

Jim Tankersley of the Rocky Mountain News reports Bush and Kerry are running "shoulder to shoulder" in Colorado according to a new Rocky Mountain News/News 4 poll that argues Colorado should not be taken off the list of battleground states. The numbers show the POTUS leads the Senator by a mere point — 45 percent to 44 among Coloradans — "8 points less than Bush's lead in April and well within the new poll's margin of error." Six percent are still undecided. Nader polls at three percent, though there is still some dispute over whether his name will appear on the Nov. 2 ballot. LINK

Prop 200 in Arizona is causing a major stir among religious denominations and faith groups, reports the Arizona Republic. LINK

The Arizona Daily Star alleges that a Kerry-Edwards ad misstates the cost of Iraq. LINK

"Among 574 Arab Americans, a poll conducted by Lansing-based EPIC/MRA poll showed Kerry with a 58-21 percent lead over Bush with Nader getting 9 percent. The poll, taken Sept. 9-15, has a margin of error of 4.4 percent," reports the Detroit Free Press' Kathleen Gray. LINK

Charlie Cain of the Detroit News writes, "Wearing ponytails, jeans and wide smiles, the 22-year-old twin daughters of President Bush scored a hit in their first joint campaign visit to Michigan Thursday." LINK

"The trip to New Mexico on Thursday was Kerry's fifth trip to the state this year," reports the Albuquerque Journal. LINK

The Des Moines Register 's Lynn Campbell finds problems with the availability of voter registration information. LINK

Campbell also reports the list was used improperly by a local weekly. LINK

William Petroski reports on the taxpayers' burden of battleground state security. LINK

ABC News Vote 2004: ad traffic summary, 9/17/04:

AD TRAFFIC HIGHLIGHTS:

BC04 launches a new ad Friday morning attacking Kerry's supposed plans for taxes on small businesses. KE04 launched a new ad on health care on Thursday and launches a new ad Friday morning knocking Cheney's Halliburton connections. There are now at least four different ads on the airwaves talking about the war in Iraq: one pro-Bush by the Progress for America Voter Fund and three anti-Bush by the DNC, MoveOn.org PAC, and (a small buy starting Monday from) the newly formed Fight Back Campaign (a new 527). There are at least two different ads on the airwaves about Bush and Kerry during the Vietnam era: one anti-Kerry by the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth and one anti-Bush by the Texans for Truth. The Media Fund announced this past week a trio of ads targeting African American voters in selected markets.

ABC News Vote 2004: casting and counting:

Prof. Jeanne Cummings' opus on how both parties are preparing for election day includes these choice morsels:

"No one is publicly predicting that this year's election will end up in the courts like the 2000 presidential election, which ultimately was settled by the Supreme Court. But in a closely fought race and with a divided electorate, both parties are planning to keep close tabs on election procedures and pounce on perceived irregularities as a wedge to gain an edge. Complications this year — including an expected surge in early voting, new elections systems in some areas and large numbers of military voters overseas — add to potential areas of conflict." LINK

"Both parties say their experiences in 2000 taught them that sophisticated turnout operations can take a back seat to legal arguments."

"Some Republican party activists estimate that roughly 30,000 precincts in battleground states will be targeted by their party, which has an aggressive legal recruitment program that 'is in its initial stages,' says one insider."

ABC News Political Unit intern Jessica Kranish reports that the NGO called Global Exchange is sponsoring an election-monitoring project called Fair Election International. You can see it here: LINK

At a Thursday press conference at the National Press Club, the group announced that from Sept. 17 to 24, members will split into five groups to visit five states and observe election-related events such as voter registration drives. Each group will focus on a different aspect of the election: voting technology in Georgia, money and politics in Arizona, battleground states in Ohio, disenfranchisement of voters in Missouri, and the problems of the 2000 election in Florida.

The group says they have "serious concerns about people's confidence in the electoral process," and the presence of an international group — "an increasing phenomenon" across the world — may help to alleviate this. By monitoring the election, they hope to make the electoral process "fair and transparent."

Brent Staples urges the franchise for ex-felons in the New York Times . LINK

ABC News Vote 2004: initiatives and referenda:

The Wall Street Journal 's Antonio Regalado reports that a group in support of a California initiative that would earmark money for stem-cell research has amassed $12 million for an ad campaign.

The politics of Iraq:

"A combination of escalating bloodshed, gloomy assessments and deteriorating security conditions in Iraq are challenging the Bush administration's upbeat view of the struggle to establish democracy in the beleaguered Middle East nation," writes Tyler Marshall of the Los Angeles Times where Senators Lugar and Hagel get some more play today as well. LINK

In USA Today , Secretary of State Colin Powell writes, "Challenges clearly remain. Insurgents are trying to prevent democracy by murdering their fellow citizens and destroying the nation's infrastructure. But they will not succeed." LINK

The Los Angeles Times reports 52 American military deaths in Iraq thus far for the month of September. LINK

AP's Katherine Pfleger Shrader reports that a draft of the Iraq Survey Group's report says Saddam Hussein had no weapons of mass destruction but was hoping to revive a dormant program at some point in the future. LINK

AP's Terence Hunt Notes that President Bush focuses on "brighter days ahead" in Iraq rather than the daily stream of bad news. LINK

The Wall Street Journal 's editorial board predicts the situation in Iraq ill worsen between now and election day and concludes that "The Fallujah sanctuary has left the timing of engagements up to the enemy, so we can expect more car bombing and mortar attacks from now to November. We understand that some parts of the Bush Administration are wary of provoking more violence before the election. But what would be truly damaging politically aren't further troubles in Iraq by themselves, but any perception that we aren't really fighting to win."

The Washington Post 's E.J. Dionne bemoans the neocon approach to Iraq taken by the Bush Administration, arguing that it's anti-conservative "that we went in with the arrogant assumption that we are so good and our ideals were so right that even if we tried to do this with too small a force, everything would turn out fine. How could conservatives ignore the military professionals who rightly insisted that we needed many more troops to pull off such an ambitious endeavor?" LINK

The politics of intelligence:

The administration formally submitted the legislation that would create a National Intelligence Director with full budgetary authority yesterday. LINK

The politics of the CIA leak:

Judith Miller has been ordered to testify in the investigation into the leak of a CIA agent's name. LINK

The Washington Post 's Carol Leonnig also reports on the decision by a federal judge on Thursday to deny Miller's motion to quash her subpoena. LINK

On the Hill:

Emily Pierce of Roll Call reports the Senate Armed Services Committee is "on the verge of losing out in the jurisdictional turf battle." LINK

The Senate initiative to strengthen and expand the federal hate crimes law is probably dead, given House Republicans' objection to it, the Washington Post 's Helen Dewar reports. LINK

AP's Jesse Holland reports that the House will vote next week a bill that prohibits federal courts from hearing cases about whether the inclusion of "under God" violates the First Amendment. LINK

Big Casino budget politics: Medicare:

The New York Times ' Robert Pear reports on concern over new data that show Medicare is paying patients' private health care plans more than if the patients were covered by traditional Medicare. LINK

ABC News Vote 2004: the Senate:

Roll Call predicts Republicans will gain a single Senate seat on Nov. 2. LINK

The woman who sued Senate candidate Dr. Tom Coburn 13 years ago went public yesterday to stand by her story, the Washington Post 's Lois Romano reports. LINK

ABC News Vote 2004: the House:

House Democratic leaders are furiously considering filing a lawsuit Rep. Rodney Alexander of Louisiana for failing to return more than $70,000 in contributions to his re-elect the party-switcher, Erin P. Billings reports in Roll Call . LINK

ABC News Vote 2004: Nader-Camejo '04:

Today the Nader-Camejo campaign will be in court in Arkansas, Colorado, New Mexico, and Florida.

The New York Times ' Kit Seelye reports Sen. John McCain called for Ralph Nader's name to be allowed on the Florida ballot and that he will file a friend-of-the-court brief if the Florida Supreme Court keeps Nader off the ballot. LINK

At 8:00 am ET the Florida Supreme Court hears oral arguments and by all accounts will declare their answer today — given that overseas ballots must be mailed by tomorrow.

Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald reports on the Florida Democratic Party that refuses to be "blindsided once by Ralph Nader" as today it will "unleash its final legal assault" against the independent candidate in court. Today's legal showdown has become old home week to for legal advisers involved in Florida's recount battle of 2000. Harvard law professor Laurence Tribe, who was a legal strategist for Gore, will argue Nader should not gain access through the Reform Party. And Ken Sukhia, a former U.S. attorney who helped George W. Bush's recount team, will argue for Nader. LINK

In a release sent last night, the campaign thanked Senator John McCain and the Reform Institute for "urging our inclusion on the ballot in Florida." LINK

Sen. McCain's words: LINK

Patrick Sweeney from the Pioneer Press on Nader's visit to the Land of 10,000 lakes yesterday where he touted the Democrats as a party sure to lose, unless they "follow his lead to more radical policies." LINK

Nader slams the Iowa Governor for his support of the biotech industry. Erin Jordan of the Des Moines Register reports. LINK

The land of 5 + 2 = 7:

The Wall Street Journal 's Flint and Cummings write on page B1:

"Political-advocacy groups with shallow pockets are discovering what commercial marketers have known for a long time: you don't need to spend millions of dollars to reach millions of people."

"Thanks to the explosion of cable news shows and their insatiable appetite for hot stories, political ads that might have received scant attention years ago are mushrooming into national stories. As a result, the groups are getting the kind of media exposure most marketers only dream about. And contributions to the groups have swelled as thousands of supporters got wind of its message."

In 2002, we told you about the independent work of Republican consultant John Altevogt of Kansas, who ran provocative radio ads targeted at African American voters and who was accused by prominent Democrats of trying to depress the black vote.

This year, an associate and frequent dinner companion of Altevogt's, GOP strategist Richard Nadler, is running very similar ads and receiving very similar press.

One of them contains the line "Don't buy the Democratic lie. Killing unborn babies is no way to help those in poverty."

That has drawn the ire of Democrats, who contend that the explicit tone of the ads will scare black voters enough so that they stay away from the polls.

Nadler was celebrating Rosh Hashannah yesterday and not available for comment, but Altevogt, whose Council for Better Government is spending $300,000 on ads in four states with ads targeting Hispanic voters with similar messages, hotly disputes the allegation.

Republicans who want to reach out to black votes are sometimes afraid to talk about issues like abortion and school vouchers, he says. "I don't know what makes me more angry — the implicit racism of the Democratic Party that they think they own people of color and they're not allowed to listen to other ideas. Or the totalitarian speech patterns they use, saying 'you can't talk about these issues'."

Both Americas PAC, which is Nadler's organization, and Altevogt's Council for Better Government are registered with the IRS under section 527 of the tax code..

People of Color United, another 527 group, has run ads attacking John Kerry for being rich, white, and "wishy-washy" and bought a print ad taking Teresa Heinz Kerry to task for being out of touch and mocking her for allegedly calling herself an "African America."

All three groups plan to be active through election day.

TODAY'S SCHEDULE (all times ET):

—8:00 am: The Florida Supreme Court convenes to consider whether Ralph Nader will be on the November ballot —9:00 am: Lynne Cheney hosts a "Constitution Day 2004: Telling America's Story" event at Gunston Hall Plantation, Mason Neck, VA —9:30 am: First Lady Laura Bush speaks at a rally at Charleston Civic Center, Charleston, WV —10:00 am: Elizabeth Edwards holds a town hall meeting on health care at the YWCA, Winston-Salem, NC —10:00 am: The House of Representatives meets in a pro forma session —10:30 am: Secretary of State Colin Powell addresses a teach Africa event, Washington, DC —11:00 am: Sen. John Kerry holds a town hall meeting at Monzano Mesa Multi Generational Center, Albuquerque, NM —11:00 am: The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights holds a news conference on voting and election reform, Washington, DC —12:00 pm: Laura Bush speaks at a fundraiser for Senate candidate Rep. Jim DeMint, Columbia, SC —12:45 pm: President Bush speaks at an RNC fundraiser at the Grand Hyatt Washington, Washington, DC —1:05 pm: Vice President Cheney holds a town hall meeting at the Abernethy Center, Oregon City, OR —3:30 pm: Elizabeth Edwards holds a discussion with military families at Goxford Gate, Greenville, NC —3:45 pm: President Bush holds a "Focus on Women's Issues" event in Charlotte, NC —4:00 pm: Laura Bush speaks at a rally at East Stroudsburg University, East Stroudsburg, PA —4:40 pm: Vice President Cheney speaks at a rally at Monaco Coach Corporation, Eugene, OR —4:50 pm: Sen. Kerry holds a round table discussion about health care at Rangeview High School, Aurora, CO —5:25 pm: Sen. Kerry holds a town hall meeting about health care at Rangeview High School, Denver, CO —5:50 pm: President Bush speaks at an RNC fundraiser, Charlotte, NC —7:00 pm: Joe Klein and NPR's Pat Dowell provide commentary during a screening of "Primary Colors" at the AFI Silver Theatre as part of American University's "Political Comedy Festival," Washington, DC —10:30 pm: President Bush arrives at Walker's Point, Kennebunkport, ME

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