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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.)

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