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